From Siberia to Raleigh

There aren’t a huge number of Siberian native plants that thrive in our heat and humidity, but one that has been outstanding for us is Angelica dahurica. For those, who have traveled the world, the specific epithet “dahurica” means, from Davuria (Dahuria), a region of south-east Siberia and north-east Mongolia.

Angelica dahurica is a widely-cultivated, short-lived perennial herb that forms a stunning 6′ to 8′ tall hunk with dark purple stalks, and topped for us in June with giant Queen Anne’s Lace flowers, that’s a haven for a wide range of pollinators. The clump goes to sleep for the summer, re-emerging in fall, and remaining evergreen through the winter.

The roots of Angelica dahurica (Du Huo/Bai Zhi) have been used medicinally since 400 B.C. to cure head and body aches, blood toxicities, as a laxative/purgative, sedative, a remedy for swollen gums and toothaches, and as a topical anti-fungal cream…and the seeds are used as a culinary liqueur flavoring.

We offered these through Plant Delights for several years, but sales were miserable. So, we gave most away to staff and planted the rest in the garden, where we’re enjoying them. When are going to get folks to realize that height is what makes a garden design interesting?

3 thoughts on “From Siberia to Raleigh”

  1. Maybe because people are looking up to see if plants are invasive before buying (a good practice). In parts of the world, Angelicas have happily hybridized to become a fast moving invasive species. I live in a fairly native area that I wish to keep that way, and I don’t want plants to draw off pollinators from my native plants. The brook that runs through the property is losing all its understory plant diversity to Angelica x hyb. plants that grow in a wide variety of light and moisture. I spend weeks of my life trying to defend the plant life for one acre from introduced plants that hog all the energy from our thin soil because they have no natural competitors other than me. The fact that bees come to any old plant is not a good thing. It means important relationships between pollinators and native plant reproduction are broken, and the “theft” of pollinators is one of many ways an invasive species can spread. The high seed production and heavy leaf canopy of this plant mean a lot of the small plants that drive our economy vanish beneath it. Nope, not me…in my area this would likely potentiate the hybrids already there. When a plant is introduced and starts spreading viable seeds around, we need to imagine getting old, and not being able to pull all the excess, or selling and the next person “letting it go”. We need to imagine 100 years of a fast growing, short-generation time species and how quickly it adapts to a new surrounding without a natural check to its population such as I am sure exists in the wild.

    1. Thanks for the comments.

      Lets’ begin with a couple of commonly held misconceptions. Native is not a place in terms of location, it is only a place in time.

      Nature is not static, as many folks try to pretend. It is constantly evolving and has done so since the first life on Earth. Nature deals with time in terms of millions of years, not hundreds of years, as most humans do. Hawaii is a great example. It began as a volcano with devoid of plants. All plants there were brought there by some act of nature…wind, insects, animals. Despite this, some genera of plants like Hedychiums are considered exotic invaders in Hawaii. Humans have made a distinction that some plants which were transported to the extinct volcano were fine and others weren’t, based on what facet of nature brought them. That seems incredibly arrogant of humans.

      We’ll also have to disagree about your views on insect pollination/feeding. Since humans have inhabited Earth, hundreds of thousands of plant and insect species have gone extinct. Without the ability to adapt and move from food source to food source, the entire system of nature would have collapsed long ago. Homo sapiens are an African native species. Using your argument that it’s not desirable that species can adapt to new foods they didn’t evolve with, humans would not exist.

      Despite people wanting it to be different, it is not possible to accurately predict plant invasiveness in the US because we have too many ecological regions. Impatiens, begonias, and lantanas are very invasive in much of the gulf coast, but are fine everywhere else. While we celebrate native ornamental plants and have one of the largest offerings in the US, we find it sad that people only discriminate/ethnically profile against non-native ornamental plants. We feel strongly that ethnic/racial profiling and subsequent discrimination is wrong in all aspects of life, be it ornamental plants or people.

      Why are also curious why edible plants and pets not subject to the same constraints? In our view, the three most invasive species in North America are Homo sapiens, honeybees, and earthworms. Non-native plants are far down on the list of invaders that have changed the landscape, yet they seem to be the only ones that are picked on. Most every agronomic food crop reseeds and naturalizes somewhere, but no one stops growing and consuming them.

      We certainly agree that some plants are weedy (both natives and non-natives) and should be avoided for human benefit and well being.

      Finally, we have never seen any research about angelica hybridizing and becoming invasive, so please tell us more, and share where that research was published.


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