A leaf-cutter bee found on farewell-to-spring at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center.

This entry is from Lucas Costner, an undergraduate horticulture major at Oregon State University.  It highlights one of the plants that Aaron Anderson is using in his research.

Clarkia amoena or, as it is commonly known, farewell-to-spring, is a personal favorite of mine. An annual plant found throughout coastal areas ranging from British Columbia to California, the showy farewell-to-spring offers color, structure, and a lengthy bloom time for a variety of uses in the garden (1, 2). It is hardy from USDA zones 2 through 11, and prefers well-drained soil of average fertility (2). The type variety features upright stems with lanceolate leaves and cup-shaped pink and purple flowers, sometimes with reddish markings on the inside of the petals (1). There are cultivated varieties widely available for purchase as well, often with more profuse and different colored blooms (1). While farewell-to-spring is an annual plant, it will readily self-seed in areas meeting its rather undemanding growing conditions (1). You can, therefore, expect to see it year after year once established. Seeds can be sown directly on the surface of the soil in either fall or spring (2).

At the North Willamette Research and Extension Center, where we are conducting our native plants study, we have observed a number of insect pollinators visiting farewelll-to-spring, as well as a hummingbird, which managed to both startle and distract me while performing pollinator observations. Another honorable mention is due to the leaf-cutter bee, which Aaron and I witnessed time and again munching off pieces of Clarkia petal and carrying them to some unknown location. The USDA lists European honey bees, native bumbles and mason bees, as well as butterflies amongst the main insect pollinator visitors (2). These species, in addition to those anecdotally observed in the field, suggest that farewell-to-spring could be an excellent native addition to pollinator gardens, providing general forage to a wide variety of species.

 

Sources:

1. “Clarkia amonea.” Plant Finder, Missouri Botanical Garden, www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=283040&isprofile=0&.

2. Young-Mathews, A. 2012. Plant fact sheet for farewell to spring (Clarkia amoena). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Corvallis Plant Materials Center, Corvallis, OR.

One of the western pearly everlasting specimens from our Native Plant study.

Now that our lab group is working on native plants and native bees, I thought it would be fun to do a ‘Plant of the Week’ and ‘Bee of the Week’ series.  This entry is from Lucas Costner, an undergraduate horticulture major at Oregon State University.  It highlights one of the plants that Aaron Anderson is using in his research.

Out of all the plants we have looked at this field season, the western pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) has been one of the most interesting. Initially not sure what to expect, the overall longevity, profuseness of bloom, and general hardiness in response to the growing conditions at our site and the wrath of some weeders/mowers have all been surprising. Suffice it to say the name pearly everlasting is well-deserved. These plants, bursting with small white and yellow disk-shaped flowers, can grow up to 3 feet in height and up to 2 feet in width (2).

The western pearly everlasting is a perennial (2) native to and found throughout most of the continental United States and Canada, excluding the southeastern states and notably North Dakota (1). It is the only naturally occurring species of the genus Anaphalis in North America (1), and is hardy through USDA zones 3 to 8 (2). In terms of care, pearly everlasting is very self-sufficient — just add sun! It grows well in areas with full sun to part shade, is drought tolerant, and requires little in the way of fertilizer or other soil amendments (2). Given the opportunity, western pearly everlasting has been known to spread aggressively in the soil via runners (2).

These plants are also interesting because they exhibit dioecy (3), meaning that the flowers are either male or female. This is rare amongst other members of the Asteraceae family, but it is a great evolutionary strategy to limit self-pollination. Purportedly, the plant plays host for caterpillars of the American Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) (4). Outside of this, however, the wildlife benefits are largely unknown.

After witnessing the vivacity of the western pearly everlasting myself, I think it would be of interest to anyone looking to fill a particularly dry and difficult area of the garden with a pleasant, native wildflower. While some of the other plants I have written about here (Solidago canadensis and Asclepias speciosa) are known to be spready, I cannot overemphasize how vigorously this plant has grown in the field. Every week I find myself being surprised by some new plantlet popping its head out the hard dry soil or a new set of inflorescences about to go into full bloom.

References:

  1. Fertig, Walter . “Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea).” Forest Service, USDA, www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/anaphalis_margaritacea.shtml. Accessed 5 Sept. 2017.
  2. “Anaphalis margaritacea.” Plant Finder, Missouri Botanical Garden , www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=j330. Accessed 5 Sept. 2017.
  3. “Pearly Everlasting.” In Defense of Plants, 22 Sept. 2015, www.indefenseofplants.com/blog/2015/9/22/pearly-everlasting. Accessed 5 Sept. 2017.
  4. “American Lady .” Butterflies and Moths of North America, 30 May 2015, www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/vanessa-virginiensis. Accessed 5 Sept. 2017.
A bee visits one of the Solidago canadensis plots in our Native Plant study.

Now that our lab group is working on native plants and native bees, I thought it would be fun to do a ‘Plant of the Week’ and ‘Bee of the Week’ series.  This entry is from Lucas Costner, an undergraduate horticulture major at Oregon State University.  It highlights one of the plants that Aaron Anderson is using in his research.

Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) is a perennial forb in the Aster family (Asteraceae), native and extant throughout most of North America, including of course the Pacific Northwest (1, 3). Perhaps due to its extensive range, Canada goldenrod exhibits a great deal regional variation with five varieties of the plant in current recognition (3). In the Northwest, Canada goldenrod typically flowers in late summer (2), bursting with small, star-shaped yellow flowers that are attractive to a variety of insects.

Aaron likes to refer to the species as an insect “truck-stop”, emphasizing both the spectrum of visiting insects as well as the pollen and nectar resources made available to pollinators. In the field, we have observed visits from yellow-faced bumblebees, honey bees, long-horned bees, and syrphid flies (just to name a few). The USDA notes that the plant is visited by at least two beneficial wasp species, as well as many species of native, specialist bees (1).

Generally speaking, Canada goldenrod is a low-maintenance species. Given sufficient sunlight, the plants require little in terms of additional water or fertilizer. It easily forms large colonies, spreading aggressively by both rhizomes and seeds (3). That being said, it might not make the best choice for all gardeners, considering its ability to spread and persist in a site. If space and management are not of concern, however, Canada goldenrod can be used to create impressive drifts of yellow flowers and pairs well with other prairie plants. The brightly colored spikes can also be used to make an interesting cut-flower.

References:

  1. Pavek, P.L.S. 2011. Plant guide for Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. Pullman, W A.
  2. “Solidago canadensis: Canada Goldenrod.” Washington Native Plant Society, 8 Nov. 2007, www.wnps.org/landscaping/herbarium/pages/solidago-canadensis.html. Accessed 16 Aug. 2017.
  3. Coladonato, Milo. 1993. Solidago canadensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/forb/solcan/all.html [2017, August 16].