Plant Sale Profile: Aquilegia Canadensis

Columbine (University of Tenn)Native throughout the piedmont and most counties in Virginia, Aquilegia Canadensis (Wild Columbine, Eastern Red Columbine) can be found in dry forests, woodlands, barrens, and rock outcrops; shell-marl slopes, bluffs, and shell middens in the Coastal Plain. Although most numerous on subcalcareous, calcareous, and mafic substrates, in the higher mountains it is more tolerant of acidic soils and varied habitats, including mesic to dry-mesic forests, meadows, and roadsides.

Aquilegia Canadensis, a member of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family has beautiful 1 1/2 inch red and yellow blooms.  Blooming in late spring to early summer for about a month, this plant does not have a scent.  Growing from 1-3 feet tall, the foliage is also attractive.  The foliage is toxic so this plant is rarely bothered by mammals.

columbineAquilegia Canadensis grows in light shade to partial sun, the more established plants even tolerating full sun.  Moist soil to dry conditions that is loamy, rocky or slightly sandy is its optimum growing environment.

Easy to grow Aquilegia Canadensis, was observed by Thomas Mann Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s Line Drawing Columbineson-in-law, blooming on April 30, 1791 at Monticello.  Seeds can be planted at any time during the growing season for flowers the following year.  Roots are fibrous and rhizomes sometimes are produced.

Bees, flies, insect larvae, and hummingbirds all benefit from Aquilegia Canadensis making it a great plant to add into your semi-shady/woodland garden.


Line Drawing from New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora by H. A. Gleason (1958)

Plant Sale Profile: Trillium grandiflorum

Trillium1Native to Greene and Nelson, Trillium grandiflorum known as Large-Flowered Trillium or Great White Trillium, is one of the showiest trilliums in Virginia.   It grows in cove forests, mesic to dry-mesic slope forests, northern hardwood forests, Northern Red Oak forests, and seepage swamp hummocks; most characteristic of and numerous in (but not restricted to) soils weathered from mafic and moderately to strongly calcareous rocks. Common in the mountains; rare in the inner Piedmont.

Trillium grandiflorum grows 9-18 inches tall.  The central stem has 3 medium green terminal leaves 6 inches long by 5 inches across.  The flowers are 3-4 inches across.  Each flower consists of 3 white petals, 3 sepals, 3 stigmas, 6 stamens and a white ovary.  The petals often turn pink as they age.

Trillium grandiflorum blooms mid to late spring for three weeks.  The seed pod becomes dark with age before bursting open.  Ants spread the seeds because of the pods have elaisomes (food appendages).  If you plant to grow this plant by seed, it takes years to mature into a flowering plant.  Transplanting rhizomes can also take several years to mature.

can form loose colonies in optimum conditions.  This plant likes dappled sun / light shade.  It tolerates more shade as the season persists.  It likes rich, loamy damp soil.  It grows well in rich loamy damp environments making it a great woodland garden choice.

Rarely visited by insects, Ceratina dupla (little carpenter bee) collects pollen and nectar.  Explexia benesimilis (American Angle Shades) and Clepsis melaleucana (Black-patched Clepsis) moth caterpillars have been seen occasionally feeding on members of the trillium family.   Deer do browse on this plant.  When colonized, small mammals can hide under the leaves.

Plant Sale Profile: Chrysogonum virginianum

Another plant being offered at our native plant sale this spring is Chrysogonum virginianum.  Common names for this plant are Green And GoldGoldenstar, Green and Gold, and Golden Knees.  Chrysogonum virginianum is a nice groundcover that actually will tolerate some light foot traffic.

With golden yellow blooms (1- 1.25 in wide) from Mar – Jun this plant is a good source of nectar.  In optimum conditions it may re-bloom sparingly off and on throughout the summer.  It grows 6 -12 inches tall and spreads moderately quickly.

In the garden, Chrysogonum virginianum should be planted in well drained but moist soil in sunny to shady conditions.  The more sun it gets the more moisture it needs but do not let the roots sit in consistently wet soil, it can develop root rot.  This plant grows best GreenAndGold3webin bright shade.   A woodland situation is a good place to grow this plant along with foam flower, bugbane and ferns.  During times of drought, particularly the first couple of years, watering may be necessary.  If leaves turn brown at the edges or develop mildew, simply cut the leaves off and in the case of mildew throw away.

Divide Chrysogonum virginianum in the early spring.  Some plants produce stolons (horizontal roots on or near the ground) which you can cut and transplant in the fall.

In nature you can find this plant in mesic to dry upland forests and woodlands; usually in moderately to strongly base-rich soils. Common in the Piedmont and lower mountains (except sw. Virginia).

Plant Sale Profile: Pycnanthemum muticum

mint2web We will be offering Pycnanthemum muticum, sometimes called broad-leaved mountain-mint, clustered mountain-mint or short-toothed mountain mint for sale at our plant sale this spring (check out the events link to find details).   Native to several counties in Virginia including Albemarle, Greene, Orange and Fluvanna, Pycnanthemum muticum is found in fens, wet meadows and clearings.  Despite its name it is not generally found in mountains.mint1used

In a garden environment this plant likes moist well-drained soils in bright shade to full sun.  Growing 1-3 feet tall and wide, this plant can be a little bit aggressive in optimum conditions.  To control, chop off roots with a shovel in the spring.  Better yet, plant this where it can be free to spread with other moisture loving somewhat aggressive plants such as bee balm or obedient plant.  The bees and butterflies will thank you because mints produce abundant amounts of nectar attracting many types of butterflies, bees, flies and wasps.

I like to crush a leaf in my hand to enjoy the spearmint smell when I mint3webwalk by Pycnanthemum muticum.  The green leaves are topped with silver color flower bracts.  The white blooms, sometimes tinged with purple, blue, pink and/or red are usually covered in pollinators from July to September when in bloom.   Water during droughts (at least for a couple of years while it is getting established).

Plant Sale Profile: Lobelia cardinalis

fblobeliaLobelia cardinalis, commonly called Cardinal Flower was the Virginia Native Plant Society’s Wildflower of the Year in 1991.  This is one of the showiest of the red blooming native plants in Virginia, blooming from July to October.  It is found throughout the state, including the entire piedmont.

Lobelia cardinalis is found in floodplain forests, alluvial swamps, seepage swamps, maritime swamps, tidal swamps, tidal freshwater and oligohaline marshes, wet meadows, ditches, and low roadsides.  It not only grows in cool riparian habitats it is also a beautiful plant in garden beds.  According to the Virginia Flora this species gets up to 25 dm tall (8 feet).  In my gardens it has grown to about 3 feet tall but that may be because it didn’t get enough moisture.

This plant loves full sun but tolerates light shade.  It does want damp to wet conditions.  Adding organic matters such as compost will help the plant retain moisture.  If Lobelia cardinalis gets too dried out, it will be short lived so be sure to water it during times of drought.

In fall remove any leaves that may fall onto this plant.  The basal leaves of this plant do not like to be covered (slip some compost under the leaves).  It attracts hummingbirds, swallowtail butterflies and some large bumblebees.  More information about this wonderful native plant can be found at

Plant Sale Profile: Claytonia virginica

web1springbeautyClaytonia virginica is a member of the family Montiaceae (formally Portulacaceae – in case you’re looking for information regarding this plant in an older reference). The genus is named for John Clayton, 1694-1773, who was a Colonial plant collector and tobacco farmer in Virginia. Common names are Spring Beauty, Virginia Spring Beauty, Eastern Spring Beauty. This plant is native to all but a handful of counties in Virginia.  It is native to the piedmont.
Naturally found in well-drained floodplain forests, mesic and dry-mesic upland forests, and old fields; most characteristic of, but not restricted to, base-rich soils. I have seen flourishing at the edge of a gravel road. The preference is dappled sunlight during the spring, moist to slightly dry conditions, and a rich loamy soil with abundant organic matter. Claytonia virginica is happy in woodland conditions. Both the flowers and foliage fade away by mid-summer. An early bloomer (March to April), this small native plant gets two to six inches tall. The small flower is only 1/2 to 3/4 inch across and it has grass like leaves. web2springbeautyThe star like white flower has pink stripes. Disease and insect damage is rare. Claytonia virginica spreads by reseeding itself; sometimes it forms rather loose colonies of plants. It also wilts easily once picked so enjoy it in the garden. The flowers open up on warm sunny days, and close during cloudy weather or at night.
Pollinators that are attracted to Claytonia virginica include various bees and flies.  Occasionally butterflies and skippers visit seeking nectar. The corms are eaten by small mammals including the Eastern Chipmunk. Although not a favorite of deer, they do sometimes eat it.
Claytonia virginica is edible by humans. The small size of this plant doesn’t make it practical as a forage plant, however the entire plant is edible. For more information about eating Claytonia virginica go to:

Plant Sale Profile: Mertensia virginica

bluebell bloomsMertensia virginica is a member of the Borage (Boraginaceae) family. Commonly called Virginia Bluebells, its also known as Virginia Cowslip, Roanoke-bells, Eastern Bluebells and Lungwort Oysterleaf.
When the leaves emerge they are a lovely shade of purple, quickly turning a medium green as they increase in size. Although the flowers are usually light blue, persistently pink or white-flowered forms have occurred. The light blue blooms start out pink as buds, changing to blue, nodding bell shaped flowers asWhite Bluebells they mature and once pollinated turn pink again. The cluster of flowers are very showy. Blooming lasts about three weeks in April after which Mertensia virginica being spring ephemerals disappear in early summer. Pair with other natives such as Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum), Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), Woodpoppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), Bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa) or Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans) to fill in the space once the plants disappear (remembering to mark where the Mertensia virginica is planted while the plants are above ground so you don’t damage them when planting around them later). Plants Large patch of Bluebellsgrow about 2 feet tall and should be planted about 10” apart. Mertensia virginica thrives in rich soils of well-drained floodplain forests, low-elevation cove forests, and mesic slope forests. Locally common throughout the mountains (lower elevations only) and the Piedmont.  It will colonize in optimum conditions, seeding freely. Consider planting Mertensia virginica for pollinators. Bumblebees, long-tongued bees, hummingbirds, syrphids, butterflies and moths all visit this plant.  Mertensia virginica is not preferred by deer.