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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday

 Pycnanthemum muticum is quite possibly a pollinator perfect plant.
Clustered Mountain Mint in my garden this morning
The flowers of Pycnanthemum muticum might be small, but they are mighty!

The researchers at Penn State's The Pollinator Trial  found that Clustered Mountain Mint was the best plant for flowering longevity; for pollinator visitor diversity; for sheer number of insect visitors (78); and, for sheer number of bee and syrphid visitors. (from Wildflower Wednesday:A Mint You and the Pollinators Will Love)

There's a lot more I could say about this beautiful plant, but you can read my 2014 Wildflower Wednesday post or check with your local Native Plant Society.  I don't think you'll be sorry you planted this pretty in your pollinator garden. The pollinators will thank you.


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, August 23, 2017

Wildflower Wednesday: Flowering Spurge

It's Wildflower Wednesday and today's star, Euphorbia corollata, is looking particularly lovely in the midst of the other late summer flowers. It's almost unnoticeable in the garden at most other times. I often forget it's there until the tiny white blooms grab my attention in early August.

You probably won't be surprised to hear that this is another underappreciated wildflower seen on the sides of roads. In fact, I had driven by a large patch for years before someone pointed it out to me. It wasn't long after an up close look at them that I located and purchased three for my garden. (GroWild native Nursery in Fairview, TN)

I love it and am here to recommend it to you all.
Photographer: Smith, R.W.

Euphorbia corollata is special. It has small white flowers with yellow centers that are held above dusty-green foliage. Several sites describe it as resembling Gypsophila/Baby's Breath flower heads. I have never seen Baby's Breath except in photos, so I can't say whether that's a good comparison or not. I just know I like Flowering Spurge's pretty delicate flowers. It blooms from July into September in both full sun and shade in my garden. It's a wonderful white flower addition to a late summer garden that is filled with yellow composites. It's also a deer and drought resistant plant.

Let's see~delicate white flowers in late summer, easy peasy care, long bloom time and drought and deer resistance, that all adds up to a keeper in my book.
there are both male and female flowers on the plant

The particulars:

Family: Euphorbiaceae (Spurge family)

Botanical Name: Euphorbia corollata

Common Names: Flowering Spurge

Tennessee Native: Yes. I've seen it growing in Couchville Cedar Glade.

Native range:
Hardiness: Zones 3a to 9b

Soil: Prefers dry, well draining areas.

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.

Flower: Sprays of tiny flowers cover this plant in mid-summer. The small green nectar glands and their extensions can easily be mistaken for petals on this interesting flower. Euphorbias have male and female flowers on the same plants, I find the developing fruit quite interesting to observe.

Autumn color: The leaves and stem can color from pinkish-red to scarlet color.

Wildlife value: Attracts all kinds of wasps, small bees, flies, small butterflies and predatory or parasatoid insects that prey upon pest insects. Please follow the link to  Illinois Wildflowers to find an extensive list of faunal associations. Flowering Spurge is rarely eaten by mammalian herbivores because of the toxic white latex in its foliage.

Toxic: Contact with plant, especially its milky sap, can cause irritation of skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.

Where to plant: This tap rooted plant needs to go into the ground as soon as possible. It doesn't thrive in a container.
the  fruit/pods split and expel their seed

Saving Flowering Spurge Seeds: This plant produces small pods that will split and expel their seed when completely ripe. Gather the pods as soon as they begin to dry, but before they split. Spread the pods out to dry in a protected location, keeping in mind that they may still explode. Separate the seed from the husks. Store the seed in a cool, dry place.

Flowering Spurge Germination: Direct sow in late fall, pressing the seeds into the surface of the soil. Seeds require 30 days of cold stratification for germination. The plant will self-seed.
The source for seed collection and germination information; you can also order seeds.

Comments: I like this plant so much that I keep adding more to my garden. This is a hardy plant, even though it looks delicate. If it can survive a cedar glade, then it can survive almost anything we gardeners throw at it. The only thing I find troubling is my inability to take a good photo of it.

I hope you'll consider adding Flowering Spurge to your garden, despite the unattractive name, it's really quite a lovely addition to a native plant garden.

Happy Wildflower gardening

Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday and thank you for stopping by to see Euphorbia corollata
a sweet wildflower that you'll rarely see in a nursery, but, might see out your car window as you drive down a county road. Thanks also, 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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wildflower Wednesday: Partridge Pea makes a stand

It's been half a dozen years since Partridge Pea/Chamaecrista fasciculata was a Wildflower Wednesday star. That's way too long for such a fabulous Fabaceae to sit on the sidelines.

Chamaecrista fasciculata is an annual that grows in poor sandy or gravely soil. It forms large stands if happy and you can count on blooms for several months. It has attractive blue-green pinnate leaves and showy flowers that are a brilliant yellow with a red blotch at the base and dark red anthers. The flowers grow in the leaf axils all along the sprawling stem.

It first caught my eye at Radnor Lake, growing on a hill off the Lake Trail in dry soil and high shade. A few weeks later I spotted it at Bison Park, a little mini prairie in a nearby neighborhood. When I wrote about it back in 2011, I thought for sure it would be an easy plant to establish. Friends sent me seeds, but they didn't grow. Nothing happened until I got serious and ordered seeds from Prairie Moon Nursery. What I learned was that Partridge Pea like other members of the Pea Family, harbor beneficial bacteria called rhizobia on their roots and with out the bacteria they just won't grow. PMN includes the inoculum with Partridge Pea seeds. The seeds arrived with their inoculum and following the nursery's instructions, were inoculated prior to planting them last fall*.
flowers, buds and seed capsules
 Voila! Partridge Peas made a stand and I am one happy gardener. The bees are happy, too,

Bumbles busily work the flowers in the early morning.

In researching Partridge Pea for this post I learned a couple of new things. First, those cool flowers, that the bumbles make a mad dash for every morning, have no nectar, only pollen. The bees are  attracted to the food pollen on the purple anthers, and get dusted with the reproductive pollen from the yellow anthers.  Nature is amazing and plant reproduction is so cool.
Partridge Peas are not nectarless. This is the second cool thing I learned~Nectar is produced at the base of the leaf in tiny, reddish-orange glands called nectares.
Extrafloral nectaries along the stem

Nectares are nectar-secreting glandular organ in a flower (floral) or on a leaf or stem (extrafloral). Our Wildflower Wednesday star has ENFs that are loaded with nectar and very attractive to ants and other pollinators. It keeps getting cooler.
Don't you think the ferny leaves are a great backdrop to those bright yellow flowers?
Some gardeners shy away from annuals, but, that's a mistake. Collinsea verna, Western Daisy, Sunflowers, Black-eyed Susans and Heleniums are just a few of the wonderful annuals to consider for your garden. Add Partridge Pea to the list of wildlife friendly and valuable annuals. Don't worry that it's a one season wonder, it should reseed and make a nice stand in your garden!  

 Here's what I love about it!

  • long bloom season
  • pollinator magnet
  • pretty flowers
  • ferny leaves that add texture to a garden bed
  • host plant for butterfly caterpillars. Cloudless Sulphur caterpillars will feed on both the Partridge Pea’s leaves and its flowers. You can tell which the caterpillar concentrated on by its color, which may be yellow or green.
  • ecologically valuable 
Cloudless sulfur butterfly caterpillar

The Particulars

Family: Fabaceae
Common Name: Partridge Pea, sleeping plant, showy partridge pea, prairie senna, large-flowered sensitive-pea, dwarf cassia, partridge pea senna, locust weed, golden cassia.
Botanical Name: Chamaecrista fasciculata
Annual: plant in fall with appropriate inoculant
Range: native to the Southeast and throughout much of the U.S. east of the Rockies.
Light Requirements: Full Sun, Half Sun / Half Shade
Flower Color: Yellow with a touch of red
Height: 24-36" tall
Bloom Time: July and I hope into the fall
Fruit: a straight, narrow pod 1½ to 2½ inches long, which splits along 2 sutures as it dries; the pod sides spiral to expel the seeds some distance from the parent plant. I always wondered why seed pods of legumes were twisted!
Host Plant: Cloudless Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, and Little Yellow, Ceraunus Blue and Gray Hairstreak  caterpillars. A good nectar source that also attracts many pollinators in addition to butterflies. (source)
Comments:  It's used in the USA for cover cropping, ornate flowers in native gardens, honey crop, as an annual reseeding legume for restoration and conservation plantings, and wildlife food. Its seeds are a favorite food for many birds, including bobwhite quail and endangered prairie chickens, it provides cover for wildlife, is a pioneer plant in poor and disturbed areas, improving soils as a nitrogen fixer. It grows in dense stands and the decaying stalks provide covering for birds, small mammals and waterfowl.

What ever it's called in your neck of the woods, this fabulous Fabaceae has excellent wildlife value...Not bad for an annual!

Thanks for stopping by to help celebrate Wildflower Wednesday. Btw, *I've written about Prairie Moon Nursery before Some catalogs are better than others do check it out.

Wildflower Wednesday is about sharing wildflowers all over this great big beautiful world. It doesn't matter if we sometimes show the same plants, how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. I hope you join the celebration...It's always the fourth Wednesday of the month!

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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