Fall Flowers on the Gunflint Trail
The Gunflint Trail is still blooming with wildflowers and pretty weeds. Everyone thinks Spring is the best time to see wildflowers up here but if you are like me and you can’t tell a weed from a flower then late summer and fall can be a great time too. Right now the dominant color on the roadside appears to be purple and this is to my daughter’s liking whose favorite color is purple.
Fireweed is a popular purple flower on the Gunflint Trail. It is especially abundant where there has been disturbed soil or recent burns. It is one of the first flowers to grow after a fire, hence the name Fireweed. In the book, Wildflowers of the BWCA and the North Shore, author Mark Sparky Stensaas says, "Fireweed Fluff(wind-dispersed feathery seeds) was mixed with mountain goat hair for weaving by some Canadian tribes. The Haida wove strips of the stem into twine and made fishing nets. Siberian Yakuts made a wicked ale from Fireweed and the poisonous/hallucinogenic Fly Ananita mushroom… Young Fireweed shoots, when boiled or steamed, make an awesome asparagus-like vegetable." He also says that the Fireweed flower buds open from the bottom of the stalk up over several weeks and that when the Fireweed blooms to the top, then summer is over. Thankfully our Fireweeds have not bloomed to the top yet so we still have some summer remaining.
Another purple wildflower you can see along the Trail near marshy areas is the Joe-Pye Weed. This flower was supposedly named after a real person who used this flower to heal people with typhoid fever. Other purple flowers spotted this time of the year include the Thistle, Large Leaf Aster, and Wild Bergamont.
The next time you are looking for flowers come on up to the Gunflint Trail. About the only time you won’t see them is when the ground is covered with snow.