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

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Wildflower Wednesday: Rough and Tumble Wildflowers on the Greenway and in My Neighborhood

It's rough and tumble wildflower bloom time in my garden and at the greenway where I walk most mornings. I am delighted to see so many different wildflowers in the sea of invasive honeysuckle, Mimosa, Ailanthus, Euonymous fortunae, Bradford Pears, privet and Rose of Sharon that have almost completely taken over many of our greenways. I love that these rough and tumble wildflowers have survived the invasion and are there for wildlife. 

Several former Wildflower Wednesday stars have a presence on the greenway and you can click on the highlighted plant names to see that post. I will introduce you to several new plants.

Hairy leaf cup/Bear's Foot/Smallanthus uvedalius

The greenway is a 4 mile loop around a local golf course and is frequented by runners, walkers and bikers. We love the greenway, it's 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 were walkers can observe turtles sunning on logs in Richland Creek, an occasional heron fishing for dinner, butterfly, bees, migrating and resident birds and even a snake.

Cup plant/Silphium perfoliatum

Our cities need to make sure there are greenways, parks and protected 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.

Passiflora incarnata

 I want a world where my granddaughter and other children don't have limited opportunities to connect with nature. Too many people are nature deprived. Especially children who 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)

Rudbeckia triloba in my garden, but also found at greenway

Not only are children growing up deprived of a connection with nature, adults are also missing out on  the known benefits that time in nature can give them. It's important to note that when children have no connection to nature they are less likely to advocate for conservation. Maybe that's why so few adults seem concerned about the environment, perhaps they grew up disconnected from nature and continue to be disconnected.

I call this field goldenrod. Not climbing over to ID!

I challenge you to head to your local greenway and find native plants. Take your phone and use Inaturalist to help you id plants. I guarantee that you will find at least a few native beauties among  the invasives.  

Fuzzy bean (Strophostyles hellvola) on greenway

I'm still discovering natives that I've never met or never seen in the wild before.  I recently spotted Strophostyles hellvola. Boy, was I surprised and delighted. It's got a great name, too, Fuzzy bean. It's fuzzy.

 It's not an overly showy plant, it's flowers are small and short lived but the beans/seeds are pretty cool and fuzzy, just like the name. 


When the seeds are ripe the pod twists open and expels the seeds away from the plant. I have one vine in a pot on my porch and I've found the oblongoid shaped seeds on the steps.

 A few particulars

Botanical name: Strophostyles hellvola

Common name: Fuzzybean, wild bean, wild trailing bean

Range: From Prairie Moon Nursery

Annual vine 

Cultivation: Prefers partial sun, moist to mesic conditions, and soil containing sand, loam, silt, or gravelly soil. The root system can fix nitrogen in the soil.

Flower: pink, light pink

The flowers are cross-pollinated by bees, especially Large Leaf-Cutting bees and bumblebees. One bee species, Megachile integra, is a specialist pollinator (oligolege) of Strophostyles spp. (Fuzzy Beans). Both nectar and pollen are available as floral rewards. Fuzzy Bean also has extra-floral nectaries, which attract primarily wasps, flies, ants, and small Halictid bees. The extra-floral nectaries may prevent nectar thieves (e.g., ants) from stealing nectar from the flowers, or they may attract insects (e.g., ants & wasps) that help to protect the plant from insects that feed on the foliage.(Illinois wildflowers)

Comments: The seeds have been found in many archaeological sites, implying that this plant was used for food


Dicliptera brachiate found along a creek behind church

I pass the same wet weather ditch at least once a week and about ten days ago the small  pink flowers caught my eye. I id-ed it as Dicliptera brachiate, aka, Branched Foldwing, a native herbaceous perennial in the Acanthus family (Acanthaceae). The leaf structure (opposite) and fruiting capsules remind me of Ruellia strepens, also a member of the Acanthus family.

 A Few Particulars

Common names: false mint, wild mudwort, branched foldwing

Fruits - Capsules 4-6 mm long,   

Flowering - August - October.  

Habitat - Bottomland forests, streambanks, moist depressions.  

Origin - Native to the U.S.  Ranging from the eastern United States to Central America.

Flower: Pink to lavender

Wildlife value: Attracts: Butterflies Larval Host: Texan crescent

Comments: This plant is aptly named in both the Latin and common forms:  Dicliptera:  diklis, Greek meaning “double-folding” and pteron, Greek meaning “wing”; brachiata refers to “branch”.  (source: My Gardener Says)


found along a creek

This might be a good time to remind my new and long time readers about my neighborhood. The section I live in was built in the mid 1950s and had modest ranch houses. The entire neighborhood was a  woodland that developers bulldozed carving curving roads. Today there are still pockets of native plants. In my own yard I discovered Penstemon calycosus, asters, Trillium, and a host of other native beauties on the edges of the Poverty oat grass lawn.

Verbesina virginica has a large presence at the greenway

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 continuing all around us.




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.

PPS I've borrowed quotes from a previous Wildflower Wednesday

 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 your url when you comment. I love your comments, so thank you for leaving them.



Don't forget our Wildflower Wednesday monthly challenge! 

The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2023 and beyond that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. Activities that increase our knowledge of the natural world are equally as valuable. Helping others learn about nature is included. Golly gee whiz, there are so many things you can do. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even your neighborhood listserve. Wouldn't an article in the local paper be a coup for nature! Why post it? Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us. 

Why now?  My neighborhood is changing. Yours might be, too. Every day an older home along with many (if not all) of the mature oak, hickory, maple, Eastern cedar and hackberry trees that have been there for over 75 years are cut down. In place of the "bee lawns" composed of Claytonia, Salvia lyrata, Ruellia humilis, fleabane, Western Daisy, Violets, self-heal, clovers, and dandelions that grew so well in the shallow soil that sits on top of limestone bedrock are sodded non-native lawns that get daily watering, whether it rains or not. Gone are the lightening bugs. Gone are the ground dwelling/nesting native bees. Gone is the habitat for insects, spiders and other critters. Gone is plant diversity. Gone are trees that provided for hundreds of moths, butterflies and other insects. Gone are the nesting sites for woodpeckers, hummingbirds, Chickadees and other birds. It breaks my heart. We can't stop the multi-million dollar houses from going up, but, maybe we can make a lot of educational noise and help our new neighbors see the value in providing for critters.

A gardener can hope!

Here's an incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden, but don't limit yourself to my list, make your own list or check out the internet for ideas.

Shrink your lawn and make your planting beds larger.

Plant your favorite native perennials and shrubs. Leave them standing after they've gone to seed to continue to provide for wildlife. What you plant in your yard makes a difference to wildlife. I garden for wildlife so every tree, shrub and plant is chosen with wildlife in mind.

Plant more natives and then consider planting even more. "A typical suburban landscape contains only 20-30% native plant species. Try reversing that trend in your own landscape by using 70-80% native species." (source)

Commit to never, ever, ever, ever using pesticides in the garden.

Stay away from native plant hybrids and cultivars that are double flowered. They are sterile and have no pollen or nectar for insects and no seeds for the birds. If possible plant “true open-pollinated native wildflowers”

If you want to garden for wildlife and pollinators, don't let lack of space stop you! Plant your favorite wildflowers in large containers. You just might have the prairie or woodland garden you've always wanted...in a pot!
Create a water feature. Provide water year round that is accessible to birds, bees and other critters.

Show some soil! Our native ground nesting bees nest in bare soil, so don't mulch every square inch of your garden. 

Get rid of the plastic weed barriers in your garden, it's not good for anything.

Invite bugs into your garden. Plant annuals that attract beneficial bugs.

Learn to tolerate damaged plants. Imperfection is the new perfect.

Don't be in a rush to clean up the fall garden. Leave plant stalks and seed heads standing all winter. Leave those fallen leaves or as many as you can tolerate! Insects over winter in the fallen and decaying leaves. Leave a layer of leaves as a soft landing material under trees for moths and butterflies to over winter. Many caterpillars drop to the ground from the trees in the fall.

Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs'. They're also good bird, toad and small critter food. 

Rethink what you consider a pest. Lots of good bugs eat aphids. Spiders are important predators and bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds. 

Turn off your yard up-lighting, eave lights and porch lights after 11pm. This is important for nocturnal critters including mammals, snakes, insects, bats, birds (especially during migration). (Birdcast suggestions)

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: Observe visitors to the water feature, make note of when they visit. Notice which flowers attract the most pollinators and which ones are just pretty faces. 

Join your state native plant society (Tennessee Native Plant Society)

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group. (Middle Tennessee WildOnes)

Support your local native plant sellers. (GroWild in middle Tennessee, Overhill Gardens in east Tennessee,  Resource Guide TN Native Plant Society)

Encourage your local garden clubs to offer native plant talks.

If your garden club has a plant sale encourage them to sell more native plants.

Get trained as a naturalist (Tennessee Naturalist Program, Almost every state has their own Master Naturalist training program)

Take an online course on tree, fungi and wildflower id.

Take a walk in your neighborhood and observe nature. To quote Joanna Brichetto in Sidewalk Nature "Look Around. Nature is here, is us, our driveways, our baseboards, parks, and parking lots."

Buy the best wildflower, butterfly and bird id books for your state.

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. Buy them nature books.

Give nature books as baby shower gifts (Nature books for infants and toddlers)

Read! There are hundreds of books on gardening for wildlife, the environment, and rewilding our world. There are delightful blogs with wonderful and informative articles.

If you are already gardening with wildlife in mind then add a few signs that help educate your neighbors. (Xerces Society, Pollinator Partnership)

Set up an information station where neighbors can pick up brochures about your garden and other info. 

Get certified (National Wildlife Federation, check to see what your state offers)




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. Fuzzy Bean is fun. :) You're right about the importance of encouraging greenways and native plant areas in our communities. Great post, as always!

  2. That is why it makes me happy to see school classes at Kirstenbosch. Enjoying their day out. While learning to observe and revel in nature.


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