A surprising number of flowers are blooming trailside at Buggytop Cave in South Cumberland State Park. Here’s Hypericum frondosum, a woody St. Johnswort, along with a couple of yellow composites — starry rosinweed, Silphium asteriscus, and prairie coneflower, Ratibida pinnata. The Hypericum, with its large central pistil, is easy to tell apart from the others. This deciduous shrub, sometimes called cedar-glade St. Johnswort or Sunburst, is not known for its medicinal properties. That one, H. perforatum, does have recognized anti-depressant properties.
Now to discriminate between the other two. A side view of the Silphium would reveal the flattened involucral bracts that are characteristic of the rosin weeds, and the reflexed rays, domed receptacle, and deeply divided leaves of the prairie coneflower spell “Ratibida.” This early in the season, I have the leisure to get a handle on identifying what are not-so-fondly referred to as DYC’s (darn yellow composites), but come late summer there will be so many in bloom that I’ll have to work hard to name the different ones.