Early Summer Prairie Garden
Butterfly Weed and Pale Purple Coneflower
Both Garden Walks held last Saturday and mentioned on my blog last Friday–AAUW and Northern Kane County Wild Ones–featured Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida), a striking orange and pink combination.
AAUW North End Neighbors’ Association Butterfly Garden
Pale Purple Coneflower and Butterfly Weed in a matrix of Side Oats Grama
Butterfly Weed is one of the most conspicuous flowers of the prairie. It forms a 1’ to 2’ stiff upright clump of vibrant orange, flat-topped flower clusters that grow wider and showier every year. In fall it produces pods filled with fluffy seeds that drift about on the wind and produce new plants where they land.
Pale Purple Coneflower in similar to the later blooming, more familiar Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), but is petals are narrower and more reflexed and a lighter and brighter pink. It also grows taller–to 40” and has narrower leaves.
Pale Purple Coneflower and New Jersey Tea growing out of a matrix of Prairie Dropseed with Butterfly Weed situated on the tier above.
Along my front sidewalk
I also combine Butterfly Weed with Wild Quinine. The white flowers of Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) grow in flat-topped clusters at the top of 2-4’ tall stems. It puts on a longer show than any other prairie flower, looking as fresh in August as it does in June.
The radiant golden-yellow daisy flowers of 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 the last week in June until mid-to-late July. Its unique, narrow, stiff leaves divide in the middle into a trident. Because of its aggressiveness, I waited until my garden was mature before introducing it.
Whoever named Butterfly Bush was a marketing genius; whoever named Butterfly Weed–not so much. A weed is defined as an undesirable, unattractive, and troublesome plant, growing where it is not wanted, such as in a garden. Butterfly Weed certainly does not meet those criteria. But while it is a member of the Milkweed Family (Asclepiadaceae) and Milkweed Genus (Asclepias), it does not have milky juice, so it was not referred to as “milkweed”, as all its cousins are; it’s just called “weed.”
A truly beautiful, but uncommon nickname, is Butterfly Love–now that would be a spectacular name.