Eryngo is an annual wildflower. The seeds usually sprout in early spring and the flowers do not begin forming until the middle of July. In August, the stems, bracts, and flowers begin turning purple.
Everything about these plants are spiny. Although, when the leaves first being growing in the spring they are not spiny at all. The young plants look kind of like lettuce (they are actually in the carrot family) until they start growing a vertical stem and that is when they turn spiny.
I first became aware of eryngo at about this time five or six years ago. A couple of miles from home, there is a railroad track that I pass on my way to work. I have collected several plants and seeds from this location over the years. I patiently waited for the flowers to turn brown (and hoping they would not be mowed down) so I could collect some seeds. I went back a couple of weeks ago to take a couple of pictures of my eryngo's relatives in their natural habitat. These plants are growing in chalky soil and are about two feet tall.
Here is a close up of the wildflower growing in the wild.
Back at home, my eryngo are growing wild. My plants do not get any fertilizer or extra water, but they are growing in black clay soil, rather than chalky soil. I guess that is what makes the difference in their growth. My eryngo are over six feet tall! It seems like they grow taller each year. I don't mind the height so much until they start flopping over into the pathways and create something of a gauntlet run.
In mid-July, I experimented on a few four feet tall plants and cut them back to about 6 inches. Some of them died and others branched out with new stems. Next year, I will try cutting them back in June.
In the front garden, the lanky stems are partially hidden by the grasses, Liatris, and other plants. This may be the best location for them in my garden.
Height is probably an adaptive response for eryngo. If they grew in a tall grass prairie, they would need to hold their flowers near the top of the grasses so the bees could find and pollinate them. Next year I hope to have another eryngo in the garden. Randy Hyden of Gardening on the Post Oak Savannah came by for a brief visit on Labor Day and brought me some Hooker's eryngo seeds, as well as a few other other types of seeds and some tasty brisket from his restaurant. Click here for Randy's post on Hooker's eryngo.
I had a surprise over the weekend when I noticed my next late summer flower blooming a couple of weeks earlier than usual. Here are my first Liatris blooms of the year. More to come on this flower...