A Flower Of Our Urban “Barrens”


This is the Prairie Golden Aster-Chrysopsis camporum. My wildflower guides describe it as a plant that favors dry places, barrens, and badlands. It is native to arid,sandy soils in the Midwest, but has made its way to Nashville to colonize a very different kind of “barrens”.

I photographed this aster today, growing on a dry hill created by the soil scraped away by the developers when they built the apartments I live in. We have had temperatures over 102 degrees for a week and no meaningful rain for a month. Yet look at the green of this aster’s leaves, and the burned up grasses that surround it.

Last week the sign at the Walgreen’s at the corner of White Bridge Road and Charlotte Pike read 110 degrees. A few days later, only a few blocks away in the K&S World Market parking lot, I saw this aster in full bloom right up to the edge of the asphalt. Behind it was a wasteland of weeds and volunteer Mimosas, the pioneer plants of our hell strips and urban badlands.

Two of the gardens I am working on now are dry gardens. One is a hillside garden facing southwest ,and shade-less. The other is an unwatered suburban plot where every bit of moisture is sucked away by hackberry trees. This plant will be going into both those gardens, for I have several plants I have started from root cuttings.

A mail order nursery called “Prairie Moon” sells both plants and seeds. Or you can collect your own. Go to the nearest industrial park or forgotten weed patch at your local lumber yard.  Chances are you will find this flower growing there, indifferent to heat and drought and blooming on through fall.



About talesofanashvillegardener

Professional gardener, Experimental Cook. Constant Reader
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2 Responses to A Flower Of Our Urban “Barrens”

  1. Ann E. Long says:

    Betsy! I just happened upon this beautifully written story. Hope all is well. I am retired so I can care for my 89 yo mom, who lives with me. Social Security and a pension are blessings. Someday, we’ll get together and visit. Love ya, Ann

    ps. Guess you may have heard… Michelle Bottoms passed away last month, of liver cancer.

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