|©David J White|
I can't promise you that this dainty flower will wow your human garden visitors, but it will make the many critters that live in or visit your garden happy.
It's a host plant for one of the sweetest little butterflies to visit our gardens...the Eastern Tailed Blue. But that's not all. According to Illinois Wildflowers: Bumbles, and other long tongued bees like leaf-cutting bees and long-horned bees feed on the pollen. The caterpillars of Hoary Edge skipper, Silver-Spotted Skipper, Southern Cloudywing skipper and Northern Cloudywing skipper feed on the leaves and the caterpillars of the Gray Hairstreak butterfly eat the flowers and developing seedpods. Other insects include: many kinds of beetles, and some species of thrips, aphids, moth caterpillars, and stinkbugs. The seeds are eaten by some upland gamebirds (Bobwhite Quail, Wild Turkey) and small rodents (White-Footed Mouse, Deer Mouse), while the foliage is readily eaten by White-Tailed Deer and other hoofed mammalian herbivores. The Cottontail Rabbit also consumes the foliage.
|Photo ©David G Smith|
If you want seeds, just let me know! I've already gotten a good head start on collecting them.
|©David J White|
The origin of the word Desmodium is Greek and means "long branch or chain", which makes perfect sense when you look at the fruit/pod. Those sticky seedpods (loments) cling to the fur of animals and the clothing of humans and are carried far from the parent plant. I am pretty sure that's how they landed in my garden.
I've come to appreciate the masses of tiny flowers, the cool looking seedpods and the enormous wildlife value they bring to my garden. But, would I recommend you add them to your space?
|©David J White|
Fabaceae (Pea Family)
Range: native to eastern and southern North America
Common Names: Panicled leaf tick trefoil, Narrowleaf tick trefoil
Bloom Time: Summer
Flower: pink pea like flower about 1/4 inches
Fruit: Pod. Their fruit are loments, meaning each seed is dispersed individually enclosed in its segment. The leaflets of this species have hairs which will slightly cling to clothing or fabric
Height: 24” to 48”
Spacing: 15” to 18”
Light: Full Sun to shade
Habitat - Thickets, dry upland woods, rich woods, ravines, prairies, glades, ridges, moist ground, roadsides, railroads.Woodlands
Soil Moisture: Medium to Dry
USDA Zone: 4a-8b
Wildlife value: See above!
Comments: Panicledleaf Ticktrefoil enriches the soil through nitrogen fixation. Desmodium paniculatum is a pioneer species (first species that grows in an area after a disturbance). So, you're likely to see it in areas that have been cleared by fire, flooding, logging or construction. The roots of Tick Trefoils have been used medicinally in the past by the Houma Indians. It has more
Landscape use: Massed in a native plant garden. Plant with grasses (Panicums, Chasmanthium) for support. It makes a nice ground cover in a wilder area of the garden.
Thoreau wrote in his journals "I can hardly clamber along one of our cliffs in September in search of grapes without getting my clothes covered with Desmodium ticks. Though you were running for your life, they would have time to catch and cling to you -- often the whole row of pods, like a piece of a very narrow saw blade with four or five great teeth. They will even fasten to your hand. They cling by the same instinct as babes to the mother’s breast, craving a virgin soil -- eager to descry new lands and seek their fortune in foreign parts; they steal a passage somewhere aboard of you, knowing that you will not put back into the same port."
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! Add your link and comment below!
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.