Wildflower Wednesday: Helianthus salicifolius ‘Table Mountain’

Helianthus salicifolius ‘Table Mountain’ sunflower I found on the clearance rack at our local nursery.

A couple of years ago, about this time in summer, on a rack way in the back of my local nursery, I found an interesting plant. It had coarse, willowy leaves, and I think it must hard to be both coarse and willowy. It had healthy foliage and was doing its best in a container so I felt a bit sorry for it and brought it home. Helianthus salicifolius ‘Table Mountain’ sunflower is a cultivar of two native, H. salicifolius so I still consider it a wildflower. From the Missouri Botanical Garden, “It is the result of a controlled cross-pollination that took place in Auckland, New Zealand in 1993 between Helianthus ‘Golden Pyramid’ (female) and Helianthus ‘Autumn Queen’ (male).”

Table Mountain sunflower is a bit of a flopper, but it leans upon ‘Wanda’ phlox. Neither seems to mind the other.

Like all sunflowers and daisies, ‘Table Mountain’ is part of my favorite plant family, Asteraceae. In spite of heat and drought, it blooms steadily each summer. Although it grew in bulk and circumference, it has never spread by seed. I have two plants, and they just hang out in their part of the lower gardens.

The people who measure such things list ‘Table Mountain’ as growing 12-16.” Mine is about two feet in height. It thrives in full sun, and we have plenty of sun each summer. It is drought resistent. It grows in hardiness zones 5-9. It attracts pollinators, no surprise since it sports daisy-like flowers.

I’m pretty sure this is Syrphus ribesii, the hover fly, but I may be wrong. It flew away before I had a chance to inspect it more closely.

If you can’t find it locally like I did, you can buy it at Bluestone Perennials and Forestfarm.

My meadow is spreading like my middle-aged waistline. It seems that as the garden and I mature, I am more interested in planting something closer to the prairie, especially as we move downhill from the house. I’ve placed all the roses, up where I can watch them for any symptoms of Rose Rosette Disease. RRD is like a shadow overtaking the rose landscape in my garden and my state. I’m not too worried because, although I love roses, I love so many plants. I just grow what works.

My meadow, unaffected by disease, has spread from one bed to two, maybe three by this summer’s end. Who knows?

Easy to grow, polite and never overreaching, Table Mountain sunflower is a sunny bargain if there ever was. If you went to your local nursery during the summer doldrums, what do you think you would find on that table, way in the back? You just never know.

Gail from Clay and Limestone sponsors Wildflower Wednesday each month. Head over to her site and see what other wildflowers peeps are growing. Maybe you’ll find something you want to grow too.


Wildflower Wednesday: Drummond’s aster

Symphyotrichum drummondii var. drummondii (Lindl.) or Drummond's aster
Symphyotrichum drummondii var. drummondii (Lindl.) Drummond's aster

I love all the native asters with their crazy growth and light blue, purple or white flowers, but this Wildflower Wednesday, sponsored by Gail of Clay and Limestone, I want to highlight Symphyotrichum drummondii var. drummondii (Lindl.), Drummond’s aster (synonyms: Aster drummondii, Aster sagittifolius var. drummondii).
Drummond’s aster is found in many states throughout the U.S. In Oklahoma, it has been identified in several counties, and I can attest it runs wild in the dappled shade of the woods on my land which is in Logan County.

I also have it planted in several places within the wilder parts of the garden. Oh heck, who am I kidding? Much of my garden is wildish especially in the fall when the asters bloom. According to the Missouri Native Plants page, this aster is “similar to other blue-flowered asters but can be identified by its pubescent stems, winged leaf petioles, scabrous adaxial leaf surfaces, and bluish ray flowers.” To see what they mean by all that great botany language, just trip on over to their page where they have great identification photos. I, on the other hand, just want to show the pretty inflorescence and ray flowers (i.e., blooms).

So how do native plants like these get their names? In the case of our aster, it is named after a famous naturalist and plant collector, Thomas Drummond, who was Scottish and born in 1793 in Inverarity, Angus Parish or County. He had an older brother, James, who also became a botanist and gardener. Drummond was a member of two different expeditions to North America, the first in the Arctic. In the second, he traveled throughout Texas and the southern United States including Missouri. (I wonder why he didn’t come to Oklahoma?) In spite of being ill with cholera and diarrhea, he did extensive collecting throughout Texas and his 750 species of plants and 150 specimens of birds was studied and shown in many museums. He hoped to return to Texas, but died in Havana, Cuba while collecting there. (S. W. Geiser, Naturalists of the Frontier [Dallas: Southern Methodist University, 1937; 2d ed. 1948] found on the Texas State Historical Association site.) Drummond is also famous for his discovery of many mosses.

Drummond's aster

What amazes me about early naturalists was their ability to get so much done in their short lives (Drummond was only 45 when he passed) and how dedicated they were to science. One of the best books I’ve read about naturalists and plant collectors is The Brother Gardeners: A Generation of Gentlemen Naturalists and the Birth of an Obsession (Vintage), by Andrea Wulf. It is the story of many of the early plant hunters, and it reads like a novel, but is filled with interesting facts.

Love it.

But, back to the aster. Was it named for Drummond, or did he find it on his travels? In my research, it appears the aster named in his honor, but I’m not sure if he collected seeds from it or not. So many plants are named after Drummond, a quick search yields too numerous results to list here. He did collect seeds from Phlox drummondii and sent them to Great Britain.

According to Flora of America, S. drummondii is sometimes confused “with S. urophyllum, a usually white-rayed species with erect array branches.”  There is also a separate variation called S. drummondii var. Texanum.

Honestly, all that matters to me is it is easy to grow. It spreads a bit and fills in the blank spaces in the Autumn garden.