Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - wildflowers in gardens

Happy Earth Day!  Lots of people ask about using prairie and woodland wild flowers in gardening. They're mostly interested in what and how.  In honor of the day some examples will be given.  One of the easiest, and a fairly showy spring wildflower other than the weedy bluebells that grow all over our gardens is bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora). They grow in clumps, sometimes dense ones, but they aren't weedy or unruly spreaders, and they are easily divided so they grow here and there around our spring gardens.  But the foliage persists and in the fall makes a nice cinnamon brown cluster. The flowers are pendent and have the curiously twisted petals.
Liverleaf (Hepatica acutiloba) is small and a very early wildflower.  They are also picky. While a woodland flower they like shady slopes where they don't get covered in leaves. Lacking that ours like being plants at the base of large trees again where they don't get buried.  The flowers can vary from white to pale pink to deep pink (rare). Very nice, but for many people a why bother plant. Sorry couldn't find a flower picture.
OK so lastly, one of TPP's favorite garden wildflowers. It isn't showy, it isn't common, it is easy enough once established if you have a nice woodland habitat for it, but only a wild flower fancier will appreciate it: blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides).  It's just nice to know you have it.
The foliage and flowers have that bluish cast, but as can be seen not very showy. It's also kind of neat because the flowers are constructed in multiples of 3s, so that should say to you "monocot", but this is a dicot, a member of the barberry family. So TPP finds that fun too. Many of the tropical magnoliid plants have a similar situation of having 3-parted flowers.  This one is surrounded by blue bells that almost hide it from all but the most discerning eyes. 

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