August Wildflower Wednesday

The calendar shows that we have arrived at the fourth Wednesday of the month once again, time to honor the wildflowers, natives or visitors from other lands that are growing in the Fairegarden. The person responsible for this wonderful idea of casting the spotlight on these sometimes less showy but very important plants is dear friend Gail of Clay and Limestone.

Let the show begin with a tall fellow, grown from seeds gathered at offspring Semi’s wild and wooly free for all garden two years ago. This is a biennial Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis. Note the x-shaped stigma common to this species, says the wildflower book. Is that the green in the center?

Oenothera biennis is quite tall, well over six feet. The blooms last for only a few hours in earliest morning, opening at dusk when it is too dark for proper portrait making, so the lady with the camera has to be an early riser. Some of the common names involve the word cure, as various parts of the plant are used medicinally.

Next to take the stage is pokeberry, Phytolacca americana. The Latin derives from the Greek phyto, meaning plant and lacca meaning crimson lake referring to the red juice of the ripe berries. I can vouch for the stains of dark wine color on skin and clothing. This juice was once used as ink, adding to the common name pool, Inkberry.

Phytolacca americana is naturally occurring here, rising up in nook, cranny and beyond from undigested seeds that pass through the many bird’s digestive systems that dine on this feathered gourmand’s delight. One such seedling has been allowed to grow unimpeded by pruning near the arbor. It now completely blocks that entrance so we take the side path through the fairy garden to get to our destination. This may be a fool’s decision when the thousands of seedlings appear next spring. They are easily pulled when young, not so easy when adolescent and older. These young shoots are the source of another of the common names, poke salat, or salad, although they must be boiled twice in clean water to remove the toxins. Every part of this plant is highly poisonous.

Prunella vulgaris also was a pioneer in the gardens here. We admire the evergreen rosette of leaves and lavender flowers of mid summer. The common name of Self Heal refers to the myriad medicinal uses.

Prunella vulgaris is not native, coming over on the boat from Europe long ago, but it has made itself at home and is considered one of the family now. The spent flower heads are held upright and are quite attractive in form and height at a mere twelve inches or so. It is considered one of those winter interest plants that die well, click here and here to see others. This year it certainly will be included in the post on the same topic that will be entitiled Fading Faire. However, it reproduces like bunnies and many of the offspring are pulled for compost.

The brightest star in the August garden is Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’. Standing well above my five foot almost four inch frame and spreading across at least that distance, it is covered in blooms. Each bloom is visited by bees and butterflies, mostly skippers.

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ was purchased last fall at our local gem, Mouse Creek Nursery. The owner, Ruth insisted I give it a try. “One plant is all you need”, she said. That was music to our ears for we are basically thrifty, contrary to what The Financier might believe. The bloom last year was, shall we say, subtle. This year, we wondered where all of the new green leaves poking up from the mulch came from in early spring. It has spread nicely and a clump was dug and moved to the other side of the white/yellow garden to fill in there. By next year, Lemon Queen should provide a sea of pale citrus flowers in the area. “Hooray” say the pollinators and garden tenders!

Naturalized from southeast Asia, Persicaria pensylvanica is another adopted wildflower that is welcome here. It grows mainly in the gravel pathway behind the main house and reappears as a carpet of seedlings each spring.

Smartweed, Persicaria pensylvanica makes the perfect bed partner to the purple leaf Perilla that springs up in the same area and beyond. If the seedlings were not ruthlessly removed of both of these fine and attractive plants, the forest of waist high pink and purple would require a machete to pass through. But who is to argue with free plants that sow themselves? All that is left to the gardener is editing. The Native Americans used the smartweed medicinally and used the leaves to rub on the fingers of thumb sucking children to discourage that practice.

This little delicacy needs identification! Finding it nearly impossible to get a photo of the hair like foliage and tiny flowers, the wiry stems were found to show up better backed by the pink sloggered foot of the photographer. Does anyone know what this might be? It grows into a tangled mess of stems, leaves and flowers about a foot high and wide in sunny spots here.

Sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale will bring the curtain down on this month’s selections. Poorly named, for this plant is not the cause of allergic reactions in most humans, it blooms at the same time as the guilty party, Ragweed. It was also used as snuff at one time, among other medicinal uses by Native Americans.

Native or exotic, planted by woman or critter, the wildflowers of the garden deserve much more recognition. Let us raise the word weed from insult to one which signifies a plant that grows well with no effort on our part, the ultimate in low maintenance gardening!


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29 Responses to August Wildflower Wednesday

  1. Carol says:

    That is quite a beautiful showing of wildflowers. We do have to be careful with some of them that maybe get a little too wild, spreading everywhere. But that just gives us thrifty types more plants to use someplace else or to give away.

    Thanks Carol. So true about free plants. The ones we don’t want are easily pulled, or dare we say it, hoed? The pokeberry will have to come down soon. There are plenty of others growing in the brushpiles around the perimeter of the property. Lucky thing that The Financier hasn’t been over to the corner to see that it is now tree sized. I will have to use the saw to cut it down! HA πŸ™‚

  2. Valerie says:

    Hi Frances: I enjoyed the tour of wildflowers this morning. I have the false sunflower in my garden. It started from one plant many years ago and I pull 90 percent out each spring. They can be aggressive. But, when they bloom in the fall I enjoy them.

    Hi Valerie, thanks. I am glad you also grow this plant. We need aggressive here with the tough growing conditions. Anything that gets out of hand can easily be pulled. The pollinators adore them and they have solved a gap in the white/yellow garden between spring and the next spring! πŸ™‚

  3. A happy collection of flowers indeed, Frances! I haven’t done the wildflower Wednesday meme for a long time, and probably should, as I take huge joy in what’s blooming in the wild as well as what’s planned. Someone emailed me a week or so back looking for a ‘cure’ for healall in their precious lawn…I sighed deeply and offered some non-chemical means of dealing with it, but really, it’s a pretty plant, a bee magnet, and has medical/first aid uses, so why do people need to wage war?
    I wonder if the mystery wildflower is something like corn spurry? (Spergula arvensis/other species). They have threadlike foliage and tiny flowers, and can be a real PITA to get rid of when they get into gardens.

    Hi Jodi, thanks for stopping by, always nice to see you! I feel the war is one of re-educating the masses as to what makes a plant desirable. Easy to grow should be at the top of the list! The Spergula looks quite like it, although the USDA distribution map shows it not to be in Tennessee, but all around us! What to they know? It can be a pest, but can be pulled, like all the rest of them. I will do some more research about it, thanks, my friend. πŸ™‚

  4. commonweeder says:

    A wealth of wildflowers this Wednesday. Wow! I only wrote about one, although my fields and roadside are full of many others. I don’t know that I have put many cultivars in the garden itself. I’ll have to think about that.

    Hi Pat, thanks for stopping by. Most of the wildflowers shown today were not planted by me. Some have been pulled as weeds for ages, some we allow for a bit, like the pokeberry. It makes the wildlife happy and that makes me happy. πŸ™‚

  5. Gail says:

    Dear Frances, A fantastic showing of your wildest wildflowers~Glad you joined the celebration! I really like prunella, but it hasn’t made itself at home here~nor do I have Smartweed! I do like Lemon Queen and her pretty face~I thought I planted seeds from fairegarden, must look to see if she’s hiding amidst the Susans. At 5 foot I ought to be able to find her! The flooding rains we had in May washed out a lot of baby plants. Love the sneezeweed~mine is the buttery yellow. gail

    Hi Gail, thanks for starting this wonderful meme. I really am on board with helping people to not look down their noses at what wants so badly to grow in their gardens. You will certainly get some prunella and smartweed on your next visit! Lemon Queen is a gem, we will go to Ruth’s so you can get a nice pot of it rather than fool with the seeds. I wouldn’t be able to ID the leaves of it, very nondescript. I love your yellow Helenium!

  6. Layanee says:

    Don’t you just love the lush, juicy berries of the pokeberry? Such a color and the variegated form is highly prized now. Must find one.

    Hi Layanee, thanks for stopping by. I do love those berries, we used to paint ourselves and the sidewalks with them when I was a kid. What a mess! HA I am not sure about the variegated form, though. It’s such a monster, who would notice the leaves? πŸ™‚

  7. eliz says:

    It’s funny that some of these plants are condemned by many despite their native status. Love the pokeberry. I have a fine one growing in my front yard now.

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks for joining in the conversation. I believe some of these plants have suffered from bad PR. We need to make them seem desirable, for the sake of the pollinators. Glad to hear you have a pokeberry, it really is attractive and the red flower stems remain long after the berries have been devoured, adding fall into winter interest. A lovely plant. πŸ™‚

  8. That is a tall oenothra! Never seen one that tall. I love helianthus, but have ‘First Light’ which isn’t as pale yellow as your lovely ‘Lemon Queen’. Yes, you only need one helianthus of any variety! Even though the deer will nibble mine, I have so many clumps, they only serve to help me keep mine pinched back for more branching and blooms!

    Hi Cameron, thanks for visiting. Lemon Queen has far surpassed expectations! I love the paler color and it has spread so nicely. Highly recommended. Good to hear the deer leave some for you and the pollinators to enjoy. πŸ™‚

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Love these low maintenance flowers Frances. I don’t know what that thin limbed flower is but I think there is some in my garden too. I hope someone tells you what it is.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. Jodi may be on the right track with the corn spurry, Spergula. It looks the same and there are a few different types. Of course it is classified as a noxious weed. I want to know who makes these decisions and have a word with them! πŸ™‚

  10. Barbara H. says:

    Well, I seem to be on the other side of the Pokeberry, so to speak. I recognize many of these vigorous growers in your post as visitors to my property that I am having much trouble removing! Nice to see a different viewpoint, but I’m going to continue to be vigilant in removal. Pokeberry in particular develops a huge taproot that is almost impossible to remove at times. Thanks for helping me identify some of these “wildflowers”!

    Hi Barbara, thanks for being a part of the discussion! I agree about the pokeberry, due to its enormous size, siting is critical. We usually site it in the brushpile behind the arborvitae hedge! The birds so adore the berries and it is easily identifiable in the garden beds with that pinky-red stem. You are right about the taproot, it is indestructible!

  11. Rose says:

    Oh, I like that idea of raising the word weed from an insult! If you include all the weeds, er, wildflowers around the farm, my garden suddenly becomes expansive:) Thank you for showing the Evening Primrose–I think you’ve just identified a plant I had growing last summer. None of my sources showed it as well as you have, Frances. The prunella and ‘Lemon Queen’ are my favorites here today, but all of these wildflowers are lovely. I might draw the line at Persicaria, though; I had to pull too many smartweeds from beanfields as a girl to ever appreciate the blooms of this plant again:)

    Hi Rose, thanks for being on board with the idea of making the word weed not derogatory! I understand about the smartweed, it can get out of hand for sure. With the lack of rain and having to water all the time, the plants that grow well with nothing from me, including being planted, are worth a second look. πŸ™‚

  12. Rosie says:

    Frances since I started Wildflower Wednesday posts I rarely use the word weed nowadays. I too grow prunella and thankfully its not the thug in my climate that it can be in yours but I’m not sure if I could let that persicaria grow in my garden – I’m sure I’ve pulled similar out in the past. I loved your pokeberry plant – ever so unusual.

    Hi Rosie, thanks. I am glad to hear your word usage has changed. It is something to think about. I cringe when I see the advertisements on TV to get rid of all weeds, as though that were something desirable! HA I watch the persicaria, but it is small, not like the big thug under the pine trees that also came with the property with white flowers and six feet tall stems. Now that gives one reason to call it a weed, or thug. The pokeberry is amazing. If it weren’t so common here, people would be clamoring to grow it. πŸ™‚

  13. Suzanne Holden says:

    These are lovely photos of some of the wilder beauties, Frances! I also love Gail’s Clay and Limestone, which was the first Tennessee blog I found. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I don’t have a blog yet. However, if you ever have a free moment (ha!), I am on Flickr as oldroselover. I have some photos on there taken at the beautiful Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin (she was such an inspiration regarding wildflowers and native plants to all of us)as well as several of my own old and hardy roses and other flowers. I love flowering shrubs of all kinds. Today we in north central Texas are enjoying our first gloriously gray day in months. On Monday it reached 110 degrees in my part of Fort Worth, but today it is a heavenly 74 degrees! We even had a little bit of rain, a wonderful thing in these parts. Thanks as always for sharing. It always perks up my day to view your beautiful blog. I am grateful every single day to Central Texas Gardener, from where I first learned about all you wonderful garden bloggers!

    Hi Suzanne, thanks so much! How exciting that you already have the photos. That is the first step towards blogging. Come on in, the water’s fine! We have visited the Ladybird Wildflower Center, with a group of garden bloggers in fact, during the first meet up of bloggers in Austin 2008. Such a wonderful group of folks. So nice to hear your weather has moderated. It has been a tough summer.

  14. Kimberly says:

    Love those Poke Berries! I also like the Sneeze Weed…looks similar to the Gaillardia bloom. Lovely wildflowers this Wednesday!

    Hi Kimberly, thanks! Those two are similar, the Helenium is like a miniature Gaillardia. Both are so sweet. πŸ™‚

  15. Joey says:

    Happy Wildflower Wednesday, Frances … love Rosie’s above comment, “… rarely use the word weed nowadays.”

    “May all your weeds be wildflowers” πŸ™‚

    Oh yes, Joey, and the same to you as well. Let us work to change the connotation of the word weed! πŸ™‚

  16. Nancy says:

    I’m not at all sure about the unidentified one, but I think it might be something I’ve heard called “tickseed”..?

    Lovely collection of wildflowers. You’re inspiring me to look for more to incorporate into my yard.

    Hi Nancy, thanks for visiting. I always thought tickseed was Coreopsis, but that is the trouble with those common names, the same name is often used for several different plants. Glad to hear you will be using more wildflowers! πŸ™‚

  17. If pokeweed didn’t seed about so much, everyone would be growing it. It’s such a lovely plant.

    Hi MMD, thanks for joining in! The pokeweed is on every roadside and empty lot around here so seeds about anyway. I saw a huge stand of it in neighbor Mickey’s yard since he has kind of stopped gardening. Huge! Imagine it in a catalog! HA πŸ™‚

  18. A Garden of Threads says:

    I love the Heliathus ‘Lemon Queen’, must check and see it will survive in a Zone 4. A great selection this month.

    Hi Garden Of Threads, thanks for visiting. Dave’s Garden site says it is hardy zones 3 through 8. You’re in luck! πŸ™‚

  19. Eileen says:

    I have Lemon Queen and it is probably in the wrong location along a pathway. The second year it was loaded with blooms and also bees, so walking the path was quite scary!

    I read that it can be deadheaded in the spring to control the growth and it seemed to work last year. It has lots of buds on it but so far the bloom is sparse. Maybe, it will keep going and have plenty of blooms.

    I am so impressed with all of your natives and wildflowers.


    Hi Eileen, thanks. It seems like your Lemon Queen might do better where it could grow to the bigger size without being cut down. I don’t know about moving it, but found digging a chunk to start a new patch worked well. Hope you get those blooms for the bees and butterflies! πŸ™‚

  20. CarolK says:

    I think that I could spend days in your garden just watching the sun come and go and the moon too. How beautifully you live.

    Gosh, Carol, thanks for those kind words! I do appreciate you! Being in the garden is something I live for, but we rarely just sit. There is always something calling out to be done, and that is the way I like it. πŸ™‚

  21. You are confusing me about the smartweed. How can it be naturalized from southeast Asia with a specific epithet of pensylvanica? And then you say Native Americans used it medicinally? What am I missing here?

    Hi Kathy, some of this confused me as well. It is what the wildflower book, Wildflowers of Tenneseess, the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians said about it. The pensylvanica name made me think it was native too. I guess it has been here so long that it, and several of the other natives were used by the Native Americans even though they originated across the globe. Queen Anne’s Lace is another that comes to mind.

  22. I just love wild flowers. Especially at this time of year. They get elevated in stature from common weeds to the high pedestal of flowers. So many perennials are related to the wild flowers and call them parents. Only being a step or two away from our beloved perennials and relegated to fields and abandoned lots, they actually have the last laugh on hardiness and disease resistance. Look where they survive and still prosper.

    Hi Donna, I am glad to see that you get what is being put forth here. Looking down upon these plants because they are so easy to grow, they don’t need humans!, seems wrong. Especially now with the climate acting weird with drought, flooding, record high and low temps, these plants thrive in the face of it all. They should be revered.

  23. Phillip says:

    The pokeberry brings back memories from my childhood. I saw it often in the woods around our house.

    Is the evening primrose invasive for you?

    Hi Phillip, me too. It was everywhere and we painted with the berries. The tall evening primrose is not invasive that we can tell. There was one plant of it in Semi’s garden a couple of years ago. I collected seed and took photos to try and ID it, was surprised to find it was evening primrose for it was so tall. We checked her garden last year and didn’t see any. This year we looked again, since it is biennial and found several, but nothing like the goldenrod, asters and ragweed that are everywhere.

  24. Town Mouse says:

    What a beautiful collection of wildflowers (and how did I miss WF Wednesday again?)

    Hi Town Mouse, thanks. As for how you missed it, just do a late post, Gail and the blogdom will welcome it! πŸ™‚

  25. linda says:

    Beautiful wildflowers Frances!

    I’ve gotten a bit afraid of pokeweed after seeing how much it spread after it’s sudden appearance last year in an untended section of our back neighbor’s property. It’s a beautiful plant, but this year I used extreme measures on the neighbor’s bindweed, poison ivy, and pokeweed since all them were rapidly making frighteningly agressive inroads onto our property.

    Thanks Linda. The pokeweed can get really large if ignored! We are doing battle with poison ivy and bindweed as well. It is the poison that bothers me the most, I can live with the others. It, the poison ivy keeps cropping up all over the place. This year has been the worst since we moved here.

  26. Lola says:

    Hi Frances. I really like the “poke salat”. Had quite a bit of it when a child. Even cooked some myself while in N.C. That was a Spring tonic when kids.
    My, I love all your wildflowers. So pretty & they are always a pick-me-up for this time of yr. I always enjoyed this time of yr. into later time also.
    Thank you dear friend for the tour. I really enjoy the walks around your garden each time we go.

    Hi Lola, so nice to see you, thanks for visiting. I knew people ate the poke, do you remember it being boiled twice with clean water? You are so sweet to join me on the touring. I am glad you enjoy it. I like this time of year as well, but really like every time of year when in the garden. πŸ™‚

  27. Must say I love the poke sallet part of this. I grew up eating it, and loved it. It also grows here in abundance, and every time I see it I think of Grandma Nita who was such a big fan of this wild thing. She and I would search ditches looking for it here and there. Thank you for the memories. Hey, I updated the theme again. You might try commenting now?

    Hi Dee, thanks. It was very common in Oklahoma as I recall, and lots of people ate it but not in my family. Do you know if they boiled it twice in clean water? That seems like extra work and I am wondering if anyone actually did it. There would be plenty of it to make a meal, that’s for sure! I will zip over and check out your new theme! Thanks, my friend. πŸ™‚

  28. Lola says:

    Hi Frances, Yes, we always cooked it in clean water twice before the last cooking. You can eat it alone or you can mix it with eggs, scrambled of course. Mom would send us kids out to gather it every Spring for our tonic. lol
    Ooops, forgot to say don’t eat any part of stalk below ground. I have eaten the stem {young} like fried okra. That’s the way the Cherokee cook the stem. It’s rather good.
    I would look up recipes before trying to cook any.

    Hi Lola, thanks for those pointers! I am not going to eat any of it, but it is good to know in case I am ever stuck in the wilderness, or the garden. I would have to build a fire first and find water. Oh, right, the hose. HA πŸ™‚

  29. Flowers Letterkenny says:

    I love the images for the wild flowers.
    Really beautiful

    Aanee xxx

    Hi Aanee, thanks and welcome. I am glad you enjoyed your visit here. πŸ™‚

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