August 10, 2011

Becky's Cup Plant

Dug out of the ground in Kentucky.

Transported to Missouri in a plastic shopping bag.

Zapped by TSA x-rays and carried on the airplane.  Stuffed under the seat for the flight to New England.

Planted in the ground in Connecticut.

A little bit of the midwest prairie blooming in my garden. 

It is a cup plant, Silphium perfoliatum.  I tried to grow them from seeds that we collected on a visit to a restored prairie in Wisconsin a few summers ago, but they didn't take.  Then Becky dug one up from her garden in Kentucky and brought it to me when we met in St. Louis in May.  A bumpy journey by car and plane for the sad little seedling, and I wasn't sure it would take.  But it did.

Not the 8 foot tall tower that the prairie produces, this cup plant is about 5 feet tall in my New England garden.  It rises tall and straight above the blooming clethra, kind of an odd combination from vastly different native habitats, but it's my garden and I can plant things that don't go together.

You can see why it is called cup plant: rain collects in the stem joints and makes a pool.  A little cup of refreshment for the bees that swarm around the yellow blooms.  Birds will drink from it too.

It's a fun plant: oddly out of place, sunnily happy, a drinking fountain of a plant, and it came from a friend's garden far away.  I wonder if it tells the nearby clethra tales about the long car ride and plane trip it took to get here, and the sights it saw along the way?


  1. A handsome plant. I have seen them in the wild. I wonder if it will reproduce?

  2. I love cup plant! I have a big one in my garden. Yours will grow much wider over time and you'll end up with multiple seed heads. I wish more people grew this plant. I'm glad it survived its TSA pat down. :o)

  3. What a great story! Your cup plant has found a great home, I am also struck by how wonderful your Clethera looks. I don't know that I've ever seen one look that good, here!

  4. Your story was amusing with the plant travels and ordeal. I am just picturing the 'package' and all the moves it was making. I guess you cut it back from eight feet for the trip!

  5. A lot of our plants could tell stories but yours has an especially good one! It looks very happy with the Clethra. Your garden looks wonderful.

  6. Lisa, I am hoping to save some seeds this fall and try to propagate this cup plant.

    TS, It did survive its TSA pat down at the airport (better than I do normally!) No one questioned me taking a plant on board.

    Sissy, thanks, the clethra is blooming its head off this year. And the fragrance. . . ooh.

    Donna, this cup plant surely is a well traveled plant!

    Sweetbay, thanks. Do you think they tell stories to each other?

  7. Laurrie, If it is whispering to its neighbours I bet such a well traveled plant has interesting stories to tell.

  8. Jennifer, I do hear whispering out there in the gardens on breezy days.

  9. Charming, I had not realized this plant is so adaptable.

  10. Rose Marie, thanks for visiting!

  11. I just planted one of these (well, four, actually)! I got them from Prairie Nursery -- a fabulous source for native and prairie plants. They didn't do much this year -- I'm not certain they're getting quite enough sun, but we'll see what happens next year. Yours look great -- sunnilly happy, indeed! I hope mine are that tall next year.


Sorry about requiring code verification -- I experimented with turning it off to make commenting easier, and I got too much spam. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to type in silly codes. I appreciate hearing from you.