As we get into the hotter months in Missouri, many of our prairie and glade natives begin to push their blooms, taking advantage of the myriad pollinators actively foraging. One such plant, the queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra), is a sight to behold. Growing in moist, open meadows, Filipendula towers above companion grasses and perennials to reach heights of 6-8’ and can be seen from great distances. The large clusters of small, rose-pink blossoms sway gently in the breeze with a delightfully sweet scent enjoyed only by the gardener willing to stick their nose into the flowers. Various bee species collect the copious amounts of pollen produced by the short-lived blooms, but pollinators like wasps and butterflies – which typically seek nectar – find the queen-of-the-prairie to be an exercise in futility, as the flowers do not produce the sweet sap.
The roots of Filipendula rubra are rhizomatous, meaning the queen-of-the-prairie will form dense colonies under full sun and consistently moist soils. In typical garden soils, queen-of-the-prairie is tame, serving as an excellent addition to the back of the garden where it can rise above the surrounding vegetation to call out to anyone with a keen eye. The foliage of Filipendula rubra seems to be deer and rabbit resistant, though there can be some leaf spot issues under stressful conditions.
Another tallgrass prairie perennial, Eryngium yuccifolium, or rattlesnake master, begins to unfurl in mid-summer. The curious blossoms are one-inch diameter balls consisting of numerous, small, whitish-green to blue flowers.
These flowers are visited by many pollinating insects, seeking the abundant nectar signaled by the sickly-sweet honey scent given off in full sun. The long, strap-like leaves resemble that of a yucca and have been used for rope-making and jewelry, typically in the form of bracelets. As the blossoms fade, so does the rest of the plant, though small offshoots develop soon after, resulting in a clump of Eryngium yuccifolium. The common name of rattlesnake master refers to colonial settlers’ belief that this plant could be used as an antidote to snake bites, but this proves to be mistaken. Grown in full sun with medium moisture, Eryingium and its cultivars will develop erect, sturdy flowering stems, and can be very long-lived.
In the shadier spots of the garden, another Missouri native perennial puts on a show in early summer: the tall thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana). Growing to three feet in height, the upright thimbleweed features pure white flowers with a green center. Being a self-sowing plant, Anemone virginiana will form dense colonies, creating a stunning display of white blossoms, as well as cover for small birds and mammals. After blooming, the flowers give way to thimble-shaped clusters of seed that resemble a cotton ball after suffering a frost. Herbivores avoid tall thimbleweed because of its irritation to the mouth and digestive system when consumed, and the gardener should know that this plant is toxic when large quantities are eaten. Best grown in part shade with medium moisture, Anemone virginiana can be a dainty, yet showy, addition to the shade garden, perennial border, or under small trees.
Compiled by: Cara L. Crocker