Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My world is turning yellow

Bracken fern, Pteridium aquilinum
It’s mid-August in the Black Hills, and the time has arrived for yellow things.  But it has been such a hot summer that the sudden cold nights and yellow bracken caught me by surprise.  Lots of other plants are preparing for change as well.  Stands of paper birch have become mosaics of green and yellow.  Leaves flutter in the light breeze and float to the ground.
Paper birch, Betula papyrifera
See the falling leaf?  just right of the leftmost birch ...
I had no luck whatsoever catching falling stars during the recent Perseids “shower”.  I fared only a bit better at catching falling leaves (above), but at least I saw plenty of them, sailing through the air, beginning to cover the ground.

Hop hornbeam,  Ostrya virginiana
Leaves of hop hornbeam (ironwood) are still green and lush, but the elegant fruiting clusters are drying to buff, tan and yellow-brown.
Hop hornbeam nutlets are enclosed in inflated papery bracts.
Boxelder, Acer negundo
The boxelders are now decorated with clusters of yellow-green paired samaras (aka whirlybirds or maple keys).  In spite of their compound (divided) leaves, boxelders are indeed maples -- their samaras give them away.
Whirlybirds ... paired samaras, each of which contains a seed.
Boxelder bug on boxelder samaras ... this bug knows his place in the world.
The wild plums also are yellow ...
Wild plum, Prunus americana
... and a bit further down the trail, they're red!  Shake the little tree and the edible ones fall to the ground.  Luckily they are early this year.  Often wild plums here don’t ripen at all, as frost gets them first.

At lower elevations, it will be awhile before there are yellow leaves on trees.  But the wildflowers make up for it -- they are mostly yellow this time of year.
Curly-cup gumweed, Grindelia squarrosa, lines the roadsides; flowers (heads) ca 0.5 in across.
Velvety goldenrod, Solidago mollis, thrives in a prairie dog town.
There are lots of yellow composites in this dog town, like hairy golden aster, Heterotheca villosa
... and lacy tansy aster, Machaeranthera pinnatifida, above and below.

And here are my friends, the sunflowers, facing east to greet the morning sun.  What is that curious thing behind them?

ah hah ... it's a giant rock!
Wild sunflowers (Helianthus annuus); Devils Tower in background.

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