The Mighty Cup Plant

We really are seeing in yellow here at Prairie Moon Nursery. With all the different silphium coming into bloom, we would like to introduce you to yet another interesting member of this genus. Meet the cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum It is a very hardy species that can tolerate a wide variety of conditions. However, it does best with a decent amount of sunlight. Cup plant may seem like a funny name until one gets a good look at the anatomy of this species. As the specific epithet “perfoliatum” suggests, each pair of leaves clasp the stem, making it look like the stem as pierced through them. This allows rain water to collect in tiny pools around the stem, hence the cup comparison. It has been suggested that this may be a primitive form of carnivorous behavior in the plant world. Certainly, one can see how this would set the stage for more specialization in that niche but, at least currently there has been no evidence of the plant gaining any nutritional benefit from the insects that may have drowned in there. It is more likely that this anatomical feature is a way of deterring potential flower predators from crawling up the stem in search of a meal. Indeed, for an insects, these pools can form a considerable barrier against vertical movement. Either way, standing at around 8 feet in height, a patch of cup plants is a pleasant sight. Easy to start from seed, you will no doubt enjoy them for years to come.


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