Wildflower Wednesday: A Look at Summer’s Blossoming Bounty with Carol Gracie

Carol Gracie, queen of  flora, is at it again. Carol Gracie

The author of Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History has a new project in the works. The forthcoming book, to be called Summer Wildflowers of the Northeast, isn’t technically a field guide; but we’re betting it will be no less comprehensive. In it, Gracie plans to give a full account of the fascinating history of summer wildflowers: what pollinates them, what eats them, how their seeds are dispersed, as well as their practical and historical uses. The facts are further complemented by Gracie’s striking photographs, which we’ve sampled below. Be on the lookout for this one!

Carol Gracie is an acclaimed naturalist, photographer, and writer. Now retired, she worked for many years as an educator and tour leader with the New York Botanical Garden before teaming up with her husband, Scott Mori, on botanical research projects in South America. Her books include Wildflowers in the Field and Forest.

Enjoy these beautiful photos, and let us know in the Comments section which flowers you’ve noticed so far this season.

Monotropa Uniflora (Indian Pipe)
Opuntia humifusa showing ovaries
Datura stramonium
Nelumbo lutea
Platanthera ciliaris
Oenothera biennis
Lobelia cardinalis
Parnassia glauca
Solidago speciosa
Sarracenia purpurea

Monotropa uniflora (Indian Pipe)

Indian pipe is a flowering plant that lacks chlorophyll, the green pigment that allows plants to capture the sun's energy and allow them to produce carbohydrates. Instead, Indian pipe has a relationship with a fungus that absorbs nutrients from the roots of nearby trees and transports them to the underground parts of Indian pipe.

Opuntia humifusa (Prickly pear cactus) showing ovaries

Many people are surprised to learn that we have native cactus plants in the Northeast. Yet this species and a few others are adapted to surviving our cold northern winters. The lovely yellow flowers are pollinated by several species of bees.

Datura stramonium (Jimsonweed)

Farmers consider jimsonweed to be a noxious field weed, yet it produces lovely, fragrant flowers that don't open until almost sunset. The flowers are visited, and pollinated, by moths during the night. Jimsonweed played an important role in the colonial history of Jamestown, VA.

Nelumbo lutea (American lotus)

Our native lotus is a showy aquatic plant with large, orbicular leaves and the largest native flower in the Northeast. Many parts of the plant are edible.

Platanthera ciliaris (Orange fringed orchid)

Fringed orchids are pollinated primarily by butterflies, such as this spicebush swallowtail. Other species have flowers in shades of purple, white, or greenish-white.

Oenothera biennis (Evening primrose)

As its name suggests, evening primrose has flowers that open in the evening to attract their moth pollinators. One of the pollinators, the primrose moth (Schinia florida) also feeds on the plant as a larva, and may sometimes be found resting, partially camouflaged, in the flowers during daylight hours.

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)

The deep, brilliant red of this flower is a beautiful, but sad, reminder that summer will soon draw to a close. Found in moist areas, cardinal flower provides a nectar source for hummingbirds that are migrating south in late summer.

Parnassia glauca (Grass-of-Parnassus)

Another late bloomer, grass-of-Parnassus has strikingly patterned flowers with bold green lines on a white background. Surrounding the true stamens is a ring of false stamens, each topped by a glistening yellow or green sphere that attracts insects. Grass-of-Parnassus is found in marshy seeps on limestone soils.

Solidago speciosa (Showy goldenrod)

Showy goldenrod is one of the latest species of goldenrod to bloom, filling meadows with its bright yellow flowers. Goldenrod meadows are a wonderful place to see the many species of insects that feed on, or get nectar from, goldenrod.

Sarracenia purpurea (Purple pitcher plant)

Pitcher plants live in nutrient-poor wetlands (acidic bogs or calcium-rich fens) and must supplement their nutritional needs with insects that are captured in their tubular leaves. Certain insects have evolved to withstand the digestive enzymes secreted by the leaf and use the pitcher plant as their only domicile.

Monotropa Uniflora (Indian Pipe)  thumbnail
Opuntia humifusa showing ovaries  thumbnail
Datura stramonium  thumbnail
Nelumbo lutea thumbnail
Platanthera ciliaris thumbnail
Oenothera biennis thumbnail
Lobelia cardinalis thumbnail
Parnassia glauca thumbnail
Solidago speciosa thumbnail
Sarracenia purpurea thumbnail