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Discovery Garden

Welcome to the Discovery Garden!

The Discovery Garden features a wide variety of native trees, shrubs, grasses, vines, and flowering perennials.  Many of these were also found here 5 million years ago during the Pliocene epoch when the fossil site was a watering hole that attracted the animals that are being uncovered today.

The plants present in the garden were selected to attract pollinating insects and animals that play an important role in the food chain and the ecosystem.

Coming in late summer 2021, the Discovery Garden will also feature interactive exhibits that showcase regional agricultural products that ultimately rely on these pollinators.

Wildflowers

Anise Hyssop

Agastache foeniculum

Also known as blue/fragrant/lavender giant hyssop.

This premier pollinator plant attracts honey bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  One acre can support 100 honeybee hives!  It grows 2-3 feet tall and 3 feet wide from a small taproot with spreading rhizomes.

It is part of the mint family and can be used for its aroma and diuretic properties.  The aromatic leaves can be used to make herbal teas or jellies, Seeds can be added to cookies or muffins, Dried leaves can be added to potpourris.

Aromatic Aster

Aromatic Aster

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

Also known as fall aster, wild blue aster, and shale aster.

Aromatic Aster attracts primarily bees and butterflies.  It can grow 1-2 feet tall and up to 3 feet wide.  Asters are some of the longest blooming group of flowers.

The leaves release a strong balsam-like scent when crushed.  A tea made from the roots of Aster has been used to treat fevers.

Beardtongue

Beardtongue

Penstemon digitalis

Also known as foxglove beardtongue, but it is in a different genus from the foxglove.

Found in eastern Canada and the south eastern United States, the Beardtongue can grow 3-5 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide.  Its white flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Black Eyed Susan

More information coming soon.

Blue Vervain

Blue Vervain

Verbena hastata

Also known as ironwork, wild hyssop, vervain, swamp vervain, blue verbena, swamp verbena, and simpler’s joy.

Blue Vervain can grow up to 6 feet tall and 1 to 2-1/5 feet wide.  It primarily attracts bees and there is a species of bee (verbena bee) specialized to feeding on the pollen of verbenas.

It has been used to treat many different ailments from acne to ulcers.  Its most unusual use was by the Iroquois who would use a cold infusion of mashed leaves to make obnoxious persons go away.

Boneset

Boneset

Eupatorium perfoliatum

Also known as feverwort, wild sage, and sweating-plan.

This plant primarily attracts bees and butterflies and can grow 3 to 6 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.

It was introduced to American colonists for breaking fevers by means of heavy sweating and has been commonly used as a folk medicine for treatment of flus, fever, and a variety of other maladies.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower

Lobelia cardinalis

Also known as scarlet lobelia and bog sage.

The bright red color of the flowers and sweet nectar attract butterflies and many species of hummingbirds, primarily ruby-throated hummingbirds, and is ideal for use in hummingbird gardens.

It grows 2 to 4 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide.

Carolina Pink

More information coming soon.

Coreopsis

Coreopsis

More information coming soon.

Cup Flower

More information coming soon.

Cut Leaf Coneflower

More information coming soon.

False Indigo

False Indigo

Baptisia australis

Also know as false lupine, indigo weed, blue wild indigo, blue false indigo, and rattle weed.

The false indigo primarily attracts butterflies and can grow 3 to 4 feet wide and 3 to 4 feet high.

Broken stems secrete a sap that turns dark blue on contact with the air and the plant has been used as a substitute for the superior dye-producing plant, Indigofera tinctoria.

Fragarent Goldenrod

More information coming soon.

Giant Coneflower

Rudbeckia maxima

Also known as the great coneflower, giant brown-eyed susan, or cabbage coneflower.

The name cabbage coneflower is from the similarity of its basal leaves to cabbage.

Goldfinches will eat the seeds during the early fall.

Giant Hyssop

Giant Hyssop

Agastache scrophulariifolia

Also known as the purple giant hyssop.

The giant hyssop can grow up to 6 feet tall and primarily attracts butterflies and bees.  Not all of the flowers on each stem bloom at once, meaning it will have blooms for a longer period of time.

Like many other members of the mint family, many people use this plant for its aromatic effects.  Its leaves are edible and can also be used for their medicinal properties.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

Solidago speciosa

Also known as the showy goldenrod.

This plant can from 3 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.  Goldenrods have been wrongly accused of causing hay fever which is actually an allergic reaction to wind-borne pollen from other plants such as ragweed.  Various parts and species have been used in folk medicine for different ailments.

Great Blue Lobelia

Great Blue Lobelia

Lobelia siphilitica

Also known as the blue cardinal flower and Virginia bellflower.

This colorful plant attracts butterflies, bees and occasionally hummingbirds. When a bee lands on the bottom petals, it triggers a release of pollen that is smeared on the bee’s back as it enters the flower for nectar.

It can grow 3 to 4 feet tall and 1 to 1-1/2 feet wide.

It has been used to treat illnesses such as colds, headaches, respiratory and muscle disorders, and was even believed by some to help married couples avert divorce and love each other again.

Helen's Flower

Helen’s Flower

Helenium autumnale

Also known as sneezeweed, swamp sunflower, yellow star, dog fennel, butterweed, and false sunflower.

This vibrant flower attracts bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies and can grow 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.  In late summer and fall one plant can produce as many as 100 flower heads in a branching array.

The genus name Helenium refers to the famous Helen of Troy.  There is a legend that these flowers sprang from the ground where Helen’s tears fell.

Hoary Vervain

Hoary Vervain

Verbena stricta

Also known as hoary verbena, tall vervain, and woolly verbena.

This plant, which attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, is an extremely important component of many butterfly gardens, and it is one of the host plants for the larval form of the common buckeye butterfly.  The seeds are also an important dietary portion of many small birds and mammals.

Joe Pye Weed

Joe Pye Weed

Eupatorium purpureum

Also known as grass root, gravel root, trumpet weed, and feverweed.

The plant can grow 5 to 7 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide.  The flowers have a faint scent of vanilla and attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  Seeds and flowers can be used to dye textiles shades of red or pink.  Dried foliage and stems can be burned to repel mosquitoes and deer.

The roots roots are often considered the most beneficial part.  They are harvested in the fall then dried and ground for use in herbal tea.  The plant’s immune-boosting properties are used to treat a number of conditions.

Lemon Mint

More information coming soon.

Mountain Mint

Mountain Mint

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium

Also known as Virginia thyme and common horse mint.

Bees, butterflies, wasps, beetles, skippers, and flies are all attracted to these white blooms.  The plant grows 2 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.  Despite being called “mountain mint’ it is able to grow in a variety of habitats.

Rubbing the leaves on your skin can serve as a mosquito repellent.  Dried leaves are used in making teas.  All parts of the plant emit a strong, mint-like aroma when crushed.

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Orange Milkweed

Orange Milkweed

Asclepias tuberosa

Also known as butterfly weed, Canada root, chigger flower, yellow milkweed, silky swallow-wort, and several others.

The orange milkweed can grow up to 2.5 feet tall and 2 feet across featuring long slender leaves and clusters or orange or yellow flowers. It primarily attracts bees and wasps but also attracts butterflies and is the larval host of several butterflies and moths, including the monarch butterfly.  In fact, monarch butterflies will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants.

Pale Purple Coneflower

Pale Purple Coneflower

Echinacea purpurea

Also known as eastern purple coneflower, hedgehog coneflower, and echinacea.

This plant, which is part of the Aster family, can grow up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet across.  A flower grows at the top of each stem and attracts butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.  The flower heads produce seeds which are readily consumed by birds such as goldfinches.

The plant is a medicinal herb with important immunostimulatory and anti-inflammatory properties, especially for relief from cold symptoms.  It is used to make an herbal tea that is believed by some to help strengthen the immune system.

Passionflower

Passionflower

Passiflora incarnata

Also known as purple passionflower, wild passion vine, maypop, true passionflower, and wild apricot.

This trailing vine has white flowers with a purple fringe, and is visited by pollinators such as bumblebees and carpenter bees.  It is also a larval host for several butterflies and its fruit may be eaten by songbirds and some mammals.

The fruit can be used for jams, jellies, and desserts while the juice is used as a flavoring in drinks.  Historically, it was believed to have medicinal properties and was used to treat a variety of ailments.

The passionflower is one of three Tennessee state flowers: irises are the state cultivated flower, while the passionflower and the Tennessee coneflower are both state wildflowers.

Perennial Sunflowers

Perennial Sunflowers

Helianthus

Sunflowers can grow to a maximum height of 20 feet but are typically five to 10 feet tall.

Sunflowers are pollinator superheroes since they are tall and brightly colored and their broad flat faces make it easy for butterflies and other insects to land on them.  They primarily attract honey bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, and beetles.  Birds are also attracted to the seeds.  The species found in the Discovery Garden do not produce the type seeds that are edible for humans.

While they are growing they will tilt during the day to face the sun but stop once they begin blooming.

Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake Master

Eryngium yuccifolium

Also known as button snake-root, button eryngo, beargrass, yucca-leaf eryngo, rattlesnake flag, and rattlesnake weed.

This plant primarily attracts wasps but also attracts many other insects including short and long-tongued bees, flies, beetles, ad butterflies. It is the larval host to the rattlesnake-master borer moth.  It can grow up to 5 feet tall and features stiff, long, narrow leaves with a sharp tip and flowers that are ball-shaped umbels at the top of each stem.

Showy Goldenrod

More information coming soon.

Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed

Asclepias incarnata

Also known as rose milkweed, rose milk flower, swamp silkweed, and white Indian hemp.

This plant can grow to 5 feet tall and features small fragrant pink or sometimes white flowers attract many species of insects, including the monarch butterfly.  The queen butterfly also lays its eggs on milkweed plants, and they are commonly mistaken for monarch caterpillars.

Swamp Rose Mallow

Swamp Rose Mallow

Hibiscus moscheutos

Also known as rose mallow, crimson eyed rose mallow, eastern rosemallow, and marshmallow hibiscus.

This plant, which can grow up to 7 feet tall has large, heart-shaped leaves and flowers that have 5 pink-white petals with a red-purple center.  It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies and is the caterpillar host plant for 25 species of butterflies and moths.

The rose-mallow bee is a specialist pollinator of native Hibiscus species including the swamp rose mallow.

Violet

Violet

Viola sororia

Also known as the common blue violet, common meadow violet, purple violet, wooly blue violet, hooded violet, and wood violet.

This small plant only grows up to 4 inches tall and 6 inches across.  It features five unequal petals that attract butterflies and bees.  Butterflies and moths use this plant as a larval host and ants and small mammals utilize the seeds as a food source.

Wild Bergamot

Wild Bergamot

Monards fistulosa

Also known as bee balm, wild bee balm, horse-mint, and eastern bergamot.

The wild bergamot is a member of the mint family and can grow up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide.  Its lavender-colored blossoms are a cluster of 20 to 50 flowers and primarily attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and moths.  It is the larval host to the hermit sphinx moth, the orange mint moth, and the raspberry pyrausta butterfly.

Shrubs

American Beauty Berry

More information coming soon.

Aromatic Sumac

More information coming soon.

Black Chokeberry

Black Chokeberry

Aronia melanocarpa

This small to medium sized shrub can from 3 to 5 feet.  Small clusters of white flowers in the spring are followed by glossy black fruit.  Its dark green foliage turns reddish-purple in the fall.

Aronia berries can be canned whole or the juice extracted for jelly making, as well as healthful fruit drinks.

Bladdernut

Bladdernut

Staphylea trifolia

Also known as American bladdernut.

This large shrub (or small tree) can grow 8 to 15 feet tall.  It features drooping clusters of white or cream, bell-shaped flowers and fruit which changes from green to yellow to brown.  The flowers turn into papery seed pods that can persist through the winter.

Blueberry

Blueberry

Cyanococcus Vaccinium

This perennial flowering plant features blue or purple berries.  The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red, and sometimes tinged greenish.  It can grow up to 13 feet tall.

Blueberry plants reproduce by cross pollination, with each seed producing a plant with a different genetic composition.  The mother plant develops underground stems called rhizomes, creating a large patch that is genetically identical to the mother plant.

Bottlebrush Buckeye

Bottlebrush Buckeye

Aesculus parviflora

This shrub which can grow 8 to 12 feet high and 12 to 15 feet wide features long, fluffy, white flower clusters in early July.  It produces smooth, pear-shaped nuts (buckeyes) in the fall that have a bright yellow husk.

The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Buttonbush

Buttonbush

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Also known as common buttonbush, button willow, and honey-bells.

This deciduous, perennial shrub attracts many pollinators including bees, butterflies, and birds.  It also serves as a food source for the larval stage of some moths.

It can grow 6 to 12 feet and in the summer months it features 1 inch balls of white flowers resembling pin cushions and button-like balls of fruit.  The trunks and branches are often twisted, crooked, and leaning.

Hazel Alder

Hazel Alder

Alnus serrulata

Also known as tag alder and smooth alder.

The hazel alder is a multi-stemmed, suckering, thicket-forming, large deciduous shrub or small tree that typically grows to 10′-20′ tall.  It is primarily found in swampy or wet areas.  It features both male and female flowers on the same tree with the male being brownish-yellow and the female being bright red.

The caterpillars of the harvester butterfly feed on the aphids found on this plant.  These caterpillars are the only carnivorous caterpillars in the US.  Birds feed on the seed.

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Honeysuckle

More information coming soon.

New Jersey Tea

New Jersey Tea

Ceanothus americanus

Also known as redroot, mountain sweet, and wild snowball.

This shrub normally grows to only 3 feet tall.  It has small white flowers that grow in oval clusters.

Turkeys and quail eat the seeds and the flowers attract butterflies and birds

During the American Revolution its leaves were used to brew a substitute for English tea, hence its common name.  Native Americans used various parts of the plant, including its red roots and root bark, to cure various ailments.

Northern Bayberry

Northern Bayberry

Myrica pensylvanica

The northern bayberry is a deciduous shrub that can grow 5 to 10 feet tall.  The male plants can have yellowish green blooms in May.  Its fragrant leaves and fruits attract various birds, although it need at least one male plant to facilitate pollination of the female plants.

The fruits are covered with an aromatic, waxy substance which is used to make bayberry candles, soaps, and sealing wax.

Spicebush

Spicebush

Lindera benzoin

Also known as spice wood and Benjamin bush.

This deciduous shrub is a fast grower and can reach 6 to 12 feet tall.  Dense clusters of tiny, pale yellow flowers bloom and are followed by glossy red fruit.  Both the fruit and the foliage are aromatic.  The leaves turn a colorful golden-yellow in the fall.

It attracts butterflies and moths including the spicebush swallowtail, promethea silk moth, and easter tiger swallowtail.

These plants are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are found on separate plants.

Summersweet

Summersweet

Clethra alnifolia

Also known as summersweet, clethra, coastal sweet pepper bush, and sweet pepperbush.

It can grow 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide and has lustrous green leaves in the spring, spiky white or pink fragrant flowers during the summer, golden yellow leaves in the fall, and delicate dried seed capsules in the winter.

It is a source if nectar for hummingbirds and a variety of butterflies.  Songbirds will eat its seeds.

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Sweet Shrub

More information coming soon!

Grasses

Bottlebrush Grass

Bottlebrush Grass

Hystrix patula and Elymus hustrix

Bottlebrush grass is a perennial grass that is native to most of the eastern U.S. and Canada.  It produces white flowers that bloom in the spring.  The grass is green but turns brown beginning in late summer.  It prefers full or partial sun exposure and the seed heads can grow up to five feet tall, much taller than the leaves of the grass which only grow to about one foot tall.

Little Bluestem

Little Bluestem

Schizachyrium scoparium

Also known as beard grass.

This bluish-green grass can grow 2 to 4 feet tall and 1-1/2 to 2 feet wide.  The roots can extend up to 8 feet underground.  Flowering stalks which grow in July can reach 4 to 5 feet in height.

This species is commonly grown for use in hay production.

Prairie Dropseed

Prairie Dropseed

Sporobolus heterolepis

Prairie dropseed is a perennial bunchgrass that that typically grows 1 to 2 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet across.  Its flowering stems can grow up to 3 feet tall, extending above the leaves.  It can range in color from a rich green in summer to a golden rust color in the fall.

Purple Love Grass

Purple Love Grass

Eragrostis spectabilis

This native bunchgrass forms a neat, tight clump.  It is often green in the spring and summer.  It becomes covered with a cloud of fine purple plumage containing tightly packed seeds. The plumage can add up to 6 inches to the height of the plant.  The leaves turn purple and the flowers fade to white in the fall.  The plumage eventually breaks away from the plant and rolls around like tumbleweed.

River Cane

River Cane

Arundinaria gigantea

River cane is a species of bamboo known as giant cane.  It is a perennial grass with a rounded, hollow stem which can exceed 2.8 inches in diameter and grow to a height of 33 feet.

This cane is the food plant for the southern pearly eye butterfly and is an important habitat and nesting site for several species of warbler.

The Cherokee and particularly the Eastern Bank of Cherokee uses river cane in basketry.  It has been used by other groups to make medicine, blowguns, bows and arrows, knives, spears, flutes, candles, walls for dwellings, fish traps, sleeping mats, and tobacco pipes.

Rush

More information coming soon!

Sedges

Cyperaceae

This plant can grow up to 3 feet tall. While they technically have “flowers” sedge flowers are nondescript and don’t rely on pollinators to reproduce.  Even though they are often considered weeds, they play an important tole in pollinator gardens in less obvious ways than other plants.  They provide food, shelter, and support for pollinators and the birds and mammals that keep insect populations in balance.

Switchgrass

Switchgrass

Panicum virgatum

Also known as tall panic grass, Wobsqua grass, blackbelt, tall prairie grass, wild redtop thatch grass, and Virginia switchgrass.

Switchgrass is commonly used for soil conservation, forage production, ornamental grass, in phytoremediation projects, fiber, electricity, heat production, for biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and more recently as a biomass crop for ethanol and butanol.

Trees

Alternate Leaf Dogwood

Alternate Leaf Dogwood

Cornus alternifolia

Also known as pagoda dogwood, blue dogwood, and green osier.

This tree can grow up to 25 feet tall with leaves up to 5 inches long which turn a reddish purple in the autumn.  Its flat topped crown and horizontal layers of branches led to the nickname “pagoda dogwood.”

Its purplish-blue berry-like fruits provide suspense for an abundance of wildlife and its primary pollinators are butterflies, bees, and moths.

American Basswood

Tillia americana

Also known as Honey Tree, Bee Tree, and Linden.

This is a fast growing, moderately shade tolerant, oval shaped tree with dense foliage that reaches a height of 75 to 130 ft, living up to 200 years.  Its leaves are heart shaped and range from 3-6 inches across. The flowers are small but bees love the sweet, abundant nectar which produces a distinctive honey, thus the name “Bee Tree.” New trees sprout easily from he stumps of cut trees.

Bald Cypress Tree

More information coming soon!

* This tree is not native to this area and was planted prior to the installation of the Discovery Garden.

Curly Willow

Salix matsudana

Also known as the pekin willow.

The curly willow can grow up to 35 feet tall and have a 20 foot spread.  One of its most unusual features are its wavy branches, giving gardens some winter interest.

* This tree is not native to the US and was planted prior to the installation of the Discovery Garden.

Fringe Tree

Fringe Tree

Chionanthus virginicus

Also known as White Fringe Tree, American Fringe Tree, Poison Ash, Old Man’s Beard, Grancy Greybeard

The fringe tree belongs to the Olive family and is a small multi-stemmed tree or shrub growing 25-30 feet tall with oblong leaves 3-8 inches long.  It also features clusters of fragrant white flowers with four fringe-like petals in the spring. Birds and small animals love the deep blue olive shaped fruits that develop in late summer.  Dried roots and crushed bark were used by Native Americans to treat skin inflammations, sores and wounds.

River Birch

More information coming soon!

Sweet Bay Magnolia

Sweet Bay Magnolia

Magnolia virginiana

Also known as southern sweet bay, swamp bay, swamp magnolia, laurel magnolia, beaver tree, and others.

The multi-stemmed tree can grow to 20 to 60 feet tall and features darkish green leaves and creamy white flowers.  It primarily attracts beetles, moths, and butterflies, including the eastern tiger and zebra swallowtail butterflies.  In late summer their red fruit attracts blue jays and other songbirds, squirrels, small rodents, turkey, and quail.

It is popular for its fragrant flowers that remain on the tree over a long time.  The twigs and foliage have a spicy aroma.

Willow

More information coming soon!

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel

Hamamelis virginiana

Also known as winterbloom, southern witch hazel, and common witch hazel.

Witch hazel is a shrub or small tree that can grow 20 to 30 feet tall with spreading branches.  Its flowers are about 1 inch wide with bright yellow thread-like, twisted petals that emerge between October and December.  Its primarily pollinators are moths.

The aromatic extract of leaves, twigs, and bark are used as an astringent.  It has also been used to treat swelling and inflammation.

Discovery Garden Sponsors

This outdoor exhibit space was funded in part by the sale of Agricultural Speciality License Plates (the “Ag Tag”).  Additional information about Tennessee agricultural products and the “Ag Tag” is available at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s promotional Web site, picktnproducts.org.

Sponsored by What’s the Buzz, a local non-profit promoting the creation and expansion of pollinator habitats.

This garden is tended by the North East Tennessee Master Gardeners (NETMGA) www.netmga.net and area volunteers.

Image Credits

1 – “Pycnanthemum virginianum COMMON MOUNTAIN MINT” by gmayfield10 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

2 – Robert H. Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1989. Midwest wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. Midwest National Technical Center, Lincoln.

3 – “Summersweet” by madprime is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

••While some of these plants may at one time been used or may still be used for herbal or medicinal purposes, the descriptions on this page is for informational purposes only.  You are responsible for your own health and you should consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health. ••

Hands on Museum - colorful and playfully drawn plants