Favorite Native: Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum)

by Mary Pellerito
The joy of learning about native plants is understanding their role in the ecosystem.  And it is pretty cool to see that ecosystem working in your own garden.
Take the cup plant.  It has a yellow aster-like flower on a sunflower-like stem that grows 4-10 feet tall.  This plant is called “cup” plant because the large, sandpapery leaves (8 inches by 5 inches) join together around the central stem to form a cup that holds water.  Goldfinches like to drink water from the cups.

The yellow flowers bloom July to September.  Pollinators include long-tongued bees, like native bumblebees and miner bees; various butterflies; and skippers, which look like a moth and are a favorite food of birds.

The roots consist of a central taproot and many rhizomes that form large, dense cup plant colonies that provide good cover for birds, which often hide among the leaves searching for insects or pausing to rest.

So this one plant provides me with pretty yellow flowers and height in my prairie garden.  And it provides food, water, and shelter for birds, bees, and butterflies.  That is a plant of many talents.

Mary Pellerito is a Michigan-based garden and nature writer. Mary is a member of the Garden Writer’s Association, Wild Ones, and she is a Master Gardener.  This article was previously published on her blog Going Native.

To find plants for sale locally, check Pick-A-Pepper.com.

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