Autumn is a special time for kicking up fallen yellow leaves from the maple trees. The wildflowers are also beautiful with a variety of colors.
Jerusalem artichokes are a bright yellow. This year, three plants just appeared behind my garden. I had planted some along the road, just east of the house. They're nothing compared to the ones behind the garden. Those must be at least 12 feet tall. My identification books all agree that they range from 6 to 10 feet tall. Favored habitats include moist thickets and edges of the roads.
This plant is not native to our area. It is native to the middle-western states. Folks cultivated it, couldn't avoid its escaping, and thus we now find it in the east. Its nutritious tubers are consumed raw in salads or cooked like potatoes. Also, they can be pickled in wine vinegar.
The Jerusalem artichoke normally grows to 6-10 feet tall. This one is 12 feet tall.
If you are a diabetic, this would be a useful food for you. Unlike cultivated potatoes, which raise your blood sugar, the Jerusalem artichoke contains much inulin. That turns into fructose in the colon, which means it has a low glycemic index and doesn't affect your blood sugar as much as potatoes. In fact, it can lower blood sugar. Also, it can help relieve constipation, increase your body's absorption of calcium, reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, and even slow some kinds of cancer. Besides these benefits, it contains thiamin, phosphorus, potassium and iron. It has low quantities of saturated fats and sodium.
There's quite of variety of asters in the fall. Of 54 found in the northeast, about 40 are blue or purple. Even professional botanists are challenged to identify these.
Two of my favorites are the New England and New York asters. They're both deep violet. Both have lanceolate leaves. That means they have leaves that are a lot longer than wide and the widest part is just below the center of the leaf.
Here's a difference between the two plants. The New England aster has a hairy stem, but the New York aster has an almost smooth or slightly downy stem. Generally, aster leaves are alternate, simple and lance-shaped. The New England's leaves have no teeth or notches on the edges. On the contrary, the New York's leaves are toothed.
Unlike the Jerusalem artichokes, these plants have no edible parts. However, they do attract butterflies.
The goldenrods are a beautiful contrast to the blue and purple asters. There are about 150 species of this plant that is in the aster family.
These plants utilize the wind to spread its seeds. Each yellow flower has hairs on top that lets it lightly fly in the breeze.
It is this part of the plant that is utilized by pharmaceutical companies. Saponins in the plant provide an anti-fungal component. These can help folks with kidney and intestine problems. They are especially helpful in fighting a fungus in vaginal and oral areas.
The plant also has a compound, called rutin that is used to treat capillary fragility. Other components, called phenolic glycosides, are anti-inflammatory. Compounds in the leaves and flower tops can help in curing intestinal infestations.
Besides being useful to humans, they are frequented by many types of crawling insects and butterfly species. They are also a food and shelter source for various animals. They help stabilize soil which helps control erosion.
With all these positive qualities, they have the disadvantage of being extremely invasive. Their main root can reach a foot into the ground, so they are hard to dig up. Also, those flowers go to seed and spread like crazy.
When you're out for a walk or ride, enjoy the colors of wildflowers and well as the trees. My mother certainly did.