Autumn is in the Air
Written By Rome Marinelli, Naturalist at The Inn at Honey Run
Ah, Autumn. It’s the time of year where we reflect on our journey and prep for the future. Oh, and suffer from allergies…
While driving on a back country road, you may begin to notice a lot of asters and goldenrods blooming (or beginning to). While it’s easy to notice, these colorful native beauties are not the cause for seasonal allergies. There is one plant that has a very inconspicuous bloom; Ragweed. Ragweed blooms are slightly greenish cream colored, very hard to notice from a distance, and wind-pollinated. Plants that are wind-pollinated have light weight pollen so that it’s easily carried off. This also means that Ragweed pollen is easily carried throughout the air and often finds its way into our personal space… causing congestion, sneezing, and other issues. While ragweed may not be easily observed around your area (especially while driving around), it’s likely sitting in plain sight. The beautiful and noticeable blooms of yellow goldenrods and asters are purple, pink, blue, and white, often make us declare, “Ah ha! There’s the dastardly culprit!” Alas, those beautiful blooms are not your enemy!
Goldenrods and asters have heavier, stickier pollen and requires cross pollination via insect. These heavier pollen grains cannot float around in the air, unlike that of ragweed.
Goldenrods and Asters are remarkable late blooming plants and are highly sought after by pollinators. Like I said at the beginning, Autumn is the time when we prep for the future. For pollinators like Monarch butterflies, this means lapping up available nectar to make their long journey to Mexico for the winter. Interestingly enough, sources suggest that resources such as late season blooms are just as important for Monarch survival, as is their host plant (milkweed, Asclepias spp.). For other pollinators, late blooming plants provide vital resources to see out the season.
Plants like Butterfly bush, a non-native, see a lot of action this time of year for the same reason – home landscapes lacking nectar and pollen sources. Having only a non-native option, pollinators that can feed on a general array of plants, must. While Ohio is home to insects that can visit any flower (known as generalist insects), Ohio is also home to a plethora of pollinating species that need specific flower(s) to feed on (known as specialist insects). Consider diversifying your landscape by incorporating natives, especially the much-needed late resource plants like asters and goldenrods, into your landscape, flower beds, or wild areas. This will attract Monarchs and Hummingbirds prepping to leave, bees, skippers, and butterflies gearing for winter, and beautify your area. Not to mention, diversifying any area will strengthen the area as a whole! We can talk more about that later.
So next time a friend or family member points to the golden glow of goldenrods or the relaxing hues of asters and attempts to blame them for their sneezing, remind them of the true culprits, and work to cultivate a passion for native in them.
From the field,