[gardeners] Mystery plant

Margaret Lauterbach (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Wed, 25 Apr 2001 11:15:07 -0600

A few years ago, some gardening friends and I visited a truly expert 
gardener (he also grafts fruit trees successfully, so he ranks a few 
notches up) at his home. He has espaliered fruit trees and grafted several 
varieties of fruit on each tree that really act as a fence between his 
place and his neighbors.  He broke off a dried herbaceous seed stalk and 
gave it to us, saying it was great for hummingbirds.  One friend said "Is 
it a ____________?" and he answered yes.  In the car I asked her what she 
had identified as the plant behind the stalk and she couldn't remember. 
Another friend said "name some plants and I'll tell you what it 
was."  (sheesh!) and the third friend didn't hear the identification.

I said I wasn't planting anything that I didn't have ID on. So the third 
friend took the seed stalk and planted seeds.  It's a biennial, forming a 
low rosette of what looks like grey-green eryngium leaves the first year, 
then the second year it sends up a red stalk of blossoms similar to 
eremerus, that hummingbirds fight over.  It freely self-seeds, so the 
friend who grew it and noticed the hummingbird activity, brought me some 
volunteer plants and even planted them for me.  I telephoned the expert 
gardener (English is his second language, and his grasp is only fair), and 
he thought I was talking about Butterfly bush.  sigh.  Does anyone have any 
ideas?  Thanks very much, Margaret L