Ironweed: Fall and Summer

I spend much of July and August — and half of September — walking in the Eliza Howell Park prairie wildflower field, admiring the flowers and watching the insects.

Now, in mid-October, the flowers are in seed and the field is a feeding site for several species of migrating sparrows. Recently I stopped by to take a look at a favorite Ironweed, a flower on the regular route in the summer. I was seeking a close look at the seeds.

This particular plant is over 8 feet tall, the tallest flower in the field. Though the seeds are attractive, they don’t command the kind of attention the intensely colored flowers do during their month-long blooming time. This picture was taken in August.

In the summer I regularly check the scattered Ironweeds for butterflies and frequently find them. The flowers are grouped near the top of the tall plants so the nectaring butterflies are easy to spot from some distance away. And the size makes it possible to get pictures of butterflies with the sky as background

This picture of a Monarch was taken in August. The next one, of a somewhat beat-up Tiger Swallowtail, was taken in July.

Ironweed is a native perennial wildflower that is sometimes grown in gardens, where tall upright plants are wanted. It spreads by seeds, dispersed by wind.

The name “itonwood” comes from the tough stem. Praying Mantis eggs remain in the egg case over winter, hatching in the spring, and the females often select a sturdy plant for laying their eggs. In September I found that one had, understandably, selected an Ironwood plant. This case seems to be doing well so far.

I might not notice the new growth that will emerge next spring until it gets to be several feet tall in June. But I will definitely follow it through the Summer and into the Fall

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