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.
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.
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.
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.