Saturday, April 23, 2011

Prehistoric Petasite and other native plants of Michigan

There's a prehistoric plant that always draws attention beginning the day it first pops a bright green head from the soil in early spring.  I 've encountered many the gardener perched at the end of our driveway, noses to the ground, curiously inspecting the these showstoppers like prize sows. 

Beginning with a pot purchased for a couple dollars at a local plant sale, the native plant legally known as petasite,  but affectionately known as dinofood is a low maintenance, hardy spreader that stands out from spring to fall.  Best planted in a shady area with access to regular moisture, the emerging plant shows up right after the thaw, followed by a unique chartreuse and white flower in early April. 

That's only the beginning--after the bloom, giant ear-like foliage erupts everywhere, filing out the bed, and creating a tropical effect in the yard. 

It's easy to imagine dinosaurs happily munching these plants.  Their size alone would fill up even a prehistoric belly.  

Spread by underground tubers, Petasite can become invasive, but is easily pulled out with a tug.  Bury the tuber in a semi-moist shady area, water, and the dinosaur(food) will be reborn.

Petasite foliage, early Spring

Sometimes the giant leaves wilt in great heat or are punctured by hail.  They bounce right back. These easy showstoppers attract attention from March until October. Then, they just fade away, no cutting back required.  How much easier can it get?   

Native plants are those which naturally are found here in Zone Five and a Half.  Centuries of test drives by nature make these hardy plants great bets for the garden. These plants are self reliant, there's no fertilizing or fuss in the forest. 

Delicate Bloodroot Flowers ready to unfurl (April)

Bloodroot, another tropical looking favorite is nearly ready to unfurl its tiny tulip-like flowers.  Soon, these notched-leafed slow spreaders will add structure to the rock garden.    Again, these purchases from a plant sale have become easy  regulars. 

Bloodroot in May
When looking for safe, but fun bets for the yard, look no further than local native plants.   It's nice to sit back, allowing nature do the hard work. 
Pushing the zone has its rewards, but sometimes, so does going with the flow.