Legumes in flower

You will notice that the Astragalus canadensis (Canadian milkvetch) is conspicuously absent from this post on native legumes. Fear not, I am gearing up for a post all of their own, hopefully soon. Some did not make the winter, but most braved the brutal cold and lived to tell the tale. But that’s a story for another day.

05082018 thermopsis
Thermopsis villosa. Blue Ridge buckbean, Carolina lupine, Aaron’s rod. Looking closely, the bud can be seen emerging from the tip of the stalk. This two-year old plant had at last ten budding stalks. Note the three-fingered leaf-hand to the left (and the smaller one to the right, alternate), extended as though to welcome the flower bud into the light of day.  May 8, 2018

05092018 amorpha 1
Amorpha fruticosa. False indigo bush. The leaves of this legume are less clover-like (or trifoliate), and more like the black locust (odd-pinnately compound). May 8, 2018

05092018 amorpha 2
Amorpha fruticosa. Flowers from the growing tip of the woody stalk. May 8, 2018.

05112018 amorpha 3
Just a few days later, Amorpha fruticosa in flower. Appreciated by some species of bumble bee. the pollen-bearing stamens, yellow, emerge from deep violet flowers, giving each inflorescence an iridescent sheen. May 11, 2018.

Garden roll call

Redbud, Cercis canadensis, in flower. Photo taken April 3. Previous post – redbud in bud, around March 22.

04032018 redbud

April 14. Goji berry (Lycium barbarum, Gou qi zi 枸杞). I’m experimenting to see how much fruit all of this new growth will produce. Also, I’ve heard anecdotally that the dried goji berries at the store are treated with a colorant to give them a redder hue. I will investigate this further.

04152018 goji

April 14. Jewels of opar (Talinum paniculatum). They survived the winter!!

04222018 jewels of opar

April 22. Heuchera spp. Enjoys the shade of the elderberry.

04222018 heuchera

April 22. A bit washed out due to the overcast sky, I suppose. A nice perennial polyculture, front, from left: figwort (Scrophularia marilandica), comfrey in flower (Symphytum spp.), back: Carolina lupine/Blue Ridge buck bean (Thermopsis villosa).

04222018 polyculture


Thermopsis villosa syn caroliniana (Blue-Ridge Buckbean, Carolina golden banner, Carolina bush pea, Aaron’s rod). Seeds from Prairie Moon had a very nice germination rate (they arrive scarified). They came with a Thermopsis inoculum (which is the same as for Baptisia inoculum, perhaps indicating their genetic proximity). Thirty day cold-moist stratification. Scarify with sandpaper or by pouring boiling water and let sit overnight.

This plant brings happiness to my heart.

Our Thermopsis flowered for the first time in the garden this Spring. I have saved seeds, and am nervous because that means I (may) need to scarify them myself. The Prairie Moon accession, I sowed in flats in February, and was pleased to see them germinate in March or so. After that, I ran out of time, so they were largely on their own until yesterday, October 28. Of the ones that made it the first month, there was zero loss.

I may go ahead and sow the collected seeds (“Megadiverse” accession? -not yet) now, to see if I can circumvent scarification.

10282017 thermopsis 2
The distinct leaflets-of-three can be seen towards the top left. These will be interplanted in a perennial bed with Scrophularia marilandica (figwort) and Scutellaria lateriflora (skullcap).

thermopsis 3
Here can be seen the delicate pink nodules, which host an invasive symbiotic rhizobium that acts to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it to a form that the plant is able to take in.

10282017 thermopsis 1
This will be next year’s growth.


Chapin (2009). http://georgiawildlife.com/sites/default/files/wrd/pdf/fact-sheets/aaron%27s_rod_2010.pdf.

thermopsis distribution

The above map from Weakley (2015) indicates that Thermopsis is endemic to a small portion of Appalachia. It’s southerly reach indicates to me that it may thrive in our climate zone, 7A. A goal of mine (really a quest) is to locate a naturally-occurring population of this plant in Rockingham County, thus indicating that it’s reach is a bit more easterly than determined.

Source:  Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2015. Taxonomic Data Center. (http://www.bonap.net/tdc). Chapel Hill, N.C