Sharp Lobed Hepatica 

Spring is just around the corner, and to help us start dreaming about spring, this month’s Plant of the Month is one of the earliest native flowers to bloom in my garden – Hepatica acutiloba – the Sharp Lobed Hepatica. This tough little perennial stays alive all winter, waiting for the first warm weather, and will often produce flowers before the snow is gone.  

As usual, the Plant Description and In the Garden sections are courtesy of Shaun Booth from In Our Nature. Shaun is also the co-author of our new book The Gardener’s Guide to Native Plants of the Southern Great Lakes Region. The book is now available to preorder from booksellers and should be on bookshelves by March 1, 2024. The Plant of the Month articles are adapted from the book. 

Common Name: Sharp Lobed Hepatica 

Scientific Name: Hepatica acutiloba 

Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family) 

Alternate Common Names: Liverleaf, Mountain Hepatica 

Plant Description: Sharp Lobed Hepatica is a low, stemless plant with three-lobed basal leaves. Leaves reach 7 cm long and wide on hairy stalks that reach up to 15 cm long. Each lobe is egg shaped with a pointy tip that distinguishes it from Round Lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana). A solitary flower is borne at the end of each hairy, leafless flower stalk. Flowers contain five to 12 petals, measure up to 3 cm across, and are backed by three hairy bracts. The flower stalks emerge before new leaf growth. 

In the Garden: Sharp Lobed Hepatica is among the first flowers to bloom in the spring, often flowering before the trees above have leafed out. Best planted in big clumps to add a delicate, cheerful statement to a shade garden. It’s slow to establish, but it will quickly become one of the plants you most look forward to in the spring. 

Skill Level: Beginner 

Lifespan: Perennial 

Exposure: Full shade to part shade 

Soil Type: Well-drained, semi-rich calcareous soil with a neutral pH 

Moisture: Moist to medium 

Height: 15 cm 

Spread: 10–15 cm 

Bloom Period: Apr, May 

Colour: White (pink, purple) 

Fragrant (Y/N):

Showy Fruit (Y/N):

Cut Flower (Y/N):

Pests: No serious insect or disease problems 

Natural Habitat: Rich deciduous or mixed woods, often in calcareous soils 

Wildlife Value: Early pollen source for native bees 

Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: None 

Moth Larva Host Plant For: None 

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9 

Propagation: Seeds should be sown immediately or stored moist (damp sphagnum moss works well), as they will not tolerate drying out. If starting indoors, they will benefit from 30 days of cold, moist stratification. Plants will not bloom until three years old or more. Plants may be divided in the fall, but it is important to make sure you do not break the leaves off as they are needed to keep this evergreen plant alive through the winter. Plant so the leaf buds are just at the soil surface, then mulch lightly. Divisions, however, are slow to increase. When dividing a clump, it is best to leave two to three buds in each division. 

Additional Info: Deer and rabbit resistant; it will tolerate somewhat dry conditions, but too much sun will damage the leaf edges. 

Native Range: 

American Spikenard 

As I write this in mid-January, I sit and dream about my spring, summer and fall gardens and one of the plants that always brings a smile to my face is my American Spikenard – Aralia racemosa. This large-leaved, shade tolerant plant produces masses of burgundy coloured, edible berries in late summer, early fall that are a favourite of the birds (I find them delicious, too, but the birds usually beat me to them). The plants can get up to 5’ (150 cm) tall, but in ideal conditions can get even bigger. Each fall they die off and re-emerge in the spring like a phoenix. As usual, the Plant Description and In the Garden sections, below, are courtesy of Shaun Booth from In Our Nature.) 

Common Name: Spikenard 

Scientific Name: Aralia racemosa 

Family: Araliaceae (Ginseng Family) 

Alternate Common Names: American Spikenard, Hungry Root, Indian Root, Life of Man, Old Man’s Root, Pettymorrel, Small Spikenard, Spiceberry, Spignet 

Plant Description: The smooth, maroon-coloured stems of Spikenard hold a few large (up to 60 cm long) compound leaves that are made up of many smaller leaflets, each measuring about 14 cm long. Leaflets are heart shaped at the base, sharply toothed, and abruptly taper to a pointed tip. Spikenard often grows wider than it is tall. Large, tapered flower clusters are made up of many tiny, stalked flowers. Individual flowers are under 1 cm across with five triangular petals. Flower stalks are covered in many fine hairs. Flowers give way to dense, hanging clusters of dark-red-to-purple fruit, 0.5 cm in diameter. 

In the Garden: Spikenard is a large, spreading perennial that gives the appearance of a shrub but dies back to the ground every year. It is valued in gardens for its lush leaves, ability to tolerate deep shade and its attractive broad form. The summer flowers bloom at a time when not much else is blooming in shade gardens. The dark red berries look like little jewels but don’t stick around long as they are a favourite food of many songbirds. Excellent as a specimen or in small groups. 

Skill Level: Beginner 

Lifespan: Perennial 

Exposure: Part shade to full shade 

Soil Type: Fertile, humus-rich loams, but tolerates a wide range of soils including rocky and clay ones 

Moisture: Wet to medium 

Height: 90–150 cm 

Spread: 120 cm 

Bloom Period: (Jun), Jul, (Aug) 

Colour: White 

Fragrant (Y/N):

Showy Fruit (Y/N): Y – ripening from mid August to early September (in southern Ontario) 

Cut Flower (Y/N):

Pests: No serious insect or disease problems 

Natural Habitat: Rich, usually moist beech-maple and hemlock-hardwood forests, especially along edges and clearings and in cedar swamps 

Wildlife Value: The berries of Aralia spp. are eaten by woodland songbirds and some small mammals 

Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: None 

Moth Larva Host Plant For: None 

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–8 

Propagation: Sow seeds immediately or keep moist. Germination is enhanced with scarification, either in a mild sulphuric acid or by rubbing with sandpaper. Cold, moist stratification may help germination, but artificial stratification seems to be hit-and-miss with these seeds. Easiest propagation is to divide old rootstocks when the plants go dormant in the fall, though plants may be slow to bloom after being disturbed. Plants may also be started from root cuttings. 

Additional Info: Plants will slowly spread over time by self-seeding and creeping rhizomes to form thickets. 

Edibility: Although I don’t usually comment on the edibility of garden plants, I will make an exception in this case. The ripe 4-6 mm diameter fruit has a very pleasant taste and can be used to make juice, fruit leathers, jellies, etc. Each berry does contain several seeds, so when you eat them raw (I find them quite delicious) you’ll be spitting out seeds. The root can be used in soups and imparts a spicy, anise-like flavouring (it has been used as a substitute for Wild Sarsaparilla – Aralia nudicaulis – to make root beer) and the young shoot tips can be cooked as a vegetable or used to flavour soups. 

Native Range: native throughout the southern Great Lakes region 

Lobelia Cardinalis

Cardinal Flower 

The last “Plant of the Month” for 2023. Since we really don’t have any native plants blooming at Christmas (other than, perhaps, Hamamelis virginiana – American Witch Hazel), I thought I’d do the next best thing and at least pick a plant that has “Christmas colour”. For that I chose the nice, cheery reds of Lobelia cardinalis, Cardinal Flower. 

This moisture loving, short lived perennial is a an essential rain garden or pond addition, and is sure to draw hummingbirds to your yard as it is one of their favourites (at least in my yard it is).  

As usual, the Plant Description and the In the Garden sections below are courtesy of Shaun Booth. 

Happy Native Plant Gardening! 

Common Name: Cardinal Flower 

Scientific Name: Lobelia cardinalis 

Family: Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family) 

Alternate Common Names: Indian Pink 

Plant Description: Cardinal Flower has an unbranched central stem that is light green and variably hairy. Leaves are attached to the stem in an alternate pattern and are up to 15 cm long and 4 cm wide but usually only get to half this size. The lower leaves have short stalks while the upper leaves are stalkless. Each leaf is coarsely toothed, sharply pointed, and usually hairless. Stems terminate with spike-like clusters of tubular, ascending red flowers, each measuring up to 4 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. The upper lip of each flower has two lobes that spread out sideways while the lower lip is divided into three lobes. A red style with a hooked tip rises above the upper lobes. Flowers turn into small capsules containing many tiny seeds. 

In the Garden: Cardinal Flower is nothing short of a showstopper! In midsummer it sends up magnificent spikes of scarlet red flowers that add a strong vertical presence to the landscape. Fortunately, herbivores tend to avoid this plant. 

Skill Level: Beginner to intermediate 

Lifespan: Short-lived perennial 

Exposure: Full sun to full shade (but does best in part shade) 

Soil Type: Clay to sandy, limestone-based soil and humus-rich soil 

Moisture: Moist to wet (needs constant moisture to thrive) 

Height: 30–120 cm 

Spread: 30–60 cm 

Bloom Period: Jul, Aug, Sep 

Colour: Red 

Fragrant (Y/N):

Showy Fruit (Y/N):

Cut Flower (Y/N):

Pests: No serious insect or disease problems, though snails and slugs may munch on the leaves 

Natural Habitat: Wet ditches and other low damp areas, seasonally inundated depressions in open woodlands, and along streambanks 

Wildlife Value: An important nectar source for hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies (Papilionidae

A favourite of the ruby throated hummingbird.

Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: None 

Moth Larva Host Plant For: Pink-washed Looper Moth (Enigmogramma basigera

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9 

Propagation: Surface sow as the very tiny seeds need light to break dormancy. Seeds require 60 days of cold, moist stratification to germinate if starting indoors or spring sowing. Surface sow in the fall. Basal offsets may be separated to start new plants. Plants may also be started by taking stem cuttings (be sure to include one or two nodes), but to ensure the plants have developed a good basal rosette, the earlier these cuttings are taken in the season, the better. New plants may also be propagated by layering; in midsummer, carefully bend the plant over and pin it to the ground, lightly covering the plant with soil. New roots will grow along the stem and new shoots will emerge, which can be transplanted in the fall. 

The very fine, almost powder like, seeds of Lobelia cardinalis require light to germinate.

Additional Info: Though this short-lived perennial typically only lives for two to three years, it can carry on in your garden by dividing it or moving it every year or two. This plant is at its finest when growing with minimal competition in forested wetlands. Note that commercial garden centres often sell cultivars of this plant that may or may not be as valuable to wildlife as the true species. 

Native Range: 

Cardinal flower can be found throughout the southern Great Lakes region, wherever soils are moist enough.

Common Name: Pearly Everlasting 

Scientific Name: Anaphalis margaritacea 

Family: Asteraceae (Aster Family) 

Alternate Common Names: Western Pearly Everlasting 

Plant Description: Pearly Everlasting has many upright stems that are clumped closely together, giving the plant a mounding appearance. The leaves are up to 10 cm long and 2 cm wide and, like the stems, are covered in numerous small hairs, giving the plant a silvery-green appearance. Numerous, 1 cm wide, yellow flowers enclosed in white bracts can be found blooming at the end of the stems. The seeds are very small and have tufts of white hairs that carry them off in the wind. 

In the Garden: Pearly Everlasting is an easy-to-grow plant that reliably thrives in the driest of sites. It is highly valued in gardens for its long bloom time. Caterpillars of the American Lady and Painted Lady butterflies feed on the foliage and will weave the leaves together with silk to create small tents. This is nothing to worry about because it is a sign of life in your garden. Your plant will make a full recovery from the hungry caterpillars. 

Skill Level: Beginner 

Lifespan: Perennial 

Exposure: Full sun to part shade 

Soil Type: Sandy or gravelly soils 

Moisture: Dry to medium 

Height: 30–100 cm 

Spread: 30–60 cm 

Bloom Period: Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct 

Colour: White 

Fragrant (Y/N): Y (when crushed) 

Showy Fruit (Y/N):

Cut Flower (Y/N): Y – Pearly everlasting makes excellent dried flowers for arrangements. It can also be used for fresh cut flowers 

Pests: No serious insect or disease problems, though there is some susceptibility to chewing damage from caterpillars 

Natural Habitat: Dry prairies, open woods, roadsides, and waste places 

Wildlife Value: Flowers are magnets for pollinators, such as butterflies and bees 

Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)  

Moth Larva Host Plant For: Everlasting Tebenna Moth (Tebenna gnaphaliella

USDA Hardiness Zones: 2–7 

Propagation: No pretreatment of seeds necessary, but surface sow as the tiny seeds require light to germinate. Plants may be divided in the spring or started from stem cuttings. Anaphalis margaritacea flowers are dioecious, meaning flowers are either male or female, and only one sex can be found on an individual plant, therefore if you want seeds you will need to have both a male and female plant. Male flowers are ball-like (globular) with many slender, erect yellowish-brown staminate flowers in the yellow centre disc. Female flowers are globular to egg-shaped with a yellowish to dark brown bristly ring around the top of the flower head. Both flowers have numerous tiny white bracts in many layers around the centre. The bracts on the female flowers do not spread out much until the seed starts forming. 

Additional Info: Pearly Everlasting flowers, leaves and stems have been used to produce yellow, gold, green and brown natural dyes. 

Native Range (shaded area):  

Gentiana andrewsii

There isn’t much flowering in my southern Ontario garden as I write this in Mid October. A few asters, a couple of goldenrods, a few harebells (Campanula) and some Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia). One that stands out, however, is the Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii). This very late purple flowering plant with blossoms that stay tightly closed has been blooming for several weeks now. As usual, the Plant Description and In the Garden sections are courtesy of Shaun Booth from In Our Nature.

The tightly closed blossoms of Bottle Gentian are a lovely, though unusual, addition to the garden.

Scientific Name: Gentiana andrewsii

Common Name: Bottle Gentian

Family: Gentianaceae (Gentian Family)

Alternate Common Names: Andrew’s Gentian, Blind Gentian, Cloistered Heart, Closed Bottle Gentian, Closed Gentian, Fringe-top Bottle Gentian, Gall Flower, Prairie Closed Gentian, Sampson’s Snakeroot

Plant Description: Bottle Gentian has smooth, unbranched stems that are round and light green to purple. Opposite, stalkless leaves are found along the stem with the uppermost set of leaves being whorled. Leaves are broadly lanceolate, glossy on top and become larger as they ascend the stem, reaching up to 10 cm long and 5 cm wide. The stem terminates with a cluster of tubular flowers, but there may also be secondary flower clusters emerging from leaf axils. Each flower measures 2.5 cm to 4 cm long and has five fused petals with tiny teeth around their tips. The flowers never open and resemble closed buds even when in full bloom. Each flower turns into a papery capsule that splits open to release many tiny seeds. Each seed has papery wings that allow them to be carried by water or wind.

In the Garden: Bottle Gentian is valued by gardeners for its intriguing flowers and bold leaves. The flowers add a welcomed touch of blue to the late-summer garden, while the leaves take on shades of purple and burgundy in the fall. Bottle Gentian is not competitive, so choose its companions wisely. Slow growing but well worth the wait!

Skill Level: Beginner

Lifespan: Perennial

Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Soil Type: Humus-rich, slightly acidic, sandy loam

Moisture: Moist to wet

Height: 30–60 cm

Spread: 30-­50 cm

Bloom Period: Aug, Sept, (Oct)

Colour: Blue, purple

Fragrant (Y/N): N

Showy Fruit (Y/N): N     

Cut Flower (Y/N): Y

Pests: Mature plants are rarely bothered by foliar disease or leaf-chewing insects

Natural Habitat: Moist and shaded sites, meadows, damp prairies, and along shores

Wildlife Value: Especially valuable to bumblebees, just about the only insect with enough strength to force its way into the closed flower

Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: None

Moth Larva Host Plant For: Verbena Bud Moth (Endothenia hebesana)

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–6

Propagation: Germination of seed requires cold, moist stratification for at least 60 days, and exposure to light (surface sow). Bottle Gentian are said to be difficult to start from seed, though William Cullina states that sowing outdoors in the fall produces excellent results. Some sources suggest plants may be propagated by dividing the root crowns in fall or early spring, but this is apparently tricky to do without killing the plant.

Bottle Gentian seeds are very tiny and should not be covered with soil as they need light to germinate.

Additional Info: Plant tends to lean at maturity, so plant among sturdier plants for support. If left undisturbed, plants in optimum growing conditions will naturalize over time into large clumps.

Native Range: (shaded area of map)

Smooth Aster 

It’s fall, the time for Goldenrods and Asters. For this month’s Plant of the Month, I will be covering Smooth Aster – a beautiful purply-blue, prolifically blossoming fall staple in the garden. One of the earlier asters to bloom in my garden, it signals the coming of autumn with its cooler temperatures and fall colours. As usual, the Plant Description and In the Garden sections are courtesy of Shaun Booth from In Our Nature. 

Symphyotrichum laeve (Smooth Aster) and Solidago nemoralis (Gray Goldenrod) – the colours of autumn

Common Name: Smooth Aster 

Scientific Name: Symphyotrichum laeve 

Family: Asteraceae (Aster Family) 

Alternate Common Names: Glaucous Aster, Purple Aster, Smooth Blue American Aster, Smooth Blue Aster, Smooth-leaved Aster 

Plant Description: Smooth Aster features one to a few erect, hairless stems that are usually green but can be a reddish colour. Leaves clasp the stems in an alternate pattern and measure about 10 cm long and 4 cm wide. They are smooth (almost waxy), shiny, toothless, and greenish blue on top and light green underneath. The basal leaves are toothed with winged petioles and are oblanceolate. Open, branching flower clusters are found at the top of the plant. Flowers can also arise from upper leaf axils (where the leaves meet the stem). Individual flowers measure up to 2.5 cm across and feature 15 to 30 oblong ray florets (petals) surrounding yellow centres that turn purplish red with age. Petal colour can vary from light blue to light purple. Four to six layers of bracts surround the base of each flower. They are smooth, appressed (flattened), and light green to bluish green and have diamond-shaped ends with a dark tip. Flowers give way to dry, brown, narrowly cone-shaped seeds, each with a tuft of light brown hairs that allow them to be carried by the wind. 

In the Garden: Smooth Aster is valued by gardeners for its copious blue blooms and non-aggressive growth habit. The flowers are frost hardy and bloom late into fall while the tough stems will persist through the winter months. Smooth Aster is easy to grow but doesn’t like being shaded by taller plants. A favourite food of rabbits, possibly due to the smooth leaves. 

Skill Level: Beginner 

Lifespan: Perennial 

Exposure: Full sun 

Soil Type: Any well-drained soil 

Moisture: Dry 

Height: 20–70 cm (occasionally to 120 cm) 

Spread: 30–60 cm 

Bloom Period: Sep, Oct (to frost) 

Colour: Blue 

Fragrant (Y/N):

Showy Fruit (Y/N):

Cut Flower (Y/N):

Pests: No serious insect or disease problems, though powdery mildew can affect the plant in some years 

Natural Habitat: Fields, open woods, and roadsides 

Wildlife Value: The nectar and pollen of the flower heads attract many species of native bees, butterflies, and other insects and Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) and Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) feed on both the leaves and seeds of asters; the seeds are also eaten by mice and American Tree Sparrows (Spizelloides arborea

Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis), Tawny Crescent (Phyciodes batesii), Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta), Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui

Moth Larva Host Plant For: At least 40 species of moths, including members of the tiger moths, ribbed cocoon-maker moths, case-bearer moths, twirler moths, geometer moths, leaf-blotch miner moths, slug caterpillar moths, owlet moths, clearwing moths, flower moths, trumpet leafminer moths, and tortrix moths. 

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3–9 

Propagation: Direct sow the seeds in late fall or early spring. No pretreatment is necessary even when starting indoors, but seeds need light to germinate. Germination is said to be slow. Transplanted seedlings will likely bloom in their first year. You can also multiply plants from root cuttings. 

Additional Info: Symphyotrichum laeve will tolerate short durations of seasonal flooding. It also self-sows strongly in open areas that are burned and mowed and is walnut (juglone) tolerant. 

Native Range: 

Campanulastrum Americanum

Common Name: Tall Bellflower 

I’ve long admired these growing in an old-growth forest bottomland near me, but only recently found them at a native plant nursery. I think they are far nicer than the invasive Creeping Bellflower, and wish they were more commonly available in garden centers. (As usual, the Plant Description and In The Garden sections are written by Shaun Booth, formerly from In Our Nature)

Scientific Name: Campanulastrum americanum  

Family: Campanulaceae (Bellflower Family) 

Alternate Common Names: American Bellflower 

Plant description: Tall Bellflower features erect, hairy, mostly unbranching stems with slight grooves along them. The leaves are found in an alternate pattern and measure about 7.6cm – 15cm long and 1.2cm – 5cm across, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem. They are lance to egg shaped, taper to a sharp tip, hairy along major veins on the underside with a rough upper surface and have serrated margins. The leaf base narrows to hairy leaf stalks. Stems terminate with a flowers spike measuring 15cm to 60cm long with shorter flower spikes emerging from leaf axils (where the leaf meets the stem). Individual flowers are 2.5cm across with 5 blue petals and a creamy white center ring. The petals have wavy edges and pointed tips. Each flower has a style (reproductive organ) protruding from the center of the flower. Flowers give way to three sectioned seed capsules up to 1.2cm long that release numerous tiny brown seeds when mature.  

Not to be confused with the common exotic garden weed, Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoide) which has more bell-shaped flowers compared to the saucer shaped flowers of Tall Bellflower. Creeping bellflower is also much shorter and more aggressive. 

Not native (and considered invasive in most jurisdictions in northeastern North America and beyond) is Campanula rapunculoides – Creeping Bellflower.

In the Garden: Tall Bellflower adds a strong vertical presence to gardens with delightful spires of violet-blue, star-shaped flowers. If its seeds are started in fall, then it acts as an annual. If its seeds are started in spring then it acts as a biennial. Due to its short-lived nature, it will persist in your garden via self-seeding. 

Skill level:  beginner 

Lifespan: annual/biennial 

Exposure: sun to light shade 

Soil Type: rich loam, clay, sand, circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)  

Moisture: moist to medium (plants need regular and even moisture) 

Height: 150-200 cm 

Spread: 30-60 cm 

Bloom Period: Jun, Jul, Aug 

Colour: blue 

Fragrant (Y/N):

Showy Fruit (Y/N):

Cut Flower (Y/N):

Pests: no serious insect or disease problems though slugs and snails are occasional visitors, and watch for aphids 

Natural Habitat: marshy ground, stream banks, openings in deciduous forests, and in disturbed areas such as trails, edges of fields and along railroads 

Wildlife Value: A number of bees, including bumblebees and leaf cutting bees, butterflies and skippers, seek nectar and or pollen, and deer occasionally eat the flowers and foliage 

Butterfly & Moth Larva Host Plant For: none 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-7 

Propagation: [NT, L] No treatment needed as seeds germinate easily, but they require light to break dormancy, so do not cover the seeds.  

Additional Info: Deadhead spent flowers to encourage additional bloom. Plants are annual or biennial but will easily remain in a garden by self-seeding. Tall bellflower is listed as Endangered in New York State. 

Native Range: 

Native range (shaded) of Campanulastrum americanum – American Bellflower.

Canada Lily 

Some of the most popular posts on my Facebook page are the images of my Canada Lily (Lilium canadense). Technically not native to the part of Ontario that I live in (it could be classified as a “near native” here), it nevertheless thrives in my garden. Each year this plant sends up more shoots and has more blossoms.  

I planted it as a small potted plant five years ago. A year later it was about 4’ tall and had two blossoms. The next year it shot up to just over 7’4” and had 24 blooms. Last year a second stalk appeared and the taller one reached an amazing 7’9” and there were 53 blooms between the two plants. This year, it just got bigger and more spectacular. A total of 8 stems produced 102 flowers and the tallest of these plants reached an incredible 7’11.5”. 

In this month’s Plant of the Month I am writing about this amazing species.  As usual, the Plant Description and In the Garden sections are courtesy of Shaun Booth from In Our Nature. 

Common Name: Canada Lily 

Scientific Name: Lilium canadense 

Family: Liliaceae (Lily Family) 

Alternate Common Names: Meadow Lily, Wild Yellow Lily, Yellow Wood Lily 

Plant Description: Canada Lily features smooth, light green stems that are unbranched, except at the top where the flowers are found. Leaves are distributed along the stem in whorls of three to eight with some smaller alternate leaves occurring along the upper portion of the stem. Each leaf is up to 15 cm long, 2.5 cm wide, smooth, toothless, and narrowly ovate. Stems terminate with up to 20 nodding, trumpet-shaped flowers borne on long stalks and can range in colour from reddish orange to yellow. These flowers are up to 10 cm across and feature six tepals that flare backwards (but not past the base of the flower), six stamens, and dark dots on the inside of the tepals. Flowers become oblong, 5 cm long seed capsules that are divided into three cells containing flat seeds. 

In the Garden: Canada Lily adorns the summer garden with trumpet-like flowers that hang gracefully from the plant. Besides its blooms, it is valued for its clumping habit and interesting whorled foliage. 

Skill Level: Beginner to intermediate 

Lifespan: Perennial 

Exposure: Full sun to part shade (prefers dappled shade) 

Soil Type: Rich loamy or slightly sandy soil 

Moisture: Moist to medium 

Height: 90–240 cm 

Spread: 15–20 cm 

Bloom Period: Jun, Jul, Aug 

Colour: Red, orange, or yellow 

Flowers may be yellow, orange, red, or a combination.

Fragrant (Y/N):

Showy Fruit (Y/N):

Cut Flower (Y/N):

Pests: The caterpillars of several moth species feed on the leaves, stems, and corms of Canada Lily, and the introduced Lily Leaf Beetle or Red Lily Beetle (Lilioceris lilii) feeds on its leaves 

Natural Habitat: Wet meadows, moist rich woods, streamsides, and wetlands, and along wet roadsides and railroads 

Wildlife Value: The nectar attracts large butterflies, particularly the Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) and various swallowtail butterflies. Some bees collect pollen from the flowers, but they are ineffective at cross-pollination because of their small size. A number of mammalian herbivores browse on the foliage, and voles and chipmunks are known to eat the corms. Rabbits ate off several new lilies I planted last year, and squirrels dug out the corms of others before I had a chance to cover them with chicken wire – but once established the plants seem pretty robust. 

Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: None 

Moth Larva Host Plant For: Carrion Flower Moth (Acrolepiopsis incertella), Burdock Borer Moth (Papaipema cataphracta), Golden Borer Moth (Papaipema cerina), Common Borer Moth (Papaipema nebris), Sparganothis Leafroller Moth (Sparganothis sulfureana

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4–8 

Propagation: [WC; D] Canada Lily seeds must undergo a period of one to two months of warmth, at which time they will swell and become a small bulb. These then need another 60 to 90 days of cold before they begin to sprout. Seedlings typically go dormant by midsummer. Plants grown from seed will take five to six years before they flower. Propagation is easiest from division of the scaly bulb, which can be dug as soon as the plant goes dormant in late summer. 

Additional Info: Canada Lily is primarily pollinated by the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) and large butteflies such as the swallowtails. Canada lily is listed as Threatened in Indiana. 

Native Range (shaded area on map): 

Butterfly Milkweed

As I write this in mid-June, the Butterfly Milkweed in my southwestern Ontario garden is just starting to get an orange tinge to the flower buds. This brilliant orange flower loves sun and sand and its tuberous root (from which it gets its specific epithet – tuberosa) makes it a great drought tolerant choice for the garden. A favourite of butterflies, bees, wasps and other insects, no sun-drenched garden should be without it. Plant Description and In the Garden sections, below, are courtesy of Shaun Booth of In Our Nature

Asclepias tuberosa flower buds starting to colour up in my garden.

Common Name: Butterfly Milkweed

Scientific Name: Asclepias tuberosa

Family: Asclepiadaceae (Milkweed Family)

Alternate Common Names: Butterflyweed, Chigger Flower, Orange Milkweed, Pleurisy Root

Plant Description: Butterfly Milkweed is characterized by rigid, hairy stems with lance-shaped, alternate leaves attached with little to no leaf stalk. Leaves measure about 5-15cm long and 2.5cm wide and are toothless, glabrous on top, sparsely hairy underneath and end with a pointed tip. Only the foliage exudes a milky sap. Stems are mostly unbranching except for at the top where several flat-topped flower clusters, up to 8cm across, can be found. Each cluster is made up of up to 25 individual flowers measuring about 1cm across. Flowers are characterized by 5 hoods with a curved horn emerging from each one and arching towards the central crown. Each flower has 5 backwards flared petals. Flowers give way to narrow, smooth, 15cm long seed pods. Each pod contains numerous flat brown seeds with tufts of white silk that allow them to be carried by the wind.

In the Garden: Butterfly Milkweed is valued in gardens for its cheerful orange flowers, long bloom time and high drought tolerance. It maintains a clumping form and is not an aggressive spreader which makes it suitable for small or formal gardens. The deep taproot makes it hard to transplant, so choose its location wisely. Stems remain upright well into the winter months.

Skill Level: beginner

Lifespan: perennial

Exposure: full sun – not shade tolerant

Soil Type: prefers sandy or rocky soil that is well-drained

Moisture: dry to medium

Height: 80 cm

Spread: 45 cm

Bloom Period: Jun, Jul, Aug

Colour: orange

Fragrant (Y/N): N

Showy Fruit (Y/N): N

Cut Flower (Y/N): Y

Pests: no serious insect or disease problems, though crown rot can be a problem in wet, poorly drained soils and it is susceptible to rust and leaf spot.

Natural Habitat: prairies, open woods or on roadsides

Wildlife Value: nectar source for native bees, butterflies and hummingbirds

Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), Grey Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), and Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

Moth Larva Host Plant For: Unexpected Cycnia (Cycnia inopinatus), Delicate Cycnia (Cycnia tenera), Milkweed Tussock Moth (Euchaetes egle), Stalk Borer Moth (Papaipema nebris), Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia Isabella), Striped Garden Caterpillar (Trichordestra legitima)

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Propagation: Seeds sown in the spring require 30 days cold stratification. Plants are easily grown from seed, but are somewhat slow to establish and may take 2-3 years to produce flowers. Butterfly Milkweed does not transplant well due to its deep taproot, and is probably best left undisturbed once established. The quickest method of propagation is root cuttings. In the fall, cut the taproot into 2-inch sections and plant each section vertically, keeping the area moist.

Additional Info: Unlike many of the other milkweeds, this species does not have milky-sapped stems. Asclepias tuberosa will host monarch butterfly caterpillars but if other milkweeds are present this one is often ignored.

Native Range:

Spotted Jewelweed

Areas with a fair bit of moisture are perfect candidates for this beautiful annual flower, often found along shady stream banks and in low forested wetland areas. Long known for the ability of its crushed stems to cure the itch of mosquito bites or even poison ivy, its exploding seed pods are also a favourite of children of all ages. Plant Description and In the Garden sections, below, are courtesy of Shaun Booth of In Our Nature

Common Name: Spotted Jewelweed

Scientific Name: Impatiens capensis 

Family: Balsaminaceae (Touch-me-not Family) 

Alternate Common Names: Orange Balsam, Orange Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-me-not, Wild Balsam 

Plant description: Jewelweed is a heavily branched plant with smooth, succulent stems that are reddish green and nearly translucent. Oval to egg-shaped leaves are borne in an alternate pattern and measure up to 7.6cm long and almost 3.8cm wide. They are smooth to the touch with widely spaced, broad teeth. Flowers measure 2.5cm long by 2cm wide and emerge from upper leaf axils (where the leaf meets the stem) in small clusters of 1-3 flowers. Each flower is tubular in shape with two broad lower lobes and one smaller upper lobe. Sticking out from the back of each flower is a long, narrow nectar spur that curls back underneath of the flower. Colour can vary but they are usually orange with red spots on the front petals. Note that these red spots may be very dense or even completely absent, depending on the specimen. Flowers give way to thin green seed pods that pop open from the slightest touch to spread their seeds away from the mother plant. 

In the Garden: The vibrant orange flowers of Jewelweed dangle gracefully between its lush foliage, blooming for months on end. It will eagerly self-seed and quickly cover shady, moist areas with beauty and wildlife value. 

Lifespan: annual 

Exposure: shade to part shade 

Soil Type: fertile clay, loam, sand with an abundance of organic material 

Moisture: moist, wet (submergence of the roots by flood water is tolerated for up to 2 weeks without apparent ill-effects) 

Height: 90-150 cm 

Spread: 45-75 cm 

Bloom Period: Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct (till frost) 

Colour: orange 

Fragrant (Y/N):

Showy Fruit (Y/N):

Cut Flower (Y/N):

Pests: few pest problems 

Natural Habitat: shady wetlands 

Wildlife value: Hummingbirds and butterflies seek nectar, and several native bees (listed by the Xerces society as of special value to bumblebees) collect pollen; deer will browse the foliage, while mice and many birds eat the seeds 

Butterfly Larva Host Plant For: none 

Moth Larva Host Plant For: Obtuse Euchlaena (Euchlaena obtusaria), Pink-Legged Tiger Moth (Spilosoma latipennis), White-Striped Black (Trichodezia albovittata

The White-striped Black moth (Trichodezia albovittata) will grace your gardens if you have lots of jewelweed.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-11 

Propagation: [CWC, L, M] Seeds are best sown when fresh as they do not tolerate drying out. Jewelweed seeds need light to germinate and a period of cold moist stratification, followed by warm moist period, then another period of moist cold. They typically require 2 years to germinate in the wild, though depending on the winter conditions they may germinate after the first winter. 

Additional Info: The juice from jewelweed stems contains a compound called lawsone which has shown to have antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. It is said to relieve itching from poison ivy mosquito bites, stinging nettle and has also been used to treat athlete’s foot. 

The plant gets one of its common names, ‘touch-me-not’ because when the ripe seed pods are touched even lightly, the pods’ explosive spring-action projects the seeds for a distance of a meter or more. 

From my YouTube videos – this is a jewelweed seed pod “exploding” recorded at 1/8 normal speed. It’s no wonder their seeds find their way far from the parent plant.

Native Range: 

Very similar to Yellow Jewelweed: 

Scientific Name: Impatiens pallida 

Common Name: Yellow Jewelweed 

Alternate Common Names: Balsam-weed, Pale Jewelweed, Pale Snapweed, Pale Touch-me-not, Quick-in-the-hand, Silverweed, Slippers, Slipperweed, Snapweed, Speckled Jewels, Spotted Touch-me-not, Wild Balsam 

Yellow Jewelweed has fewer, but larger, yellow flowers than Spotted Jewelweed, with a shorter spur that bends down rather than parallel with the flower. It also has more finely toothed leaves and is a much larger plant overall. I. pallida also seems to prefer soils on the sandier end of the spectrum vs I. capensis, which seems to favour heavier soils. 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-7 

Native Range: