Glandular canadensis, Verbenaceae family
This fragrant plant can grow in very dry soil in full sun, making it a great rock garden plant. Its common name is rose verbena and you can find it blooming right now along road sides, rocky bluffs, prairies, glades and sunny hillsides all over Missouri. Its sprawling low-growing habit lends itself to being used as a ground cover in rock gardens. It does spread and will take over an area (not quite like mint though). The flower color is simly stunning. From rose to purple shades.
Check out the Tucker greenhouse rock garden located on the north side of the Tucker greenhouse.
Oncopeltus fasciatura (Hemiptera), or large Milkweed bug. The picture above shows a group of milkweed bugs in various stages of growth on a milkweed seed pod. These bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. The nymphs look just like the adults, but don’t have wings and are a different color.
Oleander aphids on milkweed pod.
Oleander aphids, Aphis nerii, are bright yellow aphids that feed on several ornamental plants within the Apocynaceae family. You may see an occasional brownish looking aphid in the bunch. These have been parasitized by the parasitoid wasp, Lysiphelbus testaceips.
If you get a chance, look closely at a milkweed plant. Chances are, it will be covered with insects of all kinds.
Platycodon gradiflorus, commonly called Balloon flower is found in the Campanulaceae family. Balloon flowers get their name from the shape of their unopened buds.
This unopened flower bud looks a little bit like a balloon. As the bud develops and the flower eventually opens, you’ll see five purple petals in a bell-shaped or campanulate flower shape. You’ll also see an anther tube through which the style grows before spreading apart (plunger pollination).
As the style elongates through the anther tube, it gets covered with pollen and the five light-colored anthers lay prostrate against the petals or corolla.
Eventually, the style opens up into a five-branched stigma.
Cornus drummondii, commonly called Rough-leaved Dogwood, found in the Cornaceae family, is blooming in the Tucker Woodland Garden.
Cornus drummondii is a small tree or large shrub with opposite leaves that are rough on the top side of the leaf and wooly on the underside. The flowers are white and bloom in clusters, with each flower having 4 petals. Rough-leaved Dogwoods are native to Missouri, and can be found growing in dry, rocky woods, These trees form thickets as they spread from underground stems.
Monarch butterflies aren’t the only insects interested in milkweed plants. Just today I spied a red milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) on a Asclepias syriaca plant right outside of the Tucker Greenhouse. The scientific name for this beetle is Latin for ‘four eyes’. This beetle looks as though it has four eyes since each antenna bisects its eyes. They are also called milkweed longhorns because of their long antennae.
When I first saw this beetle, it was sort of hiding down in the whorl of the leaves, but it had clearly been chewing the leaves. It turns out that milkweed plants in the genus Asclepias are the host plants for this beetle. Milkweed plants contain certain toxic alkaloids, so it has been surmised that the beetle gets a certain amount of protection from predators by ingesting these toxins. If you’d like to learn more about these cool insects, click here.
Check out these very colorful Milkweed beetles below.
Milkweed beetle on an Asclepius syriaca leaf
Asclepias tuberosa, commonly called Butterfly weed, is found in the Apocynaceae, or Milkweed family. Butterfly weed is a native Missouri, drought tolerant plant with orangish yellow flowers. These beautiful flowers usually start blooming in June and continue through August. The Tucker Rock Garden milkweeds have just now begun to bloom. These flowers are a nectar source for many different butterfly species, honeybees, digger bees, leaf-cutting bees, Halictid bees, thread-waisted wasps, Sphecid wasps, and even Hummingbirds.
The leaves are a very important food source for Monarch butterfly larvae. To read more about the very cool Monarch butterfly/Milkweed relationship, click here.
If you look closely at the top left in the photo above, you’ll see two lady bugs mating. I looked a little more closely and saw that this particular milkweed plant had several milkweed or oleander aphids on the stems. Ladybugs love to eat aphids and are often used as beneficial insects to feed on plant pests like aphids in greenhouses, so it’s no wonder these ladybugs congregated on this plant. To read more about oleander aphids, click here.
The genus ‘Asclepias’ comes from the Greek god Asklepios, the god of medicine. Asclepias tuberosa is also called pleurisy root and was once considered to be a cure for pleurisy (inflammation of the lungs). Species names are often adjectives that somehow describe a given plant. In the case of Asclepias tuberosa, ‘tuberosa’ refers to the tuberous root system of the plant.
The seed pods of Butterfly weed are called follicles. Botanically speaking, a follicle is a dry, dehiscent fruit composed of a single carpel and opening along a single side. The seeds themselves are packed tightly inside the follicle. Later on in the fall when the follicle dries and opens (dehisces), seeds emerge with an attached tuft of silky hairs that aid in seed dispersal when blown in the wind. The pictures below show the dried milkweed follicle packed with seeds equipped with these soft, silky hairs.
Callirhoe involucrata, commonly called Purple Poppy Mallow, is found in the Malvaceae family. They prefer dry soil, full sun, and readily reseed themselves.
Tradescantia ohiensis, commonly called Ohio Spiderwort, is found in the Commelinaceae family. Spiderworts have beautiful bluish-purple flowers with three petals, bright yellow anthers, and very hairy purple filaments. They bloom from late spring to mid-summer and prefer to grow in full sun, and they can also grow in very dry soil. Long-tongued bees, especially bumblebees are common pollinators.
Ratibida pinnata, commonly called Gary-headed Coneflower, is found in the Asteraceae family. These beautiful, yellow coneflowers prefer full sun and dry conditions.
Ratibida columnifera, commonly called Mexican Hat, is found in the Asteraceae family. The common name, ‘Mexican Hat’, refers to the resemblance the head inflorescence has to a sombrero. This native Missouri plant prefers full sun, and can withstand very dry soil. It reseeds readily.
Primrose-Oenothera sp., Onagraceae family
Echinacea purpurea, or Purple Prairie Coneflower is found in the Asteraceae family. Coneflowers typically bloom from late May through August, and they thrive in full sun to part shade. They tolerate drought and heat very well. The genus name of Echinacea comes from the Greek word echinos meaning hedgehog, referring to the appearance of the prickly central cone, or seed head. The flowers are visited by many different pollinators such as long-tongued bees, Halictid bees, bee flies, butterflies, and skippers. Small songbirds such as Goldfinches often eat the seed heads of these flowers.
Echinacea is a medicinal plant as well. Native Americans used it to treat infections and wounds, but today people use it as a way to boost their immune systems. It’s used to fight the common cold and reduce symptoms of sore throat, and fever. The Tucker Rock Garden has several Purple Coneflower plants. The photo below is of a very young flower. When the flowers are fully mature, each dense head inflorescence will be filled with numerous pinkish purple ray flowers and in the center of the head there will be hundreds of reddish orange disk flowers. So, the next time you look at a sunflower, coneflower or daisy, you are actually looking at two different types of flowers condensed into one head inflorescence botanically known as a capitulum.
I’ll be posting more photos of these cone flowers as they mature……..
Young coneflower head in late May 2016
Same cornflower one week later
Same coneflower one week later
Lychnis calcedonica, commonly called Maltese Cross, is found in the Caryophyllaceae family.
This beautiful member of the Pink family (Caryphyllaceae family) is a native of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. Members of this family often have notches in their petals, like Carnations, Dianthus, and Silene. This plants attracts butterflies and hummingbirds in great numbers.