Shirley Heinze Snapshot 7: The Great Marsh, September 13, 2023

By Dale K. Nichols (Board Member)

Dear friends of Shirley Heinze Land Trust:  This is the seventh in a series of “snapshots” featuring our Beverly Shores/Great Marsh preserve.

You will recall that my last blog post, dated August 15, focused on several of the pink and purple blossomed plants that were then dominating the Great Marsh landscape.  As the summer growing season nears its end, the predominant color is now yellow.  Lots of it!

We have goldenrods galore—in fact, at least six different species.  All are members of the aster family, five of the genus Solidago:  Tall (or Late) goldenrod (Solidago altissima), Canada goldenrod (S. canadensis), Giant goldenrod—the state flower of Nebraska—(S. gigantea), Swamp goldenrod (S. Patula) and Rough goldenrod (S. rugosa).  The sixth specie, generally referred to as Common grass-leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia var. nuttallii), is a member of a newly recognized genus of 5 to 10 species that biologists separated from Solidago based on DNA data, the arrangement of flower heads and other morphological (structural) differences.

Another major source of early fall color in the Great Marsh are several species commonly known as beggarticks or tickseed.  They are all of the genus Bidens which, like goldenrods, are part of the aster family.  Tickseed derives its name from its barbed seeds, which will latch on to anything (like your clothing) that they may come into contact with.  The most visually prominent of our marsh species are Crowned beggar-ticks, also known as tall swamp marigolds (Bidens trichosperma).  On Shirley Heinze property they grow extensively east of Wells and west of Constance.  And a vast expanse of them can be seen on the National Park’s marsh property immediately to the east of Lake Shore County Road.

Other varieties of tickseed include Nodding beggarticks (B. cernua), (B. comosa), (B. connata), and (B. frondosa).

Giant (or Tall) sunflowers (Helianthus giganteus) can be seen growing in clusters along both sides of Beverly Drive.  True giants, they routinely achieve heights of over 10 feet and attract a variety of pollinators, and birds that feed on their oily seeds.  Their composite flower heads consist of over 50 tubular disk flowers in the center that are surrounded by bright yellow ray flowers



And we also have a number of sneezeweed plants (Helenium autumnale) that are just starting to bloom. There can be found in the interior of the Shirley Heinze marsh property both east and west of Wells, and will become more prominent in the coming weeks as other species fade.

Be sure to take in the beauty of these early fall bloomers before they’re gone!