Wildflowers of the Westborough Reservoir

September, p. 2

Downy Goldenrod, Composite or Daisy family (Compositae), Native
Downy Goldenrod The goldenrods of late summer come in many shapes: plume-like, elm-branched, club-like, wand-like, and even flat-topped. Downy goldenrod (Solidago puberula) blooms in well filled-out wands that have a downy look. The flowerheads are somewhat larger than those of many other goldenrods, so it is easy to see that they are daisy-like. Blossoms at the top of the wand open first, unlike so many other plants with flower spikes that usually bloom from the bottom up. Downy goldenrod favors sunny, dry, sandy areas.

Asters, Composite or Daisy family (Compositae), Native

Stiff Aster
Stiff Aster

September is the month for asters--"stars"--at the Reservoir and everywhere else. Asters bloom abundantly, and there exist many different species of aster, which are often tricky to tell apart. The asters of September are usually blue or purple with bright yellow centers that may turn purple or brown with time. Some species close at night.

Smooth Aster
Smooth Aster

Unlike so many wildflowers that have come to us from Europe, about 150 species of aster are native to North America, and some 55 of them can be found in the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. Asters tend to form hybrids in the wild, and wild asters are the source of various common cultivated garden varieties.

Closeup New York Aster
New York Aster

Early European settlers had only a few medicinal uses for asters, but Native Americans used various species to treat numerous ailments, from skin rashes to insanity. A tribe in the midwest smoked asters in pipes as a charm to attract deer and other game.

Asters at the Reservoir include stiff aster (Aster linariifolius), smooth aster (Aster laevis), and New York aster (Aster novae belgii).


Common Witch Hazel, Witch Hazel family

Witch Hazel

After the lovely autumn foliage has passed, the Reservoir offers one new blossom. Spidery, wispy yellow flowers appear on bare shrubs and small trees of the common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). These blossoms come out once the plant's leaves have fallen and the previous year's seed pods have sprung open, sending seeds up to 20 feet away.

According to folklore, forked branches of witch hazel were cut and used as divining rods to find water underground. The bark of witch hazel has also provided ingredients for soothing skin ointments.

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  Copyright © Anne A. Reid, 1999-2002.
  Photographs copyright © Garry K. Kessler, 1999-2002.