Friday, August 4, 2017
Here We Go Again
Cardinal Flower is a native plant that combines rare beauty with uncommon natural appearances. It reproduces both by seed and by new daughter plants that begin to grow as fall approaches. The daughter plants appear to grow under the snow since snow melt reveals plants of some size that display bright light green leaves. These leaves are tender and frost frequently turns them into mush. Seeds seem to require a great deal of moisture to germinate and we have yet to see a new plant that we know is from seed.
Last fall seed was scattered in two places close to the back woods. Our strongest spring run at the base of the bedrock ridge was our first choice for Cardinal Flower seed in response to their reported high need for moisture. We have yet to see any plants from the seed dropped there. That is a moist but somewhat shaded location and broken chunks of bedrock litter the ground. Soil there is thin at best. The other location seeded was a piece of the cultivated ground in the garden near the woods. Frequent checks early in the year revealed only weeds where the seed was scattered. Today was different.
Our planting beds are edged with broken stone paths. Last spring in the area near the path, weeds resembling Cardinal Flower were found. A tangle of white roots is a characteristic of Cardinal Flower and these plants clearly displayed that feature. The structure of the leaves appears to be similar to mature Cardinal Flower plants. Ten plants were placed in pots
We are doing that same thing again. These pots will be placed in a sheltered garden location. Snow melt should reveal the true identity of these plants. If they are as expected, our cool moist May will be credited with the success. It is possible that these seeds will not germinate in the absence of a long period of abundant water. It is also possible that in response to the frost tender nature of new growth, these seeds wait for warm soil temperatures to germinate. In the past I may have simply given up hope far too soon.
Next year I will try to keep an area between the stone wall corner and the Pinxter properly watered until mid July. The Cardinal Flower now growing there will be allowed to drop seed without intervention. Our only action will be to keep the area moist to the expected benefit of both plants. Perhaps we will recognize new plants from seed if they appear by mid summer.
This year Cardinal Flowers were planted at wood's edge adjacent to an infrequent spring run. Fallen leaves were scattered around the base of these plants to discourage invasive pasture weeds. With the exception of planned additions to the leaf mulch, these plants are on their own. Wouldn't it be great to see new plants from seed appear here without further intervention?
How can anyone not understand why we have fussed over this plant for more than a decade? The brilliant clear red of the flowers is obvious, but for some reason no hummingbirds are in the picture. Working in the garden at this time of year features frequent close flybys by these native creatures. It simply does not get any better than this. If only we could manage to assist this native to make it here on its own.