Late Summer in the Wildflower Meadow

August 23, 2016  |  Permalink

One of the natural highlights of the last month of summer is the wildflower displays that can be found in the open sunny meadows. Many state parks and natural areas have old farm fields or pastures that are left to the wildflowers or actively managed for them. An example of this can be found at the Gossett Tract, a unit of Harpeth River State Park. 

 

You can leisurely stroll on the mown pathways for about a mile through the old fields. The paths also follow woods' edges and along the river where the chance of seeing wildlife is best.

 

When I walked there yesterday, I was delighted to see lots of tall purple Ironweed (below) and the symbol of the coming September, the Tall Goldenrod (below). Often the two beautiful colors grow intertwined.

 

There were still many Passion Flowers (below) in bloom, although they were more abundant in July and early August. Because it is getting late in the growing season for the Passion Flowers, there were a great number of the fruits present. The “Maypops” are edible and the plant has been used to treat anxiety from overwork and worry.

 

The Common Milkweed (below) was all in seed pod stage and these pods are awesome looking. They are sure to attract your attention.  Most importantly, the milkweed is essential food for the caterpillars of the wonderful Monarch Butterflies. Milkweed sap is poisonous to humans so it must be boiled several times to make it edible to us.

 

After a walk through the meadows, you might want to visit the river for cooling off. If you walk around the loop counter clockwise you end up at the riverside picnic area. There is also an access point for boats near the entrance. Overall, the Gossett Tract is a prime spot for late summer nature.

About the author

Randy Hedgepath

Tennessee State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath is a native of west Tennessee, where his family’s farm was just 15 miles from the Tennessee River. After graduating from UT Martin and working seasonally for several years for the National Park Service and Tennessee State Parks, he has spent the last 33 years with state parks. Randy worked as a ranger/naturalist at South Cumberland State Park on the Cumberland Plateau and at Radnor Lake Natural Area in Nashville until 2007 when he was given the opportunity to be the statewide naturalist for the state park system.