Spreading the Good News, and the Honey

About 60 yards or so from my house runs one of the many small creeks Ohio seems to have. I live just north of the divide that separates where creeks drain into…Lake Erie to the north, or the Ohio River to the south and east. This creek has a particularly interesting history – well, interesting to me who grew up with lots of lakes, but no rivers or creeks to speak of.

There is a railroad intersection close by too, a north/south line and an east/west line, which makes this a somewhat interesting location. There were plans to make this intersection area a city of sorts. They even named it…Lester, Ohio. 100 years ago there was a hotel here, now an apartmentized home, and a general store which is now abandoned but used by my neighbor for storage. The depot that was used to serve passengers and freight is still here, along with  lots of siding track for engines and box car storage.

Right by the depot was a water tower where steam engines could load up. Water for the tower was held in a pond, made by damming and diverting the creek that still runs by my house. Railroads had more power over private property back then. But that dam stopped the water from downstream farmers who used it for irrigation in the summer. One desperate farmer sought justice, or revenge, by blowing up the damn so the water would flow again.

With no dam, and little incentive to keep Lester going the action moved to Medina, the remains of the dam were left to be, the creek eventually reverted to its original bed and life in Lester resumed its quite, sleepy routine. And there it stayed for decades. Five or six homes with a road running through it that runs north, and branches off west right in the middle of what was supposed to be a thriving downtown in the thriving city of Lester.

We stayed sleepy until 15 years ago or so when the State Highway Department decided they had to replace the bridge that goes over that creek, right in the middle of Lester. The bridge they replaced was built in the 1930s by The Civilian Conservation Corps so they got their money’s worth but gradually traffic increased, especially big trucks heading south to Medina from Cleveland on what is essentially a back road to avoid the weigh stations on the main roads. That old bridge took a pounding so it had to go.

But they didn’t just replace the bridge. They more or less rearranged the creek bed for a hundred yards or so on either side of the where the bridge was to cross to get the land and the water flow the way they wanted it. They scraped and cleaned and bulldozed and smoothed and polished the shore on both sides so it was just so, then tore out the old and built the new. And when they were done they left a 200 yard wound that needed some help.

Back then I was more focused on just honey plants than native honey plants, but I took one look at the scared creek bed, with lots of shade and a now gently sloping shore line with lots of rich, mosit soil, but also periodic flooding, especially in the spring, and thought…Golden Honey Plant, Verbesina alternifolia. It is native to the eastern US and has several names, wing stem, golden iron plant, Actinomerous. It is shade tolerant, loves damp feet, is perennial and spreads by rhizomes and seeds. It is perfect along stream edges for preventing erosion.

I knew of a stand along an almost identical creek bed and that fall got a handful of seeds, well, maybe a little more than a handful and dropped them along part of the creek edge. Maybe 20 yards or so. That was about 15 years ago.

Today, that handful of seeds has expanded a bit. They are on both sides of the creek now, up from the creek bed itself which is mostly shards of shale. The area above the creek remains shady and it gets flooded sometimes many times a season. This year especially the spring rains brought huge runoffs, higher than I’ve seen since even before the bridge was built. Of course this helps spread the seeds from last year even further downstream, and though the whole of the bank has finally healed from that wound, in the healing now are flowers for pollinators, where none before could grow.

The stand of these plants now, starting from not very many seeds…maybe 25 flower head’s worth…is about 100 yards long, and mostly about 30 yards deep on the banks. In some spots more so, and only in a few less. I figure I have more than two acres worth of blossom, no more than 50 yards from my bees all from a handful of seeds. The honey produced is a medium to dark amber, but very mild. It looks stronger than it is, but it has a Carmel, almost burned honey after taste. It blooms at exactly the same time as the early to mid goldenrod here, so the two honeys are often mixed. Because it is mild, however, the blend is quite pleasant…without the edge of good goldenrod, but with more bite than straight golden honey plant.

A few years ago the Medina County Parks department brought the whole of the creek and in time will turn it into a park. I’m not sure what will become of my Golden Honey plants then, but for now, there are so many blooms that they light up the surrounding woods at night, and, if you listen close, you can hear the hum of thanksgiving.


  • Donna Fletcher says:

    These look wonderful!! Very similar to our Schweinitz’s Sunflowers found ONLY within a small region of the Carolina Piedmont. Our local bee club in Lexington, SC has been spreading them between their flower loving, bee adoring members. They cannot be sold & because of their scarcity, Schweinitz’s Sunflower has been placed on the Federal Endangered Species list.

    I do hope your Golden beauties don’t go the way of all too much of the natural bee forage has gone. Would LOVE to have some seeds to spread along my creek. Hint, hint!

  • Thanks for posting this. We have been trying to identify this plant. We have alot of it and have noticed the bees love it.

  • Pat Gentry says:

    What a great story, thank you.
    You have a resilient attitude to the little disasters that can drive lots of us crazy, especially when our bees are close to the chaos…and you’ve left behind a wonderful blooming legacy.
    Any chance we could get some seed from you as a memento of this story?

  • Jim aylsworth says:

    Thanks for the info, Kim. I have that same plnt but not as large of a planting as you. Also, I found a nice size planting of it near River Styx and Sharon-Copley Road(rt. 162)


  • Linda Harlan says:

    Thanks for the info. on another bee-friendly flower!
    I shall be sure to plant some of these by our small
    creek on our property!! Hurrah for bees!

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