Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday

It's Wildflower Wednesday - the fourth Wednesday of the month, when bloggers all over the world share their love of gardening with native plants and wildflowers.

I've always loved the beautiful columbines, and grew a variety of cultivars in the past. Columbines are perennials, but can be somewhat short-lived. The solution - natives! While they too are sometimes short-lived, when allowed to set seed, they sow themselves freely around the garden. Extra plants can be left where they're growing, moved to more desirable locations, shared with other gardeners, or easily weeded out if they're too plentiful. Deadheading (removing spent blooms,) will prevent them from self-sowing if you prefer.

The columbine shown above is Aquilegia canadensis, also known as Eastern red columbine, or Canadian columbine. Although one of its common names is Canadian columbine, it's also native to much of the US, including Illinois. A few of them were added to our garden three years ago. All three have continued to come back each year, and we also now have a few extras that have sown themselves around the garden.

This one is Aquilegia coerulea, also known as Colorado blue columbine or Rocky Mountain columbine. Ours were started from seeds three years ago, and bloomed in their second spring. Native in the Rocky Mountain states, they've been happy here in our Illinois garden. Their soft blue and white blooms are most welcome.

Polygonatum commutatum, commonly known as Solomon's seal is native in Illinois. There's a nice little patch of Solomon's seal here. The blooms are small and demure, and hang sweetly beneath the foliage. I was given a half-dead pot of Solomon's seal that had struggled in a nursery's 'hospital zone' all year. It was mislabeled as Tricyrtis "Lemon Twist,' commonly known as toad lily. Since this plant struggled in our garden for a couple of years, and since I'd never grown either toad lilies or Solomon's seal, although I questioned its identity, I didn't know what it was until it bloomed for the first time last spring. Since then I've added a few toad lilies, and I'm thrilled having this nice patch of Solomon's seal in our garden. I'm not convinced this is a native Solomon's seal, since it came from a nursery that doesn't specialize in natives, the foliage is shinier than what I've seen on the natives around here, and it was mislabeled as a Tricytris to boot.

Senecio aureus, commonly known as golden ragwort, is in its glory right now. Covered with small, yellow, daisy-like blooms, it's native in Illinois, as well as in Tennessee where Gail, the host of Wildflower Wednesday lives. A few years ago Gail shared some with me. They've been happy here in our woodland garden. I love the shiny evergreen basal foliage and the bright yellow blooms.

According to the Illinois Wildflowers website, the nectar and pollen of golden ragwort attract small bees and flies. Among the bees, are such visitors as Little Carpenter bees, Cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.), and various Halictid bees. Among the flies, are such visitors as Syrphid flies, Tachinid flies, and miscellaneous others. The caterpillars of the moth Orthonama obstipata (The Gem) feed on Senecio spp. (Ragworts).

Podophyllum peltatum, commonly known as mayapple, is a recent addition to our garden. Last spring while visiting Mom, I spied a large colony of mayapples in Mom's woods, and brought home two of them to add to our garden. I was excited to see it bloom this year! Most native plants are slow to establish in our silver-maple-root-riddled garden, but one of the mayapples surprised me with this lovely bloom a couple of weeks ago. The blooms hide beneath the umbrella-like foliage, and are worth looking for. Later in the season, the blooms form little fruits that are edible, although toxic consumed in large quantities. Mayapples have medicinal value for cancer and certain skin conditions, however due to their toxic properties, medicinal applications are best left to those who are highly knowledgeable in their application.

I called this trillium red in my recent Bloom Day post, but it may actually be a purple trillium. It was purchased five years ago at a big box store, and was labeled only as a trillium. If anyone knows what kind it is, I'd be thrilled if you let me know. It only took five years to finally bloom, and whatever its botanical name, I'm happy it finally did!

I first saw Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) three years ago at Chicago Spring Fling, and promptly got two of them at a native plants sale a few weeks later. The second one disappeared last fall, and this remaining one is blooming for the first time. I hope it seeds itself around the garden. I'll probably save some of the seeds too, to boost the odds of having a few more of these neat little plants in our garden.

Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) was also first seen during Chicago Spring Fling, at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool garden in Lincoln Park. It too jumped into my hands at the same native plant sale prairie smoke came from. Unlike the prairie smoke, wild geranium bloomed in its second season here.

Wild ginger (Asarum canadense,) is a commonly occurring woodland native in Illinois, and the most recent native introduction to our garden. You must look under the foliage, close to the soil surface to get a peek at its unusual bloom. Although not related to the ginger root found in your grocery produce section, or the dried, powdered spice, wild ginger root smells and tastes very similar and can be used in cooking. There are no plans for that here - our wild ginger will be left in the ground to form a colony in its new home.

To see more Wildflower Wednesday posts, please visit Gail at Clay and Limestone.


  1. Hi GG,

    I had grown many of these in my last home's garden, where I had lots of room for plants to spread. The candensis and prairie smoke were favorites with their whispy flowerheads swaying in the breeze.


  2. I have the same Rocky Mountain blue columbine in my garden, also started from seed a year ago, and was thrilled to have it bloom for the first time this year. I certainly hope it re-seeds because I'd love to have more of these in my shade garden. 'Prairie Smoke' is still on my wish list!

    It's always a treat to see all the wildflowers each month!

  3. Simply stunning! So happy the geum is blooming for you. Fingers crossed it spreads around in your garden. I love that shiny Solomon's seal. Any plant with shiny leaves in a shady garden is a bonus. Hey-I even like shiny walls in my house for the way color bounces off from them. My neighbor has some golden ragwort in her yard. I think today is the day I must go dig some for my garden since it grows in her lawn; which will soon be mowed. Any special growing conditions for it?

  4. Linda, What a fabulous wildflower display~Some of my favorites, too. I am so glad that Golden Ragwort has thrived for you~It's pretty cool and here where there is no snow cover~it's evergreen. I can't tell if the SS is native or not~But, it's a pretty plant and excellent for a woodland setting. If you run into Smilacina racemosa~False Soloman's Seal get it! It's an Illinois native, too. Happy WW! gail

  5. Anonymous10:05 AM

    You have a lovely assortment of natives Linda. I have the variegated Solomon's Seal but yours is pretty too. Might need to add that one to my garden as well. ;)

  6. Hi Eileen, I love the prairie smoke seedheads too. They're just starting to develop here, and they're getting pretty beat up by the rain!

    Those blue columbines are gorgeous Rose - glad yours are blooming too. I've never met a columbine I didn't like! Those wish lists keep getting longer and longer. don't they!

    Thank you Tina! I had my eye on the geum early this spring looking for any signs of flower buds. When I first saw the tiny buds starting to develop I was thrilled. It's funny how excited we can get over such simple, yet miraculous little events in our gardens.

    I think the ragworts are remarkably unfussy. Since they grow well in your neighbor's lawn, in Gail's shallow clay & limestone soil, and here in rich, loamy, but tree-root infested dry shade, I suspect they'd be happy just about anywhere.

    Thank you Gail! I'm glad the ragwort has thrived too. It's quite a pretty sight right now. The foliage stayed green here all winter, even with the heavy snow cover we had. Once the snow melted, there was the ragwort foliage, as green and pretty as you please!

    I have false Solomon's seal here too. There are three of them. Since they are known to survive forest fires, hopefully the one I stepped on earlier this spring will be back next year. Of the two left, one doesn't look like it will be blooming this year, but a couple of days ago I noticed the third one has it's first-ever buds. I'm really looking forward to the blooms. I was just thinking this morning before the rains started, maybe I should fence it in temporarily in case the bunnies decide those buds look tasty.

  7. Thank you Racquel! I love the variegated Solomon's seal too. Since the blooms aren't all that showy, the variegation makes for a much more ornamental plant.

  8. I love both of those columbines too. I have caerulea blooming for the first time this year and I'm hoping to get some seedlings.

    That trillium is gorgeous...could it be T. recurvatum? They're maroon, and those petals look recurved.

  9. Hope you get seedlings from your columbine Rose!

    The trillium might be recurvatum. It did look like it in some of the photos (not so much in others, but then, who knows if THEY really were recurvatum!) As you say, the petals are recurved. I was a bit thrown off by the photos of recurvatum on the MOBOT site (which doesn't look recurved!) and by descriptions of recurvatum having leaves mottled with purple. (This one is solid green.)

    I had no idea how many different trilliums there are - when I was googling to figure out what this one might be, I was a bit mind-boggled by all the different kinds there are!

  10. Very interesting wildflowers you have there Garden Girl. I am surprised by Aquilegia - the fact that it's a wildflower. Also the colours of these flowers are quite bright. I can imagine them to pop out in the wild, in the midst of the greens. Hey you have just reminded me to enjoy all the wonderful plants that we have around us. Thanks and have a great week!

  11. Aquilegia booms are quite exotic-looking, aren't they Stephanie! Often the cultivars have larger blooms, but the natives are just as beautiful.

    Brightly-colored natives really do pop in wild areas! It's such a pleasure to pay attention and enjoy what's blooming on roadsides and other uncultivated areas! Hope you're having a great week too.

  12. Aquilegia canadensis is the only columbine I still have from several types I've planted over the years. I've yet to see a hummingbird near it, but I keep hoping.

    I completely forgot about ragwort. It must be blooming now, but I haven't been out to the "meadow" to look for it. It sounds like it would be a good candidate for moving to the garden.

  13. I love all these flowers...especially the columbine. I was just at my daughter's in Wisconsin and she has a columbine garden started. They weren't in bloom, when we were there, but she promised pictures. I do love the simplicity of wild flowers and yours are so pretty. Balisha

  14. Entangled, I've never seen a hummer on the columbines either, although with their nectar spurs they seem like they'd be attractive to them.

    Canadensis seems to be the toughest columbine I've come across, native or cultivar.

    I love them too Balisha - they're one of my favorite spring blooms. Heck, they're one of my favorite flowers period! Hope you'll post some photos of your daughter's columbine garden when they're blooming!

  15. your banner pic of the bumble bee is cute!

  16. Oh, how i love finding new gardeners that share the passion of Gardening! I host a garden party on Thursday's called Cottage Flora Thursday's...would love to have you come by & peek around & would love it even better if you'd link a garden post sometime? oxox,tracie

  17. I just love trilliums but I doubt they would survive in our garden. Up in the mountains, yes.
    I'm seeing solomon's seal on a lot of blogs lately. Glad I added it to my garden last year.

  18. Thank you Jennifer!

    Sounds like fun Tracie!

    They don't seem to be thrilled about our garden either Victoria, since only one of three of them survived. I probably won't try planting any more of them, though I do hope at least this one will persist, and even better, will multiply.

  19. I like your Columbine. Much better than the one I ended up getting. Have another someone gave me last year but it didn't bloom this year, still to small so hopefully better than the one that did bloom.

  20. I've never met a columbine I didn't like Sunray, although I do like some better than others. I think the Rocky Mtn columbine is my favorite here.

  21. You know what I just found in my basement? A bunch of golden ragwort seeds a friend gave me last fall. Well, I'm sure they're still good, and I know exactly where they'll go. (Which is normally not at all the case!) Love all your wildflowers, many of which I also grow. :)

  22. Very cool Monica! Hope your seeds s prout and do well. I deadheaded mine this week - there were millions of seeds, looking kind of like dandelion seed heads. The flowers never closed, so I had no warning. Blooms one day - seeds blowing in the wind the next.

  23. Linda, you always have cool plant that make me want to rush out and buy some to plant! Trillium is one of those that I keep meaning to add but never get around to doing it.

  24. I know what you mean MBT - reading blogs, including yours, has led to new additions here too.


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