I'm afraid that I have to start with a boast about the voluptuous look of Large Beardtongue (Penstemon grandiflorus), a native prairie bloomer that pops up here and there in single clumps. I know that the common name doesn't inspire any daydreams, but the species "grandiflorus" name is quite descriptive. The plump belly of this flower, almost one inch in diameter and 2-3 inches long, makes the popular 'Husker Red' penstemon look anemic by comparison. Native Americans used the roots of this flower to treat chest pains, so this plant is its own remedy to the swooning gardeners who see it. It usually doesn't transplant well, but notwithstanding, I had a clump of this in my border for a few years before it finally petered out. So, I must learn to enjoy it on the prairie wherever it decides it wants to grow.
I once had a plant of this Prickly Poppy pop up in the native grass down by the pond, but it never appeared again for me until this year, when it popped up near the road. Argemone polyanthemos is native to the prairie, but likes disturbed soil so it has become somewhat rare now that the buffalo aren't churning up the tallgrass prairie. The foliage is vicious, but has a beautiful gray-blue-green hue. The Prickly Poppy has bright yellow sap that is supposed to be useful to remove warts. I'd love to figure out how to grow seed for this poppy so that I could keep it going in my garden and perhaps tame it.
Of course, yarrow is everywhere on the prairie, but occurs only in its white form in my vicinity. This is Western Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), still beautiful, but not quite as colorful as I'd like so I don't invite it into my border. In fact, I spend a lot of time removing it from my border. Western Yarrow, however, is a dependable prairie forb during drought years, so I hope that some more colorful yarrow cultivars that I've recently added to my garden have the same trait.
I've already shown you a picture of the yellow Missouri Evening Primrose, but the white Showy Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) is just as delicately beautiful. Like the yellow species, however, the delicate look of the flowers of Showy Evening Primrose belie the aggressive nature of this plant. It self-seeds in my borders, where I treat it as a welcome visitor at times, but I also give it no mercy if it pops up where I don't want it, like in the vegetable garden. You have to walk the garden in the late evening or early morning to enjoy these flowers that close and hide from the heat of the day.
The Prairie Larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum), pictured at the right, is one of those seedlings that I've learned to recognize as it pops up and then avoid with the glyphosate nozzle. It tends to like the moister areas of my garden beds, but it seems to be randomly distributed in small numbers over the prairie. In fact, it is a good thing that it occurs more rarely than, for instance, the Western Yarrow, because Prairie Larkspur is poisonous in moderate quantity to cattle when eaten either fresh or dried in prairie hay.
There are, of course, other blooms and foliage contrasts on the prairie, but I'll leave those for a post later in the week. Hope everyone is enjoying my tour of the prairie forbs.