Throughout the Northeast, nature rushes to display one last event of the growing season. The late summer and early autumn flourish of brilliant wildflowers on a September or October afternoon are worth an outing.
To see it at its best, you’ll need to stroll through meadows and fields, although in some rarely mowed portions of city parks and even abandoned parking lots will take you closer to a variety of plant life.
It’s a matter of keeping your eyes open — and having a camera or smartphone can inspire you to look at the nearby scenery more intensely.
Three of my favorite walks at this season are Mountain Meadow in Williamstown, Springside Park in Pittsfield, and Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheffield. All have free admission and are full of color. To some these blossoms may just be weeds. To the flower fancier, like me, a weed may be a coveted wildflower, and in my eye at this season not a single meadow flower is a weed.
The English word weed can be either a noun or a verb, and a weed is often defined as “a plant out of place.” It may be true from the gardener’s or farmer’s point of view. If the plant is out of place, it is a weed. If it presents competition, it is a weed; a rose crowding out Swiss Chard can be called a weed.
But not a single stalk of brilliant yellow goldenrod glistening in the late summer sun can be out of place. Top me a weed is simply, in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “A plant whose virtues remain undiscovered.”
Mountain Meadow is named with four miles of trails that also run through woodlands and take an easy one-mile walk to Vermont. Along with a bright view of the meadow, with milkweed galore and goldenrod, the trail opens on mountain vistas including a stunning view of Mount Greylock, our state’s tallest mountain. (Mountain Meadow is a Trustees of Reservation property, and they ensure easy hiking trails.)
Springside is the largest park in Pittsfield, with 237.5 acres and free parking off of North Street. It offers visitors miles of interconnected paths, many with views of open fields within easy reach, and all with a variety of wildflowers. A visitor can follow foot trails to Springside Avenue and Benedict Road from the parking lot and The Springside House.
Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary
It would difficult to find a more beautiful walk than this. From beginning to end, Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary includes vistas of the Taconic Mountains beyond open hayfields of goldenrod and other wildflowers.
History leaves tracks here — glimpses of barbed-wire fences, stone walls, long abandoned marble quarry pits and a 40-foot lime kiln. Mount Everett, reaching 2,624 feet above sea level, shows clearly three miles west of the parking area. And everywhere you look, the turning trees are adding their yellow, brown, orange and red to the fireworks of fall color.