Monday, July 19, 2010

The best baptisia of all--B. arachnifera

I know I already posted about this plant sometime ago, but it's such a photogenic species I can't resist uploading some recent pics of this specimen in the gardens at Plant Delights. It is very rare, limited to a couple of counties in Georgia, though it apparently benefits from disturbance (ie burning or tree cutting) of its sandy habitats and can become locally common, according to some sources. If you want one, however, you have to find a nursery propagated one (don't even THINK about bothering it in its native habitat), and that will entail a drive to the nursery since they cannot ship it across state lines if it is a federally endangered species. I was lucky to be able to purchase a second small plant on my most recent trip south to provide some company for a plant of it that has been in my garden for a couple of years. Its not a fast growing species, my garden plant is still a small thing with two branches, and no flowers yet. It is hardy here in NY (Zone 7, maybe mild Zone 6) and should love the record breaking hot summer weather of late. The silvery foliage practically shines in the bright summer sunshine, and the yellow flowers add yet more beauty to an exceptionally good looking plant.

More baptisias--B. simplicifolia

Another striking baptisia species, B. simplicifolia, struts its stuff among the agaves and dasylirions in Tony Avent's gardens at Plant Delights. B. simplicifolia is a rare species which is endemic to a handful of counties in northern Florida, where it grows in sandhill habitats. It's glossy bright green leaves immediately distinguish it from other Baptisias, and the yellow flowers, while not spectacular, are not without merit. PD reports that it is hardy in Zone 5, so I will have to add this one to my want list for the future. Like B. perfoliata and B. arachnifera, it seems to do best in sunny, well drained spots.

In search of Baptisia perfoliata

The first two pics show Baptisia perfoliata in its native habitat, in this case the sandhills of South Carolina, where it resembles a somewhat stressed out sparse blue eucalyptus bush. Where I found it a week ago it grew among cacti and white flowered Polygonella americana, the latter being an attractive plant which is very common to the point of weedy in sandy areas down South. I managed to get a decent amount of seed from the wild Baptisia plants I found, once I figured out where the brown inflated seedpods were (see photo). The pods are hard to break into, and many are infested with a small species of weevil, which reduces the usual 6 or 7 or so seeds per pod down to 1 or 2 or even none. I will try and start some before summer's end so I can get some plants going for the new sandy area I am creating in my school garden extension.
The last two pics show the garden potential of this species, both were taken at Plant Delights in Raleigh, NC during my last visit earlier this month. Here, under better conditions than it gets in the wild, plants grow larger and more lush, and show no signs of drought stress. Like its gorgeous and rare cousin B. arachnifera, B. perfoliata creates a unique focal point in a garden, with its large size and unusual stem and leaf color and architecture.