Autumn Wildflower Walk: the last blooms of the year

One of my favourite things about fall are the autumn blooms.

Beautiful end of the summer orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), the blues and whites of fall Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.) and the bright yellows of Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus).  There are even still some Evening Primrose, Chickory, Clover and Queen Anne's Lace.  These blooms provide the last lovely floral show in natural areas and they help extend the feeling of summer into fall.

 Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus) blooming beside Rideau River 
and Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) shown in first photo above.

 Closeup of Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus)

 Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

 Beautiful September Stroll in a Local Park.

You can find these wildflowers spotted along the edges of parks, following road edges and bordering waterways.  You can also count on seeing pollinators gathering in these last sunny spots with blooms as the opportunities for gathering nectar and pollen start reducing with the coming colder weather. It's amazing when the native Zigzag Goldenrod bursts into flower in my backyard.  This yellow favourite is covered with bees during autumn and it gives me such a buzz (pun intended!)

Native Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) with pollinator visitor.

Some of the asters I see around my city are:
New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
Heart-leaved Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium)
Panicled Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum)
Flat-topped White Aster (Doellingeria umbellata)
More on Asters at Ontario Wildflowers website!

New England Aster (in front) and Panicled Aster (behind)

Flat-topped White Aster (Doellingeria umbellata) found locally.

I also remember noticing these shrubby/bamboo like green leafy stalks in my neighbourhood a couple of years ago in September, as their white blooms seemed to attract all the bees around for kilometers.  A year later I was able to identify it as Japanese Knotwood.  I learned that this plant was consider an invasive plant in Ontario but couldn't help wonder whether removing the small urban stand was the best option if it wasn't replaced with other autumn blooms.  Those bees certainly seemed to be appreciating it!

Japanese Knotwood (exotic plant) is an autumn bloom.

Autumn is a time for collecting, gathering and the migration of wildlife.  Preparations for winter become full-on and northern songbirds birds start migrating south.  Keep an eye on colourful berries that ripen in late summer that attract these birds including Elderberry (mid-August to September) Nannyberry (September) and Dogwood berries (different time in Autumn - depending on species) to name a few.  Staghorn Sumac, with it's bright red cone of fuzzy berries, is also a popular food stop for small warblers, chickadees, those feisty woodpeckers and others!  Virginia Creeper, although it's fast-growing, IS a native (Ontario) species and provides ground cover. The berries that ripen in the fall (while toxic to humans) provide nourishment to birds such as shrubland and songbirds - especially in the winter. (Check the Ontario Invasive Plant Council for a list of invasives and this great post about the debate surrounding Virgina Creeper.)

Common Elderberry (Sambucus canadensiswith ripe berries in autumn.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) bright red and ripe in the late fall.

Native (Ontario) Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) by an urban wetland.

An autumn stroll definitely engages all the senses from the warm, crisp autumn scent to the bright colours and the rough textures of the forest and final refreshing feel of local lakes and rivers.  There's lots to enjoy beyond the fall colours of both flowers and leaves.  You might see a friendly mammal or a nest high up in the tree top.  Why not take advantage of the warm autumn days and get out for a walk in the city's popular green parks with such beautiful native wildflowers?

What are your favourite nature sights, sounds and activities in autumn?

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