The summer prairie begins to bloom in earnest around mid-summer. Wild Quinine opens first, followed closely by Pale Purple Coneflower and Butterfly Weed, and then Stiff Coreopsis adds its golden suns.
The flat-topped flower clusters of Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) reflect the flat prairies from where it comes. The tiny white flowers have been compared to “clusters of pearls” In The Natural Garden Catalog. Its long-blooming flowers begin in mid-to-late June and continue through the end of August, Versatile, it grows in mesic, dry mesic, and even sand prairies.
My Front Garden with Pale Purple Coneflower and Butterfly Weed
Pale Purple Coneflower, sometimes called Pink Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) begins to bloom earlier–mid-to-late June–than the common Purple Coneflower with which we’re more familiar. Pale Purple Coneflower is taller–up to 40”, it has narrower leaves, and the reflexed petals are a lighter, brighter pink than Echinacea purpurea. It is found in dry prairies and is particularly fond of limestone. In nature and the home garden, it seeds itself about, but it has not been prolific in my gardens.
The showiest of all the prairie flowers is Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), so named because of its attractiveness to monarchs and other butterflies. It forms a 1-2’ stiff, upright clump topped with vibrant orange, flat-topped flower clusters that bloom from late June through mid-July, growing wider and showier every year. It cheerfully seeds itself about, favoring the edge of the gardens next to the alkaline concrete sidewalks. In nature it is found in sandy Black Oak savannas and dry prairies.
The radiant, golden-yellow daisy flowers of Prairie or Stiff Coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata) bloom at the top of 1-3’ stiff stems. Spreading by rhizomes, it makes luminous patches of sunshine throughout dry or sandy prairies from mid-June through early July. Its quite aggressive–wait until your garden is well established before you introduce this plant into it.
The same flowers are blooming at the Geneva River Park in a matrix of Side Oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
Summer Solstice Entrance Garden
Morton Arboretum’s interpretation of the prairie at their entrance garden. Purple Coneflower, Stiff Coreopsis, and a few Butterfly Weed grow in a matrix of Prairie Drop Seed. This can easily be duplicated in a home garden.
Schulenberg Prairie at Morton Arboretum. Lead Plant has started to bloom, as well. (More on Lead Plant next post)