Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Plant of the Week: Carolina Wild Pink (Silene caroliniana)

It is often confused with phlox because it superficially resembles one, but sticky catchfly or wild pink (like other pinks such as firepink or roundleaf catchfly, two other Kentucky natives) has the petals separate, not fused like members of the phlox family.  There are three known varieties of this plant and for the most part, varieties do not mean much to a gardener, except in this case.  S. carolinana var. wherryi is the sub species that likes extremely well-drained limestone or shale soils.  The variety pennsylvanica is a more northern or high elevation Appalachian species that likes rocky, limestone derived soils.  The variety carolinana likes acidic, well drained sandy soils of the coastal plain.  All the plants found in Kentucky are the variety wherryi and are typically somewhat short-lived unless they are given room to send out rhizomes where they spread prolifically.  They can be produced by division or seed.  I have seen them scattered along the palisades cliffs of Central Kentucky in small patches but have found the largest patches along road cuts where the dominate soil is shale (Eastern Knobs), where the photos above were taken.  These make excellent rock garden plants and they can take a great deal of sun although they do best with some shade very late in the day during the hottest periods of the summer.  These colorful charmers rarely grow more than a foot tall and have semi-evergreen 4" long lance-shaped leaves.  There is a cultivar called 'short and sweet' which is common in the nursery trade.  The key to successfully growing this species is to have extremely well-drained soil, absolutely no clay allowed!  Good companion plants might include branched draba (Draba ramosissima, available only from Enchanter's garden), white-haired leather flower (Clematis albicoma),  hairy woodmint (Blephilia hirsutus), bird-foot violet (Viola pedata), and gray beard-tongue (Penstemon canescens).  When a large mass planting is achieved like those found growing in nature above, it can be quite a show stopper when in flower in April and early May.

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