Prairie Dock

Featured Photo Credit: Dominicus Johannes Bergsma, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Magnificent Silphium genus, it displays its bright yellow flowers on tall stems in late summer. Grows easily from seed, and is at home on a wide variety of soils, from moderately dry to moist. Excellent for tough clay soils. Birds love the seeds.

Quick Growing Guide

Botanical Name: Silphium terebinthinaceum

Botanical Family: Asteraceae

Also Called: Prairie Rosinweed

En français: Silphium

Colours:

Blooms:

Sun / Shade:

Water: Has a tap root, so it can survice droughts

Pollinators:

Hardiness Zones:

Why it’s name?

Silphium refers to a resin-producing shrub native to Greece. Terebinthinaceum means “turpentine-like,” referring to the odour of the plant. Historically, resin was highly prized for a variety of purposes, including religious incense. Though prairie dock has been used in the past for various ailments, today the plant is considered toxic.

Where to Plant

In nature, find prairie dock in prairies (who is surprised?) and meadows. It has excellent height for the back of the border, prairies, cottage gardens, wildflower gardens, and native plant gardens. It grows slowly initially but is long-lived and resilient. Choose companion plants based on your garden theme, desired height and colour arrangements. Because it is pollinated by bees, Prairie Dock can also be part of a pollinator garden.

Growing from Seed

In late fall, plant seed 1/4 inch (6mm) deep in a seed bed for overwintering. The seeds will germinate in the spring. You may also plant and overwinter them in pots, but make sure the pots are covered with snow to protect the seeds from harsh winter conditions. When seedlings sprout in the spring, transplant them.

Caring for Prairie Dock

Silphium Terebinthinaceum is a low-maintenance, hardy plant that grows best on ordinary, medium, well-drained soils in full sun. It is a resileint plant, it tolerates poor soils and can withstand droughts because of its deep tap root.

Sources and References

Ontario Wildflowers

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