|Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis)|
|Silky dogwood, Cornus amomum|
|A few sterile flowers on Hydrangea arborescens|
On roadsides that are partially shaded and composed of rich, moist soils you can find the third of these shrubs: smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). The stems of this shrub reach out from roadside embankments, creating a graceful tumble of foliage and flowers that brighten the area. Again leaves are oppositely arranged, but look carefully and you can see distinctive flaky bark on the older growth.
The dense clusters of flowers attract a variety of insects. Recently I saw a bee cavorting happily through the tiny flowers, almost drunk it seemed. Other times I have watched beetles carefully stepping from flower to flower.
Hydrangeas have both sterile and fertile flowers. The sterile flowers are likely a way to attract insects from afar, but of course humans fall for that too. Cultivars like ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Incrediball’ have most (if not all) sterile flowers and would not benefit pollinators; they attract gardeners instead.
Note: a similar flower blooming at this time is the non-native Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota). You can distinguish it by noticing it is a flower with very thin foliage on mostly single stalks. There is no woody growth as it is a biennial plant.
|Non-native Daucus carota|