Wildflowers…Following Nature’s Design

By: Howard Bright aka Earthyman http://ionxchange.com/

In nature, certain species are found growing together and they form a specific community called a “plant community”. Native plants always grow in association with other native plantsto create plant communities that are essentially associations of indigenous species that have evolved over thousands of years and adapted to the specific geography, hydrology and climate of a particular area. The resulting “communities” are really groups of plants that exist together because of the given conditions.

We can use these native plant communities as a prescription from nature in designing our wildflower gardens or landscapes.  There are four broad categories of native plant communities here in the Midwest and hundreds of sub categories as we break each of them down into more specific site conditions.  It is important to recognize which one of the four categories you would like to create or reconstruct.  The four major plant communities of the Midwest are:

  • Prairies
  • Savannas
  • Wetlands
  • Woodlands

In this article, we are only going to discuss the Prairie sub communities.

Within each of these categories we narrow down our site conditions and begin our design of what native species of wildflowers, grasses and sedges will work best for our site. For instance, if we have an open area that gets full sunlight, we have a perfect opportunity to create a “Prairie”.  Within the Prairie Community, we can further break down our site conditions to reflect:

  • Wet Prairie
  • Wet-Mesic Prairie
  • Mesic Prairie
  • Dry-Mesic Prairie
  • Dry Prairie

Now this may sound too complicated for the normal gardener but it really isn’t.  Here are a few tips to allow you to identify where your site fits in.  First of all let’s talk about your soil.  You may say that you don’t know anything about soils and that’s o.k.  You can still come close to what your soil is like by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. When you walk across your site with tennis shoes on, do your feet get wet throughout the growing season?  If so, you can bet this is a site for a Wet Prairie Plant Community.
  2. Is the ground soggy at times but eventually dries out and then becomes soggy again?  This could be a good place to establish your Wet-Mesic Plant Community.
  3. Would your site be a good place for a vegetable garden, not too wet, not too dry with fertile rich soil?  Here I would select a Mesic-Prairie Plant Community.
  4. If you think your site is a little bit on the dry side but not extremely dry, you would choose a Dry-Mesic Plant Community.
  5. If your site is really dry and maybe has no topsoil, maybe rocky or sandy I would choose a Dry Prairie Plant Community.

Now, after you have decided which plant community you want to create, here are some examples of wildflowers and grasses to consider for each community:

1.     Wet-Prairie Plant Community

  • Swamp Milkweed
  • Swamp Aster
  • Turtlehead
  • Boneset
  • Blue Flag Iris
  • Marsh Blazingstar
  • Great Blue Lobelia
  • Monkey Flower
  • Mountain Mint
  • Buttonbush
  • Sneezeweed
  • Sweet Black-eyed Susan
  • Ironweed
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Riddell’s Goldenrod
  • Blue Vervain
  • Mana Grasses
  • Wool Grass
  • Dark Green Bulrush
  • Bottlebrush Sedge.

2.  Wet-Mesic Plant Community

  • Canada Anemone
  • Sneezeweed
  • Boneset
  • Great St. John’s Wort
  • Wild Quinine
  • Nodding Onion
  • Great Blue Lobelia
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Sawtooth Sunflower
  • Blue Flag Iris
  • Blue Vervain
  • Mountain Mint
  • Swamp Milkweed
  • Prairie Cordgrass
  • Fox Sedge
  • Big Bluestem
  • New England Aster
  • Prairie Blazingstar
  • Marsh Blazingstar

3.  Mesic Plant Community

  • Anise Hyssop
  • New England Aster
  • Partridge Pea
  • Cream Gentian
  • Prairie Blazingstar
  • Foxglove Beardtongue
  • Wild Senna
  • Foxglove Beardtongue
  • Yellow Coneflower
  • Compass Plant
  • Pale Purple Coneflower
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Ox-eye Sunflower
  • White Prairie Clover
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Canada Milkvetch
  • Prairie Coreopsis
  • Sweet Black-eyed Susan
  • Smooth Blue Aster
  • Golden Alexanders
  • Rattlesnake Master
  • Big Bluestem
  • Indiangrass
  • Little Bluestem
  • Prairie Dropseed
  • Canada Wild Rye

4.  Dry-Mesic Prairie Plant Community

  • Anise Hyssop
  • Sky Blue Aster
  • Smooth Blue Aster
  • Showy Goldenrod
  • White Prairie Clover
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Stiff Goldenrod
  • Prairie Alum Root
  • Wild Bergamot
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Ohio Spiderwort
  • Pale Purple Coneflower
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Yellow Coneflower
  • Leadplant
  • Partridge Pea
  • Little Bluestem
  • Sideoats Grama
  • Rough Dropseed
  • Canada Wild Rye

5.  Dry Prairie Plant Community

  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Sky Blue Aster
  • Silky Aster
  • Cream Wild Indigo
  • Partridge Pea
  • Flowering Spurge
  • Showy Sunflower
  • Old Field Goldenrod
  • Alumroot
  • Rough Blazing Star
  • Wild Lupine
  • Spotted Bee Balm
  • Large-flowered Beardtongue
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Ohio Spiderwort
  • Hoary Vervain
  • Lead Plant
  • Wild Senna
  • Little Bluestem
  • Side-oats Grama
  • Sand Love Grass
  • June Grass
  • Blue Grama

Remember, nature has these self-made recipes for your wildflower gardens and reconstuction areas.

 To Purchase Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Us At http://ionxchange.com/

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