10,000 Flowers

10,000 Flowers

December 23 2020

According to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the United Kingdom, there are 391,000 species of vascular plants known to science of which about 369,000 species are flowering. However, as many as 2,000 new plant species are discovered or described every year. A vascular plant is one that can transport food and water through it’s tissues and does not include mosses, algae, liverworts, and hornworts. And no, I wouldn’t know a hornwort if I saw one.

There are plants for every possible ecological niche: sea grasses on ocean floors, cushion plants with antifreeze on mountaintops, desert plants that harvest the fog, and the biggest tree in the world, the General Sherman sequoia (by volume, 52,500 cubic feet). There are plants that eat meat and plants that live on other plants. I wanted to include lichens growing on rocks, but they are actually a combination of different organisms and not technically plants. Let’s just stop right there-for now.

Most of us will never know the names of the bulk of those 369,000 flowering plants, but the glory is that there is always another plant to learn about. Obviously I can’t grow them all, being limited by time, money, energy and climate; but I can frequently go find one new to me.

Flowers, I want lots and lots of flowers. There is one flower I don’t see very often at nurseries that I grew maybe fifteen years ago in another garden. It is called Boltonia asteroides or false aster. Another name is Thousand Flower Aster, for good reason, it grows 5-6’ tall and has hundreds and hundreds of one to one and a half inch white to pink aster like flowers. It is of the same family (asteraceae) as other asters but a different genus, slowly spreads by rhizomes, and likes soils a little on the damp side. I didn't bring a piece of it with me when I moved, (yes, I do this regularly, and thus still have flowers given to me 20 years ago) so I'm searching for a new one.

I don’t know how many flowering plants there are in my gardens, including trees and shrubs, but there is something blooming from sometime in March until October-counting ubiquitous Johnny-Jump-Ups of course. I’m not sure whether one should count species, specific varieties, or individual plants anyway, as in count roses as one species or twelve or more varieties or German iris as one species or a dozen varieties or 100 individual plants. If I had to guess, I would say over 200 varieties easily. Maybe I’ll count one of these days when there’s nothing else to do-as in winter. At any rate, ten thousand flowers is a viable goal I think.

Boltonia asteroides, zone 3-10, North American native.