Reine des Bois— Queen of the Woods

Elegant, fluffy white, fragrant plumes are a signature of Goat’s Beard, aka Queen of the Woods or Bride’s Feathers)


It is that cusp when late summer slips into early fall and despite the record heat that the Northeast is feeling, plants and trees pretty much stick to their pre-determined schedules.  Bursting forth in the spring, blossoming through the warmth, fading into the autumn and shrinking away as winter pushes ahead.   Each region’s temperatures and rainfall are still subject to weather peculiarities and climate change.  But the genetic marching orders generally hold sway to keep these botanicals on their appointed rounds.

Deep in the Eger Fern Garden at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, NJ is a sweet-smelling 6-foot delicacy known as Goat’s Beard or Bride’s Feathers.  A member of the giant Rosacea [rose] family, it was originally thought to have come from alpine areas but is now is common from northern Alaska to southern California (on the West coast) and from northern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in the central and eastern part of the country.  

To the trained nose, you can smell the Queen of the Woods before you see it in the forest.  The slightly heady sweet fragrance is a quick draw to nectar-loving insects.  Bees and butterflies push each other out of the way to anchor themselves on each showy plume of flowers.  Vying for a brief lick that promises nourishment is an end-of-season treat as most other flowers have already faded.  It is a marvel to watch as these hungry creatures queue up to grab a meal on the fly.




A famished butterfly drinks the sweet goodness from the hundreds of tiny flowers in a single spray of Bride’s Feathers.)

A honeybee, slightly blurred from its vibrating wings, picks over the remains of a dying plume.)