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

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Rough and Tumble Oenothera biennis

Night blooming Common Evening Primrose is our rough and tumble Wednesday star. This tall biennial is  found growing in fields, prairies, glades, thickets, waste ground, disturbed sites, and in other sunny medium to dry sites. While native to almost all the states it's found more often in the central and eastern US.


 While researching the plant I noticed that it showed up on several state weed sites! That's always disconcerting to a wildflower/native plant enthusiast, but, not all wildflowers are appreciated or valued by everyone. Some might be put off by it's height or it's unremarkable foliage, neither bother me. I find the yellow flowers that are still blooming when I walk the garden early in the morning to be quite charming.  I like catching their sweet lemony scent and watching the occasional pollinator visitor that's out that early.

The sweet lemon scent is designed to attract moths

At the top of the over six foot tall, hairy, olive green leafy stalk are the lemon-scented, bright-yellow, four-petaled flowers. Flowering begins in June on second year plants; the stalks continue growing throughout the season, so there are flowers until fall.

 


 In my garden it's happily growing with Rudbeckia triloba, Silphium perfoliatum, Verbesena virginica and Asclepias syriaca. Use native grasses, Verbesinas, and/or Coreopsis to disguise the lower bare stalks.

Each flower has 4 petals, 4 reflexed sepals, 8 stamens and a prominent style with a cross-shaped stigma.

  Oenothera biennis takes 2 years to complete its life cycle, with basal leaves becoming established the first year, and flowering occurring the second. It's not difficult to have flowers every year, just save the seeds and keep planting them. You shouldn't have trouble collecting seed since each seed capsule makes at least a 100 tiny seeds.  Don't get too alarmed about all the seeds...they're an important goldfinch food.

 


  This plant can get tall, plant it where it won't block other pretties, but, where you can still enjoy the flower show and catch its lovely lemony scent.

 Wildlife value

Common evening primrose is open for the night shift. That's when the pollinating creatures of the night are out and about. Sphinx moths and other moths pollinate the flowers. I saw bats flying around the flowers and deduced they were there for the moths and other night visitors.


 Other visitors have included: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, honeybees, bumblebees, and the Primrose Miner Bee. These insects seek nectar, although some of the bees collect pollen. The caterpillars of several moths feed on the foliage. This includes Endryas unio (Pearly Wood Nymph), Desmia funeralis (Grape Leaffolder Moth), Hyles lineata (White-Lined Sphinx), and Mompha eloisella (Momphid Moth; bores through stems). Various beetles feed on the foliage, including Popillia japonica (Japanese Beetle), Grahops pubescens (Leaf Beetle sp.), Altica fusconenea (Flea Beetle sp.), and several Curculio beetles. The seeds are eaten by goldfinches. (Illinois Wildflowers)

 

I appreciate scrappy native plants like Oenothera biennis that are often the first to show up in disturbed areas. They're automatically members of the rough and tumble wildflower club at Clay and Limestone. I wish that all the disturbed areas around the country could be repopulated with natives, but, too often the non native invasives arrive first. Count yourself lucky if the good guys show up!

xoxogail

PS 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 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-just in time for provisioning a nest for the winter or for migrating birds. Once bloom is past and the seeds ripen, they become feeding stations for over wintering birds which seek out those seeds.

 

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, September 8, 2021

Another rough and tumble wildflower: Verbesina virginica



Verbesina virginica, is a rough and tumble white flower with a petal here and a petal there, but, that matters not to a bee. They're in it for the nectar and pollen payoff and this Asteraceae family member has quite a payoff.

Wasps, bees, beetles, butterflies, skippers, and flies all adore it.

 I do, too.


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 Verbesina virginica, also commonly known as 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-just in time for provisioning a nest for the winter or for migrating birds. Once bloom is past and the seeds ripen, they become feeding stations for over wintering birds which seek out those seeds. It's also the host plant for the caterpillars of Summer Azure, Bordered Patch, and the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly.

Frostweed with Cup plant another robust native

People make the mistake of calling Verbesina virginica invasive. That's a word I only use for plants that are not native. Instead, I would call Frostweed robust. Seedlings do germinate far from the parent plants thanks to wind and birds! That doesn't mean I would ban it from the garden, but, I can be ruthless about removing seedlings of this biennial!

Buckeye butterfly visiting Verbesina

 Do not cut it back after bloom and you'll get to see how it got its common name. 

When the first freezes hit. Frostweed splits its stems and water oozes from the stalk where it freezes creating lovely and unusual ice crystals. 


 All it takes is a warm winter day followed by a cold winter night.  During the warm day, the  Frostweed's roots draw water up into the stem and later that night freezing temperatures force the sap from the stems where they freeze into sculptural ice candy flower curls.  

I think it's magical.
White Crownbeard

Whether you see the magic or the science (capillary action) it's wonderful having a plant that can  produce ice sculptures over and over, especially one that really delivers for wildlife during the entire growing season.

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, September 1, 2021

Rough and Tumble Cup plant


 Cup plant is one of my must have rough and tumble wildflowers

"What's a rough and tumble wildflower?"you might be wondering. They're beautiful and  charming plants that  haven't had their best characteristics bred out of them. There are no cultivars or hybrids~That means they have not been crossed or genetically altered by human hand to be shorter, more floriferous, double flowered, disease resistant, sterile or what ever else is the going fad. I am pretty sure you can't improve on what nature has already done~creating plants that dance beautifully and gracefully with their pollinator and wildlife partners.

Cup Plant is a native of tall grass prairies where it grows in moderately rich, moist well drained neutral to alkaline soil. Expect it to make itself at home in your garden by setting down a central taproot and shallow rooted rhizomes. First year seedlings are easily transplantable from where you don't want them to where you do. It can and will spread vegetatively (and by seed) to form a large and tall colony that makes a striking statement in the back of a garden. Plant it with other prairie forbs and grasses to create a pocket prairie. 

You just can't beat the composite flowers when it comes to wildlife value, but, there's something especially wonderful about Cup Plant. Once the flowers open the pollinators descend upon the garden and they stay until the last petal falls from the plant and then the birds eat the seeds. But, even before it blooms, the wasps, Bumble bees, flies and small birds stop by to drink the rain and dew that has collected in the fused leaves that form a cup around the plants square stems. It's a very cool plant.


 What you can expect:

A big plant presence,
good looking flowers,
spreads assertively,
a rough and tumble wildflower,
tons of happy pollinators,
great wildlife value...

A tattered beauty in the garden July 22, 2014

 I never have to worry about this one disappearing from the garden ;)

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.