Monday, September 14, 2009
Pretty Yellow Fall Flowers
Inquiring minds want to know…. What is that pretty, yellow, daisy-like flower that is blooming now? It’s commonly found in wet ditches. I’ve been asked that question many times in the last week or so. Several species in the genus Bidens, commonly called tickseed-sunflower are found in Pennsylvania. I am not sure exactly which species I’m seeing near Bedminster, probably Bidens aristosa. They are called “tick seed” because they produce seed bearing structures that stick to you like ticks (related species are called beggar’s ticks).
If you take autumn walks in the woods and fields you are probably familiar with these two-pronged plant parts.
The showy “ray” flowers look like their relatives the Sunflowers. You can see how the common names of plants are both useful and potentially confusing. It is worthwhile to learn the Latin names of plants if you are more than a casual observer. All plant identification books use the Latin names because it provides nomenclature (names) that are definitive. Plants belong to families that are composed of related genera and this can be helpful as you try to sort out plant names. Both Sunlfowers (Helianthus) and Tickseed Sunflowers (Bidens) are in the Aster Family (Asteraceae).
For that matter, Goldenrods (Solidago), Asters (Aster) White-snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) are also members of the Aster family that bloom in the fall. In addition to being pretty, they provide forage for bees of all sorts that are important pollinators.
When I want to sort out details about plants in Pennsylvania, I usually end up looking in... .The Plants Of Pennsylvania, an illustrated (line drawings only) manual written by Ann Rhoads and Timothy Block, botanists at the University of Pennsylvania. It is a fantastic reference.