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Nature & You: Ironweed is a hearty, heat-tolerant wildflower

Ironweed is a native wildflower that loves the summer heat. [PHOTO BY CLARENCE A. RECHENTHIN, HOSTED BY THE USDA-NRCS PLANTS DATABASE]

Ironweed is a native wildflower that loves the summer heat. [PHOTO BY CLARENCE A. RECHENTHIN, HOSTED BY THE USDA-NRCS PLANTS DATABASE]

Listen closely to hear wildflowers' voices

News flash! The air temperature outside is brutally hot in mid-July. That information probably comes as no surprise to you, what with your choice to ensconce yourself within the confines of your air-conditioned home.

I can't fault you for that. Truth be told, I, too, have a strong hankering to avoid the outdoor world in the blast furnace month that is July.

Then again, I am going to admonish you to do some nature observation when you look out through the windows of your air-conditioned car when you are out and about running errands.

Be on the lookout for a tall, gangly green plant with a drop-dead-gorgeous cluster of purple blossoms on the tip top of this wildflower plant. The flowers are right about at face level, and it is pretty difficult to miss seeing them — especially if you are like me and purple is one of your favorite colors.

It is a wildflower called ironweed.

For those of you who are of the adventuresome ilk, I would entice you to actually venture up close and personal to this plant. Put your ear up next to the flowers. Listen very intently. Do you hear it? Do you hear that unmistakable, but subdued, giggle?

Most wild plants cannot talk, but this one can. It laughs at the summer heat. Notice how the leaves are not wilted. Pay particular attention to the fact this plant is not under stress. This is an Oklahoma native plant that loves the heat. It blooms only during the middle of the summer season. Few people have reveled in the beauty of this wildflower's impressive floral display because they are not engaging in nature study recreational pursuits in mid-July.

That's your marching orders.

Get out there. Defy the heat. Go exploring and see if you can find this fascinating wildflower.

— Neil Garrison, NewsOK Contributor

Neil Garrison was the longtime naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center.

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›