A week and a half ago I posted an article about Wildlife Gardening Medicine. This is the concept that by adding native plants and eliminating chemical use in our properties (and by extension our ecosystems), we can seamlessly introduce habitat restoration to our communities. And the concept goes further- there is rich natural history in this country with almost all of our favorite native plants, the same ones used in a wildlife garden, these native plants have been successfully used medicinally for many generations.
In light of our general mission here at Beautifulwildlifegardening.com to share our passion for habitat gardening, I will revisit each native plant I showcased a week and a half ago and express why they’re significant for ecosystem functions, or even just personal, sentimental reasons.
This photo shows one of my business’ clients hot tub, with Eupatorium maculata, (Joe Pye Weed) and Asclepias incarnata, or Swamp Milkweed. The children who visit the pool have nicknamed the space, “Butterfly Heaven” because of how many happy, frantic butterflies are always rushing around the area.
Joe Pye Weed was the first native plant with a history of medicinal use I focused on last week. I kind of don’t feel like a landscape design I’m commissioned to do is complete without at least a little Joe Pye Weed. There’s a cute smaller mutation called “Little Joe” or Eupatorium dubium if that seems more in keeping with the space. At this time, scientists don’t know if Joe Pye Weed is a larval host for any leipodoptera species, but adult butterflies and other insects go berserk for the Joe Pyes. Personally, I secretly feel like taking a deck of cards, throwing them up in the air and planting a baby Joe Pye seedling wherever the cards fell is really the best idea in most people’s yards. As I drive around the community I live and work in, I see Joe Pye Weed valiantly braving it out in the wetlands, taking the Purple Loosestrife and other invasive thugs head on. Sometimes the Joe Pye is winning the battle (side by side our beautiful native Typha spp.) and sometimes Joe Pye is visibly being marginalized, and my heart just swells. “Go Eupatorium, go!”
Boneset, or Eupatorium perfoliatum was the second featured native plant in the article last week. Another Eupatorium sp., scientists are not sure if Boneset is larval host for any butterflies. But the butterfly adults definitely enjoy visiting Boneset, and in turn we support more birds by having more insects around (insects = stock bird food). Hummingbirds eat half of their weight in insects per day, so if I have an interest in supporting birds or attracting them to my garden, I need to have some pollen-loaded plants like Boneset. The herbal uses of Boneset for humans are endless, including using aerial flower parts just about to open in the bathtub like Epsom salt. A Boneset bath is an exceptional holistic treatment for athletes or arthritis-like symptoms.
I’ve written about Scutellaria, or Skullcap before, and in light of Skullcap’s potentency as an herbal medicine my adoration and affection for Skullcap only grows. As I mentioned in the last post, the Master Herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner encourages everyone in the continental US (and especially the east coast people) to liberally grow the Scutellaria sp. indigenous to their region, use his suggested protocols and report back to him the anecdotal results of these Skullcap treatments.
When I first planted Skullcap for a client of my business, I couldn’t see what the big deal was. Over time, observing the bumblebees getting drunk on pollen every day, seeing the Scutellaria blossom, bloom and mature in multiple locations, something unexpected happened for me. I really noticed this flower that almost seems to prefer to blend in. And I could finally see the beauty of the plant, the potent medicinal plant that gets overlooked for not being showy enough. I have seen the beauty of the Skullcaps. And it’s astonishing. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I implore you- go purchase several Skullcap plants from your small specialty nursery or farmer’s market or your seed trading buddy as soon as you possibly can. Plant it somewhere conspicuous. Watch it transform over a couple years. If you use it medicinally, tell Stephen Buhner about your experiences. And happy Wildlife Gardening Medicine to all of you. Have your own metaphysical experiences with your natural favorite native plants. Talk about what you experience, we are all ears! A renewed ubiquity of the treasured plants indigenous to our respective regions is all we want, however we get there.
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