Latin for Gardeners: September 2019

September’s Native Maryland Plant 

Campanulastrum americanum

L. (kum-PAN-you-luh-strum uh-mair-ih-KAY-num)

Common Name: American or tall bellflower

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My birthday is this month, and the birthstone in September is sapphire which can be many colors but is usually associated with blue, very close to the color of Campanulastrum americanum – my new favorite plant.  When it’s your birthday you often do a bit of reflection on where you’ve been and how things are going:  Health okay? Keeping your mind busy? Spending quality time with family and friends? 

In mid-April, I visited my good friend Judy Fulton at her home.  Judy was kind enough to give me some Lindera benzoin (spicebush) saplings for my community.  As I was leaving her house and walking to my truck she said, “Wait a minute Alison”, she nonchalantly reached down and gently pulled a 4” plant from the ground and handed it to me.  “This is one of my favorite’s”, she said, “I think you’ll like it too.” I thought to myself “that’s nice Judy”, but for those of you who know Judy Fulton you know she loves native plants - seemingly all native plants - so she could have just handed me a Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan).   I went home and busied myself planting the saplings, I almost forgot about this mystery plant; it wasn’t until early May that I made a home for it in my garden.

Getting back to sapphire:  sapphire is formed from the mineral corundum, normally drab and grey - also the second hardest mineral after diamond.  This little 4” plant Judy handed me, seemed kind of like corundum to me (even a conundrum) – not much to look at, at least not in April. Like corundum, however, this plant turns out to be a sapphire in the garden – a real stunner - when it’s in its gem form; (in June-August, maybe even September if I’m lucky). The light blue, star-shaped flowers appear in clusters or solitary in the axils of the upper lance-shaped leaves.  And oh, just look at that style with its three-lobed stigma!

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Campanulastrum americanum is a biennial (blooms in its second year then dies), but will easily remain in a garden by self-seeding.  I’ve already weeded around my specimen hoping it reseeds aplenty so I can enjoy its beauty for many years to come.

As my birthday nears, I know I have a multitude of people and things to be grateful for; Campanulastrum americanum and Judy Fulton are both high on that list.

Genus campana comes from Latin and means “bell” in reference to the bell-shaped flowers.  Species means from America, North or South. NOTE: This plant was previously known as Campanula americana L. but was reassigned to its own genus because of the unique structure of the flowers.

 

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

Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP)

aligmilligan@gmail.com