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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wildflower Wednesday: Bear's Foot and a walk on the wildside

We walked the Richland Creek Greenway with our toddler granddaughter this past weekend. It's a 4 mile loop around a local golf course and is frequented by runners, walkers and bikers. We love the greenway and often use it to access favorite coffee shops and restaurants, but it's also a fantastic way to connect with nature. It's exciting to see so many parents and children there each time we go.  I imagine that for a lot of urban children greenways are their first introduction to nature. It's a pretty cool resource and it's exciting to see that Nashville is continuing to expand its greenway system.
Bear's foot/Hairy leaf cup leaves are giant sized
The greenway has a wide asphalt path that crosses Richland Creek several times and since we've had a lot of rain this spring the creek was flowing. We were excited to show our granddaughter the turtles basking in the sun and minnows in the deeper water, but, the biggest excitement came when a black snake crossed the path in front of us on its way to the water's edge. There are several open fields where we saw bluebirds, cardinals and other familiar birds. There's plenty of wildflowers like our Wildflower Wednesday star, Smallanthus uvedalius, along the path to attract butterflies and other pollinators. It's a good place to connect with and watch nature.
Hairy Leafcup/Smallanthus uvedalius grows along the greenway path
Our cities need to make sure there are greenways, parks and woodlands. Wilderness is disappearing and human-dominated landscapes of houses, businesses, parking lots and roadways are expanding and displacing living/nesting spaces for butterflies, bees, songbirds and other creatures. This is not good for the critters or for us.

I want a world where my granddaughter and other children don't have limited opportunities to connect with nature. Too many children already are nature deprived. Children spend more time viewing television and playing video games on computers than they do being physically active outside. Richard Louv called this phenomena, ‘nature-deficit disorder’ in his book, The Last Child in the Woods. He wrote about how significant the developmental effects of nature are for children. Although, it's not a medical term, he said it's "a metaphor—to describe what many of us believe are the human costs of alienation from nature: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, a rising rate of myopia, child and adult obesity, Vitamin D deficiency, and other maladies." (source)

Researchers are discovering all the different ways that nature benefits our well-being, health, and relationships. Those benefits will be irrelevant if we cannot get people to reconnect and value nature. You don't have to take my word for it...Just do a little research and then get out there and push to make sure there are parks, greenways and school programs so that everyone can connect or reconnect to nature. The future is at stake.
The number one reason I garden for wildlife is to make a difference. The number one reason I continue to blog about my beloved wildflowers and critters is to demonstrate to others that we can make a difference. I believe that with all my heart...It's what keeps me going despite the assault on nature that is happening all around us.
Without further ado...Here's our Wildflower Wednesday May star, Smallanthus uvedalius, it was showing off all over the greenway this past weekend. You may know it by one of its common names: Bear's foot, Hairy leaf cup and Yellow flowered leaf cup.

it's hairy

The first time I saw Hairy leaf cup the giant leaves made me think of an Oakleaf Hydrangea.  Smallanthus uvedalius is a perennial, not a shrub, although, it can get almost as large as a small understory shrub. The plants along the greenway average about 4 to 6 feet tall, but it's not unusual for them to get even taller. It has stout stems with opposite leaves that form a small leafcup. The leaves are palmately lobed and green with fine hairs scattered across the veins and both leaf surfaces. Leaves are 4 to 12 in long and are the most striking thing about this yellow flowered aster! Each flower head has 7 to 13 yellow ray flowers to the outside and 40-80 yellow tube-like disc flowers to the inside. The ray flowers produce seeds and from my observations, this wildflower does a nice job of reproducing.
Steven J. Baskauf http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/

This large wildflower grows best in moist, part shade. It is found naturally occurring in moist to dry, lightly shaded, open woodlands, savannas, thickets, fields and bottomlands.  If it's happy it can become tall (up to 10 feet) so plant it in the back of a perennial border or woodland garden. This species is found from Michigan southwest to Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas, south to Oklahoma and Texas, east to New York and New Jersey, and, south to Florida. It is beginning to flower in middle Tennessee and will continue to bloom until late summer keeping bees and wasps very happy.
it can get tall~on average it's 4 to 5 feet but, I've seen it taller

The particulars
Smallanthus uvedalius/Polymnia uvedalia
Family: Asteraceae — Aster family
Common names: Yellow-flowered Leafcup, Bear's foot, Hairy leafcup

Range:  In the U.S., it is found from central Texas to southeastern Kansas to Michigan to New York, then southward to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts
Habitat: Moist soils in partially sunny thickets, woodlands and fields.
Leaf: Green with very large opposite petiolate leaves that form a small cup around the stem and hence the name leafcup.
leaves decrease in size and become less complex up-stem
Flower: yellow rayed flower
Bloom: Anytime from now to early summer in our neck of the woods
Propagation:  Seeds should be sown in fall or spring.
Comments: This is a big guy and needs room to spread. Might be appropriate for a naturalistic and woodland garden.The leaves really bring another dimension to a woodland garden. The flowers are pollen and nectar rich.

Some folks might think this is a course looking flowering plant, and it may well be, but, I still like it! I think it's an honorary rough and tumble wildflower!

Mt Linky is not cooperating these days, not sure why, so put a link in your comment. Thanks.
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.

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.


  1. Who had more fun on that nature walk? You or your granddaughter? I know she will benefit from the up close and personal encounters with nature that you share with her. Grandchildren are such fun.

  2. I look forward to Wildflower Wednesdays every week. This is such an interesting and unknown to me pick. Well done, Gail

  3. Agree with lynnblog, this one was totally unknown to me!

    Thanks for the introduction, Gail.

    I think it's just a bit too wild and woolly for my current garden -- plus I probably don't have enough shade or moisture to keep it happy -- but I'll file it away in my records in case I ever have a shady, moist understory that needs a giant perennial!

  4. How lovely that you two can take your granddaughter on nature walks. Some of my most rewarding times with my grandchildren have been in outdoor or plant-related situations including my garden. I attended an excellent program last year entitled “Becoming a naturalist in a child’s life” and they cited many of the facts you mentioned regarding screen time versus outdoor time.
    Hairy leafcup is such an interesting wildflower with those huge leaves. I have never heard of it before. Do you grow it in your garden? Happy Wildflower Wednesday!

  5. Yesterday and today I have repeatedly tried to upload but it appears the Magic Link is broken. I just wanted to give you a heads-up.

  6. What a great spot to spend with family given our natural areas are shrinking......love this hairy leafcup!

  7. Sounds like my kind of plant! I had no idea it was native to IL, though I'm guessing more in the southern/central part of the state. Do you know anything about its wildlife value - is it a host for any lepidoptera?

  8. This guy (gal??) sort of reminds me of the cup plant, but hairier ;). Wholeheartedly agree with you on the need to enlighten the next generation on the wonders of nature - just put down that phone (ipad, laptop, remote, xbox controller...) and go outside! When I was a kid, my punishment would often be not being able to go outside to play with friends - these days, it sometimes seems as if going outside IS the punishment when they do so grudgingly.

  9. Very nice that the city is promoting natural areas, and that looks like an interesting plant. I am fortunate to live in an area where the local community is trying to promote kids being outdoors. The schools have partnered with the local community farm to raise gardens with the kids, and a recent push from parents increased the time kids have for recess in elementary school and added outdoor time in middle school. Electronics have taken over so much that it is scary and definitely affecting kids' development.

  10. Keep preaching about nature Gail, it’s a message worth hearing.

  11. http://eefalsebay.blogspot.co.za/2018/05/false-bay-garden-and-water-in-may.html

    Felicia - the colour of happiness - blue daisies for you. Both in my garden, and growing wild on our mountains.

  12. (Mr Linky did work ... he just took his time)


  13. Moving on to see the news.
    Good continuation of the week.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson