Simply The Best-May


“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.

IMG_6895Given 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.



IMG_3759The 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.

IMG_4165I 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

IMG_6894There 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.



Bride’s Feather

Behold the sight of creamy white,

Like feathers standing, stretching, bending.

Fireworks of plumes exploding-now dancing on the wind.

Donna Donabella


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:



February-Trout Lily



Next up on the blog:
  Next Monday it will be time for another Word 4 Wednesday with Donna@Garden Walk, Garden TalkJune 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.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

68 Replies to “Simply The Best-May”

  1. Hi Donna! A very informative post, and I never knew it’s edible! We have a large clump mostly in the sun, but there used to be a water feature near it so it got well-established. We have day lilies mixed in with it, and ferns nearby. The foliage colours all look lovely together.

    1. Cathy I learn so much by doing these posts and I learned that it was edible as well. Yours sounds lovely especially with the ferns and daylilies. I have added a few more around the garden since I do love the look of it.

    1. It is an interesting name and not too appealing…I much prefer Bride’s Feather. The leaves are just gorgeous as they start to grow.

  2. The AJ Balfour quote is so beautiful! I’ve not come across this plant before but I do have Astilbes (there’s so much that I have to learn!) so thanks for the useful information.

  3. Of course I knew nothing of this plant and now I want to plant it….You have such a wonderful way of weaving info, photos and poetry that makes your post magical….I am glad your knee is somewhat is going to make gardening difficult..I have had to have my husband do everything….lol…..Michelle

    1. Thx Michelle…that is so sweet to say. It is an amazing plant. Just plant, water until established and let it grow. Couldn’t ask for more. I try to get my husband to do it all but that will never happen. He hates to work outside and does a lot just for me as it is….lol!

  4. I love Aruncus too and use it for the second plan for close any things. Language of flowers and your photos are nice!

    1. How lovely to have you visit my garden…I am glad I was able to remind you about this wonderful plant.

  5. Hi Donna, I finally got a chance to visit your post since having not had much access to the internet. I did not know people could eat goatsbeard. What a surprise! I will await your W4W, I bet it will be really good.

    1. Wonderful to hear from you…how was the fling? I have not written the post yet…it is still forming 🙂

  6. My mother had a huge one in the old garden, and I definitely want to have one as well, though she referred to hers as an astilbe, so thanks for clearing that up for me. (It was definitely an aruncus!)

    1. So glad to help you identify a beloved plant. When I first saw one I thought it was an astilbe. It would love to find a spot in your garden.

  7. I love mine here. I did a post on it a few years ago and it was about the brides feathers. Mine tends to flop in the dry shade I have it growing. I tied it up though. Yours looks mighty happy! Glad to know about dividing it as I’d love to spread it around but think I’ll look around for seeds.

    We all wished we could’ve met you at the fling!

    1. Tina so glad you are a aruncus lover. I was sad I had to miss the fling, but your wonderful words were so sweet…I hope to attend the next one in San Fran or the following one in SC. Perhaps then!

  8. Great post! I have seen that plant, but I never knew what it was.

    I think that the medicinal uses are so interesting. I would like to learn more about medicinal plants at some point. Thanks 😀

    1. Libby I love natives because they have so many interesting uses especially medicinal…glad you enjoyed the post.

  9. I planted this in my VT garden the last summer I was there, but left the next spring before it bloomed and so never did see what it looked like! The foliage is gorgeous, especially with that pink tinge and beautiful edging on the new leaves in the first photo.

  10. I think I like the foliage of your goat’s beard as much as the flowers! And the flowers are lovely; they do remind me of a goat’s beard!

    1. Deb I adore the foliage as well. I think that is why it is such a favorite. It is so much more than the flowers and it is so important to have great foliage on a shade plant…

  11. I haven’t seen this plant in years! I vaguely recall trying to grow this once, in the garden at our first house. I think tried almost anything there that said it would grow in shade. Many things languished though, as the shade there was rather dense. I love that this has grown so well for you though. As my wimpy plant never did much, I had no idea it could grow so large, but I love its Astilbe-like plumes!

  12. It’s a dependable, pretty, bug resistant and aside from cutting it down in the spring – there’s not a thing to do but sit back and enjoy it. I grow mine in dry shade and it tops out at 4.5 feet. I’d recommend it to anyone with a patch of shade and a busy life-style.

    1. That is great. I hope mine gets that big in dry shade. I have one under some big trees and it is only 2 feet in bloom. It is the best easy-going plant!

  13. It does look like a lovely plant, what a great post. And I love the poem. Thanks for sharing your nature scene.

  14. Now if I could only make it bloom in my garden. it makes a very nice foliage plant, though. Fingers crossed that it flowers this year. gail

    1. I agree it takes a couple of years to get to its full size and bloom…I love mine right now as the wands of tight buds are arching over the plant…

  15. Wow! I will have to try this plant. We are in zone 7. Love the white beards! Will have to look for one in my garden centers..haven’t seen them or noticed them here before! Thanks for sharing so much information about this beautiful plant!

    Miss Bloomers

    1. Sonia/Miss Bloomers glad you enjoyed the post and want to plant goat’s beard. If you have a native plant nursery nearby you may find it there.

  16. I thank you so much for linking in this week. It is an honor to host Friday’s Flaunt and meet new friends and visit the regulars (who are like old friends) who share. I always feel so privelaged to know that inspiration is just a click away when need a bit of a boost for my spirits! It is a pleasure to tour and see all the gorgeous blooms…landscapind and ideas that all the participants share, and I appreciate each and every link and comment! I have shared your post today with my facebook page for Tootsie Time. I hope you will link in again soon!
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.

    1. Thanks Tootsie…it is always a pleasure linking in and I appreciate your posting my blog on your FB page!

  17. This is one I would like to try again in my East Texas yard, but, currently I don’t have the shade it needs. So, I’ll just enjoy yours:)

  18. I miss having a Goats Beard in my garden. The one I had in my previous home was huge and really happy in the shady spot next to my garden gate. Maybe I’ll have one again.


    1. Yael, your goat’s beard sounds lovely…I hope you are able to have another. Mine is happy in a semi-shady spot next to the garden gate too!

  19. This is one plant I’d wanted in the courtyard garden but as is evident by yours, they grow so big and beautiful. Cannot feature this month as scaffolders and painters have moved in but had intended to focus on – Astilbes 😉 Gorgeous firework of plumes.

    1. They do have dwarf varieties too if that helps Laura. Glad you liked it as it is very similar to an astilbe in looks.

  20. What a beautiful specimum of goatsbeard! It’s clear that yours is very happy in its spot! Interesting that Italians use the young roots for cooking – will have to investigate that. I do see seedlings pop up here and there but as you said, they are not thuggish, at least not here in central MA.

  21. Hi, Donna,, I hope you will get this question after all these years. I plan to add goats beard to my yard and was surprised to learn it needs a male and female plant. How do I go about finding one of each.

    1. Hi Carol. Actually Goat’s beard doesn’t need a male and female plant. The plant produces either a male or female plant and some prefer one over the other as the male is supposed to be showier. But go ahead and plant one Goat’s beard and it will grow all by itself.

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