I’ve posted blogs on summer and fall roadside flowers before and now I’m inspired to post a bit about the spring ones. Native roadside flowers are important sources of pollen and nectar for native bees and butterflies. As we transform land into sterile acres of carefully clipped turf grasses, insects are running short on supplies.
Wild and free roadsides are thick with tiny white flowers this week with punctuations of blue and yellow. The white flowers are fleabane (Erigeron spp.), small white aster-like flowers that range in color from bright white to pale pinks and purples. They do belong to the Asteraceae family and therefore have both disk (center) and ray (outer) flowers.
I believe the one flowering in my area now is Erigeron philadelphicus, which is considered a biennial or perennial. We also have an annual species, Erigeron annuus, but several differences distinguish them. First of all, E. annuus blooms later in the spring, and second, E. philadelphicus has leaves which clasp the stem.
Last weekend I visited Union County and had a chance to see a species which has become very popular at native plant sales: Erigeron pulchellus, known as Robin’s plantain. This species is a true perennial and the soft white-to-lavender colored flowers are quite lovely. The patch that I stopped to photograph was quite popular with bees.
|Erigeron pulchellus - how many bees can you count?|
Dashes of yellow are also lighting up some roadsides. In some cases, it is the non-native buttercup that most of us remember from our childhood. Taller yellow flowers might be golden ragwort (Packera anonyma). Ragwort is in the Asteraceae family and has disk and ray flowers.
|Support the bees!|
I hope more roadside flowers can hang around. Every time that I get a chance to look at them closely, I realize just how important they are to local insects.
Plus, they are a lot more attractive than clipped turf grass!