June begins the season of green, when the trees and shrubs are fully leaved and spring blooms have faded. My Jungle is primarily an iris garden, but it would be boring right now if made up of only green swords of foliage. Not to worry though, numerous late spring and early-summer blooming plants pick up the color standard so the Jungle does not suffer summer blahs. One of my favorites is trumpet beardtongue (Penstemon tubaeflorus), which unfortunately is listed as endangered in Illinois (see Checklist of Illinois Endangered and Threatened Animals and Plants). Its white trumpet-shaped flowers cluster together at intervals around an unbranched flower stalk; topping out at about three feet. The nectar and/or pollen of the flowers are attractive to not only long-tongued bees, but also swallowtail butterflies and ruby-throated hummingbirds. Trumpet beardtongue is now an uncommon native in Illinois mainly due to habitat destruction, collecting, or other development pressures. Its status on the Illinois Checklist means harvesting of it or any other endangered or threatened plant or plant product from a wild Illinois population is ILLEGAL without a permit from Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) or express written permission from the landowner. If sourcing seed, confirm seed is from a licensed (inside Illinois) and/or reputable retailer (outside Illinois). Legally acquired seeds sown on the surface in the fall fulfill both the 30-day chilling requirement and the need for light to germinate.
Coneflowers (Echinacea) are another group of beautiful summer blooming flowers. Several research studies have published evaluations of "improved" cornflowers over the years in order to tease out the best garden performers. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, improved cultivars, even the research recommended selection just do not last in my jungle. Two species-type coneflowers though have been repeat performers over the years, purple coneflower (E. purpurea) and pale purple coneflower (E. pallida). Pale purple coneflower usually precedes purple coneflower in start of bloom by about 2-4 weeks and both are important food sources for a number of long- and short-tongued bees, Lepidopteran larvae, and birds like goldfinches.