Poor Will’s Almanack for the third week of late summer
This week moves the earth halfway between June solstice and September equinox. It took two months to reach this point in the third quarter of the year; now summer stagnation suddenly falls apart, and the continent rushes toward autumn at twice the rate it did throughout July and middle August.
Beggarticks unfold their small golden flowers in this second-last week of late summer, coming into bloom as Judas maples become more common. Hickory nuts are lying on the woodland paths. Buckeyes are completely formed. The panicled dogwood foliage reddens a little, its berries green. Acorns are full size, a few even brown.
Purple pokeweed berries shine through the undergrowth. Burrs of the tick trefoil catch on your pants legs. White vervain is gone, and the flowers of blue vervain climb to the top of their spikes, measuring the end of warmest time of year. Fields of brilliant oxeye, coneflower, goldenrod, wingstem and ironweed hide the decay of Canadian thistles, fringed loosestrife, skullcap, wild petunias and meadow rue.
Phlox and Resurrection lilies disappear quickly. The tall loosestrife, which began its season before the Dog Days, has completed flowering. Golden showy coneflowers have begun their three-week process of decay, and the menacing ragweed is becoming old and empty. Along the roadsides, the umbels of Queen Anne’s lace, so bright through middle summer, are contracting and darkening.
Telephone wires fill with birds as migrations accelerate. Flickers, redheaded woodpeckers, red-winged blackbirds, house wrens, scarlet tanagers, Eastern bluebirds, robins, grackles, and black ducks move south. Bees are working harder, spiders weave more webs. Grackles and starlings become louder in the afternoons, but an entire morning can go by without a cardinal song or the sound of a dove.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fourth week of late summer. In the meantime, let yourself drift down this river of time, seeing everything that you can see.