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All photographs copyright by Mike Slater unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

My current favorite tall meadow/prairie plant!

Arnoglossum cacalifolium (syn. Cacalia atriplicifolia)

Arnoglossum cacalifolium (syn. Cacalia atriplicifolia), called Pale Indian Plantain, is a great native plant. (most books still list it as Cacalia atriplicifolia) In PA it is reported from the southern 5/6ths of the state, but I have never seen it in it's native condition. It is planted at the Muhlenberg Meadow in Lancaster county Central Park and that is where I first saw it.

We acquired several bare root plants at the Muhlenberg Botanic Club plant exchange two years ago. They grew some last summer but they were rather a disappointment at about 4 feet tall and one broke halfway and fell over. This year they have really settled in and they are stupendous.

The plants are rigid and 7 to 8 feet tall with a dramatic combination of purple stem, nice scalloped leaves that are blue-green above and glaucous below, and dramatic funnel-shaped inflorescences of many small cream-colored tubular flowers.

These are wonderful, eyecatching tall narrow plants that I can only describe as statuesque. This effect is mainly due to the the leaves are held stiffly pointing upward and the elegant candelabra structure of the inflorescence.

It fits right in with the many tall plants we have in or meadow style front yard. (I think it is the 3rd tallest plant after Arundo donax at 13 to 15', and Miscanthus x giganteus a 10' Miscanthus.) The article " UPWARD BOUND, Plants that grow tall and slender suit small spaces to a T" written by Scott Calhoun in the Aug/Sept 2007 issue of Horticulture Magazine. (sorry this isn't one they have published a "lite" version online) is a nice, well written and illustrated summary of tall herbaceous plants. We grow many of the plants he discusses there in our meadow.

Cacalia atriplicifolia (as I still think of it, a name that really rolls off the tongue!) must be very uncommon or rare because mature plants are rather conspicuous and would think I would have seen them even if they are shorter in dry roadside habitats.

1 comment:

James Hitz (MAEScapes) said...

Beautiful plant. If you manage to collect seed or offspring for your plant sales please post it so we too can have one or two of these in our gardens or meadows.