Plants - Native Plants and Wildflowers

Late-summer wildflower blooms

Autumn winds stir, cooler temperatures tease, but we walk blissfully among late summer's ephemeral blooms


Bittersweet nightshade

Zone: 3
Since its introduction from Europe, bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara), a perennial vine, is found in both thickets and clearings from Alberta to Newfoundland. Loose clusters of star-shaped blossoms, with violet petals and yellow anthers forming a cone-like centre, are produced from June to September. By summer's end, each flower will have developed into a shiny, red berry. All parts of bittersweet nightshade contain solanine, a poisonous alkaloid, and should be avoided; however, the toxin is not fatal. Also known as deadly nightshade, it was thought to offer protection against witchcraft long ago in England.

Bull thistle (shown above)
Zone: 2
Since being introduced from Eurasia, the bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) has firmly established itself in fields and waste places and along roadways throughout Canada. The brilliant, four- to five-centimetre purplish flowers, with yellow-tipped bracts, are displayed between June and September. During the first season of this biennial's life, a ground-hugging rosette of prickly, sharply lobed leaves is notable; in the second season it can attain a height of 180 centimetres. The bull thistle is the thorniest of all thistles. The American goldfinch is particularly fond of thistle seed.

Meadow beauty
Zone: 4
Shorelines that are regularly flooded—which keep shrubs at bay—and moist meadows are the preferred habitats for meadow beauty (Rhexia virginica). This perennial herb flowers from July to September from central Ontario, where it is considered uncommon, to Nova Scotia. The bright 2.5- to four-centimetre pink-purple blossoms are loosely clustered with eight strikingly large, yellow stamens. This lovely wildflower is threatened by man-made dams and shoreline development.

 

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