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

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: Nothoscordum bivalve


 Like a few of my favorite wildflowers, this one was first spotted in my way back backyard many moons ago! It was growing in full sun (before the trees leafed out) where the soil is wet in the winters and dry in the summers. I knew immediately that it was something special with its fresh white flowers. It looked like a wild Allium, but the scent was not at all like an onion or garlic; it was sweet and worth crawling on my hands and knees to get a good sniff. Of course, I looked it up in my wildflower guide. Turns out this wild garlic looking plant is Nothoscordum bivalve a native member of the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis or Narcissus family). Once upon a time it was in the Lily family.

The word Nothoscordum is derived from the Greek word Nothos meaning “false” and Scordum, meaning garlic. Individual plants are about a foot high with a single smooth hollow stem/scape that emerges from an underground bulb. Each plant also has several long, grass-like leaves that emerge from the base of the plant. Mature clumps can reach up to 16" tall and spread to fill an 8" area. The scapes can reach up to 16" tall and are topped with an umbel of 4-8 small, upward-facing flowers in spring. The 0.5" wide flowers are made up of six white tepals with yellow tinged bases. MOBOT

 

hollow stem, grass like leaves and umbel flowers

 

It is native to the eastern United States from Texas to Florida up to Nebraska and Ohio, as well as Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, northeastern Argentina and central Chile where it grows in open woods, savannas, glades, barrens, and prairies. 

I've seen it in yards all over our neighborhood, but only where they never fertilize, just mow.  It is common in thin dry soils (my yard) and can be found blooming in early spring in cedar glades in middle Tennessee. In an open field about a mile from my house Nothoscordum bivalve is growing near Lime stonecrop (Sedum pulchellum), Glade sandwort (Arenaria patula) and Glade-Cress (Leavenworthia).*

So what does Nothoscordum bivalve offer? 

  • The flowers are an important early pollen and nectar source for bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators. 
  • beauty
  • a sweet scent 
  • second bloom is possible in the fall 
  • it requires no maintenance in a freedom lawn
  • it's part of a healthy ecosystem

in a freedom lawn

 

 The Particulars

Common Name: false garlic, crow poison

Type: Bulb 

Family: Amaryllidaceae 

Former name: Allium striatum  

Native Range: Eastern USA, Southern North America, South America 

Zone: 5 to 9 

Height: 0.75 to 1.25 feet 

Spread: 0.25 to 0.75 feet 

Bloom Time: March to May 

Bloom Description: White with yellow tinged bases 

Sun: Full sun to part shade 

Soil: Found on both acidic and calcareous substrates

Water: Dry to medium 

Maintenance: Low 

Comments: Will naturalize. Poisonous...do not eat. Will tolerate drought, dry, rocky and shallow soil

Wildlife value: It is a favorite nectar source for small butterflies such as the falcate orangetip. The nectar of the flowers attracts cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.), green metallic bees (Augochlorella spp.) and other Halictid bees, Andrenid bees (Andrena spp.), bee flies, and small to medium-sized butterflies. One of the Andrenid bees, Andrena nothoscordi, is a specialist pollinator (oligolege or monolege) of False Garlic (Nothoscordum bivalve). This bee and other small bees also collect pollen from the flowers. Syrphid flies may visit the flowers occasionally to feed on the pollen, but they are less effective at cross-pollination. White-tailed Deer have been observed to feed on the foliage of False Garlic in areas of south Texas with loam or clay-loam soil (Chamrad & Box, 1968), although some authors consider this plant to be poisonous (Pammel, 1911). There is also sophisticated archaeological evidence that prehistoric people, thousands of years ago, cooked the bulbs of this plant in rock ovens in east Texas (Short et al., 2015). (source)

 

Sally and Andy Wosowski

*Long time readers know that this garden has given me a wealth of small ephemeral and perennial wildflowers. Downy Woodmint, Blue-eyed grass, Western Daisy, Penstemon calycosus , Woodland Carex, Fleabanes, Ragwort, several Ruellias, Phacelias, Toothworts, Dutchman's breeches, Rue anemone and False rue anemone and Trilliums.  All these wildflowers point out what a rich woodland this neighborhood had once been. Neighbors who live on or near the ridges know exactly what I mean. In their yards you'll find Hydrangea arborescens, woodland Phlox, Trillium, Toad lilies, and many more wildflowers that are too often thought of as weeds, but, are valuable to the critters who live and visit our gardens. They mourn along with me the loss of habitat due to the new builds. Yes, there was habitat loss when these houses were built in the early and mid 50s, but, they left rich pockets of woodlands where wildflowers survived. Now entire acres of trees, understory shrubs and ephemerals are being bulldozed for giant starter castles with their monoculture lawns.

Many of us watch the destruction with dismay and continue to plant as many natives as we can. Our hope is that our yards will be teaching grounds for younger people moving in the neighborhood, as well as a refuge for the critters who are losing their woodlands. 

I started Wildflower Wednesday to introduce native wildflowers to others in the hope that they would appreciate their beauty and their wildlife value and be moved to plant them in their gardens and yards. 

Stories celebrating wildflowers are needed now more than ever. It is alarming to watch the full scale destruction of habitat in my city and all around the country. It seemed a good time for a challenge to my readers. A two part challenge! 

The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2022 that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. Activities that increase our knowledge of the natural world are equally as valuable. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and especially, your neighborhood listserve. 

Why post it? Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us. Perhaps we can inspire those new to the neighborhood to decrease the size of their lawns and add more gardens.

An incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden

Shrink your lawn and make your planting beds larger.

Plant your favorite native perennials and shrubs. Leave them standing after they've gone to seed to continue to provide for wildlife. What you plant in your yard makes a difference to wildlife. I garden for wildlife so every tree, shrub and plant is chosen with wildlife in mind.

Plant more natives and then consider planting even more. "A typical suburban landscape contains only 20-30% native plant species. Try reversing that trend in your own landscape by using 70-80% native species." (source

Commit to never, ever, ever, ever using pesticides in the garden.

Stay away from native plant hybrids and cultivars that are double flowered. They are sterile and have no pollen or nectar for insects and no seeds for the birds. If possible plant “true open-pollinated native wildflowers”

If you want to garden for wildlife and pollinators, don't let lack of space stop you! Plant your favorite wildflowers in large containers. You just might have the prairie or woodland garden you've always wanted...in a pot!
 
Create a water feature. Provide water year round that is accessible to birds, bees and other critters.

Show some soil! Our native ground nesting bees nest in bare soil, so don't mulch every square inch of your garden. 

Invite bugs into your garden. Plant annuals that attract beneficial bugs.

Learn to tolerate damaged plants. Imperfection is the new perfect.

Don't be in a rush to clean up the fall garden. Leave plant stalks and seed heads standing all winter. Leave those fallen leaves or as many as you can tolerate! Insects over winter in the fallen and decaying leaves.

Leave a layer of leaves as a soft landing material under trees for moths and butterflies to over winter. Many caterpillars drop to the ground from the trees in the fall.

Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs'. They're also good bird, toad and small critter food. 

Rethink what you consider a pest. Lots of good bugs eat aphids. Spiders are important predators and bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds.

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: Observe visitors to the water feature, make note of when they visit. Notice which flowers attract the most pollinators and which ones are just pretty faces. 

Join your state native plant society.

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group.

Take an online course on tree, fungi and wildflower id.

Take a walk in your neighborhood and observe nature. To quote Joanna Brichetto in Sidewalk Nature "Look Around. Nature is here, is us, our driveways, our baseboards, parks, and parking lots."

Buy the best wildflower, butterfly and bird id books for your state.

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. 

Read! There are hundreds of books on gardening for wildlife, the environment, and rewilding our world. There are delightful blogs with wonderful and informative articles.

If you live in Nashville join the Facebook ReWild Nashville Group!

Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday.  This day is about sharing wildflowers and other native plants no matter where one gardens~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes share the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.

Please leave your links in comments,  I am not using Mr Linky.

Keep gardening and keep positive,

xoxogail

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 23, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: Green and Gold

If you're looking for a charming native groundcover then look no further than Chrysogonum virginianum. The common name Green and Gold is a nod to its fuzzy foliage and golden flower.

The early bloom provides nectar for visiting bees and butterflies.

 It's been in my garden for more than a decade and is very much at home between the large stepping stones on the path to the front door and in the adjacent bed. I'm a fan of repetition planting; especially plants that are easy peasy. Green and Gold is easy to divide and transplant so, I've moved it all around the garden. It's happy in full shade and even in full sun. It flowers every spring and doesn't seem to mind a bit of foot traffic every now and then.

Chrysogonum virginianum is not just another yellow composite flower, it's a long blooming, great little native Asteraceae with semi-evergreen foliage and golden flowers. You'll find it happiest in woodland gardens that have good drainage in acid or neutral soil. Naturally occurring plants are found in bright filtered light along forest edges and clearings. Expect it to be vigorous, it is after all a ground cover. 


Green and Gold blooms early in my Zone 6b/7a garden; a few flowers will open in mid-March, but, April is when it pops. Then all at once the small golden flowers are waving above the green fuzzy leaves as if they're saying come on pollinators here I am!

It's a charmer that wends its way through native sedges, Huecheras, Spigelia marilandica, ferns and mayapples. It can dance with Phlox pilosa or ramble over a small boulder. The golden star flowers have five slightly-notched, yellow petals and a center of yellow disk flowers. The bright green leaves are ovate, with crenate (rounded teeth) margins. The leaves, stems and stolons are quite hairy or fuzzy.


The leaves, stems  and stolons are fuzzy

 I recommend Green and Gold as an alternative to invasive thugs like Winter creeper (Eonymous fortunai), Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) and Vinca minor.  I wish big box stores and independent garden centers sold it instead of non-native thugs. Having mentioned thuggishness, please, remember, this native is a ground cover, so don't expect it to stay put, it will travel.

fallen leaves and seedheads are a good mulch

 Good reasons to consider planting Green and Gold in your garden.

  • Beautiful groundcover for shade and part shade
  • Does well in a rain garden
  • Will naturalize
  • Lovely planted along the edge of a woodland path
  • Good for planting at the base of native shrubs
  • Easy to grow and maintain
  • Nectar source for early visiting pollinators

 

 The Essentials

Common Name: goldenstar, Green and Gold
Type:  rhizomatous, low-growing perennial; Evergreen or semi-evergreen
Family: Asteraceae
Zone: 5 to 9
Distribution
USA: AL , DC , FL , GA , KY , LA , MD , MS , NC , NY , OH , PA , SC , TN , VA , WV
Native Habitat: Woodlands, dappled sun
Size: 4-6 inches high
Bloom Time: Late March, April, May and possible rebloom in the fall. If you're gardening in its northern zone you might have summer blooms, but it's too hot in Middle TN to bloom all summer. In a wet, cool autumn there might be repeat blooms.
Bloom: Yellow
Sun: Part shade to full shade. If you want to plant it in the sun make sure it is well watered during dry summers.
Water: Medium with good drainage. Once it's established it should be fairly drought tolerant.
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Tolerates: Deer, Shade, Drought
Companion planting: Dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata),  Blue wood sedge (Carex flaccosperma),  Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), Hairy Alumroot (Heuchera villosa), Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis and Blue-stem goldenrod (Solidago caesia)or what ever combination of plants that  need a spot of golden star beauty.

Comments: Nectar source for early visiting pollinators.

Even though it's a spring bloomer Green and Gold is an honorary member of the Clay and Limestone Rough and Tumble Wildflower club!

Take a chance on Golden star, you won't regret planting it.
xoxogail

 PS Don't forget our Wildflower Wednesday monthly challenge!  The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2022 that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. 

Why post it?  Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us. 

 I don't issue a challenge without my own follow through! This month I've begun researching the effects of light pollution on our garden visitors and residents. I shared the information with our neighborhood FB group. I am also looking into signage for my garden that might help others learn about light pollution and wildlife. A long term plan is to get involved with locals who are also concerned with light pollution.

For an incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden follow this link!

Thank you for stopping by and 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. Please leave a link in the comments if you have a WW post.xoxogail

 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, February 23, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: Harbinger-of-Spring

I'd like to think spring has arrived at Clay and Limestone.  When I open the door on the 50˚ mornings, it smells like spring.You've smelled it! It's the fresh dirt smell that wafts on the breeze on warm spring days. Scientist call the chemical that makes dirt smell fresh geosmin,  I call it delicious. We can thank the plant munching bacteria that live in our soil for making it.


It's not just the smells, although  late winter blooming Hamamelis vernalis' clovey scent is wafting about the garden on warm days. When it's a bit chilly I have to get up close and sniff the flowers, but, it makes me long and hope for more blooms and spring. And, have you heard the birds? They sing louder and more melodious in the spring. It's not my imagination, they're singing louder!


A few of the spring ephemerals have poked up from under the leaf liter demonstrating once again that leaves on the garden don't kill our native beauties and that spring is just about to bust open.


My garden is just beginning to undergo the marvelous transformation from brown to green. Over head the elms are budding, in near by yards the maples have begun to bloom and many shrubs are starting to push out leaves. Dirca palustris' fuzzy blooms will be open before we know it.

the diminutive woodland beautyand WW star, Erigenia bulbosa

Freezing nights and pounding rain can't dim my hopes for an early spring. But, let's not rush headlong into a big spring crescendo before it's time, after all we do need to admire our wildflower of the month,  Harbinger-of-Spring/Erigenia bulbosa.


 It's the earliest and smallest of the spring flowers. So small, no more than 4 inches tall, that it is easily over looked among the brown leaves on a woodland hillside. The pure white flowers and chocolate colored anthers contrast beautifully and, are clearly, the reason for one of the common names, Pepper and Salt. It blooms early in our woodlands and everywhere it blooms giving rise to its common name Harbinger of Spring. I've not seen pollinators on the sweet blooms, but, little Carpenter bees, Mason bees, and flower flies are said to visit for nectar. It grows in rich moist deciduous woodlands in dappled shade.


I love this little carrot family member (source*)

 Botanical name: Erigenia bulbosa

 Family:  Apiaceae  

Common name: Harbinger-of-Spring, Pepper and Salt

Native range: Eastern Canada, most of eastern US, including OK and AR Light: dappled shade 

 

source

Height: 2"-10" 

 

Photo by Chris Paccard

Flower type: Umbels, like little upside-down umbrellas

Leaf Color: green 

Bloom Color: white 

Bloom Time: Feb, Mar, Apr 

Water: moist 

Soil: acid, neutral, rich, average loam, think not picky!

Comments: The root is a small, rounded tuber

Conservation status: 

source


Wildlife value: Insect visitors primarily seek nectar from the flowers and include small to medium-size bees and miscellaneous flies.

 

source

 This plant is a member of a large and important Carrot (Apiaceae) family. Relatives include Queen Anne's lace, water hemlock, carrot, parsnip, parsley, celery, dill, fennel, cumin, anise, and many more. All have flowers arranged in umbels (like little upside-down umbrellas), and the seeds are structurally similar. I count myself fortunate when it showed up in my garden a few years back. I dearly wish it were commercially available~it's a lovely little flower and should be in more of our woodland gardens.

xoxogail

 

Don't forget our Wildflower Wednesday monthly challenge!  The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2022 that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. 

Why post it?  Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us. 

For an incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden follow this link!

 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. Please leave a comment and a link in the comment section. mr Linky is no longer working on my site.

 

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.