1249 Amsonia tabernaemontanaCommon Names: bluestar,eastern bluestar,willow bluestar Family: Apocynaceae (dogbane Family)
Eastern bluestar is a perennial wildflower with alternate, oval to lance shaped leaves, 1-3 in (3-8 cm) long that turn yellow in autumn. Bluestar grows as a many-stemmed rounded to vase shaped clump that gets around 24 in (60 cm) high and 18 in (45 cm) across. Stems and leaves of bluestar, like most members of the dogbane family, bleed a milky latex sap when cut. The long lasting flowers are pale blue and funnel shaped, the funnel spreading out to form a five-lobed star. Individual flowers are a little less than an inch (2.5 cm) across, and borne in dense terminal clusters held flamboyantly above the leaves.
Amsonia 'Blue Ice' is a selection that is more compact than the species and has much darker blue flowers. It was discovered among Amsonia seedlings at a nursery in Connecticut and might be a hybrid between A. tabernaemontana and A. orientalis from Greece and Turkey.
Amsonia tabernaemontana var. salicifolia (sometimes considered a distinct species rather than a variety) has stems that tend to flop and flowers that are held in more open clusters. The related species, A. ciliata, known as fringed bluestar, differs in having linear, sometimes threadlike, leaves that are hairy when young.
Amsonia tabernaemontana occurs naturally in fields, open woods, and along roadsides from New York to northern Florida and west to Texas and Kansas. A. ciliata occurs in dry, sandy habitats of the southeastern U.S. from North Carolina to central Florida and west to Texas and southern Missouri.
Light: Plant bluestar in full sun or partial shade. They tend to get leggy when growing in partial shade. Grown in full sun, bluestars are more compact and produce more flowers. Moisture: Eastern bluestar likes a moisture retentive, but not soggy, soil. Fringed bluestar is more tolerant of dry soils. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9 . Although the natural range of eastern bluestar includes only zones 5-9, it may be hardy as far north as zone 4, especially with some winter protection. The more southern species, fringed bluestar, is hardy to zone 7. Propagation: The root clump can be divided to produce additional plants. Softwood cuttings can be started in spring. Sow seeds in fall or spring and expect to wait two years for flowering.
Bluestar is an excellent low maintenance flower for the mixed border or for naturalizing in the wildflower garden. The pretty sky blue flowers last for 3-4 weeks in spring and early summer, and are excellent as cut flowers. Unusual for herbaceous perennials, bluestar has colorful autumn foliage, with the leaves turning shades of yellow and gold and persisting until frost. Plant bluestars in masses for the best effect. They are especially useful along the edge of an open woodland.
Amsonia is named for Charles Amson, an 18th century America naturalist. The bluestars were formerly included in the genus Tabernaemontana, a genus now reserved for some 100 species of tropical evergreen trees and shrubs. Tabernaemontana, is a Latinized spelling of Jakob Theodor von Bergzabern, a physician and herbalist from 16th century Heidelberg.
Steve Christman 12/31/15