A Golden September

Posted Sept. 16, 2009, at 7:31 p.m.

A special golden glow makes September in Maine a special month. After a so-so summer, with almost continuous rain and fog in the first half, we now can enjoy these bright, crisp days with a nip in the air to remind us that winter will be coming. But winter is still months away.

An early morning walk provides a perfect chance to relish the golden rays of the rising sun. A window box may contain some yellow late-blooming marigolds. A side-yard garden has a cluster of towering sunflowers, their yellow petals fluttering as they sway in a light breeze. In pots and hanging baskets, flashes of yellow gleam among the reds and oranges of the tuberous begonias. Clumps of bushy yellow chrysanthemums add to the color scheme.

There is more gold yet to come, when fall sets in and the foliage starts to turn. Ash and birch leaves soon will turn yellow, and some of the maples will be yellow before they change to red.

More yellow is in store, of course, in the crackling hardwood fires when the weather has turned colder and you finish your walk with some quiet time around the fireplace.

But as in everything else there’s a downside to this golden month: yellow jackets and, in many minds, goldenrod.

Many a picnic or porch luncheon has been spoiled by a swarm of yellow jackets. They seem able to spot a jar of jam or a quartered apple a mile off. Zeroing in on sweet stuff, they climb all over it and may take a detour and sting you. These wasps are said to be important predators of pest insects, but that’s small comfort if they go after you or your food. They also squeeze through cracks in storm windows to invade warmer homes this time of year.

Goldenrod is another story. Many people blame the yellow plant that lines roads and can cover fields this time of year for their itchy eyes and runny noses. But blaming goldenrod for hay fever is a common mistake. It just has the misfortune of blooming at the same time as the true offender, ragweed. Goldenrod pollen is sticky and can be spread only by insects, while ragweed pollen floats off even in a gentle breeze and hits the sinuses.

So don’t blame Kentucky, Nebraska, South Carolina and, for a time, Alabama for naming goldenrod their state flower. Far from being baneful, it is a traditional kidney tonic, and Thomas A. Edison successfully experimented with it as a source for synthetic rubber.

Have a great time in this transition month, especially if your favorite color is yellow.

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