Friends of the Wild Flower Garden
As the season moves into late summer it is difficult to pick out which plants to see next - there are so many. To borrow a phrase of Eloise Butler who was speaking of asters: “The one I look at last, I like best of all, for each species has a charm peculiar to itself.” Here is a selection of five that you might not find at the local nursery - but in the Garden? YES. The link on the plant name takes you to a full information page with more photos of that plant..
Butter and Eggs (Linaria vulgaris L.) Or sometimes called 'Common Toadflax'.
The first name is more descriptive. The pale yellow of the four corolla lobes is offset by the orange-yellow color of the fifth lobe, which blocks the throat of the corolla. This could definitely be called a ‘weed’ by some - it is listed on the DNR Minnesota Invasive Plant List. Eloise Butler loved it! She wrote: “Some naturalized plant citizens, with attractive flowers, one might like to have in the garden, if they were not so aggressive. But, if admitted, they would selfishly shoulder out the weaker and possible more desirable inmates. The place for such vagrants is, therefore, the roadside where they will thrive on a hard bed and a crust of earth. Bouncing Bet and Butter ‘n’ eggs may be cited as examples. A blue ribbon should be awarded them for certain sterling qualities.” (1)
She put them in the Garden as early as 1911 and even during the winter of 1932-33 she sent some from Malden MA, where she was wintering, to her friend Gertrude Cram for her to keep until she returned in the spring. Mrs Cram told Martha Crone that Eloise “might have had an armful” from her yard! (2)
Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra Hill)
This is the pink flower version of that old imported Garden stalwart, Queen of the Meadow (Filipendula ulmaria). It is not considered native to the state. It is considered naturalized in Iowa, Illinois and some states east of there but in Minnesota we consider it a garden escapee if found in the wild. Never-the-less, it is breathtakingly beautiful and in the Garden it is not found in the Prairie, but in the Woodland.
The pink flower head stands well above the foliage but alas, there is no fragrance or nectar for visiting pollinators. Besides the color being different from it’s white sister, the seed is straight instead of the spiral shape of the sister.
Tall Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum (L.) Small) Also known as American Bellflower.
Unlike it’s European cousin (Campanula rapunculoides) that can be a naturalized pest, this native plant is tall, as the name implies, and prefers the woodland to the hot sun of the open areas. It has a spike of light purple flowers that have 5 satiny petals and a long, curved, protruding style. The flowers surround the stem unlike the European cousin where they hang on one side. Eloise Butler introduced the plant to the Garden in 1907.
Martha Crone wrote: "When the spring flowers have faded and before the summer flowers have come into bloom, when there is little variety in the woodland where shadows are deepest, it is then that the Tall Blue Bellflower is the most conspicuous. It is an annual and has proven quite equal to reproducing itself year after year." (3)
Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata (Michx.) Greene) Also known as Sensitive Pea and Prairie Senna.
This is one of our State’s native annuals. Not a tall plant, it is sometimes missed in the wild. At the Garden you will find it near the path edges in the upland. It has compound leaves like many species of the pea family.
Eloise Butler noted “The beauty of the large flower of clear, bright yellow is enhanced by a purplish brown eye formed by the stamens and the blotching of some of the petals. The delicate, fresh, green leaflets of the compound leaf close together when touched and also for protection from cold at night." (4) And there you have the reason for that other common name of ‘Sensitive Pea’.
But woe will you be if you have a pasture and grazing animals for the plant is strongly cathartic, causing sickness, not just when fresh, but also if dry and mixed with other dry fodder.
Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium (L.) R. Br.) Also known as Wild Morning Glory and Old Man’s Night Cap.
The bindweed vines usually have quite showy flowers. You find them in moist to mesic meadows and disturbed places. It is native to our area and some call it a noxious weed but Eloise Butler had kind word for it when she wrote: “Being common and a weed, it is not properly appreciated. It might be improved and varied by cultivation, and it would outrank its relative, the tame morning glory as a porch vine, for it is a perennial and can always be depended upon. (It) is everywhere present, running over waste places and doing good service by concealing unsightly objects with its lovely large flowers of pale pink or white.” (5).
The genus name, Calystegia, is Greek and means "covered cup" referring to the bracts covering the bottom of the calyx - they resemble a cup and that is the distinguishing characteristic of this genus.
(1). Published Aug. 6, 1911, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune (Article)
(2). Letter of Gertrude Cram to Martha Crone, April 23, 1933.
(3). Published in The Fringed Gentian™, July 1955. (pdf)
(4). Published August 13, 1911, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune (Article)
(5). Published Sept. 17, 1911, Minneapolis Sunday Tribune (Article)