Three Elegant Native Plants in Bloom Now You May Not Know

Three Elegant Native Plants in Bloom Now You May Not Know

Prairie Cinquefoil 2

Prairie Cinquefoil (Drymocallis arguta)  formally known as Potentilla arguta

Clusters of blossoms with wide creamy or pale yellow petals surround a golden center at the top of a hairy, upright 2-3’ tall stem, in bloom from late June until late September.

While I planted it in my early garden, in recent years, I only have 2 plants left, one next to my driveway and one next to my west side sidewalk.  Unfortunately, I ran over the one next to the driveway this spring; fortunately,  it did survive.  But neither one of these lovely plants has reproduced, but I plan to add more of them to my gardens this fall or next spring.  It spreads primarily by small seeds distributed by the wind.  It has a central tap root, but it also produces rhizomes that help it move about, but it is never invasive.

In the wild, Prairie Cinquefoil is found in high quality remnants of dry and mesic prairies.

It is a plant of classic prairie elegance, built to withstand the droughts, the heat, the frigid cold, the wind, the raging fires, and then sprout in spring, all soft and beautiful.

Dick Young

Kane County Wild Plants &  Natural Areas


prairie cinquefoil & veronicastrum

In a mesic, sunny situation it mixes well with the elegant spires of Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum), in bloom now, also.

Starry Campion 2

Starry Campion (Silene stellata)

These enchanting fringed stars begin to bloom in early July and last through September.  The flowering stem rises above a whorl of leaves on a central stalk 12-30” tall.

I originally planted Starry Campion in my savanna garden where it thrives in partial shade.  It has seeded itself about here and there, including one plant in my prairie garden, but it is never invasive.  Its stars close up in bright sun, but remain open in the darkest night.

At one point, Starry Campion grew next to the walk between my garage and my house–the bright white flowers lit up the path at night like a beacon.  Alas, the installation of a redbud tree next to the path made the area too shady for it to grow and it is no longer there.

Starry Campion and Bottlebrush Grass

It combines beautifully with Bottlebrush Grass (Elymus hystrix) in partial shade.

Starry Campion & Purple Cone Flower

In a sunnier area it mixes pleasingly with Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea) and Culver’s Root  (Veronicastrum virginicum).



Prairie Indian Plantain  (Arnoglossum plantagineum) formally Cacalia tuberosa.

To my eye, this is one of the most elegant forbs that grows on the prairie. Its tall stems branch near the top forming wide flat-topped clusters of creamy-white flower tufts.

cacalia laves

Its thick, waxy, parallel-veined, fine-toothed leaves are distinctive, as well.

Prairie Indian Plantain grows 3-4 feet tall, in bloom from early June to early August.  It  grows in nature in mesic or hydric soils, preferring calcareous soil.  It spreads by shallow, plump rhizomes, easily divided to plant elsewhere or given away.  The Genesis Nursery catalogue of January 1997 says it “thrives on division”.

Rare in the wild now, at one time it covered vast acres of ground.  “Wet prairies west of Chicago, very abundant, covering many acres of the marshy grasslands with its white blanket of bloom,” wrote H. S.  Pepoon in 1927, as quoted in Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, 1994.

These are the last of a fine breed that graced vast acres of our once rich and abundant prairie.

Dick Young

Kane County Wild Plants & Natural Areas

I first planted it with Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya), a  stunning combination; but alas, the Blazing Star winked out many years go.

blazing Star 2

The tall spires of  Prairie Blazing Star  make a striking contrast with the flat topped Prairie Indian Plantain.

I hope you will be adventurous  and add these unique native plants to your garden.





11 Responses to Three Elegant Native Plants in Bloom Now You May Not Know

  1. Nancy weiss July 18, 2016 at 9:59 pm #

    Could you please remove me from your distribution.

  2. sharon cross July 19, 2016 at 6:11 am #

    A native white/night garden!
    Thanks for keeping me on your list.

  3. Monica Buckley July 19, 2016 at 6:25 am #

    Thanks for the lovely post. I just purchased some prairie cinquefoil and your lyrical description of its charms reminds me of why. Starry campion will be next!

  4. richard carlson July 19, 2016 at 8:02 am #

    always enjoy your reports. keep them coming.

  5. chris darbo July 19, 2016 at 10:14 am #

    See the Natural Garden newsletter for more on a white native garden

  6. Suzanne Massion July 19, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    Along with my prairie and oak-hickory savanna, your newsletter, Pat, gives me some of the “best and highest kinds of earthly pleasure”. Make sure I always stay on your distribution. This entry features a lot of beauties I don’t have, so I can yearn a little and plan.

  7. Jean July 19, 2016 at 7:29 pm #

    I value your knowledge and the ability to share tidbits to help us budding naturalists!! These are plants I may have confused with being weeds, yet you have given them value. Thanks, Jean

  8. Jason July 21, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

    These were all new to me! Are these available as plants anywhere, or just as seeds? I really like the Cinquefoil.

    • PatHill July 26, 2016 at 6:04 am #

      I was able to purchase all of these as plants several years ago, but today I only see the Starry Campion for sale as a plant at Midwest Groundcover in St. Charles, although it comes easily from seed.

  9. Mary Navin July 22, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    Pat,I love your postings. I share them with my daughter who is a novice gardener and she enjoys them too. Thanks for all the updates.

  10. Pat Hollingsworth July 23, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    I am intrigued by the Prairie Indian Plantain. I grow Cacalia atriplicifolia here and love it! I also have a decent stand of Potentilla arguta. Silene stellata would be a fun addition.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

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