Obedient Plant

July 30th, 2020

Physostegia virginiana

The obedient plant is a rhizomatous, native perennial that is found from Quebec to Manitoba southward to New Mexico and Florida.

physical description

This attractive plant looks a bit like a snapdragon, but its square stem is typical of the mint family. They grow to a height of approximately 4 feet, and to 6 feet under optimal conditions. If the flowers are bent, they tend to stay in the new position for a while, thus the common name "obedient plant."  Several garden forms occasionally “escape” to the wild. Flowers can be either white or pink, and recent research has developed a purple variety, too.

habitat

The obedient plant can grow in either full sun, partial shade, or full shade. It prefers a moist, humus, well-drained soil.

The obedient plant can be propagated by dividing the roots in the autumn or via seeds, which can be ordered online. The divisions should be planted in the autumn and the seeds sown in late autumn or early spring.

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uses

This moderately large plant makes a fine background to block an area such as a building foundation, a wall, or out-buildings.

This species often attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators.

interesting information

All members of this large family (the mint family or Lamiaceae) have a stem that, in cross section, is square.  This includes not only the obedient plant but also the mints, lavender, rosemary, hyssop, basil, and many of the other edible herbs we use every day.

The obedient plant has no serious insect or disease problems.

Rust can be an occasional problem.

Be on the lookout for aphids and spider mites which can be controlled using an insecticidal soap rather than a pesticide.

Species plants and the varieties can be aggressive spreaders; however, it can be controlled since the shallow roots are easy to pull out.

This perennial is easy to establish and requires only medium maintenance.

About the Author

Charlie Belin is a retired professor and biological oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia system for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.

Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!

Posted by Charlie Belin  | Category: native plants

Bottlebrush Buckeye

July 15th, 2020

Aesculus parviflora

The bottlebrush buckeye is a member of the soapberry family, which used to be the horse-chestnut family. Its genus name, Aesculus, is the same as that for the common American horse-chestnut. This shrub (shrubs are woody and have multiple stems, whereas trees are also woody but have only one stem) is native to the southeastern United States.

This shrub can be very aggressive and will take over an area 12’ to 15’ in diameter rather quickly — over about 3 to 5 years.

physical description

The bottlebrush buckeye can achieve a height of 8’ to 15’ in height and a diameter 12’ to 15’. It has white flowers that look a bit like a bottlebrush and are about 12” long between June and July. They also include red anthers that offset the white petals.

Mid-summer blooms on a mature shrub can be rather remarkable. After flowering, the plant gives way to glossy, inedible, pear-shaped nuts (buckeyes) encased in husks. However, these nuts are rarely produced in cultivation in the northern parts of this shrub's growing range. These nuts should NEVER be eaten by humans.  

The foliage turns yellow in autumn.

habitat

The bottlebrush buckeye successfully grows in hardiness zones 4-8. Since Chattanooga is located in zone 7, it is a good candidate for our area.

This species does well in full sun to partial shade areas. It needs moderate moisture and is rather low in its maintenance needs. It prefers moist, loamy soils, and is intolerant of drought conditions. It would need to be watered during a drought at least for the first few years until the root system is fully established.

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uses

The bottlebrush buckeye is best planted as a specimen with plenty of space around it. It can also be used as a hedge with light pruning, as a screen to block out otherwise visible areas of the yard, or as a massing area to accent part of the yard.

interesting information

The bottlebrush buckeye attracts butterflies. 

This species can develop leaf scorch in sunny locations.  

This species has no serious disease or insect problems.

About the Author

Charlie Belin is a retired professor and biological oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia system for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.

Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!

Posted by Charlie Belin  | Category: native plants

Coreopsis tinctoria

This member of the Aster family is an annual and needs to be replanted each spring. However, the flower show it provides is a remarkable display.  It was originally found in the western United States, but now is found in most of the country besides the deserts of the southwest and the high Rocky Mountains. It does well in Tennessee, and therefore is an excellent plant for gardens here in Chattanooga.

physical description

 A slender, 2-4 ft. annual with pinnately-compound foliage, the Plains coreopsis is known for its small but abundant yellow flowers, painted red near the center. Numerous smooth, slightly angled branches bear showy, daisy-like flower heads with yellow rays surrounding a reddish-purple central disk. The yellow petals are notch-tipped. Flower heads occur on long stalks from the multi-branching stems. This plant typically blooms from late spring into the middle of autumn.

habitat

This plant prefers moist, sandy soil. It grows in either full sun or partial shade areas. It can stand drying conditions for short lengths of time.

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uses

Plains coreopsis is often grown as an ornamental. It has been used in the past medicinally. In particular, the root is made into a tea as an aid for diarrhea; the leaves have been boiled and offered as a drink for the internal organs; and lastly, the dried tops of the plants have been used to “strengthen the blood.”

This plant is an excellent candidate for borders. It will naturalize in native wildflower gardens, meadows, or prairies, and is effective along roads. This is a good plant for areas with poor, dry soils. It is excellent in large plantings.

Additionally, the flowers have been used a dye for textiles.

interesting information

While this species is considered an annual, it can live for 2–3 years before dying.

The Plains coreopsis attracts many pollinating organisms including nectar bees, nectar butterflies, and other insects.  In addition, this plant attracts many small, seed-loving bird species.

This species has no serious insect or disease problems. 

About the Author

Charlie Belin is a retired professor and biological oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia system for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.

Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!

Posted by Charlie Belin  | Category: native plants

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