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A Bounty of Beauty and Color in August

August 17, 2015  |  Permalink

“August is all that I know,
It’s with me wherever I go,
It’s with me when I need a friend,
It brings me good weather,
It keeps me together,
It picks me up when I’m down”

~ Arthur Lee

August is when hot weather’s charm starts to wear thin. In Tennessee, it tends to be a slow and quiet month, mainly because of the heat. In Europe, August is vacation time, a time to rest. Maybe a rest is good in preparation for the harvest. It is a time to see wild plants with their ripe fruits and berries. These ripe and soon to be ripe fruits give the season some of its most beautiful and colorful sights.

The Carolina Buckthorn is one of late summer’s most colorful small trees. It has lustrous dark green foliage the entire growing season. By mid-summer it has clusters of green berries that turn a wonderful red in August and then glossy black later. Buckthorn is common at Montgomery Bell State Park along the edges of woods and does not have thorns.

Sumacs have clusters of fuzzy red fruits in August. The stems on Smooth Sumac are also quite colorful. Dr. David Pitts of the University of Tennessee at Martin has found that Sumac berries are important to the Eastern Bluebirds who choose to overwinter in Tennessee.

American Beautyberry is one of my favorite shrubs. It indeed has beautiful berries with a unique color. Beautyberry is a treat to find on a late summer walk on the Island Loop Trail at Pickwick Landing State Park or in the landscape planting in front of the visitor center at Fort Loudoun State Historic Area, where I took this photo. Beautyberry has been found to have insect repellent leaves which are especially good to repel mosquitoes.

An evergreen ground cover found in Pickett State Park and other parks of the northern Cumberland Plateau and Eastern Highland Rim is the Teaberry. The bright red fruits highlight this azalea family member with the pleasantly fragrant leaves.

August has more hot days in store but generally good weather. The Tennessee forests and meadows have colorful and useful plants decorating this warm and pleasant time. So, get out and enjoy, at a Tennessee State Park near you.

About the author

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.