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Central Gardens Plant Tour

"A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows."

--Doug Larson


Welcome to the Central Natural Environment Gardens Virtual Plant Tour. This is where you can get acquainted with some of the many leafy green inhabitants of the gardens. These plants have been chosen for the gardens because they are native or naturalized to the Thunder Bay region or nearby areas, so they are well-adapted to our climate and don't need a lot of extra care in the form of fertilizers or watering. Many of these plants also provide food for birds, bees and butterflies, as well as a feast for the senses for human visitors. Sit back and enjoy this taste of what you'll find at the gardens. We hope you will feel inspired to visit the real thing during the growing season. 

We would like to thank Dr. S. Harun Rashid for volunteering his expertise and photos for this project. Thank you! 

Plant Names & Flowering Time

Photo

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Description

Agastache foeniculum

Common name: Anise Hyssop, Lavender Hyssop

Family: Lamiaceae

Flowering time: July to September

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This beautiful plant is in the Mint family. It produces purple flower spikes atop dark green foliage from July to September. It grows 1 – 3 feet (30 – 90 cm) tall. Excellent for semi-shaded spots or in full sun Anise Hyssop is a biennial, that self-sows readily. The leaves and flowers emit a licorice odour when crushed and have been used in cooking and for tea. It is easy to grow from seed, requiring medium to moist sand to loam. Deer resistant!

Monarda fistulosa

Common names: Wild Bergamot, Bee Balm, Honey

Plant Family: Lamiaceae

Flowering time: June to August

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Bergamot is a member of the mint family. Note the fragrant leaves and square stem. It attracts bumblebees and hummingbirds. A common inhabitant of sunny fields and woodland borders, it spreads from rhizomes to form clumps. The lavender to rose-purple flowers are produced in clusters at the tops of 2 – 3 foot (60 – 90 cm) stems in July and August. The flowers are excellent for fresh cut bouquets. Bergamot does well in full sun to part shade, sand to loam, medium to moist conditions. Deer resistant!

Rudbeckia hirta

Common names: Black-eyed Susan

Family: Asteraceae

Flowering time: July to September

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One of the best known and easiest to grow of all the wildflowers, Black-eyed Susan is a self-seeding biennial. It is not picky about soil conditions and will grow on almost any site. It blooms from July to September, grows 1 - 3 feet (30 – 90 cm) tall in full sun to part shade. It is native to tall-grass and mixed prairie habitats and is found in fields and open woods. There are 24 North American species of Rudbeckia. The plant has coarse rough stems and hairy leaves. The flowers have rich golden-yellow rays and brown (not black!) centres. Deer and rabbit resistant!

Sisyrinchium montanum

Common name: Blue-eyed Grass

Family: Iridaceae

Flowering time: June to August

 

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Blue-eyed grass is not really a grass. It is a member of the Iris family. The ‘eye’ is the yellow centre of the blue flower. Blue-eyed grass blooms early in the summer. The flowers open in the early morning, closing by midday. When it is finished blooming, it sheds a small round seed capsule with tiny black seeds. This plant likes full sun and does well in sandy to clay soils with reasonable moisture. It self-seeds easily. In the garden, Blue-Eyed Grass can be planted in sunny flower beds, rock gardens, or mixed with other prairie wildflowers and grasses for a prairie meadow.

Typha latifolia

Common name: Cattail

Family: Typhaceae

Flowering time: May to July

 

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The Cattail plant grows throughout North America as well as in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions around the world. Plants grow in wet soils and marshy habitats. It is a bio-remediator plant which absorbs pollutants from the water. The plant height is from 3-6 feet (90-180 cm) and the leaves are alternate, sheathing, long flat and narrow. Cattail is an early succession species, producing large amounts of litter and thus building the soil. The rhizomes are eaten by wildlife such as geese and muskrats, and can be made into flour, while the leaves can be used to make baskets and mats. Cattail flower pollen is very nutritious, making it a very versatile and useful plant.

Linum usitatissimum

Common name: Common Flax, Blue Flax

Family: Linaceae

Flowering time: June- August

 

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This perennial is native to the North American prairies and blooms in its second and successive seasons from tough, expanding clumps. It reaches up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall and blooms early in summer. Flax prefers full sun, and loose, dry soil, but is very adaptable. Flowers are startling blue on light, airy plants, often closing by midday. This plant is the commonly cultivated flax which is used to make linen and linseed oil. The seeds are high in linoleic acid, an unsaturated fat with reputed health benefits. This species is important in Native American lore, always noted for its beauty.

Hesperis matronalis

Common names: Dame’s Rocket, Dame’s Violet

Family: Brassicaceae

Flowering time: July to August

 

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Dame's Rocket is one of the early spring bloomers in this garden, reaching to 3 feet (90 cm) tall. It is sometimes confused with phlox, but note that its flowers have four petals, while phlox flowers have five. Dame's Rocket is aggressive and seeds easily. Deadhead before the seeds spread as it will take over other wildflower beds. The flowers come in lilac, purple and white. They are fragrant, particularly in the evening (Hesperis comes from the Greek word for evening). This plant originated in Eurasia and has naturalized in North America.

Oenothera biennis

Common name: Evening Primrose

Family: Onagracea

Flowering time: June to September

 

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This native biennial blooms from June to September. In its first year it forms a rosette. In its second year it grows 2 – 6 feet (60 – 180 cm) tall, bearing flowers near the top of the stem. The pale yellow flowers are 2 inches (5 cm) wide with four petals. They open in the evening (hence the name) and are pollinated by moths. Goldfinches feed on the seeds. The seeds contain an essential fatty acid that, according to research, reduces the symptoms of PMS. Historically the plant was used as an astringent and as a sedative.

Solidago canadensis

Common name: Goldenrod

Family: Compositae

Flowering time: August to September

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There are 28 goldenrod species native to Ontario. This is an aggressive plant with a deep taproot that has been inaccurately blamed for hay fever. The real culprit is Ragweed, an inconspicuous plant that blooms at the same time as Goldenrod. Solidago means “make whole” in reference to its ancient use in healing wounds. It is used a tea substitute. Many birds eat Goldenrod seeds. Plants attract praying mantis, bees, and butterflies.

Eupatorium maculatum

Common name: Joe-Pye weed

Family: Asteraceae

Flowering time: July to September

 

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Joy-Pye weed is a native plant to North America. Plants grow in moist to wet soil as well as full sun and partial shade condition. The plant forms an umbrella-like head and large clump of coarse green leaves. It reaches 4-6 feet 60-120 cm) in height. Joy-Pye weed attracts butterflies and is resistant to deer and rabbits. The deep pink /purple flower is generally found late summer to mid fall. Plant roots have traditionally been used to combat kidney and urinary disease.

Coreopsis lanceolata

Common name: Lance-leaved Coreopsis

Family: Asteraceae

Flowering time: June to August

 


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This flower is daisy-like with eight yellow rays on single 1 - 2 foot (30 – 60 cm) stems. It blooms continuously from June through August, tolerates drought, and can also withstand prolonged periods of moisture. This plant does well in full sun and partial shade. It prefers sandy or loamy soils. Under ideal conditions it can bloom in its first season. Its foliage makes an attractive ground cover throughout the year.

Dianthus deltoides

Common name: Maiden Pink

Family: Capriophyllaceae

Flowering time: July to August

 


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A nice addition in rock gardens or borders, pinks grow 6-16 inches (15 – 40 cm) tall and spread well. The narrow leaves form a thick mat that resists weeds. In early summer plants are covered with ½ - ¾ inch (1 – 2 cm) blooms. After flowering, a good shearing will promote additional blooms throughout the season. It likes sandy soils and will perform best in full sun, however it tolerates partial shade. It blooms abundantly, and needs less water than its cousin Sweet William. The flowers have a dark ring in the centre and the petals have notched tips. Maiden Pinks originated in Eurasia.

Lychnis chalcedonica

Common names: Maltese Cross, Scarlet Lychnis

Family: Caryophyllaceae

Flowering time: July-August

 

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This plant produces vibrant red blooms for a short time in mid-summer. Blooms consist of many individual florets, each with petals in the shape of a cross. The blooms are 3 - 4 inches (7 – 10 cm) in diameter, borne atop 2 - 4 foot (60 - 120 cm) stalks. It prefers sandy loam, tolerates moist to dry conditions, full sun to partial shade. Butterflies, bees, and birds are attracted to the blooms.

 

Chrysopsis mariana

Common name: Maryland Golden-Aster

Family: Asteraceae

Flowering time: July-September

 

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Golden-asters bloom in late summer like the blue or white asters that we are more familiar with. The plant forms a low rosette until late summer when its branches lift yellow flowers up to 3 feet (90 cm) off the ground. The foliage is woolly when young, becoming smoother with age. It likes full sun to light shade, good air circulation, and can handle poor soil.

 

Verbascum thapsus

Common name: Common Mullein

Family: Scrophulariaceae

Flowering time: July to August

 

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Native to Europe, Mullein thrives in meadows and pasture lands, along fencerows and roadsides. Mullein is invasive, adapting to a wide variety of conditions. During the first year, plants form rosettes of flannel-like leaves. Flowers are produced the second year on stalks 3-6 feet (1-2 m) tall. The yellow flowers, arranged in a leafy spike, bloom a few at a time from June through August. Introduced into the US in the mid 1700's it was used as a piscicide (fish poison) in Virginia. European settlers used it as a medicinal herb for a cough remedy. A methanol extract from mullein has been used as an insecticide for mosquito larvae.

Pilosella aurantiaca

Common names: Devil’s Paintbrush , Orange Hawkweed

Family: Asteraceae

Flowering time: June to September

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Similar to the more common yellow hawkweed, this plant blooms in early summer. Note the hairy leaves and stems. The leaves form a rosette at the base. The flowers are ½ - ¾ inches (1 - 2 cm) wide on top of stems up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall. A native of alpine regions in central Europe, it is considered invasive in North America. At one time it was believed that hawks visited hawkweeds to drink their juice to strengthen their eyesight.

Heliopsis helianthoides

Common names: Ox-eye Sunflower, False Sunflower

Family: Asteraceae

Flowering time: July to August

 

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Not a true sunflower, Ox-eye Sunflower is found in native tall grass prairies, along old roads and at the edge of brushy wooded areas. Easy to grow and a good source of cut flowers, it produces 2-3 inch (5-8 cm) orange-yellow blooms, growing singly atop 3-4 foot (90-120 cm) stems or side branches from mid to late summer. It thrives in all dry to medium soil types. A great clay-buster!

 

Anaphalis margaritacea

Common name: Pearly Everlasting

Family: Asteraceae

Flowering time: July to September

 

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A favourite in dried flower arrangements, these plants form clusters of white blossoms with yellow centres. The leaves are woolly and grey-green. It grows 2-3 feet (60-90 cm) tall in dry roadsides and rocky areas. Historically it was used as a replacement for tobacco, medicinally as a remedy for paralysis, and spiritually as a charm to keep evil spirits away. Blooms attract hover flies, bees, and butterflies.

Ratibida pinnata

Common names: Grey-headed, Yellow, or Prairie Coneflower

Family: Asteraceae

Flowering time: July-August

 


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This large yellow flower blooms in profusion in the heat of mid-summer, reaching a height of 3 - 6 feet (30 – 60 cm). It does well on all soils – dry to moist-- and is particularly good in clay. It is called Grey-headed Coneflower for its grey seed head but is sometimes called Yellow Coneflower because of its drooping petticoat of yellow petals. Yellow coneflower is also the common name for Echinacea paradoxa, a completely different wildflower. The crushed seed heads have an aromatic anise scent. The seeds are eaten by songbirds and its flowers attract butterflies.

Echinacea purpurea

Common name: Purple Coneflower

Family: Asteraceae

Flowering time: August to September

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This drought-tolerant perennial has flowers arranged individually on 2 - 4 foot (60 - 120 cm) stems with purple petals surrounding a red-orange centre. It grows in full sun to partial shade in sandy to clay soils, blooming through August and September. Plants self-seed readily. The dead flower stems remain erect into winter and are often visited by goldfinches who feed on the seeds. Echinacea comes from the Greek word for hedgehog in reference to the spiny center. Widely used by the Plains Indians, North American settlers also adopted its use. Now the herb is valued by natural health care advocates and is noted for its role in boosting the immune system.

Aster puniceus

Common name: Purple Stemmed Aster

Family: Asteraceae

Flowering time: August

 


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This Aster often grows in wet stands such as shoreline, bogs and swampy areas; however it can tolerate dryer conditions. This is a perennial herb that generally grows to about 1-3 ft (40-180 cm). The flower petals are blue-violet or purple (and occasionally white) around a yellow disk.

 

Cornus stolonifera

Common name: Red-Osier Dogwood

Family: Caprifoliaceae

Flowering time: May-June

 

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Dogwood is a deciduous shrub that grows to about 3-6 ft (1-2 m) in sunny to partial shade conditions. Although it can tolerate drought as its long taproot can reach moisture far below the soil surface, Dogwood is also found in marshy, swamp and shoreline habitats. A native species to North America, Dogwood provides visual appeal throughout all the seasons. Spring flowers are followed by bunches of white berries in summer. The deeply veined green leaves of summer turn to red in the fall, while the bright red branches of this shrub provide colour throughout the winter. The Dogwood protects against soil erosion and stabilizes steep slopes. It also provides forage for wildlife and livestock.

Rosa blanda

Common name: Smooth Wild Rose

Family: Rosaceae

Flowering time: May to July

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There are a number of Wild Rose varieties that grow along roadsides, open forests, and in fields. This small, flowering plant reaches up to 5 ft (1.5m) in height. It can spread vigorously by root suckers. Wild Roses bloom in early summer and produce red fruits–rosehips-- in late summer. The rosehips contain vitamins A, C and E, and minerals, and are often used to make tea.

Hierochloe odorata

Common Name: Sweet Grass

Family: Poaceae

 

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This hardy perennial is native to North America and Europe, and grows up to 24"/60 cm in full sun or partial shade. Sweet Grass is considered a sacred plant to many North American indigenous peoples, being used in peace, purification and healing rituals. The leaves are dried and made into braids for burning as incense, which has a lovely vanilla-like scent. Longer leaves from sterile shoots are used for basketry.

Aquilegia canadensis

Common name: Wild Columbine

Family: Ranunculaceae

Flowering time: June to July

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This species is one of our most familiar and beautiful wildflowers. Blooming in late spring, it reaches 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) tall. Its spurred red-and-yellow flowers nod on slender stems. The scalloped leaves form a neat mound of foliage. It is pollinated by hummingbirds and long-tongued moths and attracts butterflies as well. It does best in dappled shade, but grows easily in full sun. Historically columbine was used for medicinal purposes, including rubbing its seeds into hair to prevent lice. Deer resistant!

 

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562 Red River Road,
Thunder Bay, Ontario
P7B 1H3


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Phone: 807-624-2140
Fax: 807-622-0005

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