June’s Native Maryland Plant
Erigeron pulchellus Michx.
Common Name: Robin’s Plaintain
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!
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)