Poor Will's Almanack: August 16 - 22, 2011

Aug 16, 2011

Poor Will’s Almanack for the second week of Late Summer

As Late Summer deepens, then catalpas start to pale. Buckeye leaves turn brown under the high canopy. Black walnut leaves trickle to the ground. Patches of scarlet appear in the sumac and poison ivy.

Along the freeways, beds of white boneset have come into bloom beside the drifts of Middle Summer’s blue chicory and silver Queen Anne's lace.

Throughout the countryside, you can find tall ironweed, wingstem, small-flowered agrimony, white snakeroot, wild lettuce, sundrops, heal-all, wild cucumber, jumpseed, tall coneflower, clearweed, touch-me-not and goldenrod. Wild plums are ripe for jam, and woodland grapes are purple. Elderberries are dark and sweet for wine.

Crickets, cicadas and katydids become more insistent. Cardinal song becomes fainter. Long flocks of blackbirds and starlings pursue the harvest. Whip-poor-wills, cedar waxwings and catbirds migrate. Bees are everywhere in the fields now. Rows of lanky great mulleins, black and gone to seed, line the bike paths. Pokeweed plants are the size of small trees, with purple stalks and berries. The panicled dogwood shows its pale fruit, its leaves fading pink. Trefoils decay, and staghorns darken brown above their red or yellow leaves.

But goldenrod brightens the fields, and the height of Tall Bellflower Season softens the mood of the decaying forest undergrowth with blossoms of powder blue. Beneath them, big, white puffball mushrooms emerge like moons among spring's rotting stems and leaves.

Next week on Poor Will’s Almanack: notes for the third week of Late Summer. In the meantime, watch for birds lined up on the high wires, telling you the time of year.