Written by: Engineering Conservation Crew

Are you tired of your garden or vegetation space not going exactly the way you want? Looking for a plant that will finally do what you say? If you are experiencing these feelings, this week’s plant of the week could be what you’re looking for. Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), true to its name, the plant's individual flowers are "obedient" and can bend in any direction temporarily. Due to this species unique habit, this species is a fun plant to feature in interactive or children’s gardens for hands on learning or a party trick. This species is also known as “false dragon head”, which refers to the dragonheads of the related Dracocephalum, a genus to which the plant once belonged. The attractive plant is snapdragon-like, but its square stem is typical of the mint family. Obedient plant is a perennial that is easy to establish and maintain. It can creep rapidly by rhizomes to keep weeds at bay and can be used to fill in blank space. Due to this feature, it can become aggressive but the shallow roots are easy to pull out if necessary.

Obedient plant is a benefit to native ecosystems, as it is a reliable nectar source for a variety of critters. Flowers begin to open in late summer, slowly blooming from the bottom of the flower stalk upward. They should remain in bloom well into fall. This provides much-needed energy for pollinators facing the coming winter. It is important that bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds receive this last boost before food starts to become scarce.

Each week during the growing season, the Engineering Division focuses in on a Plant of the Week to raise awareness of different plants in the field that benefit our environment. The Engineering crews in the field tasked with conservation share expert insight on these plants and their benefits each week in a creative way!

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This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Engineering and a link back to the original post.