Black Cohosh

These are tall and beautiful right now. The books say they have a bad fetid smell, but to me it just smells like a sweet floral — very nice today perfuming the air after rain. Up to 8 feet tall. A variety of bugbane. Has long been used medicinally to treat practically everything, and currently is popular for treating problems associated with menopause (but its actual effectiveness is uncertain). Native to eastern North America. Buttercup family.

Black Cohosh, Bugbane, Black Snakeroot, Fairy Candle (Cimicifuga racemosa)

Grass Spider Webs

It looked like someone had too many diamond-studded hairnets, so they had just tossed them all over the grass. Here’s one in sun and one in shade. In the sun one, you can see the sky reflected in the dew. In the shade one, you can see the dark funnel-shaped hole that the spider hides in. Evidently these webs are not sticky, so if anyone (very small) happens on to it, the spider is just very speedy zipping out to grab it. Their bite paralyzes their prey, but their chompers are too small to pierce human skin. Genus Agelenopsis.

Grass Spider

Thin-leaved Sunflower

Near the aqueduct bridge. I include the leaf picture to show how much the leaf helps in identification. You can see the leaves are directly opposite each other (instead of alternate). Also they have toothed edges. The really distinctive thing about them is that in addition to that central dividing line (the midrib), they have two prominent veins running somewhat parallel to the midrib. That seems to be a consistent characteristic among sunflowers. This variety is only 2-5 feet tall. Native. Aster family.

Thin-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus)

Spangle Grass

These are the flower heads. They turn bronze in the fall, and yellow in winter. Pretty stuff — can be dried. Note there is a spring flower that’s also called wild oats (sessile bellwort). Native.

Spangle Grass, Northern Sea Oats, Wild Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

Tall Ironweed

These buds are especially interesting, so densely packed. My sources are conflicting about differentiating between the different kind of ironweed, so I’m afraid this is just my best guess, based on the bract form and leaf shape. (Let’s just enjoy the look of it, whatever it is…) Composite family. Native perennial.

Tall Ironweed (Vernonia altissima)

Blackhaw Viburnum

Looking for color wherever it might be—these are a beautiful deep blue. The fruit becomes edible after a frost, and is then eaten by birds. Black Haw has a long history of medicinal uses, mostly for all kinds of women’s issues, primarily to prevent miscarriages and ease menstrual cramps. It’s a decoction of the bark that is used—it contains a chemical relative of aspirin as well as other active components. However it is not “recognized as safe” by the FDA. Adoxaceae family. Native.

Blackhaw Viburnum, Sweet Haw, Black Haw, Stag Bush (Viburnum prunifolium)

Eastern Wahoo

I had a hard time identifying this flowering tree, and I know you think I gave up and made up a name, but no, really, it’s an Eastern Wahoo! In late spring it has a purple flower, and now it has these red four-lobed fruit capsules that open to expose the seeds. It’s really beautiful and showy. Why haven’t people planted it everywhere? Where can I put one? Bittersweet family (which explains why the part opening to reveal the seed looks so similar to bittersweet). Native.
Eastern Wahoo, Burning Bush (Euonymus atropurpureus)

Wreath Goldenrod

A.F. Irit thought this would make a good wreath, and that turns out to be the name of this goldenrod, one of the few varieties that has the flowers in clusters near the stem like this, and not in terminal clusters. You can see that the stem is blue-gray, inspiring the other name. Native.

Wreath Goldenrod, Blue-Stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia)

Bonus pictures: this plant is near a high aqueduct bridge which overlooks a tributary to the Charles River. The bridge is covered with graffiti…