Results of a Facebook Poll: “Favorite” Native Spring Flowers in The U.S

As a nation of gardeners looks forward to spring, the unscientific poll results are in from our Extension Master Gardener Facebook page. We asked, “It is just a little over 5 weeks until spring! What is your favorite native spring flower?” Our followers responded with their favorites and the states where they garden. Below are the top five vote-getters:

Helleborus
Hellebores (Photo Source: Flickr Wallygrom) Creative Commons Share Alike Generic 2.0

 

Helleborus – Not a U.S Native, but perhaps a favorite – Ohio 

Hellebores, a part of the Ranunculaceae family (“buttercups”), is actually not a native wildlflower of North America. Natives of Europe and Asia, Hellebores here which have escaped their garden borders include blooms in colors ranging from white to pink as well as yellows and blues. Five sepals surround petals which contain nectar, making them a good addition to butterfly and pollinator gardens. Also called “Christmas Rose” or “Lenten Rose,” Hellebores are quite frost-resistant and hardy to zone 6 and above with summer shade. They typically start blooming in December through May.  Seed can take 6-18 months to sprout, but propagation by division is fairly easy.

Desert Lupine at Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County Arizona
Desert Lupine at Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County Arizona (Photo: Eileen Kane)
Desert Lupine, Arizona
Desert Lupine, Lupinus aridus (also known as Douglas desert lupine) is a native wildflower of the Western United States, ranging over Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Small purple-blue, pea-like flowers spiral around a tall stock with palmately divided leaves. A member of the Pea family (Fabaceae), Desert Lupine seeds are sown in the fall for a spring bloom and benefit from an overnight soak to aid germination. Rake in seeds and water regularly. Other desert-dwelling native lupines include Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus of California; Arizona Lupine, Lupinus arizonicus; and Coulter’s/Mojave Lupine, Lupinus sparsiflorus. For more information, see also: http://www.desertmuseumdigitallibrary.org/

Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa
Tidy Tips (Photo Source: Flickr Bill Bouton) Creative Commons ShareAlike Generic 2.0
Tidy Tips, California 

Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa, are a native wildflower of arid regions of California with some occurrences in Nevada, Utah and Arizona. A member of the Asteraceae or sunflower family, Tidy Tips are mid-spring to summer flowering annual yellow daisies with white-tipped flowers almost 2 inches across. They can be grown in zones 3-10, but do best in western states. Seeds germinate in about six days and prefer poor, but well-drained soils. For more information see also: http://www.wildflowerinformation.org

Trailing Arbutus, Minnesota

Trailing Arbutus, Epigaea repens is a trailing evergreen shrub.  It is a member of the Ericaceae, or heather, family. Found in 29 eastern United States and Canada, from Florida to Manitoba, it prefers rocky, acidic soil and woodland habitats. It is on the Endangered list in Florida, rated as “Exploitably Vulnerable“ in New York and on the Watch List of threatened species in Indiana and a Regional Forester Sensitive Species plant in the Hoosier national Forest due to its slow rate of recovery after disturbance & collection. Pink-white flowers bloom in early spring to April. Transplant only from reputable nurseries, Trailing Arbutus requires mycorrhizal association to grow.

Prairie Phlox, East Texas

Prairie Phlox, also known as Downy Phlox, Phlox pilosa, from the Polemoniaceae (Jacob’s-ladder) family is a native perennial featuring clusters of pink to lavender flowers. It ranges from Texas to Manitoba, New York to Florida. It is listed as endangered in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Blooming March-May, Prairie Phlox attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. It prefers dry, well-drained soils and from sun to part shade. Propagate Prairie Phlox by stem cuttings ( spring), root cuttings (fall) or by seed (save the seed by tying a bag around fruits). For more information see, http://www.wildflower.org/

Thanks to all who entered & please look for more polls on our Facebook page!

by Eileen Kane
Maricopa County Arizona Extension Master Gardener

Weird and Wonderful Plants – Stapelia gigantea

I never used to like cactus much until I lived in the desert near Palm Springs. This barren, hostile environment with summer temperatures that routinely got up to 120, spawned weirdly wonderful and exotic plants like the Ocotillo with its red flame-like blossoms at the tips of its long, bare, thorny branches or the beautiful palo verde tree with its green photosynthetic bark, bare branches and bower of yellow flowers or the desert willow with its orchid-like purple blossoms.

Fortunately, I grew to appreciate and even love the austere beauty of the desert, lovely sunsets and the weird but wonderful plants found there. That’s where my fascination with cactus and succulents began – the odder, the better!

Anticipating the bloom of Stapelia gigantea (velvet cactus)

After being “bitten” by some of my cactus while caring for them, I became particularly fond of thornless varieties like the Velvet Cactus or Stapelia gigantea.

Early last October when my Stapelia began to bloom, it was a much anticipated event that I looked forward to. Also called the Carrion Flower or Starfish Flower, the Velvet Cactus is a succulent with deeply ribbed, fat stems, toothed along the angles (see in the photo below) with a velvety surface. It produces large flowers up to 20 cm across with a pale yellow color and transverse red lines covered with purplish or crimson hairs, exuding an odor which attracts its chief pollinator, the fly.

Stapelia bud prior to bloom

Stapelia bud
Stapelia bud (Photo: Connie Schulz)

As the bud appeared and began to swell, my anticipation began to grow too until at last the flower opened. The bloom is wonderfully weird with its large star-shaped flower, hairy petals, weird squiggly pattern and, of course, the tiny flies.

Stapelia bud blooming

Stapelia blossom
Stapelia blossom(Photo: Connie Schulz)

Within a few days, the flower had crumpled up. It was over for this year. Then as the nights got cooler, it moved indoors for the winter.

How does Stapelia gigantea grow?

In its native South Africa it would be comfortable in a Zone: 9. Here they require full sun (can withstand extreme heat) and need only moderate water during the growing season and a cool, dry rest period during the winter. Stapelia gigantea can be propagated by taking stem cuttings in the spring when new growth begins and letting them callus for 2 -3 weeks before planting. Plant in a well-drained soil mixture (2 parts loam to 1 part sharp sand) with small pebbles mixed in for drainage. (I use the commercially sold Cactus Soil Mix.) Fertilize once during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ½ strength.

What weird and wonderful plants do you like to grow?

– Connie Schultz, Extension Master Gardener (’95), Johnson County, North Carolina