Yesterday, along the Fox River Trail, I noticed a scattering of coneflowers that were flowers no more but only cones, brown on dried stems, their seeds either in the cones still or having fallen out, so new life will bloom again in spring. So also some of the yarrows or Queen Anne’s Lace have dried up, their once white, lacey flowers curled up like a cup, now brown, gone to seed. Many of the pink flowers of the thistles are gradually dying and drying, becoming cottony sails for their seeds to catch the breeze. The milkweeds are still succulent, though, their light green pods still sound and growing, packed with paratroopers of their own. Timothy grass and other grasses were nodding their full heads of seeds in the breeze; some were pale, stiff straw; some were still sage green. Grapes and other dark or red berries are now ripe though hidden beneath still robust green leaves, but only a few white dogwood berries remain on their red stems, the singing of the song sparrows stronger for having eaten so many. In the shady, cool, woods along the trail, the cicadas and crickets were also singing yesterday, arranging for their last month of romantic liaisons before the cold kills them. A couple box elder beetles I saw had the same idea, cavorting in the intoxicating blossom of a goldenrod. I’d never seen so many Japanese rose beetles before; they were bunched up like iridescent berries on plants of all kinds – goldenrod, milkweed, and plants I do not know – devouring leaves and flowers alike. Standing out against the green canopy of the still robust late summer woods were the orange berries of a Rowan Tree, the only Rowan Tree I saw yesterday for seven miles. I thought at first it was a kind of locust tree, but upon checking, I was reminded that it’s a Rowan Tree. Though you may know it as a Mountain Ash, it’s more of a relative to roses than ashes. Among ancient Northern European tribes, the Rowan was believed to be the first tree in all the world from which other trees descended. As one tale tells it, fairies rushing off after festivities on earth one night dropped a Rowan berry from the party provisions they had brought with them. The seed inside that berry grew here: a tree from the world of magical beings.
Maybe the fairies dropped a berry along the Fox River, too.