Carolyn Summers, in her book Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East, points out that the term "wildflower" lends itself to misunderstanding. She makes a good point, and I guess I should call them "herbaceous plants" or "forbs." But since William Cullina in his book Wildflowers and Don Leopold in his book Native Plants of the Northeast both use the term "wildflowers," I guess I will, too.
Wildflowers or weeds?
These truly ARE weeds. They are NOT native plants.
Often when I mention native wildflowers, people wonder why I would want to plant weeds. This puzzled me. When I think of native wildflowers, I think of all the beautiful wildflowers pictured in the following pages.
I finally realized that people think of native wildflowers as those plants you see by the side of the road. These weeds weren't intentionally planted and they grow by themselves, so people think these must be the native plants I'm talking about.
The irony is that these roadside weeds are generally non-native plants!
We took the above photo as we were walking to the grocery store. The queen anne's lace, chicory, and other common roadside plants are NOT native even though they've been here for hundreds of years, brought over by European settlers. We're so familiar with them they may seem native, but a few hundred years isn't a lot of time when you're talking about nature adapting to new plants.
Coneflowers and others
Here's what native wildflowers can look like—not a weed patch at all!
We like to blend coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) with other natives. They provide nectar, but also seeds for birds once I got out of my old ornamental gardening habit of deadheading them all.
Here is the list of the wildflowers we grow.