By Boak Wiesner
A bright sunny morning finds me in the little pocket of prairie across the marsh from the Red Barn. I can tell it’s still the height of summer as very few of the Canada Goldenrod have yet to bloom. One inflorescence I do find open is already crawling with Soldier Beetles, almost as if they were diners crowding a new, trendy restaurant. They blend in well with the color of the blossoms, eating aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
I also find the spherical galls of Goldenrod Gall Flies, and looking around, I’m left wondering why the Canada Goldenrod has galls whereas the Stiff Goldenrod does not? Has one an immunity to infection by the fly? By the way, our neighbors to the north call it Graceful Goldenrod.
The tiny golden flowers of Big Bluestem need an up-close view. You can see the glumes and the lemmas at the base of the two kinds of flowers, the modified bracts that enclose each type.
An invasive, Common St. Johnswort, has showy yellow flowers, too, the edges of which are lined with little sacs of oil that have a whole range of pharmaceutical applications, at least in controlled doses. Too much of a good thing may not be what the doctor ordered, though, or the veterinarian, in this case, as pastured animals eating too much can have some serious problems.
Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer