We’ve been blessed to have Nicole McGee serve as a summer intern at Moontree Studios. Ms. McGee is from Chicago, IL and has recently graduated with an undergraduate degree in Biology from Occidental College in Los Angeles, California (read more here). I invited her to write a guest post for Ecological Relationships.
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When one thinks of the color yellow, they usually think of happiness. I did not think much of the color, personally; as bright as it can be, it hardly caught my eye and I certainly never wore it. The summer I spent with Moontree (and the wonderful Adam Thada) has significantly changed that [editors note: I was inclined to fact check this assertion about Mr. Thada’s character, but I promised Ms. McGee a free, unedited writing space, so I will have to let it stand 😉 ]. This blog post is about some beautiful yellow perennials that meant so much more to me than I expected.
When I first arrived at the lodge, I was stunned by how bright the coreopsis flowers were throughout the day. As I mentioned, no feelings were initially brought on by this realization, but I did begin to pay attention to them so much more. Soon, I felt a rush of joy when I would open my window and be greeted by the sea of beaming yellow flowers. Of course, I did some searching to learn about this beauty, which I will gladly share with you. This is only one color variant of over 100 species and hybrids of coreopsis native to American prairies. Although they require a lot of sun, they aren’t too picky about soil type and, thus, can tolerate our very sandy ground. Of course their vibrant color readily catches the attention of birds and bugs, drawing them to the feeders and rain gardens. For reasons unknown, my mood is ELEVATED at the sight of an insect, so I would often stop by to see what resided on any given flower. Not only that, but the color yellow has been shown to increase mental activity, energy levels, and heighten one’s awareness. Because of these reasons, I was very grateful to see so much of this mood boosting color first thing in the morning. Then, slowly, I noticed less and less tickseed outside my window. I figured their time had passed, and wondered what color I’d be greeted with next. I’m not familiar with the plants that grow here in Indiana, so it has been very insightful seeing a new species every day!
To my surprise, more yellow flowers appeared in their place! Remember my lack of flower knowledge? Well, I thought the poor coreopsis were just slumped down and fading away; I had no idea this was a different flower altogether. Pictured above is the grey headed, or prairie, coneflower (Ratibida pinnata). I’ve now learned that the petals of this flower are “reflexed”, not dying. These flowers are also highly nutritious for bees and attract many insects, such as wasps, beetles, and caterpillars. This flower is a wonderful addition to the surrounding area, as they stand 2-5ft tall and are easily seen from a good distance away. Whenever I returned from my weekends at home, it felt as though they swayed in the wind, greeting me with a bright excitement.
One last perennial that often caught my eye was the partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata). I’ve seen many compounded leaves around here, most belonging to pea plants. This flower is also fairly resistant. I learned that this plant was sometimes used to help with fainting and nausea. It has certainly amazed me how many helpful plants and herbs are right at our fingertips; I look forward to getting more into gardening and using these benefits the Earth has readily provided. I’m a big cat person, so I have been slowly inching toward any strays I see here at the lodge. While looking at these compound leaves, I saw the kitten pounce up to play and was glad I snapped a photo. The yellow is not only present now in my initial memories of arriving here, but they remain in the background of each new moment, bright and wonderful as ever. I’ll always think of the time I spent here when I see the color yellow!