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FutureStarrWild Sweet William Floweror
A perennial herb with lance-shaped, evergreen leaves and showy, rounded clusters of (usually) lavender flowers. Flowers tubular with 5 lobes, the lobes spreading, somewhat heart-shaped, with or without fine notches, in varying colors: pale blue-purple, red-purple, rose-lavender, rarely white. Blooms April–June. Leaves opposite, lance-shaped, spaced apart, to 2 inches long, finely hairy. Dark green, leafy shoots spread from base, take root, and persist through the winter.
Phlox maculata is rarely found in the wild due to habitat degradation and destruction. It also has steep competition from Dame's Rocket, an invasive, non-native plant in the mustard family. Hesperis matronalis is often confused as being a Phlox because it blooms a similar color and around the same time as our natives. The easiest way to distinuish Phlox is the 5 flower petals, whereas Dame's Rocket only has 4. Dame's Rocket also has alternate leaves, while native Phlox have opposing leaves.A cylindrical, branched cluster to 12 inches long at the top of the stem, plus smaller clusters arising from the upper leaf axils. Flowers are about ¾ inch across, 5 pale pink to pinkish purple petals fused at the base forming a long slender tube. Inside the tube are yellow-tipped stamens, a few of which barely poke out of the tube. At the base of the tube is a slender, usually hairless calyx about ¼ inch long, with 5 narrow lobes.
According to the DNR, Wild Sweet William was probably rather common in pre-settlement times, but the conversion of wet/mesic prairie in southeast Minnesota to agriculture has destroyed or degraded most of its habitat. Further risk of decline comes from invasive species such as Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), which is rapidly taking over roadsides and invading natural areas across the southern counties. Only 12 populations of Wild Sweet William are known to still exist; it was designated a Special Concern species in 2013. There are 2 subspecies noted in several references, though they are not currently recognized in Minnesota: subsp. maculata, which has the cylindrical flower cluster described above, and subsp. pyramidalis, which has (you guessed it) a more pyramidal shaped cluster. Wild Sweet William flowers resemble other Phlox species, notably Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa), which is a smaller, hairier, dry prairie plant, and Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), which is a larger plant with distinct venation on the leaves. The red-spotted stem of Wild Sweet William further distinguishes it from other species.Best Perennial Plants for St. Louis Missouri Area, Perennials, All Plants A-Z, Butterfly Attracting Plants, Cut Flower Garden, Deer Resistant Plants, Drought Tolerant Plants, Fragrant Plants, Ground Covers, Rabbit Resistant Plants, Shade Plants for St. Louis Missouri Area (Source: sugarcreekgardens.com)