It's time for another Wildflower Wednesday, the monthly celebration of wildflowers and natives hosted by the gracious and enthusiastic Gail of Clay and Limestone. It is perfect timing for me, as so many of my favorite natives are in bloom right now. Driving along country roads or even the interstate the past few weeks, one can't help but notice masses of the white umbels of Wild Carrot Daucus carota, or as I prefer to call it, Queen Anne's Lace. In many places it is bordered by a profusion of blue blooms from Chicory Cichorium intybus.
Most farmers would say that Chicory is a weed, but I've always had a fondness for this weedy wildflower. Probably it's the color, since blue is my favorite, and not many plants have such a true-blue bloom. It pops up around our outbuildings each summer, and I'm inclined to let it stay.
I was hoping to get a long shot of the roadsides filled with chicory and Queen Anne's Lace, but pulling off a busy highway or a narrow country road didn't seem smart or safe. So instead I pulled into a turn-off near my home to get a few close-ups. Illinois is "The Land of Lincoln," and throughout the state you will find not only museums, but promotions of any ties the area has to the man many of us consider our greatest President. Just a mile from my home is this historical marker, where Kelly's Tavern once stood, a place where Lincoln once stayed during his days of riding the circuit practicing law.
Next to the marker is a small planting of various prairie plants, including tall Rudbeckia, Joe-Pye Weed, common milkweed, rattlesnake master, and other yet unidentified wildflowers. I'm describing all this to you because when I downloaded my photos yesterday, my computer was acting up and I accidentally deleted all those photos, including what I thought were some great shots of butterflies--grrrrr.
But I did manage to save one of the best, this one of a rattlesnake master Eryngium yuccifolium. The unusual name of this native probably came from its use by some Native American tribes who used the leaves and fruit in their rattlesnake medicine song and dance. As you can see, the bumbles and other pollinators love it; in fact, this whole area was full of buzzing creatures who didn't exactly appreciate my disturbing them to get a few photos--maybe they hexed my camera:)
I don't have to travel anywhere, though, to find natives this time of year. The Joe-Pye weed Eupatorium purpureum has been impervious to the thugs in my butterfly garden this year and towers above them, though not to the exaggerated height I claimed in a previous post--it stands about 6 feet, not 10 feet tall. This specimen does not have the purple tinge to its stem as many of these plants do, and for awhile this spring I wasn't sure if this really was Joe. I was so glad to see it start blooming a few weeks ago and being reassured that it wasn't a giant ragweed instead!
A newcomer to my garden this year is Liatris spicata, planted from bulbs purchased at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show in March. Talk about easy to grow! The plan was to have them interspersed with white coneflowers to add some vertical interest in the arbor bed. The coneflowers didn't get planted, but the liatris filled in this area quite nicely on their own. I planted eight bulbs, imagining eight spikes of purple, but as you can see, they are much more robust than that.
When the coneflowers start winding down, I get a little sad, but not to worry--the Susans take their place. All of them are re-seeders from previous years, so I won't even try to identify them, though most, I suspect, are from original Rudbeckia hirta. I was a little disappointed in the turn-out in the butterfly garden, no doubt due to the proliferation of asters and obedient plants, but I was happy to see one specimen of the new 'Cherry Brandy' Rudbeckia return. Many of the returnees this year are taller and more slender, perhaps because of the limited space. The Rudbeckia pictured above is in the lily bed, where I definitely did not plant it! It doesn't fit into the planting scheme in this garden area, but with a cheery face like this, who would have the heart to pull it out? I certainly didn't.
Finally, my favorite of all the natives--my beloved purple coneflowers Echinacea purpurea. After a month of blooming, they're beginning to fade and look a bit ratty, but I still enjoy them. Soon the goldfinches will be feasting on their center disks.
I've gone on and on before about the many admirable traits of purple coneflowers, so I won't repeat myself today, but if you would like to know more about these natives you can click on a much earlier post here. Suffice it to say, that they are pollinator magnets of the first order.
Butterflies have been scarce around here this year, but when one does arrive, it's sure to find the coneflowers. This Monarch doesn't seem to mind that the flower has seen better days. Attracting birds, bees, and butterflies, and pretty to boot--what more could you ask of a flower?
As a final note, it is still hot here in central Illinois, but we have had a few much-needed rainshowers over the last few days. During this heat wave and near-drought, though, all the natives pictured above have been real troopers, braving the heat and lack of attention without complaining like their fussier non-native companions. Another good reason to go native!
If you would like to know more about any of the native plants featured here, you might want to check out my favorite source, Illinois Wildflowers Or better yet, check out this month's contributors to Wildflower Wednesday at Gail's.