Horticulture Supervisor, Kyle Cheesborough
Butterfly-weed, Asclepias tuberosa, is a very hardy, drought tolerant, Missouri native perennial with clustered orange blooms in late spring into mid-summer.
As the name suggests, this plant is irresistible to butterflies as a nectar source, and the Monarch butterfly uses the plant as a host for egg-laying. In the fall, wispy, dandelion-like seeds emerge from large, brown pods and will sow somewhat freely, though not aggressively.
Pickerelweed, Pontedaria cordata, a Missouri native often seen along pond and lake edges. The brilliant blue flowers bloom from late spring into late summer, and the small yellow spots on each flower serve as a visual stimulus to pollinators. As the fruits and seeds develop, the once-stiff flower stalk begins to bend, submerging the seed under water, where it is most likely to germinate and grow.
The powdery alligator-flag, Thalia dealbata, an excellent plant for pond edges or boggy areas, able to withstand complete submersion. Another Missouri native, the powdery alligator-flag is so named for the white powder adorning the leaves and flower stalks, and since Thalia is a common site in southern swamps and pond edges, an occasional alligator hiding amongst the leaves is not uncommon. The deep purple flowers are a delight for bumble bees, and the plant is a host for the Brazilian skipper butterfly, though this insect rarely makes its way to Missouri. Each of these is blooming in the beds around Cascade Lake.
Compiled by Cara L. Crocker