Thursday, November 06, 2008

White daisies of fall

The frosts have arrived in Prescott, meaning that our fall crop of wildflowers consists almost entirely of puffy balls and other seeds. But why not take time out to remember warmer days. How about a bouquet of wild white daisies, not a big category compared to the DYCs (damned yellow composites) that populate our fields in late summer and early fall. But pretty neat in their own right.

Starting out with creeping fleabane, which is just that; it begins its take-over in spring, as a rule. I was lucky to find this plant in flower so late in the season. Fleabane, a composite, is characterized by a central pincushion surrounded by a thick fringe of white ray flowers. This particular species spreads in the same fashion as strawberries -- by putting out above ground runners that quickly take root; one of my wildflower gardening books recommends creeping fleabane as a native ground cover in upland Arizona. I suppose that it might work, if one is careful to maintain a monoculture; when other plants are mixed in, the result is disappointing.

We are blessed with 12 different fleabane species in Arizona alone. I don't know the name of the local fall-blooming variety; what I do know is that it is a much prettier plant, with many more and larger blossoms plus more greenery as a rule, thanks to the summer rains. Of course, I've always wondered about the name; a quick consultation with The Google produced this comment about European fleabanes: [their] names being derived from the fact that, if burnt, the smoke from them drives away fleas and other insects. The generic name, Pulicaria, refers to this property, the Latin name for the flea being Pulex. Our American fleabanes belong to a different species (erigeron), but apparently the ray petals are very similar to the Old World namesake. Both European and American fleabanes have a history of herbal use, BTW. In any event, all are members of the asteraceae family.

Which brings us to my other favorite non-DYC of fall -- the white aster, which is a real side-of-the-road show stopper and, in my book, much prettier than the lavender aster. Reason: each plant is thick with blossoms; furthermore, the plants tend to mass together. A different habit from the purple, which tends to stand alone and produce fewer flowers. BTW, I do have quite a collection of seed pod images, which I'll pull together one of these chilly days.


Anonymous said...

As a non-gardener due to lack of talent, I learn so much from you! Especially the names of plants. LOL

~Anon in AV.

worldphotos4 said...

Nice that you still have flowers. We'll have to wait until spring for anything here.

Karin said...

Love the flowers! Thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

Granny J said...

anon av -- unfortunately, my mom, who was a very good gardener, made gardening into a real chore as far as I was concerned. I didn't touch the ground for years until we bought our first place on the slum fringes of Chicago's Old Town.

steve -- those whites have become seeds; however, right against the house I still have nasturtiums blooming and my pansies are coming on, too.

karin -- it occurred to me that I had not done a flower blog in too long a time. I always enjoy doing them...

sheoflittlebrain said...

Lovely post, GJ. I fancy myself a bit of an herbalist, but never even thought about the origin of the name fleabane.

Granny J said...

brain -- lazy critter that I am, I've wondered for years -- and never bothered to find out why. I speculated that they must drive fleas away, but never figured out a mechanism. Now we all know!

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