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

Wednesday, September 23, 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.

Cloudless sulfur caterpillar

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 

 

For September WW,  I want to change directions and focus on how easy it is to grow this delightful annual from seed. Seed growing wildflowers from purchased seeds is becoming more important than ever these days, since many of us are not going out and about during COVID. Seeds are easy to come by on the internet and if you're lucky friends can also share them with you.


Seed Collection

As it happens, it's time to collect seeds from my Partridge Peas before they are flung all over the driveway...And, I do mean flung! I picked a few of the earliest ripe pods and set them on the kitchen counter only to find the little rectangular seeds everywhere. It seems that as the pods continued to ripen they twisted open and the seeds exploded onto the counter.

Here's the scoop, when the seed pods are ripe they twist as they dry, splitting the pod open along its seams flinging the seeds into the air to land near and far from the plant.

 Plants have clever mechanisms to insure their continuity.

Too early to collect seeds

Like most other legumes/Fabaceaes form pods in late summer /early fall. The time to collect seeds is just before they are ready to twist open. Since the seed pods don't all ripen at once, I can collect individual brown seed pods by clipping them off with scissors. Yes, some pop open, but, I usually manage to get most of the seeds into my collection bowl. 

cover your bowl if the pods haven't all opened

If the entire stalk is ripe grab the bottom of the stalk and pull your hand up the stalk. You may have to cut some of the pods off with scissors anyway or you can clip off the stalk, but I like to leave the stalk to decay (it provides cover for critters and the decaying taproot can improve the soil). I don't save my seeds to plant in spring, I fall sow them where I want them to grow. This makes the most sense for me. If you purchase seed or are given seed then you can fall/winter sow or if you live further south, you can treat them and wait till very early spring. Don't worry, inoculant is not always necessary, especially if you have fertile soil.

  • Cold Stratify Seeds: Step by Step Process
  • Place a 1/4 cup of sand (or more) in a mixing bowl. ...
  • Add your desired seed amount to the sand. ...
  • Place sand/seed mixture in a ziploc bag and seal.
  • Label the variety and date clearly on the bag.
  • Place in the refrigerator for 10-30 or more day, depending upon seed type and requirements, before planting.


grasses, Rudbeckias, Phlox can hold their own against Partridge pea

Once established, you’ll never have to plant again because it enthusiastically self-sows. Ignore folks who call it invasive, it's not, but it is as I said earlier enthusiastic (okay, it can be aggressive, but, more aggressive plants can eventually crowd it out). Just yank out those you don't want or dig them up to share with a friend. Partridge pea does have a tap root and has been reported to be resistant to transplanting. I haven't found that to be true, but, then, I do move them to containers when they are smaller, and let them get established, then plant them. The taproot does several things-helps them resist drought and as the plants die back and decay it improves soil fertility/adds nitrogen to soil.

Planting

As I said earlier, Partridge pea is a prolific self-seeder and is easily propagated. I scattered purchased seed (Prairie Moon Nursery) several years ago. They came with inoculant (helps legumes grow) since then, I just let them drop their seeds in fall and sprout in the spring. I did not scarify my seeds. The winter weather takes care of scarification. The seeds have a hard outer shell that needs to be thinned or cracked to allow water to enter and freezing and thawing over winter takes care of it. Water is that magic elixir that makes seeds grow.

If you aren't winter sowing then you can stratify your seed. Partridge Pea only takes ten days of moist cold treatment to stratify, please note you will have to scarify the seed, too (nick the seed so water can get in) The hard outer shell must be thinned (with emory board) or gently cracked to improve chances for germination. After their cold period is up plant them and cover with soil...less than 1/2 inch deep. Again, I just tossed mine in the fall and most germinated.

 

It is an excellent plant to use in disturbed areas as it tends to establish quickly. Partridge pea is also a nitrogen-fixer, so it may improve and enrich soils, allowing for the introduction of more demanding plants into your landscape.



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!  

Seed: Fertile flowers mature into a flat straight pod that is green and slightly hairy, turning dark brown and smooth at maturity at which time they split with a twisting action which can fling the seeds away from the plant.

Propagation: They require at least 10 days of cold stratification for germination plus scarification. An legume inoculum helps. I plant in the fall without any treatment and let nature do the work.  Fall/winter sow to make your life easy.

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.

I hope this helps you decide to plant this delightful beauty! Happy Wildflower Wednesday.

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.

Wednesday, August 26, 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.
landing pads of deliciousness
Verbesina virginica is a native herbaceous biennial/perennial in the Asteraceae/Sunflower family. It has clusters of white ray florets and white disk florets with noticeably contrasting purplish-black anthers.
Its leaves are dark green with rough surfaces and toothed margins and are oppositely arranged.



Its stem is distinctive in that it has wing-like flanges running along its length. If you live in its native range, you've probably seen it along roadways or in natural areas and parks. It can be found on streams and river banks, bluff bases, bottomland and upland forests, pastures, railroads, roadsides, prairies, and in forest openings. It is most common in areas with neutral or basic soils (Soil which is in the range from slightly acid to slightly alkaline, usually considered to be in the range of pH values from 6.6 to 7.3).
 seed feeding station of Frostweed, Rudbeckias, Cup plant and yet to bloom ex-asters and Goldenrods
 That means it's very happy, maybe, even too happy in my garden.


Verbesina virginica is a blooming magnet for all kinds of insects, including some insects that are themselves food for spiders, birds and other insect eating critters.


Bumble Bees love it. Green Metallic bees love it. Giant Carpenter Bees love it. Butterflies love it. In fact, it's an essential late summer/early fall nectar food for all visiting pollinators and it's an especially important food for the Monarch Butterfly. It's has been selected for monitoring by Monarch Watch an organization devoted to education, conservation and research about/for the Monarch Butterfly.

We all know that adult butterflies depend upon their host plant to raise their larval young.   Caterpillars won’t just eat any leaf and each butterfly species has specific plants that their caterpillars will eat. During migration blooming nectar plants are even more valuable to Monarch butterflies than their non-blooming host plants. Frostweed and other rough and tumble plants provide the nectar they need for energy to fly thousands of miles.
Flattened fruits have winged margins and two awns
Verbesina virginica also provides ripe seeds for over wintering birds that live in and stop by our gardens. So don't be so eager to chop them down in November. Let them stand until late winter or early spring.
Photo courtesy of Meredith O'Reilly

Verbesina virginica has many common names, three of which, Frostweed, Iceplant, Iceweed hint at something wintry about our star.

Aren't these ice candy ribbons incredible! They're provided by Frostweed.

Imagine a beautiful late fall day. It's warm, the sun is shining and Verbesina's roots draw water up into the stem. Late that night, temperatures drop well below freezing and the stems freeze, splitting open, emitting the plant juices, which immediately freeze into ribbons of ice that curl around the stem and the base of the plant!

Frostweed flowers will continue to form as long as the temperatures are cold, the plant juices are flowing and the sun cannot melt them away. The scientific term is capillary action, but, I think it's magic.

The Particulars

Family: Asteraceae

Common names: White crownbeard, Frostweed, Iceplant, Iceweed, Virginia Crownbeard, Indian Tobacco, Richweed, Squawweed

Native Range: Pennsylvania west to central Texas, south to Florida

Habitat: White Crownbeard occurs in prairies, in pastures, in forest openings, along streams, and on roadsides. It is most common in areas with neutral or basic soils.

Size: The stems are 3-8 feet in height and unbranched below the inflorescence. They have winged internodes, and are pubescent. The wings that make them easily identifiable

Bloom: Flowers are produced in heads. The heads are arranged in corymbs. Each head has 1-7 white ray flowers and 8-15 off-white disc flowers.

Bloom time: August–October.

Sun: Full sun, half sun, and, even fairly shady sites.

Water: Moist to dry

Maintenance: Weeding and editing, plants can become weedy, spreading by seed and from rhizomes.

Propagation: The fruit is a winged achene with two small bristles at its apex. Best planted from seed or if in a natural area allowed to self sow. Seed dispersal is by wind, animal or flowing water

Wildlife Value: Over wintering birds eat the seeds. Bumble Bees love it. Green Metallic bees love it. Giant Carpenter Bees love it. Butterflies love it. In fact, it's an essential late summer/early fall nectar food for all visiting pollinators and it's an especially important food for  the Monarch Butterfly.

Comments: Best in natural garden, along pond edge or if well managed in the background of a butterfly garden. This plant is called "frostweed" because it often forms spectacular "frost flowers" in the fall, when a sudden overnight freeze causes the stems to burst and release sap.


I adore this plant, but, I also weed it ruthlessly if it's crowding other more delicate plants. I can't imagine Clay and Limestone without Frostweed and the other rough and tumble beauties. Let me know if you want seeds, I'll have extras for sure.

xoxogail



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 your wildflower is 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 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 22, 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.


Over the years I've added others, including a few hybrids. The ones that have survived and thrived are in bloom right now.

Here's Phlox 'David' which is a stunning white. There are  several groupings of pure white seedlings, none that I planted.


Phlox 'Jeana' has smaller flowers than other summer phlox, but she's big on nectar and draws the most pollinators.


Phlox 'Wanda' blooms all summer if deadheaded. You have to love that in a flower and yes, bees do visit this hybrid.

An unknown seedling from a cross.

Another unknown cross in a luscious color.


Some of the seedlings are brightly colored and others are pale pinks.


All of them are beautiful to me.
Practically Perfect Pink Phlox pilosa demonstrating butterfly attracting qualities
Phlox flowers are the classic butterfly plant with  landing pads of deliciousness (flared petals), a narrow tube that is accessible to the long proboscis of butterflies and fragrant flowers that occur in loose, rounded clusters. The long bloom time means there's plenty of nectar for pollinator visitors from July into August. I've seen butterflies, skippers, bumblebees, Minor bees, carpenter bees, flower flies and Snowberry Clearwing Moth visiting. I've read that Hummers visit as well and I hope they might stop by, too.

Phlox has all the characteristics of a classic butterfly nectar flower.

  • clustered flowers with a landing platform
  • brightly colored
  • open during the day
  • ample nectar producer 
  • nectar deeply hidden in corolla


If you want to attract butterflies, moths, skippers and other pollinators to your garden, then plant more Phlox! That's what I've been doing. Phlox paniculata 'Jeana' was planted several years ago and she rocks as a butterfly magnet. I add at least one plant a year, more if I can find them in 3 inch pots. They do better in spring planting if they're smaller.
These moths hover and stabilize their flight by resting their front legs on P 'Jeana's' blossom

But, right now I am wondering what happened to all the butterflies that usually flock to my Phloxes?

There have been rare sightings this spring/summer. I just saw a Yellow Sulphur on the Partridge pea and the Phlox, but it zipped by too fast to pose for a photo. Yesterday, a  Swallowtail was nectaring on  'Jeana'.

 It's been disappointing and disconcerting to say the least. Here we are in  the fourth week in July and the butterflies and skippers are missing in action. I'm not alone in this wondering what's going on, other gardeners have been asking "Where have  the butterflies have gone?" Thankfully, Phlox are able to do their thing despite the missing butterfly.

What is their thing?

Looking pretty! Well, that's a given, but..

P paniculata sps
More importantly, Phlox provides nectar for pollinators during this critical time.

Critical time!

Yes, critical! Mid-to-late summer is usually one of the toughest times for nectar and pollen-feeding insects. Plants like Phlox are very important producers of nectar.

Nectar robbing Carpenter bee

That's good to know. Is there anything else you can tell me about phlox?

I don't think one can have too many Phlox

I'm glad you asked!

Phloxes are native to North America and found growing in diverse habitats from the coldest alpine tundras to prairies, woodlands and meadows. With over 65 different species in North America there are options for many habitats.

They're all beautiful and fragrant.

Phlox will grow in partial shade or full sun~
Phlox paniculata sps and cultivars love moist, rich, well draining soil and flower best in full sun. What they get here is shallow, summer dry, clay soil that's been amended with leaf mold and compost. I do give them a nice big drink if we don't get rain. If you can keep them relatively moist and provide decent drainage you'll have good success (hardiness zones 3 to 8) and keep the pollinators well supplied with nectar.
More robbing!
If you want to see what kind of offspring you can get from all the cross pollination that will be happening, then don't deadhead your plants, let them go to seed and self sow. The parent plants always bloom true, but seedlings will be a pleasant surprise of mixed colors for your garden.

P paniculata 'David' and unknown mother= A pleasant pinkish surprise.
Isn't this seedling adorable? I need to remember to thank the pollinators
xoxogail

7-25-2020 Spicebush swallowtail! So excited!


The particulars
Botanical name: Phlox paniculata
Common Name: garden phlox, summer phlox
Family: Polemoniaceae  
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Pink-purple to white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy, Fragrant Attracts: Birds, Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Clay Soil, Black Walnut

Phlox Wanda. (info/source)
Phlox hybrid ‘Wanda’
Type: Herbacious perennial
Family: Polemoniaceae 
Native range: same as Summer phlox
Zone: Hardy in zones 5-10
Size: 18" to 24″
Bloom: Spring through summer, deadhead for continued bloom
Bloom description: Bright pink flowers
Water: requires moist well-drained soil
Maintenance: deadhead
Sun: Full sun and semi shade 
Comments: Wanda is thought to be a hybrid, and some speculate that the genes of Phlox divaricata might be in there along with P. pilosa. The plentiful flowers are a strong fuchsia, perhaps magenta, and may vary a bit on whether you place her in full sun or partial shade.  (info/source)
Tolerant: Heat and humidity tolerant

Phlox paniculata 'Jeana' 
Type: Herbacious perennial
Family: Polemoniaceae 
Native range: same as Summer phlox
Zone: Hardy in zones 5-10
Size: 5′ tall beauty
Bloom description: impressive floral display and fragrant
Bloom: from mid-July through early September.
Maintenance: Water when droughty
Sun: Full sun
Comments: This cultivar was discovered growing along the Harpeth River near Nashville, Tennessee and named after its discoverer, Jeana Prewitt. ‘Jeana’ attracted more butterflies than any other garden phlox in the entire  Mt. Cuba trial. With a top rank in both horticultural and ecological evaluations, Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’ is hard to beat. (source)

Disease/insects: PS The biggest problem I have had has been an attack of Phlox Bug~A nasty creature that sucks the plant juices and disfigures the plant. I cut the plant back after the first frost and trash the stalks....Never composting them. Phlox bug over winters in the stalks and this takes care of most of them. You can read about my battle with them here.

Posts about Phlox
Nectar Robbers are at it again
Early Summer Pollinator magnets
Summer Phlox


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.