Sometimes I’m guilty of not wanting to grow what’s “already been done” as far as native plants are concerned, but I would do well to remember that folks who grow, propagate, and select native plants for use in the arid west usually have a pragmatic bent, and there’s a reason it’s “been done.”
We had an exceptionally dry spring and summer here, even by Wyoming standards. By August of this year, all but one county in our 98,000 square mile state was determined eligible for disaster relief.
So as I was driving across the Laramie plains I was struck by the large, healthy, bloom covered Gaillardia along the dry, dry roadside of September. I think these were planted as part of the roadside revegetation mix, so they may not be the true native species, but it was enough to make me reconsider this plant for my own landscaping efforts. Who can knock a plant that is covered with blooms after a record dry year, with its only possible source of additional water the occasional runoff from the pavement?
Well, if you know anything about the Laramie plains, the wind was blowing at about 40mph, so I didn’t get any shots of the actual plants on that day, but the gallery contains some earlier images of Blanketflower. Click on an image to view the slide show.
Gaillairdia aristata,* also called Blanketflower, Indian Blanketflower, and Brown Eyed Susan, is a tap rooted perennial with alternate leaves, entire to pinnatifid. The entire plant is visibly hairy, which you can see in the third photo. The receptacle is chaffy or bristly, seen in the fourth photo.
Flower heads 2-3″ across. Rays yellow, can be red or purplish at the base, the tips are three cleft, centered around a dome shaped cluster of brown to reddish disc flowers.
Found in plains, hills, slopes and meadows- and next year, my yard.
Gaillardia aristata can be propagated from seed. With no stratification treatment, germination may be around 50%. Seeds should just be pressed into soil and kept moist. Germination is uneven, but some will begin to sprout in 10-13 days. Freshly collected seeds can be planted out immediately and natural stratification will take place. Some references say dry storage for a few months will improve germination, so that’s good news if you collected seeds this fall and want to plant them into flats next spring.
Many cultivars have been made from this species, but I believe the third photo is of a true native found on Central Wyoming rangeland, far from any cultivated ground.
*Plant Characteristics from : Dorn, R.D. 2001. Vascular Plants of Wyoming. Mountain West Publishing Cheyenne, Wyoming