Water Closet for October 12, 2018

As we approach leaf-color change time, for which New England is so famous, the wild flowers still blooming along our roads, around our fields, and in our yards become more noticeable and precious.

Jerusalem artichoke, a sunflower in its late summer-early fall glory – Judy Schneider

Naturalist Fred Gralenski of Pembroke, Maine, nicely calls our attention to some that are common way Down East and here. He and good wife Linda famously started and run a public library in his small town two and one-half the size of Middleton with one-tenth the population on shores with a tidal range of twenty feet. Every couple-weeks for years Middleton Stream Teamers have received his “Quoddy Nature Notes” which, when asked, he generously lets us use in our Water Closet.  Fred’s nature library at home must be impressive. In his essays he often playfully shares with us his numerous sources.

QUODDY NATURE NOTES      By Fred Gralenski (late September 2018)

Some fall flowers

          As we head into the days of lessening daylight, Mother Nature tries to compensate our entrance into a world of mostly black and white with a burst of color.  We have the previews right now with the fall flowers, in anticipation of the October tree leaves, which are mostly reds and yellows. Our roadsides presently are decorated with various clumps of flowers.  The blues are primarily the New York, New England, and Purple stemmed asters, and a few others flower types.  The Whites are also mostly White asters, and left over Meadowsweet and Queen Anne’s lace and certainly the floating seeds of dandelions and milkweeds.  The golds, of course, are dominated by another aster, the many goldenrods that are native to our area.  There are a few hardy dandelions blossoming, but the buttercups seem to be all gone. A clump of Tansy may appear now and then.  Butter and Eggs, along with Bird’s Foot Trefoil, add a calming tint to the roadside weeds.  But what is that other plant, that skinny dandelion that flourishes in fields and uncut lawns where the grass is stunted by the dry, hot summer?  I used to call that ‘Hawk’s beard’, but I guess that was wrong.

Smartweeds put on a fine fall show. – Judy Schneider photo

          Fall dandelion or Hawkbit is found in my “Summer & Fall Wildflowers of New England” by Marilyn J. Dwelley.  This seemed to be the closest plant in my search. 

One of dozens of asters that brighten up our early falls. – Judy Schneider photo

Its scientific name is Leontodon autumnalis, and with this information a new door was opened to a wider search elsewhere, and into a botanical upheaval.  The name “Hawkbits” evolved in mediaeval times when people believed that hawks and falcons ate the leaves to improve their eyesight.  The plant is native to Eurasia and Northern Africa, but is established in North America and New Zealand, and looking in other references there are over 80 species of Leontodon.  Do I have the right one?  Looking through the list, L. autumnalis was missing.  It turns out a group of frumpy old botanists kicked my Hawkbit out of its previous classification into the new genus Scorzoneroides.  I guess I’ll have to accept that.  This little endeavor graphically pointed out the dangers of using common names, as there are several ‘Hawkbits’ scattered about in the literature, and they are quite different.  My ‘Flora of New Brunswick’ (1986) by the late Harold Hinds, mentions that Hawkbits are “Known elsewhere in Canada in British Columbia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.” 

This seemed to correlate with previous information, but other references had Hawkbit as a different type.  Reports from Finland suggests other varieties, like Rough Hawkbit.  Although these plants possibly have some medicinal properties to alleviate some kidney or blood problems, no approved treatments are

Patches of blue asters such as these grace our fall fields. Many bees are found on them seeking the last pollen and nectar before the cold. – Judy Schneider photo

apparently finalized and reported.

          So that’s a little of the strange yellow plant that’s blooming almost everywhere, and keeping the why and how of its presence a secret.  If you don’t have any, come on up and I’ll give you some.  Mine might be a variety, but I’ll show you how you can buy on line one hundred grams of certified seed for fifty pounds sterling.




  Precipitation Data* for Month of:  July Aug  Sept  
  30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 3.89 3.37   3.77  
   2018 Central Watershed Actual 4.44 7.2   4.6  

 Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):

 For Oct. 5, 2018    Normal . . . 7.5 CFS             Current Rate  . . .73.9 CFS 
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data


** Middleton Stream Team is the source of actual precipitation data for Aug. and Sept.

Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.

 THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or          <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com>