The hazy, daisy days of summer


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What wildflower better evokes memories of childhood than the daisy? The white-petaled flower with the bright yellow center often is collected by gleeful youngsters as a surprise bouquet for mom or grandma.

And who hasn't plucked its petals in hopes of finding romance? “She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me . . . ”

The ox-eye daisy – its full name – normally blooms from June to August, but the hearty plant has been seen in flower as late as December on southwestern-facing slopes that receive plentiful sunshine. The perennial‘‍s white head can be an inch or two across and the plant itself can reach 3 feet.

This year, the daisy has been particularly abundant, taking over hillsides, including those along Interstate 79 in Washington and Greene counties. There, it initially crowded out the ubiquitous crown vetch that had been planted to control erosion. In addition to disturbed areas such as roadsides, the daisy primarily grows in groups in meadows, fields and along the edge of the woods.

The plant, whose Latin name is Leucanthemum vulgare, was introduced in Colonial times to North America from Europe, even transported by settlers to propagate in such far-off lands as New Zealand and Australia. Bees love it, birds love it and so do many people (The flowers can be eaten raw or added to salads).But not everyone loves a daisy.

According to the Audubon Society's “Field Guide to Wildflowers,” dairy farmers dislike the wildflower because it can produce an unwanted flavor in milk when eaten by cattle. Some gardeners call it a a noxious weed, finding it difficult to eradicate. In rare cases, daisies can cause contact dermatitis, a skin inflammation that is a result of an allergic reaction.

So whether you love it or ­love it not, it's hard to miss the ox-eye daisy, one of the showpiece wildflowers of summer.

Former Post-Gazette online editor Pete Zapadka is a wildflower aficionado by day and an amateur astronomer by night. He can be reached at pzapadka@yahoo.com or on Twitter: @pzapadka.


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