Wildlife: Wild blooms abound in summer meadows

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After dinner on summer evenings, my wife and I often explore an open field not far from the house. I mow it each fall so it remains a meadow.

To keep the meadow accessible, I mow a loop trail each spring. I also mow a large circular area at the high spot where we keep a fire ring. On clear summer evenings we like to lie on the hill to watch the stars pop into view. We watch for shooting stars and track the International Space Station when it crosses the sky. (Visit www.spotthestation.nasa.gov for where to look from your location.)

Before nightfall, we walk the loop trail and sometimes spook a cottontail or flush a turkey.

But always we enjoy the summer blooms that decorate the trail.

Right now, three white flowers dominate the landscape: yarrow, Queen Anne's lace and ox-eye daisy -- all exotic invaders from the Old World.

The most dainty of the summer whites is the composite, yarrow (Achillea millefolium), which thrives in undisturbed meadows and along roadsides.

The genus name refers to the Greek hero Achilles who carried its leaves in his pocket during the Trojan War. The leaves' medicinal properties include an astringent effect that stops blood flow from a wound.

Yarrow's white flat-topped flower clusters are easy to recognize, and its lacy fern-like leaves are finely dissected, hence the specific epithet, millefolium.

Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota) can be confused with yarrow, though it's taller and its flat flower head is much larger. If in doubt, pull it from the ground and smell and taste the root. Your nose and taste buds will confirm that Queen Anne's lace is the wild form of the garden carrot.

In a few weeks when the Anne's lacy flowers die and curl to form a concave cup, look for large black-and-yellow garden spiders that spend the night inside the protective cover of the cup. There will often be an impressive spider web nearby.

Finally, stands of ox-eye daisies punctuate many wild meadows. The perfectly round golden disk surrounded by immaculate white petals is unmistakable. Freshly picked daisies often decorate our kitchen table this time of year.

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Biologist, author and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 9-11 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) and noon-2 p.m. Sundays on 1360 WMNY-AM (Pittsburgh). He can be reached at scottshalaway.googlepages.com and 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.


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