Many wildflower enthusiasts are familiar with our spring wildflower, the Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata L.). However, there are other native Phlox species in this area and some of them bloom at other times of the year. One of them is the Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata L.), which is the 2nd most common native Phlox species. Both species were first discovered in Virginia in the late 17th Century.
Garden Phlox is a member of the Order Ericales or Solonales and of the Family Polemoniaceae. The generic name, Phlox, is Greek for “fire” or “flame” because of the flower’s color. It is also the Greek name of a plant with flame-colored petals. The specific epithet, paniculata, is Latin for “of panicles”, referring to its panicled cluster.
Another scientific synonym for this plant is Phlox decussata (Pursh). Other common names for this species are Fall Phlox, Flame Flower, John Fanick Perennial, Perennial Phlox, Summer Phlox, Tall Garden Phlox, and Tall Phlox.
DESCRIPTION OF THE GARDEN PHLOX
Height: Its height is 2-6 feet.
Stem: Its stem is smooth, stout, and erect.
Leaves: Its leaves are simple and opposite. There are about 15-40 leaf pairs spaced apart upon the stem. Each leaf is either sessile or short-petioled and does not clasp the stem. It is lanceolate, oblong, elliptic, or ovate; about 2-7 inches long; and about 1-2 inches wide. Its lateral leaf veins are prominent. Its margin is minutely bristly and entire. Its tip and base are narrow and is widest in the middle.
Flowers: Its flowers are arranged in a large, dense, terminal, pyramidal, cymed or panicled cluster. Each flower is radially symmetrical, about ½-1 inch wide, about 1 inch long, and has a short stalk. It is white, pink, red-purple, or lavender. Its corolla of 5 united petals is trumpet-shaped with 5 broad, spreading, overlapping lobes and a hairy tube. Its calyx is smooth and tubular with 5 united sepals. It has 5 short, cream white stamens attached to the flower tube at different levels and 1 short pistil with 3 linear stigmas and a single 3-branched style. The style reaches beyond the middle of the tube. 1or 2 stamens may extend beyond the tube. All flowering parts are attached at the bottom of the ovary. These flowers are fragrant and attract Butterflies and Moths (Order Lepidoptera), Bumblebees (Genus Bombus), and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris L.). Flowering season is usually July to October, but some can even flower as late as early winter.
Fruit: Its fruit is a dry, longitudinal, 3-chambered or valved capsule. It breaks open into 3 or more parts.
Roots: Its root system is shallow and fibrous. Its short, thick rhizome with its irregularly spaced nodes sprouts many new plants.
Habitat: Its habitats consist of open moist woods, thickets, gravel bars, streambanks, and woods’ edges.
Range: Its range covers most of the eastern U.S., except Florida, and southeastern Canada. It extends as far west as the Great Plains.
Uses of the Garden Phlox:
The Garden Phlox has medicinal uses. Its leaf extract is used internally as a purgative or used externally for treating boils, eczema, and other skin ailments. The leaves were also made into a tea for upset stomachs and to purify blood. The roots were used as eyewash for sore eyes.
Garden Phloxes are used as a highly adaptable cultivated ornamental plant. Many horticultural varieties with different colors have been developed from it. Garden Phlox can also hybridize with other Phlox species, such as the Wild Blue Phlox. Many of these plants have escaped cultivation and have expanded their range.
NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION FIELD GUIDE TO WILDFLOWERS OF NORTH AMERICA
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NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY FIELD GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN WILDFLOWERS (EASTERN REGION)
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