Many years ago when Clay and Limestone was just beginning to take shape in my mind and heart, I chanced upon a small daisy like flower in the ‘lawn’ in the wayback backyard. I was so charmed by it that I mowed around it all summer. Little did I know then, that letting it go to seed was exactly the right thing to do!
It wasn’t long after that I identified my mystery flower as Entireleaf Western Daisy. Astranthium integrifolium is a winter annual that’s endemic to Middle Tennessee and my garden. I’ve found very little written about this sweet little member of the Asteraceae family. Even my go to guy, Thomas E Hemmerly, (Wildflowers of the Central South) did not include it in his list of native plants! But, I’d seen it growing in cedar glades and knew it was endemic. Only in the last 10 years have wildflower guides begun to include it in their publications and even now, there is still little information about this charming native and its faunal associations. So, it’s up to gardeners like you and me to note if it’s a host plant for moths or butterflies, which pollinators visit and if mammals graze it.
It was a keeper from the get go! Especially, when I noticed that it was a magnet for butterflies and small bees. It blooms in early spring and really hits its stride by May, when the entire lawnette is carpeted with its pinkish daisy flower. It will bloom on and off all summer and into the late fall during mild years. So, I wasn’t at all surprised to discover blooming plants in my front garden today. The days are still warm and there may be a few bees out and about that will appreciate the pollen and nectar.
Most winter annuals are exotics like Violas, poppies, larkspur and Pansies~Lovely plants that provide winter or early spring flowers in many gardens. Astranthium integrifolium is an annual native forb that’s usually found growing in meadows, prairies and on roadsides in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. While, you might not be able to grow my little daisy in your part of the garden world~I’m pretty sure you have a list of native winter annuals that will feed the pollinators and your spirit~for a long time.
Gail Eichelberger of Clay and Limestone has a beautiful wildlife garden in middle Tennessee.
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