Featured Native Plants
New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
Doug Tallamy, University of Delaware entomologist and author, tells us that among perennial species, asters and goldenrods support the most diverse native pollinators. These two plants probably already occupy a place in your garden as they are both prolific common wildflowers found in the New England area. This month we would like to focus on New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae.)
Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) is an impressive native perennial plant found in moist meadows and open woods throughout the eastern United States. The genus name is a combination of Veronica and the suffix astrum ("false") and refers to the plant's resemblance to the Veronicas. It is the only species of Veronicastrum in North America. The common name Culver’s Root derives from a pioneer physician of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Doctor Culver, who advocated for medicinal uses of the roots.
Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) with bee.
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a hardy perennial native to Canada and much of the eastern United States. Common milkweed supports more than 450 insects including flies, beetles, ants, bees, wasps, and butterflies. It is an important food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars, in particular.
It thrives in full sun and has a preference for moist soil. But it also tolerates dry conditions. The plant becomes two to six feet tall, with large gray-green leaves and pale purple-pink flowers. It is a beautiful plant. However, it is an aggressive grower and often not recommended for smaller or more formal gardens. In addition to spreading by seeds, it has underground rhizomes that allow it to spread to unwanted places. Thus, it is best planted in meadows or other areas where it has room to grow.
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) with bee and Monarch butterfly.
Swamp or rose milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), also known as Rose Milkweed, prefers medium to wet garden soil and full sun or partial shade. In the wild, it is often found growing near the edges of ponds, lakes, streams, or along ditches. Compared to the common milkweed, this is a well-behaved plant that forms clumps and does not spread by rhizomes. It grows 2 to 4 feet tall and produces beautiful deep rose-pink flowers in mid- through late summer. Along with Common Milkweed, this may be the most beneficial milkweed plant for the Monarch butterfly, which feeds on its flowers and lays its eggs on the plant.
Amelanchier or Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.)
Amelanchier canadensis in a Lexington home garden.