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.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Plant of the Week: Glaucous Snakeroot (Prenanthese racemosa)

It is hard to believe it is already late summer and the fall flowers are now beginning to flower.  While it is still quite hot out, some parts of the state have received some much welcomed rain.  Here in Lexington the grass turned back green and is actually growing, perhaps a bit too quickly I might add.  None the less, now is the time to think about late summer and fall flowers. One the most outstanding, colorful species that occurs in the prairies at this time is the glaucous snakeroot.  What a beautiful species, slender growing from 2 to 4' tall, with longer, lower narrow leaves with a long stalk that get smaller and almost clasping towards the top of the plant.  It is clusters of beautiful pink to lavendar flowers that butterflies cherish. The plants like full sun and generally occur in moist prairies throughout their native range which is north of Kentucky from the east coast to almost the west coast.  In Kentucky, it is very rare and is known from one state nature preserve.  In the garden, it would do well in full sun with average garden soil (no clay) and loves calcium rich soils. An excellent companion plant would be rough blazingstar.  A patch of these two species together would be stunning and highly attractive to butterflies. Only one nursery sells plants and one sells seeds but if you are interested in having this species in the garden, it is well worth the effort to find or grow it yourself.
The plant gets its name from prenes for "drooping" and anthe for "blossom" and racemosa which is Latin for "having a raceme - cluster of flowers each on its own stalk arranged along a single stem. Because the stem has a "milky white" substance on the inside, it was used at one point to treat snakebite.  Timothy Coffey, in "History of Folklore of North American Wildflowers" attributed this direct quote about rattlesnake root to William Byrd of Virginia (1728)  "the rattlesnake has an utter antipathy to this plant, in-so-much that if you smear your hand with the juice of it, you may handle the viper safely. Thus much can I say of my own experience, that once in July, when these snakes are in their greatest vigor, I besmear’ed a dog’s nose with the powder of this root and made him trample on a large snake several times, which however, was so far from biting him that it perfectly sicken’d at the dog’s approach and turn’d its head from him with the utmost aversion."

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