Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum)

One of our favorite club members and mentor is Carter.  She has a wonderful woodland garden and her knowledge is extensive.  In addition, she is wonderfully patient with all of us and loves to share her gardening knowledge so that we may all benefit and grow in our own gardening knowledge.  A simple walk along the paths in her garden is an experience.

We went to Carter's this year to collect seeds for Shirley Meniece & Seed Share.  We also held back a few seeds knowing that we would be continuing within the hort committee with our own seed propagation.

One of the plants that we collected seeds from is the Cup plant or Silphium perfoliatum.  This is a wonderful native plant. A herbaceous perennial, zones 3-9, 4-8' in height with yellow blooms from July to September. It will take full sun in medium to wet soil and is a butterfly and bird attractor.  Perfect!  Links that describe the plant are on the Missouri Botanical Garden site and additional descriptions can be found on the Illinois Wildflower Site.  Although listed as a prairie plant, this plant will grow in West Virginia. 

Cup plant is an imposing, attractive plant with perfoliate leaves.  It will form a dense cover if happy and is a great bird habitat.  In addition it attracts long-tongued bees and many butterflies, including skippers. 

What does perfoliate mean?  From free comes this definition: a leaf with the base united around--and apparently pierced by--the stem with a simple leaf (a leaf that is not divided into parts).  Nature has designed this stem so that it holds water in the leaf where it joins the stem. A vey unique element. 

Perfoliate leaf from the Missouri
Botanical Garden site referenced above.
And, you can get an idea of the size
of cup plant from this photo.  Big!
The only difficulty I found with sowing seeds from this plant is determining what is actually the seed.  I searched various sites on the internet, coming up with two different photos of what is the seed.  What to do?  Plant them both and see what grows!  See photo below for the dilemma.  There is a wider/larger piece that one site says is the seed - this is plentiful and very apparent in the seed head.  The small, slender piece actually looks more like a seed and is deeper inside the head and resembles seeds from rudbeckias.  Maybe one of our readers knows for sure.  I will definitely let you know in the spring.

My jug is with the other jugs I planted from the earlier workshop.  It is 30 degrees outside today and a good day to start! 

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