September surprises

Every autumn I seem to find a surprise or two in the yard, usually spring flowers that should be long-gone. Four years ago it was an iris. I’ve also found late-blooming snowdrop anemone more than once.

This afternoon, while checking up on the status of the yard, I spotted this single wood violet.

one purple violet in the grass and creeping charlie

The vegetable garden is also a good spot to find late bloomers, usually plants that just didn’t quite get enough time to finish before the first frost. But today I spotted beans that are making their first appearance of the year. There are two plants, each completely tangled up in thistles. (When they didn’t appear on time, I didn’t bother weeding the garden.) Strange time to be starting!

two bean flowers, the background nearly all poky thistles

Advertisements

Not quite the end for the rudbeckia

The large section of black-eyed susans has finished blooming and is going to seed.

more than two dozen dark-brown seedheads, with only a few shriveled petals remaining

But just when I thought it was the end for these flowers, a somewhat hidden section popped up a few feet away.

closeup of one bright yellow flower with a tall brown cone, with six more flowers blurred in a fairly straight line in the background

They are a welcome sight as the garden is starting to fade.

Rudbeckia in the morning, rudbeckia in the evening

Black-eyed susans that are opening look like they’re sleepy and having a hard time waking up.

bright yellow flower just starting to open, the petals somewhat swirled to the right, in bright sunlight

My hair is a bit wild in the morning, too.

another flower farther along, the petals on the left sticking straight up, and the petals on the right starting to fall into place

One last stretch, and then this one will be ready.

closeup on a nearly-open flower with 13 petals flat, while 2 on the left and 5 in the back are sticking up, with several other flowers blurred in the background

At the end of the day, this one looks like it’s ready for sleep.

stem hanging down with a reddish rudbeckia just starting to unfurl

All tucked in for the night. This doesn’t look comfy to me, but what do I know? I’m not a bee.

completely open flower that is just starting to fade, with a long-horned bee holding onto the top of a petal with two legs while its body hangs underneath

Rudbeckia’s visitors

If I were giving out an award for the most social flower of the year, black-eyed susan would win. One fun day, I spent the morning checking and rechecking on them, noticing and admiring the diversity of insects that were attracted to the blossoms. About two-thirds of these photos are from that one day alone.

Bees:

likely a bumblebee on the right side of the center disk, facing downward

metallic green been in the same position

unidentified smaller bee on the left of the center disk, curled and facing downward

possibly a megachile, on top of the center disk, with legs full of orange pollen

Flies:

really big fly with hairs, possibly a tachinid, on top of the center disk

long-legged fly standing out on one of the petals

Flies that look like bees:

bee mimic with a wide abdomen

much smaller bee mimic, or hoverfly, hovering to the left of the center disk

Butterflies:

tattered monarch sitting on the right side of the flower

Eastern tiger swallowtail with wings outstretched, tilted toward the camera, on the right side of the flower

Bees and butterflies:

gray butterfly, possibly a hairstreak, on the left side, and a long-horned bee on the right, their antennae crossing in the middle

Lacewing:

sitting on a petal in the front of the picture, facing downward

Aphids:

a blurred stem with two large red aphids and several smaller red aphids, in front of a black-eyed susan

Beetle:

beetle perpendicular to a tall center disk, with a dark red body and wing shells that blend in with the flower disk

Japanese beetle doing the splits:

beetle on the petals facing up

Leafhopper:

small green insect tucked into the fold where the petal meets the flower's center

I don’t know what this is:

patterned brown insect with long antennae, climbing up a tall center disk

Inchworm:

skinny green caterpillar holding onto a petal with its head hidden behind the center disk

And my favorite find, a camouflaged looper inchworm:

curved brown caterpillar hanging off the right side of the center disk

(More about this one later.)

There was also this gruesome find — one dead bee on a petal, with two dead bees and one dead fly suspended below — but then again, a spider’s gotta eat, too. (I assume that’s what created this scene.)

tall image of a flower with four dead insects, three hanging below the flower but no visible spiderwebs

Rudbeckia irregularities

With so many dozens of black-eyed susans in our garden, we were bound to spot some flowers that didn’t grow quite perfectly. Here are some examples.

One petal that remained fused:

black-eyed susan in bright sunlight, the petal at the 3 o'clock position looks a bit like a cornucopia

Irregular center disks:

the brown center has eight growths, some pointed and some flat, around the circle, and a thin, curvy yellow growth out the middle

cone-shaped center disk, with a smaller one pointing to the left growing out of the left side

two cone-shaped centers on one flower, mostly connected but separated near the top

Another type of irregular center, a condition called fasciation that causes elongated growth that’s usually in the stem, which causes the flower to be elongated too:

a really large roundish center that's about double the normal width, with petals hanging below and a couple petals strangely growing out the top right

(I left this flower in the garden, since fasciation is not contagious.)

Aster yellows, an incurable condition caused by a bacteria that’s spread by leafhoppers:

black-eyed susan with narrow petals that are light green instead of yellow

six brown centers without any petals

(These affected sections of flowers were removed, because aster yellows is contagious.)

Curled petals that seem to be caused by the tear / hole near the tips:

yellow flower with some narrow red in the center of the petals, all but three of the petals curled under, viewed from above

It’s a pretty effect, but it happened to many flowers, so I’m curious whether it’s something to be concerned about. I haven’t been able to find any information about this yet.

mostly red flower with orange-ish tips, most of the petals curled under, viewed from the side so the flower looks flat

For further reading

Rudbeckia variety

Long petals, short petals. Skinny petals, wide petals. Single color, bicolor. You name it, we saw it somewhere in the garden this year.

The red ones likely came from a seed mix a few years ago. They started in a flower box and are now spreading on their own and may be intermingling with the native, solid-yellow, rudbeckia hirta. I think they’re called “gloriosa daisy” though which specific variety, I’m not sure; perhaps there are more than one, which is why there’s such variation.

Above and below the black-eyed susans

This was a banner season for the native black-eyed susans — especially after such a lackluster year in 2016. While last year there were only a few flowers, and not any until September 19, this year they started opening up on June 20, and dozens and dozens of them kept going for weeks.

sunny shot of many rudbeckia hirta, with one on the far right closer and tilted more toward the camera

closer view of fewer flowers, focusing mainly on three across the frame

One gorgeous Sunday afternoon, I waded in close to the cluster and crouched near the ground to look up at the blue sky.

more than a dozen of the same flowers, viewed from below, with mostly blue sky and a few wispy clouds in the background

Side-by-side comparison of one flower:

Here’s one more photo of the whole bunch for good measure, from the side.

three dozen or so rudbeckia hirta in bright sunshine, viewed from the side