There it was, as flashy as in the seed-catalog photos: three-foot-tall Euphorbia marginata, the striking green-and-white variegated spurge known as snow on the mountain.
But then Alan Branhagen did a double take. What was it doing in a prairie in western Iowa?
“And I was like, ‘Oh, it’s native,’” recalled Mr. Branhagen, who was doing fieldwork that summer as a college intern with the Nature Conservancy.
Suddenly, what he was seeing registered: an annual commonly associated with gardens, growing where there was no garden, but in a vast, wild place. A native plant, making itself at home.
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, has encountered many other native annuals in situ.
transforming your lawn with native ground covers or waiting for a new meadow to fill in, annuals like partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) or black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) make great filler, as a cover crop or nurse crop. And while they hold space for the perennials to size up, they support the food web — and look beautiful doing it.
At Powell Gardens, lemon bergamot (Monarda citriodora), an annual beebalm relative with purple flowers and bracts stacked in tiers, and Plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) are used as placeholders, too.
“For the gardener, they provide instant gratification,” Mr. Branhagen said. “And everyone can see that you’re trying to do something, too.”