Husker Hort

A Nebraska View of Horticulture

Nebraska Wildflower Week

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Bumblebee and Echinacea

Bumblebee and Echinacea

Wildflower Week is in full bloom.  What exactly is Wildflower Week and what is a wildflower?  Wildflowers and native plants are very versatile plants that have multiple benefits in the landscape.  Some wildflowers are a cut above the rest and are worth a try in your garden.

“WHEREAS, prairies, woodlands and other natural plant communities are essential to the ecological health of Nebraska, and give the land its great beauty and unique character, and WHEREAS, Nebraska is rich in wildflowers, grasses, trees and other native plants with beauty and hardiness that commends their use for landscaping homes, businesses and community green space. NOW, THEREFORE, I Dave Heineman, Governor of the State of Nebraska , DO HEREBY PROCLAIM the first week of June, as Nebraska Wildflower Week, and I do hereby urge all citizens to participate in events and activities during Nebraska Wildflower Week that foster understanding, enjoyment and conservation of Nebraska’s wildflowers and other native plants. “— Governor Dave Heineman

Nebraska Wildflower Weeks’ focus is on embracing wildflowers and native plants of Nebraska.  Nebraska Wildflower Week will be observed in early June when Nebraska’s prairies and gardens are typically at their prime. National Wildflower Week, which is coordinated by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Texas, is observed in early May

The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum (NSA) coordinates Wildflower Week activities in which they bring together organizations that know the true value of wildflowers.  Visit NSA’s website at http://arboretum.unl.edu to find out about Wildflower Week events across the state June 4-11.

Wildflowers and native plants can be unique and interesting additions to the landscape.  What is the difference between native plants and wildflowers?  The terms “native” and “wildflower” are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.  Native plants in the Great Plains are generally described as those found growing in a defined area prior to European settlers.  Wildflowers are described as flowering plants that grow with little or no human help.  They can either be native or introduced, or brought in from other areas.  Both wildflowers and native plants work well in low maintenance areas and in sites that need hardy, drought tolerant plants.

Elizabeth’s top 5 wildflower picks of 2013:

Leadplant, Amorpha canescens–  the violet-blue, spike-like blooms are held on a 1-4’ tall woody plant.  The plant blooms in June and July followed by an interesting seed pod.  The dusty green-gray foliage is a good indicator of just how drought tolerant this plant can be.

Dame’s Rocket, Hesperis matronalis– While it’s an introduced plant, it’s still a show-stopper when in full bloom.  The magenta purple spikes of flowers in May and June can be seen from the road ditches while driving down the highway.

Bee Balm, Monarda species a member of the mint family reaches 2-5 feet tall with pink-lavender flowers in June through August.  This plant is prone to powdery mildew infections, so place in an area with good air circulation or select cultivars that are powdery mildew resistant.

Pasque Flower, Pulsatilla patens-This early spring bloomer has white to purple flowers followed by a fuzzy seed head.  Let the interesting seed head stand throughout the growing season as this allows the plant to reseed itself.

Goldenrod, Solidago species- I wouldn’t be a good Nebraskan if I didn’t mention our state flower Goldenrod.  There are several species of Goldenrod, but all produce a yellow or gold colored flower later in the season around August or September.

This is just a sample of my favorites, but there are many more interesting wildflowers to learn about.  More information about wildflowers can be found in a UNL Extension NebGuide, a University publication, ‘Wildflowers for the Home Landscape’.  Go to http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu and search for the keyword ‘wildflowers’.

For more information contact Elizabeth Killinger at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, 308-385-5088, on Facebook, Twitter, her blog at https://huskerhort.wordpress.com/, or visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension website: hall.unl.edu.

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Author: Elizabeth Killinger

A Nebraska Extension Educator out of Hall County with a focus in horticulture and sustainable landscapes.

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