Husker Hort

A Nebraska View of Horticulture

Wild About Wildflowers

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Monarch feeding on joe-pye weed

 

A week devoted to wildflowers is just about as good as a holiday devoted to trees. While Arbor Day is a well-known holiday celebrated across the state, Nebraska Wildflower Week should be celebrated just as much.

 

Nebraska Wildflower weeks’ focus is on embracing wildflowers and native plants. The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum (NSA) coordinates Wildflower Week activities bringing together a list of entities that know the true value of wildflowers.  Wildflower Week events are planned across the state June 1-11. View the 2018 Nebraska Wildflower Week events statewide and resources here: https://plantnebraska.org/connect/events/wildflowers.html

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.

“Wildflowers endure through hard times, lending beauty and brightness even to landscapes rarely seen by human eyes. Their flowers and seeds feed birds, butterflies and other wildlife; their roots loosen and improve soil; and they lend fragrance and beauty to wild places, making us want to take a closer look at places we might otherwise ignore.”  Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.

Elizabeth’s Top 5 Wildflower Picks of 2018:

Purple Prairie Clover, Dalea purpureum There are several species of Dalea, but this is a very common one.  In June the flower spikes are covered with tiny rose-purple colored flowers that work well as cut flowers.  The plants can get between 1-3 feet tall, prefer full sun, and well-drained soil.  The cultivar ‘Stephanie’ was bred right here in Nebraska.

Joe-pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum– does very well in wet areas. The straight species can get up to 6 feet tall, but the cultivar ‘Little Joe’ gets only 3-4 foot tall.  The red-violet blooms are held above the foliage in July to September and are a butterfly magnet.

Evening Primrose, Oenothera species- These low growing plants work great near the edge of a bed or used to help to soften the end of a sidewalk. Bright yellow flower show up June through September and are followed by a unique winged seed pod.

Mexican Hat, Ratibida columnifera- This coneflower looks very similar to another native plant we have, upright prairie coneflower, except the petals are bright yellow and deep red. It is a ‘short lived’ perennial that prefers full sun and well drained soils.

Pussytoes, Antennaria species- The name describe the plant very well, the flowers look like little white or pink cat toes at the end of the flower stalk. While the flowers aren’t very showy, this is a tough-as-nails groundcover plant that works well in hot, dry locations.

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 Nebraska Extension NebGuide, a University publication, ‘Wildflowers for the Home Landscape’.  Go to http://extensionpubs.unl.edu/  and search for the keyword ‘wildflowers’.

Elizabeth Killinger is the Horticulture Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension in Hall County. For more information contact Elizabeth at elizabeth.killinger@unl.edu, her blog at https://huskerhort.com/, or HuskerHort on Facebook and Twitter.

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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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