Rockcliff Farm is located over a mile and a half from the entrance to the B.W. Wells State Recreation Area at Falls Lake, North Carolina. Much of the area along the road to the farm is heavily wooded, but large open areas, especially adjacent to power lines, can also be found. It is in the open areas, where sun penetrates for part of the day, that wildflowers adapted to roadside habitats thrive.
One of the most common roadside wildflowers in North Carolina is the Maryland Golden Aster (Chrysopsis mariana), and many can be found along this road. While most wild asters are white or blue, this aster has large, yellow flowers that immediately catch the eye. As seen below, many plants have multiple stems, forming natural flower clusters.
Much less common in the Falls Lake area is the Eastern Silvery Aster (Symphyotrichum concolor), a small native aster with blue flowers. Asters are identified more by their foliage than their flowers, which are often similar to each other. The Eastern Silvery Aster is easy to identify due to its unique and unusual leaves. Small and flat, with a silvery sheen, the leaves press tightly upward against the stems. Seen below is an aster lying flat on the ground due to heavy rains.
A closer look at the unique leaves and the flowers.
The Purpledisk Sunflower (Helianthus atrorubens) is another common roadside wildflower. It is tough, hardy, and extremely drought resistant. The flowering stems often reach 4 to 6 feet high from a large basal rosette of fuzzy leaves. But the Purpledisk Sunflowers on this road are blooming only 8 to 10 inches above the ground from very small basal leaves. This is a result of frequent mowing on this section of the road, which continually cuts the stems back. But the flower, as seen below, is normal in size.
This year, a few Downy Lobelias (Lobelia puberula) have appeared in the powerlines adjacent to the road. A late-blooming perennial covered with fine hairs, Downy Lobelia has one of the largest flowers of the Lobelia genus. The flowers are also characteristically arranged along one side of the stem, which gives them a slightly unbalanced look. Below are photos of the flowers and fuzzy stem of several of these plants. The true color of these flowers was hard to capture in digital images. The last photo of the following three represents the true color of the flowers.
Mushrooms are also common along the roadsides just past the entry gates. The mushrooms pictured below are Amanita muscaria , Fly Agaric, which are considered both toxic and hallucinogenic. These are most likely the Southeastern variety, Amanita muscaria var persicina, which tend to be yellow and orange rather than red. Thanks to Van Cotter for the I.D.!
And finally, the Slenderleaf False Foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia). Twelve consecutive days of rain in late September and early October have beaten many of these fragile plants down, making them more difficult to see. The leaves and stems are very narrow, and the pink flowers are small but bright. Grassy roadsides and ditches are perfect for these annual wildflowers, since they are semi-parasitic on grass roots. In the photograph below, note the drooping position of the two upper flower petals. This characteristic helps to differentiate Slenderleaf False Foxglove from its close relatives.
A question was asked about Helianthus atrorubens, the Purpledisk Sunflower. Why is it called Purpledisk ? There really doesn’t seem to be anything purple about it.
A close up of the disk itself reveals that the tiny disk florets are a dark red, which can be interpreted as purple.
According to the dependable website alabamaplants.com, “atr” is derived from the Latin for black and “rube” from the Latin for red or reddish. When combined into “atrorubens” they become “dark red”.