This summer I had a newcomer to my gardens, the Morning Star Sedge, a native grass which I did not plant, but which was brought here by a bird, no doubt. I discovered it quite by accident along a pathway down to my main garden, and was astonished when I saw it. It is not a flower at all, but a type of native grass, used ornamentally by some people in their landscaping. The seed head is beautiful, very star-like, and perfectly symmetrical. You may be familiar with its graceful, but sturdy grasses, from which the stems of the seed heads emerge. The seed heads are a lovely green, which turn chocolate brown by late summer. By early autumn, the wild birds enjoy those seeds, as well as the seeds of the chicory and woodland sunflowers, which I also have here in my gardens as habitat.
I am passionate about preserving habitat for pollinators and birds. Here on my 11+ acreage I am purposely allowing close to 100 wild native plants to complete their entire life cycles, from flower to seed. Such diversity of plant life, no matter how tall and gangly, or small, sustains the health of a host of animals, insects, and humans in this, our rainforest. By August, the final show begins, and I look forward to it. I look forward to witnessing thousands of tiny Aster flower stars, and hearing the profound sound of untold number of wings whirring, as the bees fuel up for the coming inevitable cold weather. The essential Goldenrod flowers will also begin blooming (Goldenrod is not a major pollen producer, creating allergies, as some people mistakenly think,) and I watch as the Monarch butterflies feed on them before their long journeys south. Did you know there are, or were, 2,687 species of Aster, and 16 species of Goldenrods in America? On my property there are about five species of each.
The beautiful earthly flower stars, besides providing food for a wide variety of pollinators and birds, are a source of inspiration to humans. Also, it is well known that some have important medicinal properties, such as the Cone flower. I gather and dry the flowers and leaves of my Cone flowers which will be added to teas I make from other herbs I grow. Cone flowers provide Echinacea, which is important as an immune system enhancing herb. The root is the most potent, so here and there, I pull some out to harvest their roots.
Unfortunately, there is an on-going war being conducted against Earth's stars in the form of herbicides, pesticides, and habitat loss. I continue speaking for the wildflowers and the health of our planet, our people, and all our relations. Meanwhile, I suggest you walk slowly and often in wild places where wild things grow; and don't forget to look to the stars!
Article by Christine Maccabee, Master Naturalist
Nature Note for 12/31/2017