Native Plants

I am enjoying the calm after the winter storm. The sun is shining and the hope of spring coming soon returns. A few days ago the snow was melting and I got to see a few areas of my garden peeping through the snow. Now we have a white blanket covering everything again. But it won’t be long before I can once again enjoy the garden and watch as it springs back to life again. It is such a thrill to see those spring bulbs start to appear and the splashes of colour brightening the winter worn landscape. An of course, as that winter blanket peels back, so does our ability to visit the cottage again!

I find it interesting to watch how nature staggers the emerging of different plants as the season’s progress and the environment changes around them. Often the spring plants get more sun early in the spring, before the trees have grown new leaves. What might be quite a shady spot in the summer can have a fair amount of sun in the spring. One of my favourite plants that seem to follow this pattern is our dearly loved official flower of Ontario, the White Trillium – Trillium grandiflorum.

Trillium bud

It only flowers for a short time and fades to pink after a week. Unfortunately they are hard to propagate and take many years to mature to flowering stage, so I need to be very protective of the couple that we have at the cottage. Picking parts off a trillium plant can kill it, even if the rhizome is left undisturbed and it is illegal to in any way injure the Trillium grandiflorum in Ontario if it is on conservation land. Unfortunately the white tail deer seem to own our land and a high white tail deer population decreases or eliminates Trilliums in an area. That isn’t good news for us!

There are not many spring flowering native plants at the cottage. That is perhaps an area I should work on and try and encourage more of the ones we do have or perhaps are native in the area, but not on our property yet.

Columbine red

Red Columbine – Aquilegia Canadensis is a lovely spring-blooming, native wildflower that we have. It is short-lived and smaller than the horticultural varieties most people grow in their gardens.

I have been surprised how often a plant, that at first glance seems to be grass, turns out to be a wildflower.

Blue eyed grass 1 - sisyrinchium albium Blue eyed grass 2 - sisyrinchium albium

Blue eyed grass – Sisyrinchium albium, is a perfect example of the hidden beauty that appears amongst the grass. It is actually in the Iris family and a native plant.

Longleaf Starwort

Longleaf Starwort – Stellaria longifolia

Daisy fleabane

Philadelphia Fleabane – Erigeron philadelphicus. I can’t say I like the name Daisy Fleabane. It was called fleabane because of a superstition that dried clusters of these plants could be used to get rid of fleas in a building, which is not true.

Fireweed - Chamerion augustiflorium

Fireweed – Chamerion augustiflorium gets its name from a habit of growing in clearings after a fire. That wasn’t the case with this one. It attracts several species of bumblebees, hoverflies, hummingbirds and butterflies. Chipmunks also are fond of it and like to eat the seeds.

Galium boreale

Fragrant Bedstraw – Galium triflorum likes to grow on the forest floor, but we have it growing along the edge of our forest.

Goldenrod 2

Canada Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis is attractive to many insects and a good source of nectar for butterflies.

Purple Flowering Raspberry

I thought this was a Pasture Rose, but it turns out to be Purple Flowering Raspberry – Rubus odoratus. It is a native shrub that is fragrant and does not have any prickles. It does produce edible fruit, but it is rather dry and crumbly and not very appetizing. I did not see any fruit on it, so I guess an animal does find it appetizing. It is certainly a plant that I should try and cultivate and encourage.

Pearly Everlasting - Anaphalis margaritacea

Pearly Everlasting – Anaphalis margaritacea is native and a good nectar plant. It is the host for the American Lady butterfly, so another plant I need to encourage.

Virginia creeper - Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Woodbine or Virginia creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia can grow almost 100 feet, but as there is little for it to climb up through the dock, I don’t think it will get far where it is.

Wild Blue Phlox - Phlox divaricata

Wild Blue Phlox – Phlox divaricata is said to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. I have been weeding around these plants and am pleased at how they have grown since I first discovered them.

Long-spurred violet

Long-spurred violet – Viola rostrata

Woolly Blue Violet - Viola sororia

Woolly Blue Violet – Viola sororia has several other common names; Common Meadow Violet, Purple Violet, Hooded Violet and Wood Violet. Viola sororia should have been listed when I did my post on Snacking Off The Land. Both the flowers and the leaves are edible and there is some discussion that the roots can also be eaten.

Yarrow 2

Common Yarrow – Achillea millefolium is a good nectar plant for butterflies and drought-tolerant. It is good at repelling some pest insects while attracting good, predatory ones. It is smaller than the cultivated plant I have in my garden at home, but I am wondering if I can group some together in the bed I am trying to cultivate and make more of a display of the plant.

I was feeling a little disheartened when I discovered so many plants we have at the cottage are not native, but when I actually did a count we do have more native than non-native plants. I am also aware that I have not covered all the plants that grow there either – just the ones that I photographed. Taking an in-depth look at what grows has certainly been enlightening and I now have a better idea of what I need to keep an eye on if I am to focus on native varieties. I realize now that my idealistic view of keeping everything there native was rather naïve, especially as 18 of the 42 plants I have recorded are not native in the first place. However, it is good to know what the situation is and for me to have a guide to work with. Certainly I need to make sure I don’t encourage those plants that are invasive and crowd out native species. There is a long list of native plants that are drought tolerant for me to work with, so I really don’t need to even consider anything that isn’t native with any new additions.


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