Story & Photos by Helen Johnston
I have admired this plant, wild hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens L.) since I first saw it about six years ago on the side of a cliff at Bray Conservation Area. So, about five years ago I purchased a small start of the plant at a native plant sale. This year it finally bloomed, much to my enjoyment and even more so to my amazement. It never ceases to amaze me how much I have to learn about something I see from a distance ... if I can just get up close! What I saw from a distance, and assumed to be tiny buds that never bloomed in the center of sweet little white star shaped flowers are actually a mass of hundreds of tiny blossoms that attract all kinds of pollinators! So, of course, I did some research. At the USDA Forest Service site I learned that in that cluster in the center there are more than 100 white, four to five-petaled flowers, each measuring about 0.08 inches wide. Those larger white flowers on the edge are sterile, and there only to attract pollinators. I will never be ashamed of what I do not know, or have not yet figured out ... the discovery, each and every day, is so worth the wait and helps to keep life interesting and exciting. Oh, and that beautiful inflorescence is just as impressive in the fall and early winter, all dry and brown, yet sturdy and waiting to be seen and admired.