Pokeweed and Butterfly Weed

Today with the heat bearing down on us for the third day in a row, I noticed the almost inconsequential blossoms on pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) forming on one of the very large plants just north of my shed. A few minutes earlier I noticed that a butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in full sun was starting to break out with the very bright orange blossoms that just drag in the butterflies. Both are very attractive plants that have wide natural ranges, and are worth growing if you have a bit of spapce that can dedicated to more native type habitat.


The elderberries (Sambucus nigra) are in full flower now. If you happen to be a splitter instead of a lumper, then I suppose it is fair to say that both S. nigra and S. canadensis are in bloom.

The flowers give rise to the little black-purple berries that are made into jelly, and are used as a cold medicine. The flowers can themselves be used as a flavoring, a food, and possibly a medicine. One approach is to make a crude variant of elderflower cordial. Pack a quart mason jar full of the flowers, and cover them with vodka for a day or two. After that, strain out the flowers and keep the vodka. Keep it stored out of direct light. Most vodka will be around 80 proof (about 40%) and can be cut (possibly with sugar water if you want it sweet) 50/50 for a final alcohol content of around 20%.

I’ve read that you can batter and fry the flower bunches, but I’ve never tried doing that. Let me know if you do.

You can steep the elderflowers in a light syrup as well. This omits the vodka, and syrup recipes are included in any basic cooking book. Syrups will pull some moisture from the flowers, and the flowers do not provide any prevention against fermentation or spoilage. So unless you us a syrup with sufficient sugar concentration to prevent spoilage, you’ll need to keep it refrigerated, frozen, or can it.

Daisies are blooming!

The common wild daisy, the oxeye daisy, is in full bloom now at my home. The fields are full of them. The latin is supossedly Leucanthemum vulgare but I’m kind of partial to the synonym Chrysanthemum leucanthemum. Granted that’s only because I like the word ‘Chrysanthemum’.

Reliable bloomers, pretty little flowers, work well in a vase, considered invasive in plenty of places, makes me think it is a good flower for any garden where it is legal to grow it!

Rhododendron, Day Lilies, Flowering Raspberries

Rhododendrons in my area are fading rapidly at this point. The ever blooming day lilies (classic Stella d’Oro) are ramping up to full bloom, and the spring blooming day lilies are building bigger buds by the day. I’ve also noticed several locations where Flowering Raspberries (Rubus odoratus) are starting to show their giant purple blossoms.

Blackberries, white clover, and wild rose

White clover seems to be in full bloom. It isn’t a terribly impressive bloom, but in mass they make a nice showing, and the bees are certainly appreciative.

Blackberries are on the trailing edge of their bloom season here. For most of the year I forget that fields of blackberries count as a superb ornamental. When they are in bloom it can turn an untamed lot into a sea of white.

The local wild roses are just now coming into bloom. I’m not certain which species it is, Rosa multiflora perhaps, or R. canina maybe. I suspect it is R. multiflora. At any rate the simple, single blooms are very pretty when they cover those thorny branches.

Field Mustard

Field mustard is the flower that has struck me the most this past week. This plant is Brassica rapa, or possibly B. campestris if you don’t like the idea of mustard and turnips being the same plant. The bright yellow flowers jump out at me every spring, partly because when I was in grade school, 1st or 2nd grade perhaps, I was taught to eat it. The school at that time would bring in a fellow by the name of Mr. Emerick, on loan from the PA Game Commission or somewhere, to take us on a nature walk. I learned to identify witch hazel, field mustard, and probably other plants that I’ve “just always known”.

Dandelions were out in force two weeks ago, though I normally look for the big dandelion bloom around May 5. In early May 1996 we brought my wife home from rehab after a bad car accident, and to this day I recall the dandelions were in full force at the time.

Apples have been blooming off and on, depending on the breed and species, and I see that in the last day or two Elaeagnus shrubs have been flowering. E umbellata? E. multiflora? I confess I can’t tell the two apart right now, but I suspect they are E. multiflora. They have an absolutely wonderful scent.

Fire Cherries

Walking across my hill top in Western Pennsylvania today the single flowering plant that stands out the best is the fire cherry. The young plants in particular have a bright red bark that announces itself in every sense except perhaps for taste. This plant, botanically Prunus pensylvanica, was one we shied away from when cutting hotdog and marshmallow sticks as kids. Supposedly this cherry in particular contains more cyanic compounds than most.

Right now these trees are easy to spot from a distance by their bright white floral displays. They are never difficult to identify though. Even in winter the red color of the bark will give them away.

I’m also seeing a few clove currant blooms and some gooseberry and black currants in bloom right now as well. Dandelions have been blooming for the last day or two as well. Those in particular I usually expect to see in force starting around the end of the first week in May.