Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday June 2014: Teucrium canadense

A photo of Teucrium canadense in my Garden Blogger's Bloom Day post last week generated some comments about the plant so I'm featuring Canada or American Germander for Wildflower Wednesday.  The fourth Wednesday of each month Gail at Clay and Limestone invites garden bloggers to join her with a post on flowering native plants in our gardens.



When I received a small pot of American germander at a plant swap last year I was a bit surprised to learn it was a germander since it didn't look anything like the other germanders in my garden.  I was also surprised to learn there are germanders native to North America since the other germanders in my garden are Mediterranean in origin.

It turns out that germanders are identified by their flower which does not have an upper calyx.  The missing upper calyx gives the flower a slightly flat, almost incomplete, appearance compared to its cousin the salvia which is also a member of the mint family.


Because germanders are distinguished by flower shape their foliage can be quite diverse including the green, almost needle-like foliage of creeping germander, the glossy green textured leaves of upright germander, and the flat fuzzy gray leaves of silver bush germander.

Along with the typical research information I was also curious as to why it was called American germander when the latin name indicates it is Canadian in origin.  The closest I found was this explanation on the Friends of Eloise Butler Gardens website.

"The species, canadense, means 'of Canada'. As to the common names, American Germander is the older term and newer references, including USDA and the U of M Herbarium, prefer Canada Germander."

The Wildflower Center database lists the common name Canada Germander first and American Germander second.  Since it is a commonly used name I will probably continue to use American Germander since that's how I acquired it.  It's also called Wood Sage.

I'm fascinated by plants which can grow across a wide range of horticultural zones and Teucrium canadense has a huge native range covering much of North America.  It is commonly listed as hardy in USDA Zone 5 to Zone 10 but a look at the map shows it possibly can take a bit colder than Zone 5.  It's a perennial which grows as easily in Newfoundland and Saskatchewan as it does in South Texas.  This brings me to an important point about this plant--American Germander is a very aggressive grower as befits its membership in the mint family.  I planted a small sprig in Spring 2013 and one year later it has filled the bed to the point it needs to be pulled from pathways and away from other plants.  When it first popped up in large numbers this spring I was very surprised because it seemingly did most of its spreading by rhizomes during our exceptionally cold winter of 2013/2014.  Toward the lower right in the photo below you can see it popping out of the bed again after I pulled all the sprouts from the path a few weeks ago.


Bees and other pollinators love it.

It is a an upright grower sporting blooms on four-foot stems from spring to fall in a wide range of soils from caliche to part clay.  References often mention that Teucrium canadense requires consistently moist soil but it is thriving in the midst of a drought in my hot, dry garden.  It is recommend for part shade and only gets morning and late afternoon sun in my garden.  It is completely deer resistant and not a single nibble has been noted despite its location along the main deer path through the garden.


Teucrium canadense was interesting to research and I found it fun to find answers to a few of my questions about this relatively new plant in my garden.  For more information on wildflowers in the garden head on over to check out the comments section at Clay and Limestone.

15 comments:

  1. I love to plant things that the pollinators like, the Germander looks like it make a nice clump and doesn't flop. I have a lot of trouble with mint getting too talll and flopping. It sounds hardy enough to grow here too.

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    1. It does not flop and that's a favorite thing about this plant. It's not easy to find a tall bloomer that stays upright. It is very hardy and seems to take both wet and dry seasons in stride.

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  2. Oh man, another plant to add to my botanical/garden bucket list!! I love the American germander. Someone gave me some to plant in the Native Habitat garden when I worked at Zilker Botanical garden and it was such a great addition. I wish I'd snitched some for myself! :) Thanks for profiling this wonderful summer perennial, Shirley.

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    1. It is amazing to watch it go and it works well in my garden.

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  3. Super looking, tall, spikey plant. I have a low growing type of Germander that doesn`t resemble this much. I like it !

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    1. They are quite striking in the garden and do look very different from other germanders.

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  4. This went on next year's plant-it list after seeing it in your previous post and everything I'm reading here (especially the part where the deer leave it alone!) only makes me want it more. Now I'm wondering if I'll need to look for seed to buy or if Austin nurseries carry it? Anybody out there know a place to buy American Germander in Austin?

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    1. American Germander seems to be mainly a passalong plant and it is so vigorous that I should have plenty of extras this fall.

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  5. Well it must be Canadian if it thrived in that cold winter!!!! :)

    That is a happy little plant - looks great in your "flower bed" area. Nice skirting around your porch addition too!!!! looks like y'all have been BUSY!

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    1. It did quite well here although we weren't anywhere near as cold as that. We are trying to get a lot of projects finished this year. Has it been that long since you visited the garden? It has been about a year or so and we were in a hurry back in May.



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  6. It's a nice looking plant. I'm surprised by the varieties of Teucrium out there too. I've never seen this one before but its structure is similar to that of a Teucrium betonicum I added to my garden last year. Mine is more spindly than yours but that may due to the lack of winter or spring rain.

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    1. We had very limited rain in the winter but have had quite a bit in the spring. It's said to like moist soil so we'll see how it does when things dry out.

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  7. I really like it's spiky form. Do you know if it's a good cut flower, Shirley? I, too, am amazed by plants that thrive in a wide range of conditions--this plant, in particular, seens very adaptable. It looks great in your garden!

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    1. The bottom flowers dry before the tops open and they are not very noticeable on their own. I'd use them as filler in a wildflower bouquet possibly.

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  8. A new plant I must have for wet areas of my meadow to help crowd out the teasel and thistle. As I was looking at this plant in this post and the plant of the week post, I thought it looked like a mint. Thanks Shirley for the information about this lovely native.

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