Queen Of The Prairie:
Nature's Cotton Candy

When the prairie ecologist in my life was telling me about some of his favorite and most-desired plants, my ears perked up at the mention of Queen Of The Prairie. First, I would like that title. Second, the poor thing is classified as "threatened", despite being fairly rugged. Third and most importantly, it looks like beautiful cotton candy waving in the breeze! What a world we live in...

Queen of the Prairie, or Filipendula rubra, is a member of the rose (Rosaceae) family, and I feel like it shares a saucy, wild femininity with rosehips. It is native to the upper-Midwest and upper-Eastern region of the U.S., and can be found far into Eastern Canada. This makes sense, as, according to Illinois Wildflowers, "The cooler climate of the Great Lakes region is preferred, rather than hot, dry summer heat." Prairie Moon Nursery provides a handy range map so you can see if this prettiness is native to your region. As with all native plants, it's important to be sure it is actually native to your specific area, or else that native plant becomes- you guessed it- non-native, and potentially even invasive. A reputable nursery that specializes in native plants should be able to provide you with seeds of your local ecotype.

If you're lucky enough to both live in Queen of the Prairie country and have a little patch of land, there are only a few things you need to know. It prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade, and "Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings", according to the experts at Dave's Garden. Queen of the Prairie grows about 5 ft tall, so it will definitely have a presence in your garden, attracting bees, butterflies, and birds. But not deer, says Illinois Wildflowers: win-win. It is a perennial plant that spreads naturally, and can also be propagated by dividing the rootball or collecting and drying seeds once the flowers have faded. Share with your friends, and maybe the Queen can be saved.

Have you ever grown or even seen Queen of the Prairie? I haven't and I'm dying to, not least because it reminds me of one of my favorite Halloween costumes ever.

(Images: 1. Prairie Moon Nursery 2. Public Art In Chicago 3. Illinois Wildflowers 4. Earth Friendly Gardening 5. Bobburg for Weather Underground)

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