Colors of August

By Mary Beth Pottratz

White, yellow and purple set the theme for August flowers against a backdrop of lush greenery on this warm, sunny day.

Compass plant flower

Compass plant flower

The sunny yellow flowers of compass plant tower tall above the rest of the prairie. Single purple spikes of prairie blazing star point upwards. Small sticks of purple and white prairie clovers stand out against green leaves. Grey-headed coneflowers with their drooping golden petals resemble ballet skirts billowing in the breeze.

Showy tick trefoils show off delicate purple flowers like tiny orchids studding each stem. Most have strings of half-moon shaped seedpods.

Wild bergamot

Wild bergamot

The lavender flowers of wild bergamot are abuzz with bumblebees and other pollinators like the syrphid fly in this photo. Large white wild indigo seed pods are starting to turn from cream to black. Black-eyed Susans beam golden against airy mounds of tiny white blossoms of flowering spurge.

Purple and pale purple coneflowers rise between clumps of switch grass. Bulging purple buds ascend from the grass blades, a few already dangling tiny yellow flowers. Pom-poms of purple alliums droop from the tip of stalks.

There is a hush over the prairie – just the gentle whoosh of a breeze and an occasional cricket, goldfinch or chickadee calling. The time to attract a mate with birdsong is past.

Milkweed leaf beetle

Milkweed leaf beetle

The accent color is red. Indian grass sends up flower stalks in shades of brick. A bright red cardinal flower seems to leap out from the fray. And an orange-and-black milkweed leaf beetle chews busily away.

Silvery-green orbs of rattle snake master bloom before a backdrop of prairie dropseed grasses. Its seedheads ride waves of wind with grace.

A red-eyed vireo calls“where are you?” from the shady edge of the cool woods. Smooth red sumac berries are almost jelly-ready.

Chewed Austrian pine cone

Chewed Austrian pine cone

Mounds of needles and cones litter the ground beneath a stand of Austrian pine. A green pine cone, chewed from stem to tip, lays on a branch, all scales removed. Some little critter is enjoying a lot of this treat!

In the wetland, puffs of purple-pink Joe pye weed and deep purple prairie iron weed bloom near wetland edges. Sedges display bursts of brown nutlets like little fireworks. Golden sunflowers stand out against green rushes and spikes of brown cattails. Yellow gentian will soon be opening its creamy buds, reminding me that there will be more to see tomorrow.

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist program is available at

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