Sunday, May 12, 2019

National Wildflower Week 2019

National Wildflower Week (May 5-12) celebrates our native flowering species and I'm thinking about the "wildflowers" in my garden based on a common definition:

"A wildflower is a flower that grows in the wild, meaning it was not intentionally seeded or planted."

With such a narrow definition I wonder if the flowers in my garden qualify as wildflowers.  We'll take a tour while I share my thoughts.

These bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) were intentionally seeded from seeds I collected in an undeveloped area just over my back fence.

We started with a small patch that struggled during our drought years but has been spreading quickly recently.  Some reseed naturally while we help others along to make sure the patch grows where we can enjoy them.

Then they are not wildflowers?  Not so fast, that also would mean bluebonnets at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are not technically wildflowers.  As the Texas state flower bluebonnets are intentionally seeded along highways and public areas throughout the state so I think bluebonnets always qualify as wildflowers no matter where they are or how they arrived.

Purple Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) and bright yellow-orange Greenthreads (Thelesperma filifolum) arrived as volunteers so they qualify as wildflowers.

Or not?  They started out wherever they chose to grow but then I intentionally seed them where I would like more.

The same with Firewheel or Indian Blanket flowers (Gaillardia pulchella).  Here again I intervene by pulling about half of these out each year to keep them under control.

Are these wildflowers or not?

That original narrow definition would indicate this is not a patch of wildflowers even though they are clearly going wild.

Their parents volunteered the garden years ago but then I intentionally seeded them across the path.

Eventually wildflowers will take over the entire back slope with the exception of shady spots.

Wildflowers are filling in the opposite corner where I scattered seeds over the last few years.  Looks like wildflowers to me.

What would I say is not a wildflower?  I'm undecided on larkspur.  While there are a few native larkspur in North America these are likely not.  So even though they grow among my native wildflowers and  Larkspur is a favorite in my garden they don't qualify.  I sure do enjoy them though.

No question about Horsemint (Monarda citriodora), another volunteer and a bee favorite.  No surprise since one of its common names in Bee Balm. 

Bee Balm goes through color stages starting pale then going to deep purple.

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana) grows as a wildflower in open areas but these were purchased as landscape plants at a local nursery.  

Texas Gold Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Hinckleyana’) is a native wildflower now growing in a garden bed since it was shared by a friend.

Wildflowers by definition or not, I enjoy them all in my landscape.

Just one note.  To have wildflowers you have to be prepared for the browning state.  Those pretty bluebonnets going to seed turn brown (as seen on the lower right) and are not so pretty for a while.  Fortunately, the golds and oranges take over and help out.  If you want flowers next year, there's no getting around the seedy phase which is why most of my wildflowers are in the back yard.

So enjoy the wildflowers and even try a few in your garden since so many have crossed over into landscape favorites.


  1. Whether they meet that narrow definition or not, your collection of random spreaders is fabulous, Shirley. It's hard to say what would fit the category in my own garden but, seeing how widespread Centranthus throughout my larger area, I'd guess that it qualifies ahead of even lupines and California poppies.

  2. Wildflowers are the easiest to grow since they need little care. Centranthus is quite a dramatic bloomer and spreader.

  3. It is difficult to truly define it, isn't it? The woodland ephemerals here were not planted, but some of them may have volunteered from neighboring properties. I've read many times that native plant seeds can lie dormant for many years, and then take over when the conditions are right. In any case, all your flowers are beautiful!


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