We try so hard sometimes to get the perfect blend of foliage and flowers, colors and sizes. It can be such a joy to see the delicate blends of specimen plants and tried and true vegetation in a garden, especially when you’ve planned it out beforehand and now get to enjoy what nature did with it. But, in many ways, as much as we plan, what we really want is for our native gardens to just look like nature (albeit a neat, well maintained replica, but a replica nonetheless).
You may or may not remember my last post about that rogue peach tree I unwittingly planted on my property, but I thought it only fitting to share this story as a follow up. This summer I had the joy of discovering a patch of flowers unknown and unplanted by me. No replica this time, but a self-seeded little patch of Persicaria virginiana (Jumpseed) nestled alongside some Goldenrod and White Snakeroot into the hillside on my property. There’s always a new surprise when life is allowed to flourish!
Identifying and investigating this plant was an exciting and informative experience. Many of you many know it by the name Polygonum virginianum, but technically this would be wrong. This and a few other cultivars have recently been reclassified into the sub genus Persicaria — a taxonomic clarification that I think clears up confusion and gives the plant a more fitting and acceptable name.
The Polygonum genus is home to 65-300 various species, depending on the restriction and distribution of the various subgenera like Fagopyrum, Fallopia and Persicaria. Most of the species in the genus are traditionally considered invasive weeds (knotweed, mile-a-minute, and tear thumb to name a few suspects). But despite its boisterous extended family, this pleasant native deserves its own identity free from generalized supposition.
My patch of Persicaria virginiana grew quite quickly on my property, due both to me allowing it to grow and the lack of competition in that particular area. The thing to decipher though is the difference between an enthusiastic native plant like this and a pesky invasive one.
Besides their close relation to classic weeds, plants like this one also get overlooked for reasons like vibrancy or flower conspicuity. Jumpseed’s flowers may not be initially noticed, but it is their subtle array of tiny white or pink blooms drifting over a sea of uniquely shaped and decorated leaves that make this such a gem.
I have this plant in a nice shady spot along a path that is wet, but well drained, and it seems to really like it there. I have encouraged it to spread around the area as ground cover, but if you had some which you wanted to control you can always just cut off the deadheads in late summer. A discovery like this is a good lesson in the value of careful identification and respect for each and every plant I encounter.
So even though you may have bad feelings about this plant because of its ominous relation to the ol’ Japanese knotweed—treat her right and give her a chance and you won’t be disappointed with this lovely, hardy native. The native pollinators like it even more than I!
© 2012, Christina Kobland. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us