Latin for Gardeners: August 2019

August’s Native Maryland Plant 

Rudbeckia laciniata L.

(rud-BECK-ee-uh luh-sin-ee-AY-tuh)

Common Name: Cutleaf Coneflower

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Finding plants that can survive the wettest areas in a landscape can be a challenge, and finding plants that look great doing it is even more difficult – unless you’re growing Rudbeckia laciniata. This tall, bodacious plant has a long bloom period and scoffs at high humidity. Its stature and bright yellow bloom are a not-to-be-ignored calling card to pollinators, who relish the nectar and pollen found on its unique green cone. The alternate leaves are conspicuously large, up to 12” long and wide, becoming smaller as they ascend the plant.

Rudbeckia laciniata is best planted in large landscapes where its aggressive rhizomes will form large colonies.  It’s not drought tolerant, but if sited properly and with Maryland’s increasingly wet weather that’s not likely to be an issue.  Many people avoid planting such tall plants, but for biodiversity’s sake and my own visual pleasure I try to find places for a variety of architectural plants in my garden. If necessary, I use Texas tomato cages to provide them extra support. I’ve been thrilled with the range of pollinators this plant has attracted to my yard and I’m really looking forward to the birds that will come later this year to feed on the seed heads.

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~ Alison Milligan – Mstr. Gardener/Mstr. Naturalist/Mstr. Watershed Steward

Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP)

aligmilligan@gmail.com

Latin for Gardeners: July 2019

July’s Native Maryland Plant 

Verbena hastata L.

(vur-BEE-nuh hass-TAH-tuh)

Common Name: Blue Vervain

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Verbena hastata is often described as having a candelabra-like inflorescence.  It grows on erect stems that can reach 5’ and its tiny 5-lobed, tubular flowers attract a variety of pollinators.  In my garden I’ve observed long and short-tongued bees that quickly circle the flower from top to bottom, collecting nectar as they go; other insects tend to linger. Its bitter foliage is said to be unpalatable to herbivores although tender new growth is susceptible to nibbling by rabbits. I planted Verbena hastata with other moisture-loving plants in a consistently wet area in my yard. I was delighted to learn that this plant is a host plant for both the verbena moth and common buckeye butterfly and that the seeds are eaten by songbirds, including sparrow, junco and cardinal. How wonderful is that?  If you have wet areas in your garden and deer pressure – I suggest you give Verbena hastata a try.  I’ll be recommending it at the next Bay Wise visit where residents have wet ground to cover.

 

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~ Alison Milligan – Mstr. Gardener/Mstr. Naturalist/Mstr. Watershed Steward

Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP)

aligmilligan@gmail.com

Latin for Gardeners: June 2019

June’s Native Maryland Plant

 Erigeron pulchellus Michx.

(ih-rij-uh-ron pul-KELL-us)

 Common Name: Robin’s Plaintain

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Some of you may know that I’m on a mission to try to grow and learn about every plant in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife publication: Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping. Although it’s unlikely I’ll ever plant every tree mentioned, I’ve got a good start on the other plants. This month I wanted to discuss an herbaceous plant in the guide that is seldom recommended or even mentioned in any other published book that I’ve read: Erigeron pulchellus is a native and very common wildflower. From the information I could gather online it tolerates dry shade, a difficult growing condition, and one I have in my yard; I was interested in its use as a groundcover. Erigeron spp. also has another common name, fleabane, this because it was once thought to thwart fleas.  I wanted to test out the dry shade claim, I read the ‘flea thwarting’ claim had already been disproved.

I planted three of the straight species and some of the selection, Lynnhaven Carpet, named for a river in Virginia where it was found growing and for its ability to cover the ground with its semi-evergreen, pubescent basal foliage. I have been observing it for over three years. It has grown well in both dry shade and in moist sun, although the flower faded and dropped a bit earlier on the plants growing in the shade. I can’t claim to have tested the plants ability to deter fleas, but I can assure you that it does not deter Mayflies - rather it attracts a diversity of pollinators!

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Erigeron pulchellus is not a traditional go-to plant and some people have called it a weed in my garden. However, I appreciate its early bloom, benefit to pollinators and the carpet that it has created under trees in my yard, providing weed suppression and erosion control.  Its fluffy seed heads wind-disperse so I am finding it in areas where I did not plant it. More erosion control I think to myself, and more food for pollinators - I’ll leave it for now.

 

~ Alison Milligan – Mstr. Gardener/Mstr. Naturalist/Mstr. Watershed Steward

Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP)

aligmilligan@gmail.com