By Pat Rowland
(Originally published in the Featherless Flyer, October, 2007)
Spring is when most people think of wildflowers in bloom. As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. However, native and restored prairies exhibit an abundance of colorful flowers through three seasons - spring, summer and fall. Two of the most impressive autumn flowers are Dotted Gayfeather and Maximilian Sunflower. Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata, also known as “blazing star”, blooms from August to October, exhibiting a beautiful purple flowered spike and standing 1 to 2 feet high. Dotted Gayfeather has a root system over 21 feet deep and is a palatable and nutritious range plant. The bulb-like root has a carrot flavor in early spring and has been used for food by Native Americans.
Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) is closely associated with the bluestem grasses. It grows upright, singly or in a close cluster from a common rhizome. Maximilian sunflower (shown in photo by Sue Malnory) is palatable, nutritious, and readily eaten by all classes of livestock. It produces a heavy crop of seed that is excellent wildlife food. Both these plants can be found on the tall grass prairies located at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.
Ed: Thanks to grants in 2009 and 2010 from the Prairie and Timbers Audubon Society, McKinney, Texas, prairie restoration work is underway along south Bennett Lane at the Refuge, with extensive planting of native grass and wildflower seeds.
For more information about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the official website is http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/hagerman/index.html and for information about the activities and programs of the Friends of Hagerman, http://www.friendsofhagerman.com.