Wildflowers of the Adirondacks

Many of the wildflowers that bloom in summer and fall are found in Adirondack old fields.  These include abandoned farmland not yet taken over by successional forests and other fields that are mowed less than once per year.  Wildflowers that flourish in these ecological communities depend on the type of soil, drainage, and the length of time the area has been left on its own, among other factors.  Many old field wildflowers can also be found on roadsides and under power lines.  

Some of the summer and fall-blooming plants commonly found in Adirondack old fields are native wildflowers.  

  • Spreading Dogbane sports clusters of fragrant, bell-shaped pink flowers in late June and July. The inside of the flower has deep rose markings. The flowers are said to attract butterflies and bees. The stems and leaves of the Spreading Dogbane plant, when broken, exude a milky sap. Spreading Dogbane grows in open to lightly shaded sites in old fields and along the edges of woods. It is common throughout northern New York and the northern portions of North America.

  • Common Evening-primrose is another native plant that colonizes old fields. Its name comes from the fact that its bright yellow flowers remain partially to fully closed during the day and open in the evening. The fragrant flowers usually last only one to two days. This plant can be seen blooming summer in dry open fields, along roadsides, railroad embankments, waste areas and in open woods.

  • Adirondack old fields are also home to a variety of native summer-blooming asters, plants which produce many tiny tubular flowers on a flowering disk surrounded by a row of colorful rays. The New England Aster grows up to three or four feet tall and produces purple daisy-like flowers with yellow disk florets in late summer and fall.  This plant thrives in damp grasslands and old fields. New England Asters have hairy stems, distinguishing them from New York Asters, which thrive in similar habitats and have smooth stems.

  • A variety of native goldenrods can also be found blooming in old fields.  Flat-top Goldentop is an upright, erect, native perennial, growing up to four feet in height and producing bright yellow flowers.  It can be found in moist meadows, clearings, and roadsides.  

Wildflowers of Old Fields: Hop Clover is a Eurasian plant which was introduced in 1800 as a pasture crop. 

Other plants commonly found blooming in old fields are nonnatives.  Some are considered invasive in some areas.  

  • Hop clover is a non-native plant which produces bright yellow flower clusters in the summer. The flowers are arranged into small, elongated round head-like cluster. The clusters are 1/4 to 1/2 inch across. As they age, the flowers become brown and paper-like. Like all clovers, this plant has leaves divided into three leaflets.  It grows in part shade and sun along roadsides and trails and in disturbed areas, successional fields, and waste places in many locations in the Adirondack Mountains and upstate New York. This plant usually blooms from late June through early September, depending on the weather.

  • Orange Hawkweed, also called Devil's Paintbrush, is a non-native plant that is considered invasive in some areas because it forms extensive mats that can compete with forest understory plants. It invades different habitats including moist meadows, pasture, hay fields, open woods, and roadsides.  It produces bright orange flowers from early June through October.  

  • St. John's Wort is an introduced species that are considered invasive.  It invades disturbed areas, forming dense colonies that crowd out native plants. St Johnswort is commonly found in grasslands, pastures, meadows, and old fields, but can also be found in forested areas that have been disturbed by fire, logging, or road construction. St John's Wort produces golden yellow flowers from June through September. 

Adirondack Old Field Wildflowers

  • Bee-balm (Monarda didyma)

  • Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

  • Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) *

  • Common Chickweed (Cerastium arvense) *

  • Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) *

  • Common Evening-primrose (Oenothera biennis)

  • Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

  • Common Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris)

  • Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)*

  • Eastern Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus)

  • Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

  • Flat-top Goldentop (Euthamia graminifolia)

  • Fringed Black Bindweed (Polygonum cilinode)

  • Hop clover (Trifolium aureum) *

  • Narrowleaf Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

  • New England Aster (Sympyotrichum novae-angliae)

  • Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) *

  • Parasol Whitetop (Doellingeria umbellata)

  • Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)

  • Philadelphia Fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)

  • Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) *

  • St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) *

  • Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) *

  • Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

  • Wrinkleleaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)

* Nonnative

Wildflowers of Early Successional Forests in the Adirondacks

Wildflowers of Adirondack Early Successional Forests

  • Bee-balm (Monarda didyma)

  • Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

  • Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

  • Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)*

  • Eastern Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus)

  • Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

  • Flat-top Goldentop (Euthamia graminifolia)

  • Fringed Black Bindweed (Polygonum cilinode)

  • Hop clover (Trifolium aureum) *

  • Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) *

  • Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) *

  • Spotted Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens capensis)

  • St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) *

  • Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

  • Wrinkleleaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)

* Nonnative 

Many of the wildflowers which bloom in summer and early fall in the Adirondacks are found in early successional forests. The array of wildflowers seen in this ecological community depends on how long ago the disturbance took place, the nature of the disturbance (agriculture, logging, fire, or weather events), and what the area looked like before the disturbance. Early successional forests, as defined here, are forests younger than 20 years. 

Native wildflowers found in early successional forests include some of the same sun-loving plants characteristic of old fields. 

  • Native plants which grow in this habitat include Fireweed, a member of the Evening Primrose family that produces pinkish-purple flowers in a slender, pyramid-shaped terminal cluster in mid- and late-summer. So-named because it often is one of the first plants to recolonize a fire-barren landscape, Fireweed can also be found on roadsides, fields, and low, damp ground on river banks and lake shores. It attracts a variety of insects, including Red Admiral Butterflies, swallowtails, and hairstreaks.

  • Fringed Black Bindweed, another native plant, is also commonly found in forests recovering after logging operations. It is a fast-growing perennial vine with red stems and distinctive widely spaced, heart-shaped leaves. This plant produces a terminal, spike-like cluster of small white flowers. It blooms from late spring through summer. It is also common in recently-burned areas and thickets.

Wildflowers of Early Successional Forests: Queen Anne's Lace gets its name from the fact that the flower resembles lace; the red flower in the center is thought to represent a blood droplet where Queen Anne pricked herself with a needle when she was making the lace. Queen Anne's Lace on the Woods and Waters Trail (23 August 2013).

Early successional forests are also home to a variety of non-native wildflowers, most of which bloom in summer and early fall. 

  • Queen Ann's Lace is is a non-native biennial that is also known as wild carrot. This plant, which is classified as a noxious weed in several states, produces a lacy flower cluster made up of numerous tiny white flowers. Queen Anne’s Lace blooms from mid-summer to early fall. It is found in early successional forests and other disturbed habitats, as well as fields, meadows, waste areas, and roadsides. This plant is very hardy and can thrive in a dry environment.

  • Another non-native that has invaded a wide variety of habitats is Spotted Knapweed. A sun lover, Spotted Knapweed thrives in disturbed areas and old fields and can commonly be found in the wake of logging operations in Adirondack forests. It was accidentally introduced into North America in the late 1800s and is now widely distributed in the US. Like St John's Wort, it is on the list of invasive plants maintained by the National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC). Its bluish lilac blooms, which are actually quite attractive, are seen throughout the summer months.

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Luther Robinson, III