“What a desolate place would be a world without a flower! It would be a face without a smile, a feast without a welcome. Are not flowers the stars of the earth, and are not our stars the flowers of the heaven.” ~ A.J. Balfour
One of my favorite native plants that I stumbled upon when I was first gardening mostly in shade was Goat’s beard or Aruncus dioicus. Aruncus dioicus also known as Bride’s feathers, is part of the Rose family. As part of my linking in with Diana’s Dozen@Elephant’s Eye, and Gail@Clay and Limestone’s Wildflower Wednesday, I thought I would profile this wonderful plant in my latest Simply the Best post. And with the stunning foliage this plant displays, I am also linking in with Christina@Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides and her wonderful Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day on the 22nd.
Given the right conditions Goat’s beard can grow 3-6 feet tall and wide in zones 3-7. This deer resistant woodland plant prefers part sun to shade in moist to wet soils, but can be grown in more sun in northern gardens if given ample water. It will not tolerate full sun in southern gardens. It can also tolerate dry shade in northern gardens, but the plant will not grow quite so large.
Aruncus dioicus is a wonderful large native here in NY with 2 or 3 toothed leaves on each bright red stem (as pictured above) that produce feather like blooms resembling a large astilbe. Aruncus is dioecious with male or female plants. Females have more slender, greenish white and open flowers and are not as showy as the male plants. Male flowers (as pictured here) last longer in the garden, usually blooming over a four-week period. The blooms will become ornamental seed heads on plants after flowering is finished. This plant will also develop a modest display of yellow leaves in the fall. Goat’s beard dies down to the ground in winter. It is not happy when moved so find the right spot and let it grow.
I don’t usually hear of many people growing Goat’s beard, but they should. I have grown it in all my gardens and wouldn’t be without it. You can propagate it from seed if you have a male and female plant. Just scatter the seeds from the female plant in late fall, and they will germinate in spring. But be warned it can self seed freely although it is not a thug. Once this plant is established it is very difficult to cut through the root ball to divide.
Aruncus occurs throughout the Northern Hemisphere. This plant can be found in Europe, Asia, and eastern and western North America.
Native Aruncus dioicus occurs naturally along lower woodlands, at the base of bluffs or hills and in moist woods from Pennsylvania to Iowa, south to North Carolina, Arkansas and Oklahoma, also in the Pacific northwest where it grows from northern California to Alaska. It can be found in great numbers in the Appalachians and the Ozark ranges.
The species dioicus is Greek meaning two households, and refers to the male and female flowers on separate plants. The name Aruncus comes from the Greek aryngos (goat’s beard), referring to the feathery flower clusters.
There are many landscape and pollinator uses for Goat’s beard. It is a good plant for large displays of white blooms in late spring to early summer. When used in a woodland border, especially as a focal point, it creates a bold display and can also be used as a small shrub. The flowers only last for about 3 weeks, but the rest of the season the foliage creates a great backdrop and understory planting.
I like to plant it with native wildflowers like columbine, Jack-in-the-pulpit, wild ginger, hardy geranium, Virginia bluebells, woodland phlox, Jacob’s ladder, bloodroot, trillium, black cohosh, Shooting Star and ferns. I have never cut the flowers and used them in vases, but they would be stunning in an arrangement either fresh or dried.
It is also considered suitable for planting in and around water areas like streams or pond edges and rain gardens. Look at the flower heads currently emerging in May.
Aruncus is a great pollinator plant because it attracts bees, butterflies, hummers and other pollinators. Therefore it has added value if you are planting a pollinator garden. It is the larval host and nectar source for the Dusky Azure butterfly (not a butterfly I would typically find in NY) while other pollinators, like the Mourning Cloak butterfly that I would find in NY, love the nectar during early summer.
In some countries Aruncus is loved as a food source. In parts of Italy, it is used in soups or the young shoots are boiled with herbs and then cooked with eggs and cheese. The only dangerous part of the plant is the seeds which are considered poisonous.
Many Pacific Northwest Native Americans used Aruncus medicinally. Tribes made a salve from the ashes of the roots to rub on sores. Other tribes made a dye out of the roots. Some Native Americans used the plant roots for sore throats, cough and fevers. Some even used it for a love charm.
Language of Flowers
There is no listing for this glorious native plant. Since it resembles an astilbe, I decided to use the meaning of the astilbe instead. Astilbes are thought to evoke the feeling of, “I’ll still be waiting” or ” worldly pleasures”. I think this is a wonderful meaning for Bride’s feather or Goat’s beard.
I put together a little poem celebrating this lovely native woodland plant.
Behold the sight of creamy white,
Like feathers standing, stretching, bending.
Fireworks of plumes exploding-now dancing on the wind.
Don’t forget that June 1st marks the next installment of Seasonal Celebrations/Garden Lessons Learned. Click the link to learn more. Beth@PlantPostings will be wrapping up this past season with lessons we have learned in our gardens, and I will be setting the stage for next season’s celebrations (summer up N and Winter down S of the equator). What do you love to do in the this upcoming season? What holidays or rituals make it a wonderful season for you? How does your garden grow and what favorite plants will be blooming? I hope you will be joining us. Just create a post and link in with both or one of us between June 1 and the 20th, and on the 20th we will reveal those lessons and celebrations.
Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best:
Next up on the blog: Next Monday it will be time for another Word 4 Wednesday with Donna@Garden Walk, Garden Talk. June promises to be busy with lots growing in the flower and veg gardens. There will be Journal posts and more Simply the Best as well as another Garden Book review.
I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.
As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.
I hope you will join me for my posts, every other Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. I had to trim back my time blogging so I am back to every other Tuesday.
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