Friday, July 6, 2012

Antennaria - Like Velvet Pussy-toes

Spring tiptoes in
    on grey, velvet pussy-toes

Allegro from Through the Window of My Car: A Poem in Four Seasons by Elle Fredine.

Pussy-toes are like that - discreet and unassuming. Have you ever heard of Pussy-toes? No? Well, according to the USDA PLANTS Database, they're present in every state and province of the United States and Canada. See what I mean? They're almost everywhere, but discreet and unassuming.

Pussy-toes belong to the genus, Antennaria (pronounced an-ten-AR-ee-uh). The word means something like, "lots of antennae", and it's thought that the name was bestowed because the anthers of some species resemble insect antennae. It's interesting, eh, that taxonomists imagined antennae rather than cats' toes.

There are about 40 to 45 species of Antennaria. Most occur in North America. Some also occur in Europe. One species, Antennaria chilensis, is native to South America. Sizes vary from 4 inches to 20 inches.

A few species and cultivars are available commercially, though they tend to be hard to find.

Antennaria carpatica is also known as Carpathian Cat's-foot or Pussy-toes. An Illustrated Flora of the northern United States, by Nathaniel Lord Britton and The Honorable Addison Brown, says it's native to the U.S., Canada and Europe. According to The International Plant Names Index, synonyms include Antennaria carpatica var. pulcherrima and Antennaria pulcherrima. According to Flora Europaea, synonyms include Antennaria lanata and Antennaria helvetica. Gray-green foliage is evergreen. Low tufts of fluffy-white flowers appear spring to mid-summer. It grows quickly and thrives in full sun to partial shade. Mature height is up to 2 inches, and spreads up to 12 inches. Carpathian Cat's-foot is drought tolerant, deer resistant and tolerates foot traffic. It thrives in USDA climate zones 2 or 3 to 9, preferring normal to sandy soil with pH ranging from 5.6 to 7.8.


Antennaria carpatica 'Rubrum'
Antennaria carpatica 'Rubrum' is also known as Pink Carpathian Cat's-foot or Pink Pussy-toes. Low tufts of pink and white flowers appear spring to mid-summer. Otherwise it's the same as the species in every respect.

Antennaria dioica is commonly named Pearly Everlasting. It grows to about 6 inches in height, and spreads to 12 inches. Antennaria dioica 'Rubra' produces pink pussy-toe flowers. Foliage is fuzzy, silvery-grey and evergreen. It's hardy in USDA climate zones 4 or 5 to 9. 

Antennaria plantaginifolia
Antennaria plantaginifolia is known as Plantain-leaf Pussy-Toes and Old Woman's Tobacco. It's native to the eastern United States from Maine to Florida, west to Minnesota and south to Louisiana. Compact white flowers appear from mid-spring to early summer. Semi-evergreen foliage is broad, fuzzy, silvery grey-green. Height is up to 6 inches. It makes a very attractive ground cover. Antennaria plantaginifolia is hardy in USDA climate 3 to 9. 

Antennaria rosea forms a dense, silvery mat. Foliage is evergreen. Pink pussy-toe flowers appear on short stems in spring. Mature size is 2 inches high x 15 inches across. It's native to the American Northwest.

Before planting, you'll need to know the pH level of your soil. Pussy-toes prefer normal to sandy soil with pH ranging from 5.6 to 7.8. Take a sample to your nearest Cooperative Extension Service office for analysis. The fee is nominal.

Pussy-toes are great for container gardens, rock gardens, edging, ground cover, green roof, lawn substitute, hanging baskets. Pussy-toes attract butterflies, so their perfect for butterfly gardens, too.

Return to Antennaria at goGardenNow.com.

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