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

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Wildflower Wednesday 2020 Roundup of Wildflower Stars

 
Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Happy Holidays to all. 

I am especially thankful that I have had a garden to take my troubles to this year. My garden has a great big heart and arms that envelope a troubled spirit. That's what I've done more days than I can recall during this crazy year. Sitting there on my bright blue waiting chair, I noticed my heart would stop racing, my breathing would slow down and my thoughts would fill with celebration instead of worry or complaining. If life is getting to be too much find a quiet place to sit and breath. Pay attention to what's happening in the moment; that's your moment; your moment in your life. It's precious and so are you.xoxogail


 

 

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is 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 they are in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. It's the holiday and there's lots going on and people are busy, so no Mr Linky this month. Should you want to share a post, please leave a link in comments. Mr Linky will be back in January. xoxo

January 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: Resurrection Fern

Pleopeltis polypodioides is remarkably beautiful and resilient. If you've seen it covering the limbs of an ancient oak tree you'll know what I mean by beautiful and if you've seen it shrivel up in a drought and resurrect when the rain returns, you will know what I mean by resilient.

Resurrection fern in Edwin Warner Park

 Pleopeltis polypodioides is found in hardwood forests throughout the Southeast, as far north as New York and as far west as Texas. Due to its ability to withstand drought, it can be found in a variety of habitats, but it needs a host plant on which to anchor itself. Resurrection ferns often favor oak trees and the one's I have seen in nearby woodlands have all been oaks.


The resurrection fern is a type of epiphytic fern, which means it grows on top of other plants. It is not a parasitic plant and does not harm the host plant. It gets its nutrients from the air and water. Like all ferns, it reproduces by spores, not seeds or fruit. The spores are housed in structures called sori on the underside of fronds.


February 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: Alabama Croton Revisited


I can clearly recall the first time I saw many of the Wildflower Wednesday stars, but, Croton alabamensis is not one of them. What I remember was how long and hard I searched for it. I was thrilled when Paul Moore, a dear friend and fellow wildflower aficionado offered a seedling to me. I clearly remember the day I drove to his garden to pick up the Alabama croton. If one can dance while driving it was certainly me.

 Alabama croton is endemic to a few counties in Alabama, one county in Middle Tennessee (Coffee) and three counties in faraway Texas (Croton alabamensis var. texensis/Texabama croton) and is still nearly impossible to find for sale.

Alabama Croton is the bees knees.

  • it's not deterred by dry, poor, limey soil
  • it easily braves hot summers like we've been having the past few years,
  • it will grow in decent garden soil that is well draining,
  • it grows in the full sun, but, can appreciate a semi-shady location, 
  • it's native to Middle Tennessee, 
  • it's locally sourced, and 
  • it has year round interest.
This rare, semi-evergreen southern shrub is worthy of wider use in gardens. Alabama croton is an irregular, multi-stemmed shrub that grows to 5′ tall. Its bright green foliage with striking, silvery scales beneath is attractive in summer as well as in autumn when it develops pumpkin-orange colored foliage.

 

March 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: Virginia Bluebells



Mertensia virginica is in gorgeous bloom in natural areas all around middle Tennessee.**

It's hard to believe, but, this is one wildflower not in my garden. Once upon a time there was a small, but, lovely stand that made me smile every spring. A dozen years ago we reworked the front garden path. We made it wider, built a small wall and had the workers place a beautiful boulder a few feet from the new path. It wasn't until the following spring, when I couldn't find any blooming Virginia bluebells that I realized that the boulder was sitting on top of them. 

 

Mertensia virginica is a member of the Boraginaceae (Borage) family. Wildflowers in this family are most often blue, mauve, pink or purple, and many of them change from reddish to blue as the flowers age. The leaves of most species in this family are hairy, and some of them can cause uncomfortable skin irritation if they are handled repeatedly. Although, Virginia bluebells share the color changing flower characteristic with other Borage family members, their leaves, stems and flowers are not hairy. The genus name Mertensia is in honor of the German botanist Franz Karl Mertens (1764-1831).

 

April 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: Eastern Red Columbine


Aquilegia canadensis has bloomed just in time for migrating Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds and that's no coincidence. Hummingbirds and certain flowers have co-adapted 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. Eastern red columbine (trumpet honeysuckles, too) hold more nectar than other flowers and are irresistible to hummingbirds. Their co-adapted/mutually beneficial relationship is pretty cool. The long bill and tongue of these hummers fits into the throat of their preferred 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 insuring pollination.

 

The bumblebee is another important pollinator and collects nectar and pollen for their larvae.  Some of our larger queen bumblebees, which are also active in early spring, have proboscises long enough to reach the nectar; others “cheat” (Eastern carpenter bees are known nectar robbers)  by tearing holes in the spurs to steal nectar without performing pollination services.

The co-adaption dance is marvelous and it's happening in gardens all over the Eastern United States.

 

May 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: Penstemon calycosus

 As I walked the garden this month and watched Penstemon calycosus go from bud to full bloom I was reminded of when we first met. It was love at first sight, but, it took me years to find it. Here's the story.

Finding new wildflowers is still a joy, but, back then, I was recovering from feeling like a complete garden failure. I was terribly inexperienced and it hadn't occurred to me that the plants that I saw growing so happily in other gardens wouldn't grow in mine. I had no idea that my garden conditions were not like my friend's yards. I assumed they were because we were gardening in the same neighborhood. It took a bit of research to figure out that this yard used to be part of a woodland of native trees, shrubs, perennials and ephemerals before developers bulldozed it to create new housing for a growing middle class in the post war 50s. They built brick houses that had deep backyards and bare front yards. They left a few trees, but took out the understory and planted lawn grasses, so that boys and girls could play baseball, kickball and reach for the sky on their backyard swings. There was one owner of our property before we bought it. Lawn was sparse when we moved here in 1985 and it's obvious to me now that it must have always struggled, but, shagbark hickories, elms, ashes, oaks, junipers and rough leaved dogwoods kicked butt and thrived. So did the wildflowers which were growing in the woodland remnants on the edges and corners of the garden. 

 

Penstemon calycosus became a foundation plant for my late spring garden. I transplanted it to the front garden where it began to set seed and spread. I still delight in the buds and blooms and wait impatiently for the first Bumblebees to visit it in May. It's a major food source for bumbles and hummingbirds. I miss the activity when bloom time passes, but other beauties move in to provide for them.
It's a fantastic plant for moist sunny garden beds or woodland edges. I like the lance-shaped, semi-glossy, medium green, finely saw-toothed edged foliage that is semi-evergreen in my garden. The snapdragon like flowers are produced on terminal panicles that bloom for at least a month, especially if the spring is cooler. Folks further north might have a longer bloom time than here.

 

June 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: Ruellia strepens

Ruellia strepens is offering up a bloom here and there in its less than generous fashion!



It's a pretty little flower, but, its here today and gone this evening habit, can make it less attractive to folks who are into more floriferous wildflowers. There was a time when I seriously thought of just ripping them all out, but, I have grown to enjoy the sweet lavender blue petunia like flowers that always surprise me peeking out of the greenery in the shadiest spots of my garden.

Limestone Wild Petunia is a native perennial in the Acanthus family (Acanthaceae). Not surprising that with a name like Limestone Wild Petunia it would be found growing in rich woodland soil underlain by limestone. Of course it's happy here with my 444 million year old Ordovician limestone bedrock.

 

July 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: Summer Blooming Phlox



I've been waiting for the summer Phlox to bloom. The garden seems to come alive when the various shades of pink, magenta and white pop open. They bloom in full sun, part sun and even shade.
this cross has the brightest eyes that may have come form P' Laura'


The first Phloxes in this garden were here when I arrived. They were the offspring of whatever the previous gardeners might have planted 35+ years ago and were all wonderful magenta flowered beauties. Many of those original plantings are still here. The offspring of the offspring are here and after years of letting species and cultivars go to seed, real treasures have been produced in the crossings of the crossings.

August 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: Verbesina virginica

It's rough and tumble wildflower time in my garden.

The take care of themselves Autumn beauties are beginning to bloom and our wildflower star, Verbesina virginica is looking its wildflower best, dressed in white flowers and wearing nature's late summer visiting jewels.

If you're new to Clay and Limestone, rough and tumble wildflowers are simple wildflowers that bloom their hearts out and require the easiest of care. Many have never been hybridized, which means they haven't had their best characteristic bred out of them. Rough and tumble wildflowers, like Frostweed, are doing the job nature intended them to do, which is to make a lot of food (nectar and/or pollen) and bloom exactly when the critters need it. Once bloom is past and the seeds ripen, they become feeding stations for over wintering birds which seek out those seeds.

I know you'll agree with me when I say, nature's design is amazing.

 

September 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: Partidge Pea, a Fabulous Fabaceae Goes To Seed


 I love plants that make a big show and Chamaecrista fasciculata/Partridge Pea out did itself this year. I scattered seed (with inoculant) a few years ago and it's grown from a few plants to a large and floriferously beautiful patch. If you want a long blooming plant (mid June to today) that also attracts butterflies (Cloudless sulfur) and bees then this annual is a great choice.


Partridge Pea has been a Wildflower Wednesday star twice and most regular readers are familiar with its wonderfulness:

 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. 
  • Nitrogen left in ground from decaying matter improves soil fertility.
  • ecologically valuable 

 

October 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: Porteranthus stipulatus

Our October Wildflower Wednesday star is a beauty each fall as the deeply cut, toothed, trifoliate, medium green leaves turn a delightful golden orange.

I fell in love with its fall color.

 I am not sure why Porteranthus stipulatus isn't in more gardens, after all, who needs big showy blooms on every plant when subtle beauty and charm can be found on this lovely native. It is found naturally growing in rich woods in a good portion of the Eastern US. It can take full sun in northern states, but, I recommend half sun in gardens that are on the hot/dry side. It has tolerated dry conditions in my garden, blooms every year and the fall color is grand.

 Trust me on this, it is a charming plant and worth the search. Try GroWild here in Middle Tennessee and if you live way north of here, check with Prairie Moon Nursery.

 

November 2020 Wildflower Wednesday: A favorite late blooming Asteracea

I appreciate flowers that bloom later in Autumn and that's exactly what I've come to expect from our star, Symphyotrichum praealtum

 Symphyotrichum praealtum is a tall grass prairie native that is harder to find than a tall grass prairie in Tennessee. It's listed as an endangered and threatened species in several states, including Tennessee, and in several Canadian provinces. (Go here to read about rescue efforts in Canada.) 

Luckily for me, a blogging friend generously shared several starts of the plant she calls 'Miss Bessie'. I am happy to say they have bloomed at Clay and Limestone for over a dozen years. It's ironic and wonderful that an endangered Middle Tennessee wildflower found its way home via North Carolina.

 After the ex-asters fade Symphyotrichum praealtum/Willowleaf aster bursts into blooms. Suffice it to say that it reigns supreme as my longest blooming rough and tumble wildflower, often continuing to bloom after freezing temperatures. Rough and tumble wildflowers are simple flowers that haven't had their best characteristics hybridized out of them. They bloom their hearts out and require no special care. That's Willow-leaf aster to a T.

 

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you have a Happy Christmas and New Year

 

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, November 25, 2020

Wildflower Wednesday: A favorite late blooming Asteracea

I appreciate flowers that bloom later in Autumn and that's exactly what I've come to expect from our star, Symphyotrichum praealtum

 Symphyotrichum praealtum is a tall grass prairie native that is harder to find than a tall grass prairie in Tennessee. It's listed as an endangered and threatened species in several states, including Tennessee, and in several Canadian provinces. (Go here to read about rescue efforts in Canada.) 

Luckily for me, a blogging friend generously shared several starts of the plant she calls 'Miss Bessie'. I am happy to say they have bloomed at Clay and Limestone for over a dozen years.

 It's ironic and wonderful that an endangered Middle Tennessee wildflower found its way home via North Carolina.


Having flowers in bloom as close to year round as is possible in my middle Tennessee garden is important. I garden with pollinators in mind. They're active as soon as there are blooming flowers. In my garden, that means small flies and gnats will be buzzing around the late winter blooming witch hazels in January and February. Pollinator action gets busier when the spring ephemerals bloom and the mason bees and honeybees arrive. From then on, bumbles, green metallic bees, mason bees, big and tiny carpenter bees, sweat bees, flower flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, skippers, and Hummingbirds are busy visiting every plant that offers nectar and/or pollen. Come fall, the rush to get ready for winter ramps up the activity and the little ex-asters are covered with every imaginable pollinating critter.

Long-tailed Skipper/Urbanus proteus on Willow-leaf aster

After the ex-asters fade Symphyotrichum praealtum/Willowleaf aster bursts into blooms. 

Suffice it to say that it reigns supreme as my longest blooming rough and tumble wildflower, often continuing to bloom after freezing temperatures. Rough and tumble wildflowers are simple flowers that haven't had their best characteristics hybridized out of them. They bloom their hearts out and require no special care. That's Willow-leaf aster to a T.

 'Miss Bessie' begins blooming in mid to late October just as the Little ex-asters are starting to fade and continues to bloom through much of November.  The inflorescence consists of a series of leafy flower clusters with the lowermost branches generally being the longest. The stalks of the flowering heads are moderately to densely hairy. The hairless, leaf-like bracts (phyllaries) surrounding the flower heads are borne in 4-6 strongly graduated series; each has a small, green, diamond-shaped zone towards the tip. The flower heads have 20-35 outer florets with pale blue-violet rays; the central yellow disc florets number 20-30 and become purple/ brown once pollinated or aged.

The common name for our star is Willowleaf, named for the shape of the leaves, which are said to resemble willow tree leaves. The upright stems are smooth, waxy and usually 50 to 150 cm tall, with alternate, narrow leaves that attach directly to the stem with no stalk or only a short taper from the leaf. Leaves on the lower part of the plant may grow up to 14 cm long and 1 cm wide, while leaves on the upper and middle branches are shorter. (source) It's not unusual for Willowleaf plants to lose the lower leaves as the season progresses. This is especially true in my garden during dry periods.

 


Willowleaf aster is native to much of the eastern and central United States (including Texas), to several northern Mexican states, and to the extreme southern portion of Ontario, Canada. It has been introduced to central Europe. It's found growing in moist, open habitats including wet prairies and meadows, shores, oak savannahs, ditches and roadsides. It is not a Xeric plant!

Symphyotrichum praealtum often forms dense clonal colonies, spreading aggressively by rhizomes. The species does not self-pollinate; cross-pollination with a genetically distinct plant is required for the production of seeds.* The seeds are wind-dispersed. In some areas, this species may be the latest-flowering plant, which may limit the number of insects available to serve as pollinators.  (source)

I appreciate wildflowers that have good wildlife value and Willowleaf aster is an extremely important food source for pollinators still out and about on those beautiful warm fall days. One source suggests that it's a go to food source for migrating Monarch Butterflies. If you're fortunate to live along the Monarch Trail and have space/don't mind editing a clonal spreader then plant this beauty. Plant this beauty even if you don't live along the Trail. I don't and I am so glad that on warmer fall days the bumbles, Metallic green bees and my neighbors visiting honeybees have a food source.
All the pollinators adore this beauty. By all, I mean every Bumble, tiny little fly, small bee or Skipper that's in the garden can be found nectaring on the sweet lilac-blue flowers from the time the sun moves past the canopy trees and warms up the garden, until it sets and everything cools off.
sleeping bumble
 

Willowleaf aster is THE gathering place for all the bumbles at the end of a hard day! Bumbles are the last to leave my garden at night and it's not unusual to find them slumbering on the flowers on a cool Autumn morning. I always thank them and wish them a good day, they are quite the hardest workers in my garden.

Willow-leaf aster stands straight and tall until the top heavy blooms have it leaning toward the sun. It sways in the slightest breeze and looks good with native grasses and other forbs. Mine compete with Solidago, Chasmanthium latifolium, Panicum vergatum, and other Symphyotrichums. Like other asters it will spread vegetatively and by seed. You may have to edit, but, your gardening friends will love when you gift them this aster, but, probably not nearly as much as their pollinators will.

xoxogail

 

The Particulars  

Botanical name: Symphyotrichum praealtum

Common name: Willowleaf aster, Willow aster

Family: Asteracea

Type: Herbacious perennial

Range:


USDA Zone: 4 to 9

Size:  Height: 2.00 to 5.00 feet Spread: 1.50 to 4.00 feet

Bloom time: October to November/December in Middle Tennessee

Bloom description: Blue to purple daisy-like composite flowers about ½–¾" across. Each flower has 20-30 has lavender (less often white) ray florets surrounding numerous yellow disk florets that eventually become reddish purple.

Sun: Full sun, half sun

Maintenance: Water when very dry; divide yearly

Habitat: Wet low ground, moist meadows, prairie swales, stream and pond edges, open thickets, and roadsides; loamy soil. Please note: NOT a xeric plant.

Faunal associations: Many kinds of insects visit the flowers, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, flies, butterflies, and skippers. Among the bees, this includes such visitors as honeybees, bumblebees, Halictine bees, and some Andrenid bees that fly late in the season. Some Syrphid flies and beetles may feed on the pollen, otherwise these insects seek nectar; bees also collect pollen for their larvae. The caterpillars of the butterflies Chlosyne nycteis (Silvery Checkerspot) Phyciodes tharos (Pearl Crescent) feed on the foliage, as well as the caterpillars of several species of moths. (source)

Comments: Deer and rabbits usually leave this one alone. Rhizomatous/Clonal so it needs an unrelated plant to cross pollinate.  


The Willow-leafAster can be distinguished from other asters (Symphyotrichum spp.) by the conspicuous reticulated pattern on the lower surface of its leaves.

Companion plants: Any native grasses, especially tall prairie grasses. Goldenrods, Sunflowers, Rudbeckias, Boltonia, Amsonia.

Uses: Rain gardens, pollinator and butterfly gardens, borders, shorelines. Tolerates temporary flooding. 

 Seeds: Prairie Moon Nursery, Prairie Legacy, Inc



Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. I am so glad you stopped by. WW is 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 they are in bloom and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants; it's all about celebrating wildflowers. 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, October 28, 2020

Wildflower Wednesday: Porteranthus stipulatus

Our October Wildflower Wednesday star is a beauty each fall as the deeply cut, toothed, trifoliate, medium green leaves turn a delightful golden orange.

I fell in love with its fall color.


Then I noticed it had the most delightful foliage and wiry stems with little seed pods left over from the summer flowers.

I decided then and there that it had to be in my garden, even though I hadn't seen any flowers. Foliage that packs this much color punch in the fall is a must have in my part shade/part sun garden.

Seeds

 I am not sure why this plant isn't in more gardens, after all, who needs big showy blooms on every plant when subtle beauty and charm can be found on this lovely native. It is found naturally growing in rich woods in a good portion of the Eastern US. It can take full sun in northern states, but, I recommend half sun in gardens that are on the hot/dry side. It has tolerated dry conditions in my garden, blooms every year and the fall color is grand.

There's one small the problem in my garden. While, I have rich soil for part of the year, our dry summers and our even dryer fall months (the last few years especially) have made this cutie patootie unhappy. It survives, but isn't thriving. I've seen it looking fabulous in gardens with deeper, richer soil and I know given those conditions it would look fantastic.

 Just look at those cute flowers, now imagine them blooming en mass on a small slope each spring. Now imagine that same hillside blanketed in our star's golden orange and bronze red each October! 

Stunning is what comes to mind.

It pairs beautifully with our woodland ex-asters and would look equally lovely in the spring with Columbine, Baptisia and other spring lovelies.

Porteranthus stipulatus is too valuable a wildflower to let it languish in the dryer section of my garden. It's time to move it closer to the hose where I can give it a good gulp of water once a week. The perfect spot is near the front path, close to the faucet and in full view so visitors will be sure to see it's many charms.  

 

Trust me on this, it is a charming plant and worth the search. Try GroWild here in Middle Tennessee and if you live way north of here, check with Prairie Moon Nursery.

Also, check with your State Native Plant Association for local nurseries.

 The particulars   

Botanical name: Porteranthus stipulatus 

Common Name: American Ipecac ( this common name comes from the Native Americans’ former medicinal use of the plant’s roots for an emetic), Indian physic; Midwestern Indian-physic 

Synonym: Gillenia stipulata

Family: Rosaceae

Growth habit: Sub shrub 

Native Range: Central and eastern North America 


 

Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8 

Height: 2.50 to 3.00 feet 

Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet 

Bloom Time: May to June 

Flower: White or light pink, showy

Root: perennial rhizome 

Sun: Part shade 

Water: Medium 

Maintenance: Low

Soil: 6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)  6.6 to 7.5 (neutral) 

Faunal associations: Long and short tongued bees visit for nectar and pollen. Flies, butterflies, and skippers also visit. 

Propagation methods:
  • Root division
  • Seed collection: Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry
  • From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall; winter sow in vented containers; coldframe or unheated greenhouse; sow indoors before last frost; direct sow after last frost  

 


 

Comments: Will form colonies if happy. Imagine a hillside with those cute flowers all blooming at once and then each fall a blanket of bronze red, golden orange. 

Deer/rabbit resistant : yes/yes

Thank you for stopping by to celebrate native wildflowers. 

xoxogail

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. I am so glad you stopped by. WW is 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 they are in bloom and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants; it's all about celebrating wildflowers. 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.