Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Rattlesnake Master

Eryngium yuccifolium seed heads

I'd always admired eryngium yuccifolium, more commonly known as Rattlesnake Master, whenever I'd read about it in the prairie plant section of all those recent Piet Oudolf books.  I'd think "Hey, I never noticed that growing up in Iowa" about the same time that I'd think "I want that! How come I never see it in nurseries?".  It was on my plant lust list for many years.

Three years ago I was visiting dear friends on the way south side of Chicago...think suburban Chicago, closer to the cornfields than the Loop...when I saw Rattlesnake Master on a hike with my buddy.  It was going to seed...perfect.  I collected some seed, packed it in my carry-on and promptly planted it in a small pot when I got home.  

Then I waited and waited.  Sure, the seed sprouted the next year, but the plants were tiny so I left them in the tiny nursery pot in which they were sown.  The second year they were still small, but I'd read enough to know that the plant develops a deep tap root and hates being transplanted.  It was now or never.  I dutifully planted the seedlings out into the garden, marking each one so that I wouldn't absent-mindedly weed them out.

Weird leaves, right? (two Rattlesnake Masters in front, but that's a hesperaloe in back)

This year they finally bloomed.  It reminded me that good things come to those (gardeners) who wait.  I hope that the plants clump up and come back sturdier and showier each year...without self-seeding everywhere and becoming a scourge.  It's a fine line, I know.

And, oh yeah, it doesn't treat Rattlesnake bites.  Sorry.

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