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A familiar native

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Stokesia

Stokesia laevis, “Stokes’ aster” is native to eastern North America. So why do both its Latin and common names honor an English plantsman, Jonathan Stokes?

Simple: In Colonial times, European explorers eagerly plundered the botanical riches of North America, hauling new species back across the ocean wholesale for study and classification. Stokesia is just one of many indigenous American plants that went to Europe for an education and came home with new names.

Dr. Stokes (1755-1831) was a physician and botanist. He was first a colleague and later an enemy of the eminent Erasmus Darwin, whose grandson Charles made a pretty big name for himself. Stokes’ eponymous “aster” occurs naturally from the Carolinas south and west, but is hardy well north of that range. In fact, it can handle icy winters as c-c-c-cold as USDA Zone 5.

The usual color of Stokesia in the wild is an attractive cornflower blue, but numerous variations in color and size have been selected over the years.

Stokesiais a favorite of numerous pollinators, especially nectaring butterflies and moths. All varieties feature neat mounds of broad, attractive green strap-like leaves.

Requires very little maintenance. Likes moisture during the growing season, but while dormant can be quite intolerant of wet feet. Winter mulch is helpful in the coldest part of its range.

Soil pH should be in the range of 5.8 to 6.2.

Very few pest or disease problems.

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