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DYAs: THe LBBs of the Plant World

October 7, 2019

By: Barb Holtz

My birding buddies referred to many sparrows and the like as LBBs - little brown birds. Those non-descript feathered flyers with few distinguishing marks at casual glance. To this non-birder, even a hard look doesn't help when it comes to a tweedy-taupe covering on a body flitting from branch to branch.

DYAs or "Darn Yellow Asters" (meaning from the Asteraceae family) evoke the same sigh from plant and non-plant folks alike. All those out standing in the field flashes of gold and amber that look different, yet the same. Come late summer, early fall, it seems ya' seen one yellow aster, you've seen them all.

But not all yellow asters are created equal. Tall or short, hairy or smooth, cone-flowered or flat, these beauties are beloved by bees, birds, and hopefully you as summer's last hurrah. Here are a few for your late fall planting consideration.

 Prairie Dock Flower                           Prairie Dock

Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) blooms tower above blanket-sized basal leaves creating a strong central focus for a garden or dramatic backdrop. Growing up to 10! feet tall, fall migrating birds easily stop for a seed snack. Prairie Dock enjoys full sun and moist to wet conditions.

Sneezeweed Flower

Don't shy away from Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) for fear of allergens. This lovely cone-centered beauty adds a whimsical note to any garden.  The wide petals that subtend the middle button remind me of a twirling sunlit skirt. Consider Sneezeweed if you have moist to wet soil and plenty of sun. While height is listed at 3-6 feet, I tend to lean to the shorter side.

Ox Eye Sunflower                      Ox Eye Sunflower

Ox Eye Sunflower or False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoidies) is the real deal, nothing fake here. For me, it is the quintessential yellow aster. Why? Honestly, not sure. It's not showy or complicated, just comfortably regular. This late spring to early fall bloomer prefers full sun but can handle woodland edge and dry to moist conditions. Medium height puts it in the middle of your garden plantings.

Lanceleaf Coreopsis

Lanceleaf Coreopsis ( Coreopsis lanceolata) don distinctive jagged-edged petals, setting it apart from other DYAs. While perennial in nature, it is not long lasting. Luckily this coreopsis reseeds readily to remain in your garden line up. This plant may be short in stature (2-3 feet), but it's no wallflower. Keep it to a couple clumps or allow it to form a large patch. Either way, butterflies, in particular, will thank you.

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