Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Obedient Plant: Big Pink in a Season of Yellows

Among sun-loving native flowers of summer, the so-called obedient plant shows up all fresh and fulgent just as the party is starting to wind down. Each year it catches me by surprise with its pink when so many other flowers--sunflowers, cutleaf coneflowers, Silphiums, Heleniums--go with yellow. 

Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) is also off my radar because it is risky to plant. Its tubular flowers may obediently remain sideways if you push them, but the plant itself spreads aggressively underground. Not surprisingly, it's in the mint family, known for roots that spread hither and yon.

That's why this gardener on Grover Ave was so smart to plant it between a sidewalk and the road, where its capacity to spread is limited.

A similar strategy to curb its spread was used in front of Jay's Bike Shop. 

Obedient plant also pops up in several spots in Herrontown Woods each summer. Hard to say if it was planted or part of the indigenous flora. Interestingly, it doesn't seem to spread much when in an open woodland rather than a garden. Many other species that seem modest, even rare in the wild--various native sunflowers, groundnut, virgin's bower, fringed loosestrife--also turn rampant when planted in the comparatively tame environs of a garden. 

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