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Also called fly-trap dogbane and bitterroot, this lanky herbaceous perennial is a member of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, that also includes milkweed, bluestar, periwinkle, and oleander.  It is native to North America from Massachusetts and Saskatchewan, south to Florida and Arizona where it grows in prairies, meadows, open woods, woodland edges, thickets, and along roadsides. The plants grow up to 4′ tall from a rhizomatous root system and have widely branching stems  that are light green to red and contain milk sap when broken.  The spreading or drooping dark green leaves are .4 to 5 inches long and oval with pointed tips.  In autumn the foliage turns yellow, orange, or rose.  During the summer terminal cymes 1-4″ wide appear and consist of slightly nodding flowers that are bell-shaped and fragrant. Each flower is 1/4″ wide and has 5 recurved petals that are white striped with pink. The fruit is a follicle 1.6 to 6″ long and contains numerous seeds with tufts of  silky hair that facilitate wind dispersal.  Spreading dogbane is a good choice for a meadow garden, wildlife planting, and erosion control.   Plants are poisonous. The genus name Apocynum, cones from the Greed words apo meaning asunder and kyon meaning dog  referring to the belief that the plant was poisonous to dogs.  The specific epithet, androsaemifolium, comes from the Greek words aner, andros meaning man and haima meaning blood, and the Latin word folium meaning leaf, and refers to the sap of the leaves. [click to continue…]

oriental potty & borage combinationThe beauty of a poppy flower is breath taking but fleeting and when it is gone you are left with a mess but still, it was worth it. Combine a fabulous red oriental poppy such as ‘Beauty of Livermere’ with a long blooming blue companion such as borage and you have an outstanding combination for the sunny border. The show begins in the spring when the poppy’s deeply divided hairy foliage emerges from the ground. Soon the large buds are produced and open into the flamboyant flowers with their crepe papery petals. Meanwhile the annual borage produces is gray-green leaves followed by small bright blue flowers that contrast with the poppy flowers in size shape and texture. The poppy will disappear but the borage will continue for weeks providing color and soft texture with both flowers and foliage. Plan in advance and plant an expanding perennial such as Gypsophila or Boltonia nearby and it will fill in the space left by the poppy. Both plants do well full sun and average moisture although the borage tolerates some drought. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Water Avens (Geum rivale)

Also known as purple avens, and chocolate root, is herbaceous perennial is a member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes cherry, almond, and lady’s mantle.  It is native to Eurasia and north central US where it grows in bogs, marshes, wet meadows and other damp to wet sites.  Plants grow 8-18″ tall from a fibrous, rhizomatous root system and form dense clumps with dark green pinnately compound leaves.  Each leaf has 3-6 lateral  serrated leaflets  .5-1″ across and a large terminal leaflet twice the size of the lateral leaflets.  All the leaflets are serrated and hairy. Nodding, bell-shaped flowers  appear in cymes of 2-5 per stem, from late spring to mid summer. The branches of the cymes are purple and hairy and the flowers consist of a brownish-purple hairy calyx and 5 dull red to pink heavily veined petal surrounding numerous pistils and stamens with yellow anthers.  The fruit is dry and one-seeded (achene).  Plants like cool temperatures and do poorly in the South.  The genus name, Geum,  is the ancient Latin name for the plant.  The specific epithet, rivale, comes from the Latin word rivalis meaning a person using the same stream as another, and refers to the favorite type of habit of the plant.  The common name, chocolate root, comes from the fact that when the rootstock is boiled the resultant liquid has a slightly chocolate flavor.   [click to continue…]

Book Review: Backyard Foraging

Many of the plants growing in your neighborhood and own yard can provide you with a tasty feast if you know how to recognize them. Ellen Zachos’ book, Backyard Foraging, introduces the Backyard Foragingreader to ornamental plants and weeds that are both edible and opens up a whole new adventure in food. Believing that wild comestibles have outstanding flavor, unusual textures, fresh color, and nutritional value, she provides readers with what they need in order to forage safely and enjoy the bounty that Nature has provided. [click to continue…]

Also known as Indian hemp, this bushy herbaceous perennial is a member of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, that also includes milkweed, periwinkle, and oleander.  It is native to North America and grows in pastures, woodland edges,  and ditches, and along roadsides  throughout the US except in a band from northeastern Minnesota to central Montana.  Plants  like full sun to some shade and grow well in sandy to gravelly soil that is moderately moist and well-drained.  Although poisonous to livestock, the toxicity of the plant to humans is not known. [click to continue…]

Native to North Carolina and Virginia this herbaceous perennial grows in dry woodlands, forest edges, and abandoned fields as well as was areas such as roadsides.  It is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, sunflower, and lettuce.  Growing from a rhizomatous root system, plants have one to several erect stems that are 1-3′ tall  and covered with soft hairs.  The linear to lanceolate leaves that are stiff, rough, and up to 3″ long.  In fall 1.25-1.5″ wide flowerheads appear at the tips of leafy bracts.  Each flower has 20-30  red to purple ray flowers surrounding yellow disc flowers. The genus name, Sumphyotrichum, comes from the Greek words symph meaning coming together and trich meaning hair and may refer to the anthers of the flowers.  The specific epithet, grandiflorus, comes from the Latin words grandis meaning large and flos meaning flowers and refers to the relatively large size of the flowerheads. The genus name aster comes from the Greek/Latin word aster meaning star and refers to the appearance of the flower heads. [click to continue…]

Also called horse-heal, scabwort, and elfwort, and wild sunflower, elecampane is a herbaceous perennial and a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow, and lettuce.  It is native to central and northern Europe and northwest Asia where it grows in damp shady areas. Plants grow 4-6′ tall from a large,  fleshy, spindle shaped rootstock.  The  coarse, woolly stem is deeply furrowed and arises from a rosette of  elliptical to oblong  leaves that have toothed margins and are carried on long stalks and are up to 2′ long. The leaves are up to 2′ long and have bristly upper sides and velvety lower sides.   Stem leaves are pointed, have heart shaped base and are stalkless. The solitary  flower heads  are 3-4″ and have numerous slender yellow ray flowers around a center of disc flowers.  They appear in summer and give rise to brown one seeded fruits (achenes) with a ring of pale reddish hairs.  Plants prefer a moist, well-drained soil with light shade.  They are easily propagated from offshoots or 2″ long root cuttings in fall.  The genus name, Inula, comes from the Latin derivation of the Greek word helenion, referring to Helen of Troy.  It is believed that Helen had a handful of this plant when Paris stole her from her husband.  Another legend says the plant sprung from the Helen’s tears, while a third story suggests that the name refers to the island Helena where the best plants grow.  The specific epithet, helenium, also comes from the Greek word helenion, referring to Helen of Troy. The common name, elecampane, refers to Campania, a region in Italy where the plant grew wild. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Island Alumroot (Heuchera maxima)

Also called Channel Islands coral bells, and Jill of the rocks, this evergreen herbaceous perennial is a member of the saxifrage family, Saxifragaceae, that also includes astilbe, tiarella, and bergenia.  It is endemic to the four northern Channel Islands of California where it grows on canyon cliffs in coastal sage scrub areas.  Plants grow 1.5-3′ tall from a rhizomatous root system, form a 2′ wide mound of dark green leaves that are marbled and may have a reddish tinge in winter.   Each  leaf is 3-5″ long, rounded, deeply 7-9 lobed with a fringe of hairs on the edge,  and is  carried on a long petiole.  From late winter into spring 3′ long  branched spikes of small pinkish flowers appear well above the foliage.  Each flower is hairy and glandular and has prominent stamens with large anthers.  The genus name, Heuchera, honors Johann Heinrich von Heucher (1677-1747) a botanist, physician, and medicinal plant expert at Wittenberg University, Germany.  The specific epithet, maxima, is the Latin word meaning largest. [click to continue…]

Book Review: The Plant Recipe Book

Gardener and floral designer Baylor Chapman presents 100 living arrangements in her work, The Plant recipe Book. Believing that everyone can bring a little bit of greenery inside no matter how small the space, Chapman uses a variety of plants and containers to create living arrangements that rival fresh ones but last longer and are sustainable because the components can be reused. Written for anyone who appreciates and enjoys plants this book offers a comprehensive look at container gardening for interiors. [click to continue…]

Gold coast jasmine is an evergreen woody climber or rambling shrub native to tropical western and central Africa but was introduced in the 1920s as an ornamental into Florida in the 1920s where it has invaded hardwood forests, climbing trees and covering the native vegetation. It grows up to 26’ long with climbing stems longer, and has oval to roundish glossy, leathery leaves 2-4’ long and with pointed tips. Clusters of pink buds in leaf axils open to white, 1” long flowers that are star-shaped, fragrant, and open at night. USDA Hardiness Zone: 9-10 [click to continue…]