A Beautiful Wildflower


Since our large trees came down, and the former forest near the  street is now enjoying lots of sunlight, many new plants have sprung up.  Some I recognize, some I don’t.  Some get pulled right away, and others we’ve left to see what they would do.

This lovely plant was left alone, partly because its foliage is so pretty.  It began blooming a few days ago.  The purply pink of its blossoms is lovely against the mulch and the green shrubs nearby, and I’m glad I left these native wildflowers to bloom.


September 3, 2013 garden 012The individual blooms are tiny and delicate.  They would be perfect growing in a “fairly garden”



After looking at lots of photos of autumn blooming wildflowers on the internet to try to identify this little plant, I believe it is Desmodium canadense, or “Showy Tick Trefoil”  There are apparently quite a few species of tick trefoil, but they are all distinguished by their three part compound leaves, slender stems, lovely pink to purple flowers, and their seed pods.  In fact, the “tick” part of “Tick Trefoil” refers to how the seed pods stick to fur or clothing when a person or animal brushes against the plant when the seed pods are mature.


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Native across much of eastern Canada, this lovely wildflower grows as far south as Virginia in the eastern US, and south into Texas further west.  It grows on the edge of woods, roadsides, or in uncultivated fields; tolerates a variety of soils; and some species can grow to 6′ tall.  It is loved by bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and is a host plant for some species of butterfly.  Because Desmodium canadense is a member of the pea family, it is helpful in fixing nitrogen and improving soil quality.


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Although we’re enjoying the lovely blooms, it will be wise to cut back the stems when the blooms fade.  There are enough “ticks” around the garden already, without allowing the sticky seed pods to ripen and cling to whoever, or whatever, brushes past them.

Gardening is endlessly fascinating, partly because there is always a new plant to learn.  This lovely wildflower is an excellent, dependable plant for the wildlife garden.  Nurturing wildflowers and native plants is so important to the web of life.  Even as we purchase and plant more and more hybrids and non-natives, we need to sustain the plants our birds, bees, butterflies, and other wild things depend on for their sustenance.   And, wonder of wonders, the deer leave this Tick Trefoil strictly alone.


All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

8 responses to “A Beautiful Wildflower

  1. Pingback: Late Summer Purple Haze | Forest Garden

  2. Forest So Green

    They are lovely and so nice that the deer have ignored them 🙂

  3. “Nurturing wildflowers and native plants is so important to the web of life.” Couldn’t agree more!

  4. WG,

    I’m very excited to read this post. Living in Charlotte near downtown on a lot with lot’s of big trees and shade, my wife and I had noticed some of these plants coming up. As is frequently my practice–to the disgust of my neighbors who insist in maintaining their grass only monoculture lawns–I have mowed around them to let them come to maturity. We were really excited a couple of weeks ago to see the first of these start blooming, but didn’t know what the plants were. So we have been tremendously blessed to run across this post of yours showing pictures with the hard work of identifying the plants already done.

    Thanks so much for sharing!!

    Ed & Marianne

    • Well Ed and Marianne, my raison d’etre for starting Forest Garden was to share information and hopefully help my neighbors, and get help from them, with gardening. Seems like we’re neighbors 🙂 Isn’t it interesting that you have Tick Trefoil in your garden in Charlotte. Looks like another government map needs revising…. They are such a beautiful surprise when they bloom, and such a good ground cover. I will definitely encourage and cultivate them from here on.
      Thank you for sharing your experience with them,


  5. Pingback: Deer Resistant Plants Which Grow Well In Our Neighborhood- Revised and Improved | Forest Garden

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