It has been a decade since I had a blog of any kind. I had reservations about blogging because I wonder in this day of mobile device addiction if anyone takes the time to read blogs anymore. If not, I write for myself.
I spend a lot of time walking and hiking and taking pictures but I also have spent 20+ years helping clients creating gardens that provide habitat. Every native species planted in Suburbia helps support some form of native wildlife. My own garden is very wild and informal and located next to a riparian corridor. It supports a multitude of bird and insect species and the mammals that show up here include fox, deer, raccoon, pine marten, fisher and on a few occasions in the brook, otter.
Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) is sometimes referred to as yellow Ironweed because of the similarity in the appearance of the leaves. Wingstem is always a sign of Autumn approaching for me. This native perennial usually grows between 4’-8’ tall. It is often fed upon by caterpillars of the Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis), which is quite similar in appearance to the Painted lady (Cynthia sp.). Holes in the leaves are ok with me as this is part of its function within the larger landscape and why many plants have come to reside on my garden. Insects are a major part of the food chain and the hype by the pesticide industry has sought to vilify insects as some insidious threat to our way of life when in actuality, without insects we would have difficulty surviving. I was able to acquire this plant from a native plant grower in my region and was so happy when I saw it in the nursery on a visit.
According to the USDA, Wingstem is an FACW plant, Facultative wetland plant which means the probability of finding it in a wetland type habitat is 60-90%. However, I am cultivating it in dry sandy upland soil in a garden and it seems quite happy.
To the layman’s eye, Wingstem is a coarse ungainly plant, seldom found in gardens, but for pollinators this plant is part of the holy grail of Autumn food. It is visited by many bees, wasps and butterflies. According to the Xerces society it also attracts the blue-winged wasp (Scolia dubia), a predator of beetle grubs, including the introduced Japanese Beetle. This would seem to make Wingstem a desirable plant for home gardeners who could help pollinators while controlling a non-native pest. Blue winged wasps are very common visitors to my own garden and I see few Japanese beetles here. On many websites for beekeepers, Wingstem is listed as a very desirable plant for honeybees.
All of that being said, I really like the form of Wingstem, tall and I think quite showy. I love that it has just begun blooming in late September and will continue into October. It is not an easy plant to find in the nursery trade but is available. If you are looking for this plant please contact me and I can provide sources for it.