Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wildflower Wednesday: Golden Alexander

Our Wildflower Wednesday star of the month is Golden Alexander. It's a lovely wildflower and should have been a Wildflower Wednesday star years ago, but, it has always been over shadowed by the showier early blooming Aquilegias, Baptisias and Phloxes.

That is until this year, when I noticed how nicely it had seeded around the garden.
I don't understand why they are so rarely planted. It's a stellar plant for early season color and the small flowers are an important and easily accessible food for tiny pollinators. There's a lot of other flowers in bloom when the Zizia flower in my garden, but, colder climate gardeners, I think this is a must have plant for your wildflower garden!
tucked in between an ex-aster and goldenrods
I thought them sweet when I planted them half a dozen years ago, and, have come to value their lovely yellow presence and their pollinator magnetism. They look beautiful when massed and viewed from across a garden, but, I like them best up close, where I can see the pollinator action.
Blooming begins in late spring and continues for about a month. 
If you like critter action in your garden, you'll find it on Zizia. They're very attractive to butterflies and to short-tongued insects. I see little carpenter bees, tiny beetles and other  fast flying critters when the sun finally makes its way over the trees and the garden warms up. They never hold still for photos, so you'll have to trust me and go ahead and plant this wildlife valuable beauty in your garden.
Deep green, leathery, handsomely foliage
Zizias are members of the carrot or Apiaceae family. They have rounded or flat topped compound umbels (think umbrella and you'll never forget) of tiny yellow florets that produce both nectar and pollen. Each umbel averages 2-3” across and can contain as many as 250 florets that are about 1/8” wide (from Illinois Wildflowers).
That is a lot of goodness in those tiny flowers and their nectar is easily accessible to short tongued bees and other critters
That's a powerfully attractive flower head for pollinating critters.

 Like other members of the carrot family (fennel, dill, parsley, cilantro, lovage and chervil), Zizia is a food source/host plant for the Black Swallowtail butterfly and its caterpillar, but many other small pollinators and beneficial insects are attracted to the flowers.

 Zizia aurea is a classic carrot family member and knowing its characteristics would make identifying it and other Apiaceae easy peasy in a woodland. Look for clustered small white or yellow flowers that make you think of an umbrella spokes! The clusters are called umbels and are actually individual flowers on stalks arranged like the spokes of an umbrella. You can practice in a herb/vegetable garden where you likely to find many carrot family member.

Golden Alexanders bloom in April in my Zone7, Middle Tennessee garden. Native to Tennessee and Davidson county where I live, they are usually found in wooded bottomlands, stream banks, moist meadows, and floodplains. They're native from Canada to Florida and east of the Rockies. They're a good choice for heavy clay soils in semi-shade to full sun. They're happy in moist soil but, once established they have some drought tolerance. They've been happy at Clay and Limestone and I never worry that our wet winters will kill them.

If you garden for pollinators, especially butterfly, you won't be disappointed with Golden Alexander. So give it a try. If it's happy you can enjoy a massed golden show. 


Genus: Zizia
Species: aurea
Common Name: Golden Alexander
Family: Apiaceae
Flowering: flowers in April-May in my middle Tennessee Zone 7 garden
Native Range: Eastern Canada to southern United States
Zone: 3 to 8
Size:  Height: 1.50 to 3.00 feet Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom: yellow, umbel
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Soil: Heavy clay,
Maintenance: Water in droughty times if newly established. Unwanted seedlings might be an issue
Foliage: Attractive
Pollinators: Zizia is a food source for short-tongued insects that are able to easily reach the nectar in the small yellow flowers. Black Swallowtail butterflies feed on the nectar and lay eggs on the foliage and when the eggs hatch the caterpillars will feed on its leaves.
Propagation: Plant in the spring for good success. It spreads by seeds.
Wildlife: Has never been predated by deer or voles.
Comments: A delightful plant to allow to seed itself about in a damp sunny meadow. Use in a rain garden or in natural garden. Plant with Carex, Aquilegias, Packera aurea and other plants that like moist soil. Golden Alexander also attracts and hosts a number of beneficial insects that are predatory or parasitoid on many common garden pest insects.(Illinois Wildflowers)

Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday and thank you for stopping by to see my Golden Alexanders! Thanks for joining in and if you are new to Wildflower Wednesday, it's about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if your wildflower is in bloom or not and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Are you ready for the hummingbirds?

Trumpet honeysuckle and Eastern Columbine have bloomed just in time for migrating Ruby Throated Hummers and that's no coincidence. Hummingbirds and certain flowers have coadapted over millions of years to form a mutually beneficial relationship. Hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles annually and they're movement north typically coincides with the blooming of these preferred flowers.
Check out the map below to get a sense of the magnitude of their migration north and you'll understand why they need nectar rich flowers all along the route. By the time they reach our gardens they are hungry and searching for food. 

Hummers hover below these flowers to feed on nectar

 The red tubular and trumpet-shaped flowers of both columbines and trumpet honeysuckles hold more nectar than other flowers and are irresistible to hummingbirds. Their coadapted/mutually beneficial relationship is pretty cool. The long bill and tongue of these hummers fits into the throat of preferred flowers like columbines and trumpet honeysuckle flowers to easily reach the nectar, and while feeding, grains of pollen spill onto the head of the bird and is carried to other Columbines and Trumpet honeysuckle.

It's a marvelous dance that happens in gardens all over the Eastern United States and it's show time in Middle Tennessee.
'Cedar Lane' Trumpet honeysuckle/Lonicera sempervirens
It's not difficult to attract migrating RTH to your Middle Tennessee garden. Like all bird visitors and residents they need food, shelter, water, nesting sites and perching sites.
Columbine/Aquilegia canadensi
Just plant more flowers and shrubs with nectar bearing flowers. The following is a list of plants that you might consider adding to the garden.

red buckeye 
trumpet creeper 
red morning-glory 
wild bergamot/bee- balm  
trumpet (or coral) honeysuckle
cardinal flower 
royal catchfly and  round-leaved catchfly 
four o’clock (e)
salvia and scarlet sage

 There may not be as many nectar sources available with this crazy up and down spring we've had, so please consider hanging feeders. It's fun to watch the hummers up close and it's an easy way to supplement their nectar needs. You don't have to buy nectar, make your own, it's just sugar and water! There are recipes on the internet. Do not use the red dyed syrups.

this source/link will take you to the website
Have fun and remember this please! Never, ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides. I mean that now! Never. You really do want insects in your garden. Insects are a primary food of most birds, including hummingbirds.


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Botany Vocabulary Word of the Day

Ephemeral: short lived

Cardamine concatenata
Spring in Middle Tennessee might be its best season. Beautiful ephemeral wildflowers begin emerging from the leaf litter in February. Trillium, Spring beauty, Toothworts, False Rue anemone, Rue anemone, Dutchman's Breeches, Troutlily, Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), Virginia Bluebells and Hepatica are a few of the ephemerals that can be seen in nearby parks and woodlands.

Found throughout the eastern United States and Canada, spring ephemerals thrive on the floor of rich, undisturbed woodlands. They are also very happy in the right garden setting. Most plants are available from brick and mortar native plant nurseries and the internet, so please don't dig them from woodlands, leave them for other critters to enjoy.
The solitary bee, Andrena erigeniae  specializes on Spring Beauties/Claytonia virginica

These remarkable and fragile beauties emerge early each spring, taking advantage of the rich, moist soil and full sunlight streaming through the bare branches of the deciduous trees. In the short period of time before the tree canopy emerges and blocks the sunlight they must grow, leaf-out, flower, be pollinated and produce seeds. This is called the epigeous or above ground growth phase. Once they fade they enter the hypogeous, or below ground growth phase when roots and buds are busy developing.

Freezes and frosts don't faze them. They grow very low to the sun warmed soil and some, even have hairy leaves/stems or leaves that wrap around the emerging buds, trapping warm air that keeps them from freezing.
 Enemion biternatum/False Rue anemone
They're a vital food source for pollinators at a time when there is little food available. Honeybees, bumbles, carpenter bees, flies and beetles seek out their pollen and/or nectar and ants feed on the elaiosome that surrounds some seeds. Their thick, fleshy, nutrient and carbohydrate rich corms, roots and tubers are especially attractive to white footed mice, chipmunks and voles.

So get out there and enjoy them while you can! It's already getting warm in Nashville and they'll be retreating underground before you know it.


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


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