Late summer blooms abound in wildflower ‘hotspots’

Like my favorite bird watching spots, I have my favorite wildflower “hotspots” where I know I can see a variety of wild blooms any season of the year. Each season brings its own colorful array of wild blooms to these places, which for various reasons (the soil, perhaps) are highly favorable to wildflower growth.

Such places exist along trails winding along the river banks and through the woods, meadows and wetlands in the various units of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. In any season, many of these trails are resplendent in color.

Earlier this week, I went looking for late summer and early fall wildflower blooms along trails in three of the units — Paces Mills, West Palisades and Cochran Shoals.

Where in late February I found trout lilies, serviceberries and redbuds in bloom, and in late spring blooming azaleas, trilliums and coreopsis, this week I found goldenrod, ironwood, boneset, jewel weed, joe-pye weed, virgin’s bower, sunflowers and many other late summer and early fall wildflowers in bloom.

As in any season, dozens of species of wasps, bees, spiders, butterflies and other creatures buzzed and crawled about the blooms, vying for nectar and pollen. Some of them, though, were predators, like the praying mantis, which lay in wait to snatch a creature for a meal.

I never cease to be amazed by the number of insects and other creatures that late summer and fall wildflowers support — especially goldenrods. Georgia’s 30 or so species of goldenrods support more than 120 species of moths, butterflies, native bees, spiders and other invertebrates. Some of them, such as the goldenrod fly and the goldenrod crab spider, probably could not survive without goldenrods.

Not only do I enjoy looking at the flowers, but many of them also remind me of folklore tales linked to them. Several cultures, for instance, regard goldenrods as symbols of fortune. One belief is that goldenrod growing near a house will bring good luck to its occupants.

In the sky: The moon, new Monday, will be a thin crescent low in the west just after dark Tuesday, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. Venus rises out of the east about an hour before sunrise and will appear close to the moon Sunday morning. Mars is in the west at sunset. Jupiter is low in the east just before sunrise. Saturn is low in the west just after dark and sets in the west around 9 p.m.