The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

Going Native: Smartweed

7 Comments

This “smart” weed, which I believe to be Polygonum pensylvanicum L. or Pennsylvania smartweed, adorns itself with pretty flower tufts. It volunteered in my bird and butterfly garden but I moved it to my more “wild” area towards the back of my shed not knowing exactly what it was at the time. It transplanted well and this fall looks quite stunning.

The flowers attract long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies, skippers, and moths. Smartweed plays host to several moth caterpillars, including Lithacodia synochitis (Black-Dotted Lithacodia), Lithacodia carneola (Pink-Barred Lithacodia), Haematopsis grataria (Chickweed Geometer; often flies during the day), and Dipteryia rosmani (Noctuid Moth sp.). The caterpillars of the butterflies Lycaena helloides (Purplish Copper) and Strymon melinus (Gray Hairstreak; eats flowers and buds) are occasionally observed on smartweeds as well.

Many birds eat the seeds: waterfowl, gamebirds, and songbirds. I do not see many waterfowl or gamebirds in my village garden although they are nearby. Songbirds that Smartweed might attract to my garden include the Cardinal, Redwing Blackbird, and a great number of Sparrows – Grasshopper, Savannah, Swamp, Song and Tree. In the winter Juncos will eat the seeds.

The foliage and flowers stand up well. I like that this plant is still blooming at this time of year. I think some Goldenrod mixed in with the Smartweed would be a nice combination.

Consider letting Smartweed star in your flower garden if it happens to volunteer. The birds and bugs will appreciate it and I think you just might appreciate the late fall blooms as well. Also consider Smartweed if you have a pond or wetland area in your garden and wish to attract waterfowl. It does prefer a moist soil. Seeds are available for purchase from Prairie Moon.

Sources: Illinois Wildflowers, USDA Plants Profile, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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Author: Kathy Sturr

Cultivating art, growing soul, and creating plant-based food in the beautiful 1000 Islands, New York and Cedar Key, Old Florida.

7 thoughts on “Going Native: Smartweed

  1. I just had someone ask me about Smartweed the other day, whether they should leave or pull out. I like it a lot, and you've showcased it nicely. Good to hear it transplanted well.

  2. I don't know smartweed – but it looks beautiful. And it's amazing all the different wildlife that love it!

  3. I've never come across this plant… until now. Beautiful!

  4. Smartweed and Goldenrod are both blooming here in our So. Indiana garden, where they need no encouragement. I did not realize Smartweed was a favorite of so many insects though!

  5. Yes they look lovely through your photos. I like the color of the panicles.

  6. It really does look like a critter collector.

  7. You've really captured the beauty of the smartweed. I can just imagine how pretty it must be as it sways in the fall breezes. What a lovely volunteer…many aren't, as we know!

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