Final Flowering of Fall

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Well at 25 degrees, the frost is on the pumpkin. The sensitive fern is so called because it does not tolerate even a light frost.

Some trees along our road have dropped their leaves of a sudden, their abscission layers obviously very sensitive to the signal to avoid the risk of water loss. They close up shop overnight and go dormant until conditions improve in April.

This fall flowering mint in the image above appeared in the pasture quite widespread, and I can’t seem to get it named. The small light-purple flowers have mostly disappeared and seeds set by the time this picture was taken a week or two back.

The inflorescence (name of the way the flowers are arranged on the stem) appears to be an umbel–a more or less flat topped flower cluster like Queen Ann’s Lace.

Botany nerds should be familiar with umbels and corymbs, spikes and cymes. If you aren’t, click the button below and take a look at all the illustrated guides to inflorescence types, and be ready to ID them come April, when we all emerge again and seek the sun.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Love the image with your house and barn behind! Ah, Botany…the reason I changed my major from Biology to Nursing. No interest then but much more now!

  2. Inflorescence types was never an interest of mine, but I enjoy observing the varieties of flower types in the wildflowers I encounter now.