August brings such an embarrassment of riches, how could I ever narrow down the highlights of this month? While scrolling through the many photos I’ve taken, I finally noticed one particular group of plants that are contributing most to the show right now. So, welcome to the all-natives edition of August Bloom Day at Hayefield!
Even this narrow focus didn’t trim down the list as much as I thought it would. To be honest, I’m using a rather broad definition of “native”: as long as a species’ native range includes some part of North America, it qualified. Some of these have appeared on their own in my meadow areas; most, I have grown from seed. Oh, and I think there is one “nativar” (a named, vegetatively propagaed selection of a native species).
Even with all of these beauties, it took an immense amount of self control to not sneak in some of the other gorgeous non-natives strutting their stuff this month, so I indulged myself with one special addition at the very end of this post. I hope you enjoy the tour!
Let’s start with the perennials, since they are the most obvious presence right now. Yellow is the most common color theme these days. Some stars right now include…
You’ll often see tall coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris), above, with mostly sky in the background, because it is indeed tall: left to itself, it easily reaches 8 feet here. I let some of it do that just for fun but cut most of the stems back by about half in mid June to mid July, so the plants flower at around 5 feet.
Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum), below, is another tall yellow, often reaching 6 to 7 feet in the meadow and even taller in good soil in the garden. This year, it is flowering on much shorter stems (4 to 5 feet) without any intervention, because it was so dry back in May, when it normally puts on a lot of growth. I am much happier with it at this height because it is not toppling over in late-summer storms, as it is wont to do.
Above is rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium). Now that it has been established for several years, its topping out at around 6 feet. The flowering effect is similar but with smaller leaves, so the overall look is much more refined than than of S. perfoliatum. I find it’s easier to fit into a border without it smothering nearby companions, and so far, it seems much less likely to topple in strong wind and heavy rain.
Below is my favorite of the three species I have here: Mohr’s rosinweed (Silphium mohrii). It’s maxing out at 5 to 6 feet and is a bit less rigid-looking than S. integrifolium, with softer yellow flowers.
One more of the tall yellows for mid to late summer is yellow ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia). It’s just about done now but still interesting.
Orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida) is a classic native perennial for summer color, of course. This one—Deam’s orange coneflower (R. fulgida var. deamii)—doesn’t start flowering here until late July, and it looks fresh through August.
Below is the first of the goldenrods to bloom in the meadow: the well-named early goldenrod (Solidago juncea), which started in late July.
Also in the meadow is grass-leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia, formerly Solidago graminifolia), above, just now showing color.
Above is northern horsebalm (Collinsonia canadensis). I thought it might not flower this year because it got zapped by our late May frost, but it recovered quickly and is just coming into bloom.
Below is a new one for me this year: purple-headed sneezeweed (Helenium flexuosum).
It’s hard to decide where to put spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata) in this post, because the flowers are yellow but somewhat less showy than the pink to whitish bracts. I’ll use it as a transition from the yellows to the many pinks that are around during the dog days.
Above is ‘Carin’ spotted Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum). It’s an old cultivar, from the early 2000s, and hard to find these days, but it’s worth seeking for its silvery pink flowers.
And what would late summer be without garden phlox (Phlox paniculata)? I get a bit annoyed at it, as it self-sows freely (in a variety of pink shades as well as white), but I leave the clumps that are a good color and in a good place, like this one that put itself next to cut-leaved chaste tree (Vitex negundo ‘Heterophylla’). The latter is not native but an absolute magnet for bumblebees, while butterflies adore the phlox, so it’s a very happening place for pollinators around here.
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is mostly done flowering now, but swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), above, is pretty in pink in both the garden and the meadow.
Below is fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium, formerly Epilobium angustifolium), blooming its first year from a gift of seed collected in Quebec.
Now that’s pink! Winecups (Callirhoe involucrata), above, is winding down now but still producing some new blooms. Below is Bush’s poppy mallow (C. bushii), which has been flowering since late July from a small starter plant this spring.
Below is another native perennial in a similar color and with a similar flower shape: large-flowered fameflower (Phemeranthus calycinus, formerly Talinum calycinum). It’s a succulent that supposed to be hardy in Zones 5 or 6 to 9. I got a couple of small starter plants this spring and have them in one of my test beds (hence the lovely chicken-wire fencing). We’ll see if they do indeed return next year. I suspect the species may work as an annual if it does not overwinter here.
Below is queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra). Its fluffy pink blooms are just about done now, transitioning to the coppery seedheads.
Whiteleaf leather flower (Clematis glaucophylla), above, started flowering in mid July and will keep going though September, much to the delight of the hummingbirds. Below, another native vine: ground nut (Apios americana).
Grown from seeds sown back in February of 2020, American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), below, is finally flowering for the first time!
Above, a seedling from ‘Erica’ Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) that is nearly identical to the parent, with purple spring foliage and pink-tinged flowers now.
Below is American germander (Teucrium canadense). I do NOT recommend it for the garden in general, as I can tell you from experience that it is a rampant spreader by creeping rhizomes and is very difficult to get rid of once it sneaks in. It’s pretty through much of the summer, though, and thrives in moist soil, making a great filler in low-maintenance areas, like along a pond or in a wet meadow. It’s also popular with a wide variety of native bees and other pollinators.
Nodding onion (Allium cernuum), above, spreads too, by self-sowing, but I’m very happy to have it pop up wherever it wants to. The bloom color of the species can range from pink to white; mine are usually the palest of pinks.
Above is ‘Ice Ballet’ swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), a white form of the usually pink species; below is whorled milkweed (A. verticillata). Both are producing some blooms this year from a winter sowing.
Above are the dainty flowers of pale-spiked lobelia (Lobelia spicata), which can range from light blue to white. This is another one that can bloom the first year from a winter sowing.
Established species plants of Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) tend to reach 5 to 6 feet when they bloom here, mostly through July. If they happen to self sow at the front of a border or close to a path, I usually cut them back by half in June, and they end up blooming at about 3 feet in August with much thinner, shorter spikes.
Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), above, is past peak bloom now, but the smaller side spheres are still feeding various insects, including a honeybee and a native ironweed clearwing moth (Carmenta bassiformis).
Below is flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata) mingling with self-sown garden phlox (Phlox paniculata).
I showed this white form of wild petunia (Ruellia humilis), above, last month, and it is still producing an abundance of flowers now.
Below is the very first bloom of the season on what I believe is cinnamon willow-herb (Epilobium coloratum). It’s tiny but interesting.
The native perennial shown below is anything but small. Flowering in its second year from seed sown in January of 2022, most of my clumps of pale Indian plantain (Arnoglossum atriplicifolium) are flowering now at 6 to 7 feet tall.
Mid to late summer is prime time for the mountain mints (Pycnanthemum), which are top pollinator plants. The clusters of tiny blooms practically quiver with all of the activity from a variety of bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies. Three species have come up on their own in my meadow: short-toothed mountain mint (P. muticum), above; Virginia mountain mint (P. virginianum), below; and…
… narrow-leaved mountain mint (P. tenuifolium), above. I’ve added hairy mountain mint (P. verticillatum var. pilosum), below.
Moving onto the blues…well, gray-blue, in the case of northern bayberry (Morella pensylvanica, formerly Myrica pensylvanica), above. The plants finally flowered this year, from seed sown in January of 2020, and the female ones are loaded with berries.
Below is Indian tobacco (Lobelia inflata), a perennial now mostly setting seed but still with some small, light blue blooms at the shoot tips.
Above is downy skullcap (Scutellaria incana) with the past-bloom-but-still-pretty flowers of smooth purple coneflower (Echinacea laevigata).
Below is the usual color of perennial wild petunia (Ruellia humilis). Like the white form, it has been blooming for a month and will likely continue into September.
Rose verbena (Glandularia canadensis, formerly Verbena canadensis) flowers here mostly in late spring to early summer, with scattered rebloom through the rest of the growing season, on plants that have overwintered. The plants I started from seed sown in March this year, like the one below, started flowering in early August and will continue well into fall.
We all know that purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a seriously invasive exotic. Did you know we also have a native species: winged loosestrife (L. alatum)? Shown above, it’s now flowering here, in its first year, from December-sown seed.
Above, another moisture-lover: blue vervain (Verbena hastata), just about finished blooming. Below is prairie blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya), which started flowering last week, coming up through Deam’s orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii).
And one more in this color range: the sumptuous purple of giant ironweed (Vernonia gigantea), below.
To finish out the flowering perennials, a few intense reds, including ‘Prairie Glow’ brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba), below, which you can grow from seed…
… royal catchfly (Silene regia), above, and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), below.
Right now, native perennial grasses are providing a cooling contrast.
Above is northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), in front of spotted Joe-Pye weed (Eutrochium maculatum). Below is a seed-grown clump of switch grass (Panicum virgatum) just coming into bloom.
There’s a lot of naturally occurring little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) out in the meadow, with a good deal of variability in color, height, and overall vigor. The large patch shown above has a nice coppery pink color even before flowering.
Below is tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa) in the garden, transitioning from its green flowering stage to its misty golden seed stage.
And below, the beautiful coppery plumes of Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans).
That’s pretty much it for most of the native perennials in flower this month: about what I expected. What I didn’t realize was how many native annuals and biennials are also contributing to the August display.
Above is tall befflower (Campanulastrum americanum, formerly Campanula americana). The plants that germinated last fall and overwintered started flowering in mid-July and are about finished now. Many others germinated in spring, and some of those are starting to bloom now.
Rock harlequin (Capnoides sempervirens, formerly Corydalis sempervirens), behaves similarly, acting like an annual if its seed sprouts in spring or a biennial if it germinates in late summer or fall.
American basket flower (Centaurea americana) grows as a more typical annual, germinating in spring and flowering in mid to late summer. Above is the typical species color; below is ‘Alba’.
Above, the intriguing blooms of salt heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum). It’s apparently perennial in hot climates but grows beautifully as an annual here in PA.
Below is redwhisker clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra), also known as dwarf cleome.
You can barely see the white-bracted flowers of snow on the mountain (Euphorbia marginata), below, but you can’t miss the white-edged upper leaves.
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), also known as spotted touch-me-not, bears intricate orange flowers that draw bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Above is what the species looks like. Below is ‘Peridot’, a lovely yellow-leaved form that comes partly true from seed.
New for me this year is an as-yet-unnamed, yellow-leaved form of pale jewelweed (Impatiens pallida), a species with soft yellow flowers.
There’s nothing pale about the blooms of annual plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria), below. I’ve had it get as tall as 5 feet but usually pinch it a couple times in early to midsummer to keep it more like 3 to 4 feet, with flowering then starting in late summer.
I can’t tell which feature I like best right now on partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), shown above and below: the delicate foliage, the graceful habit, or the bright yellow blooms, which flower from July into September and feed so many bumblebees.
Two more native annuals, both of which are brand new for me this year: above is the real blue waxweed (Cuphea viscosissima), with tiny purple flowers and showy reddish purple stems, and below is wild four-o’clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea). I was expecting the latter to have pink flowers, as indicated in descriptions and shown in photos, but none of the plants I raised from seed have produced the pink petals: just the pink-tinged green bracts. I can’t say I’m sorry about that: the delicate color is absolutely lovely.
And to finish… well, corn (Zea mays) is technically not a North American native, but it’s close. And, I’m so excited about this new-to-me beauty that I simply couldn’t resist giving you a peek at a variegated variety that I’m trialing here: ‘Bars and Stripes’.
Bred by Dr. Michael Marcotrigiano—a name that may be familiar to you if you are fanatical about variegated plants—this strain is proving to be superior to the various other striped corns I have grown over the years. The plants are sturdy and vigorous, and the leaf markings are so bright and clear.
I’m particularly taken by the deep red color of the stalks, which bleeds up into the leaf blades. Isn’t that gorgeous?
I have four plants growing in containers and five in a raised bed. They haven’t tasseled yet (I didn’t get them sown until July 1), so I’m not sure what the final height will be; it’s looking like 4 to 5 feet, though. ‘Bars and Stripes’ isn’t yet available commercially, but I promise I will report back when I find out where it will be available.
Well, my thanks to you if you stuck with me all the way to this point. It’s hard to believe that by next month, we’ll be talking about seedheads and fall color. For now, may you enjoy a beautiful Bloom Day wherever you are!