Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade
Soil moisture: Medium to wet
Flowering period: August to October
Host plant for 17 caterpillar species
Late in the summer, wingstem’s flowerheads have an undeniable vitality – like bursts of soft yellow light with spreading central florets and descending, petal-like rays. Thriving in moderately wet to average soils and full sun exposure to partial shade wingstem is a major constituent of NE Ohio habitats ranging from riparian forests and meadows to woodlands with open canopy structures. In all of these places wingstem is an important plant for wildlife, especially bumblebees. The narrow, tubular shape of the plant’s central disk flowers prevents many short-tongued pollinators from accessing its nectar, thereby increasing nectar availability for bumblebees, which are long-tongued.
A tall plant that frequently grows in excess of 6 feet, wingstem is also a strong competitor, spreading by means of underground stems (a.k.a. rhizomes) to form colonies. When in bloom, wingstem constitutes one half of one of the great color combinations of North American flora, providing a mellow contrast to the intense magenta flowers of ironweed species (Vernonia spp.), which commonly inhabit the same meadow habitats as wingstem.
Photo by Ashley Keesling.