Friday, September 23, 2011

The Common Persimmon

The common persimmon is also known as the Eastern persimmon. Botanically, it is known as Diospyros virginiana. It is native to the United States and is a member of the Ebenaceae, or Ebony, family of plants. It is a low growing and shrubby tree.

Common Persimmon Description

This tree grows up to 15 feet high with large oval leaves and yellow bell-like flowers. The flowers are partially hidden. It grows in a spreading crown. Green leaves turn yellow-green in fall. There is large edible fruit that is orange. Trunks, when aged, are thick and dark gray-black, broken into scaly blocks. It is a deciduous tree.

Growing Guide

The common persimmon prefers to grow in partial shade and in rich moist soil. It does fine in dry soil and acidic soils too. Propagate by root cuttings and by stratified seed.  It may be grafted as any other fruit tree too. Seeds may need stratification, two to three months at 36 to 41 degrees. Germination is also improved by clipping the caps of the seed as well.


The persimmon fruit is an old favourite, sweet and tasting like dates. When it isn’t matured, it will have an astringent taste because of the tannin. Mature fruits are made into cakes, puddings, and some beverages.

Distribution of the Persimmon

This tree is found throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Wildlife Attracted

This tree attracts birds and small mammals for the fruits and it is also a larval host plant for the Luna moth. It is also a browse for a variety of wildlife.


The fruits are ripe and sweet and were eaten by the indigenous people of the Southeast.

Source: NPIN,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Planting and Growing Sundrops

Also known as Narrowleaf Evening Primrose or Oenothera fruticosa, the Sundrops perennial is an easy-to-grow drought-tolerant plant that attracts songbirds and hummingbirds. It is a common wildflower in the United States.

Plant Description

Growing up to three feet high with erect stems and yellow flowers, a sundrops plant is an herbaceous perennial.  Stems are hairy and have a reddish hue. Flowers are clear yellow with an orange stamen and moderately green leaves that will turn red after it gets cold. The leaves are oval, toothed, and also hairy. Flowers are in racemes, usually between three and ten at the branch edge.

Growing Guide

Grow the sundrops in full sun or partial shade with a wet or dry soil. Propagate by seeds in the fall, by root division in the spring, or stem tip cuttings also in the spring. It has a USDA hardiness range of 4 through 8. It does well in acidic soil.


  • Cherokee Indians once ate the leaves after boiling and then cooking in hot grease. 
  • Of the 125 species of evening primrose, many are weeds and only six are popular as a garden flower.
  • It is a flower on Connecticut’s Species of Special Concern list.


This flower does very good as a border plant or for edging. With the delicate nature of the plant, it really stands out in rock gardens. With the new-found interest in native gardening, the sundrops is getting attention as a low maintenance plant. It will die to the ground come winter but will rise again in the spring. Another use for it is for bringing hummingbirds to the landscape.

This flower, while a wildflower, looks great cultivated in a garden bed. The yellow on the flower looks like sunshine with its brightness. Bringing native species into your garden can help you increase the likelihood that native wildlife can survive.



Friday, September 9, 2011

Blue Native Wildflowers for your Garden

There are many times that a gardener or landscaper has a specific color theme in mind for their gardens. These native wildflowers are all in various shades of blue and are good starters to a native plant garden or a wildflower garden. Always check to make sure they are suited to your particular hardiness range and soil type.

Amsonia ciliata Walt. (Blue Funnel Lily, Bluestar, Fringed Bluestar)

The blue funnel lily is a member of the dogbane family and grows 15 to 24 inches high. Half-inch leaves run along the entire flower stem to the star-like 5-petaled pale blue flower. Leaves are smooth and smaller toward the flower part of the stem. Flowers occur from March through June. The blue funnel lily prefers partial shade and a dry well-drained soil. Propagate by root division or seed. If by seed, germination will improve after cold moist stratification. It was named for Dr. Charles Amson, a scientific traveler and physician from the 18th century.

Campanulastrum americanum (L.) Small (American Bellflower, Tall Bellflower)

The American bellflower grows three to four feet high with lavender-blue 5-petaled flowers blooming June through August. It does attract hummingbirds to the landscape. This bellflower prefers partial shade and moist neutral soil. Propagate by seeds. This was once Campanula americana but because of the flower’s unique structure was reassigned to its own genus and became Campanulastrum americanum. It attracts bumblebees, leaf-cutting bees, butterflies and Syrphid flies.

Gentiana saponaria L. (Soapwort Gentian, Harvestbells, Gentiana saponaria var, saponaria, Dasystephana saponaria)

Soapwort gentian grows eight to 20 inches tall. It is a perennial with light green lance-like leaves and bottle-like blue-violet flowers in a terminal or cluster. The flowers only open partially. Blooms arrive August through October. It prefers partial shade and acidic fertile soil. Propagate by division or seed. Divide the root crown in fall or early spring or sow seed as soon as they are mature.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Native Wildflowers that Need Acidic Soil

There are two types of plants; those that thrive in acidic soil and those that wither away and die. If you’ve an acidic soil garden area or landscape and need those plants that won’t wither, these are good native plant choices for you.

Asclepias tuberosa L. (Butterfly Milkweed, Orange Milkweed)

This fine milkweed gets up to two to three feet high and needs a spacing of around 14 to 18 inches apart. Its fire-orange blooms will appear from mid-summer to early fall, and they prefer full sun. Since it is a milkweed, butterflies will flock to this plant. It is drought tolerant and prefers mildly acidic soil. Don’t be alarmed if there aren’t blooms in the first years; it may take up to three years to see flowers. You will need to find an aphid killer, as milkweeds tend to have aphids. To propagate you may divide or direct sow seeds outdoors after frost. Remember Monarch larvae can only survive on Asclepias, therefore to have these incredible butterflies you will need to have some milkweeds around. WARNING: Parts of this milkweed are poisonous.

Chamaelirium luteum (L.) Gray (Fairywand, Blazing Star)

The fairywand is a perennial that grows up to four feet with 6-inch leaves. Dense and spiky, it has white flowers that fade to yellow. Blooms are on a four to eight inch raceme for male plants, female plants have a slightly shorter raceme. Flowers bloom from March to June. It has evergreen foliage. Plant a fairywand in partial shade and acidic rich soil. The name comes from the Greek meaning “on the ground lily”. It was used by Native Americans as a uterine tonic to strengthen the reproductive system.

Helianthus strumosus L. (Woodland Sunflower, Paleleaf Sunflower)

This sunflower grows up to seven feet high with narrow eight inch long leaves. Leaves appear white on their undersides and are oval in shape. Ray flowers are yellow and in clusters on branch tips. Some flower heads can be two to four inches wide and will bloom July through September. Woodland sunflower prefers any lighting and dry acidic soils. Propagate by seed, clump division and by stem cuttings. Clump division is the easiest for this particular plant.