Horticulture Supervisor, Kyle Cheesborough
The prairie blazing star, Liatrisspicata, is a densely flowering, native perennial growing to 4’ in bloom. Spikes of tufted, brilliant magenta flowers appear in mid-summer and last into August. The flowers are a favorite of a number of butterflies, native bees, and honey bees. Prairie blazing star will tolerate a number of soil conditions, but does best in moist, fertile soils, and prefers full sun.The cultivar ‘Kobold’ has become popular in home gardens, as it is less likely to require staking that the plain species. Beware of voles, as they find the roots of Liatris spicata irresistible, and any excess winter moisture is guaranteed to rot prairie blazing star.
Acanthus spinosus, the spiny bear’s breeches has low rosettes of spiny, thistle-like leaves (up to 2’ long) that arise in spring, but can suffer in the heat of Missouri summers, showing a dull color or yellowing to the ground. Flower spikes appear in mid-summer, standing tall above the foliage, sometimes to 4’ high, with numerous mauve-and-white flowers. Throughout Bellefontaine Cemetery, Acanthus leaves adorn the monuments, often seen along the corners, meant to symbolize the rough and difficult journey of life.
Finally, the prairie petunia, Ruella humilis, is a dainty herbaceous perennial native to the open woodlands and prairie edges of the Midwest. Blooming in the summer with numerous small, light-purple flowers tucked within the hairy green foliage, the primary pollinators are long-tongued bees. Of these, leaf-cutter bees will feed on the blooms, and will often cut the flower petals to build their nests. Prairie petunia is very adaptable in the garden, but does not compete well with taller, more aggressive plants.
compiled by Cara L. Crocker