A single Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) goes a long way. It’s a big plant – ours grows about 5 feet tall with a 4 foot spread. It’s a perennial but looks more like a small shrub. But if you have the space in a spot that’s moist and shady, this plant has a lot to offer. It makes a frothy splash in June, after most woodland flowers are just a memory.
Goatsbeard is native to most of the Midwest and Upper South. The genus name actually means goat’s beard in Greek. Another common name is Bride’s Feathers, which makes me wonder what kind of brides wear feathers, and what kind of feathers do they wear?
Goatsbeard can get floppy after a hard rain. Some people cut it back in May to keep it more compact and upright, but I haven’t tried that yet.
The other day I saw several Dusky Azure butterflies fluttering around the Goatsbeard flowers. Turns out Goatsbeard is a host plant for Dusky Azures. I got this picture with my phone – the light’s a little off, but you can see what a Dusky Azure looks like. Tiny things but pretty. Now I’m going to have to search for their caterpillars.
Goatsbeard reminds me of the story The Three Billy Goats Gruff (“Who’s that clip-clopping across my bridge?”), which decades ago I enjoyed reading to my kids. We have a Dwarf Goatsbeard in the garden – the non-native A. aethusifolius. So I decided to get a middle-sized Billy Goat Gruff, this one in metal poking out from behind the Purple-Flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus).
Once we had all three Billy Goats, naturally we needed a bridge and a troll.
Have you tried growing Goatsbeard in your garden?
I have the regular goat’s beard on the west side of the house, where it gets really hot. It has never gotten more than3 1/2′ high, but it’s really wide. It seeded a baby in a bad place, so that will go on the east side, where it will be under the trees and in shade pretty much all day. Be interesting to see the difference in growth habits.
I also have the dwarf, and it’s stayed tiny. It is big enough to divide, though. It is just the cutest thing!
Plants on the west side tend to get a lot of hot afternoon sun. I suppose it makes sense that your goatsbeard would grow short but dense there.
I planted 3 goatsbeard in 2017 and they are growing nicely in a very difficult spot in my garden–about 3′ tall now. I’m so happy to learn that they are a host plant for a butterfly. I don’t think I’ve seen a Dusky Azure hovering around but I’ll watch for them now.
They’re very small, easy to miss unless you stand still and watch for them.
I’ve tried them here but the woods are too dry. I have a newer garden at the edge of the woods with enriched soil, so I am inspired by your photos to try again. Love the troll under the bridge 🙂
I loved that story, so the little vignette brings back good memories.
When this plant was mentioned before — at Lurie, maybe? — I was briefly confused. When I think of goatsbeard, I think of this Kansas flower, which is the only goatsbeard I’ve known. I must say, this one looks more goats-beardish than the dandelion-like flower. It’s quite pretty.
Ah, I see. Well, that’s the thing about common names of plants, isn’t it?
I’ve tried twice and both times they have just fizzled away. Yours is so beautiful, I really must try again!
Maybe try it in a spot that gets less sun and more moisture?
Yes and this year I moved some to a damp spot and it is romping away and is huge. It is a lovely plant. No chance of Dusky Azures here though, you have some fabulous butterflies.
Glad it is doing well for you.
I love big bold plants like this one!
I have tried this plant a couple of times. I just don’t have the right place for it. Those blooms are feathery. What fun to find tiny butterflies.
That’s frustrating – I have had that experience many times, the conditions just aren’t right.
I have two big ones and two dwarf ones. The big ones are in a bed separating our property from a neighbor’s, have plenty of room, and do well. I keep the two small ones in a closer bed where I can enjoy them. I really like their compactness. I need to try dividing them, but I sure don’t want to lose them.
I have never tried to divide either one. The small ones are kind of cute.
I tried growing goatsbeard once and didn’t succeed. Hose white “feathers” are very pretty.
They do look good.
Of course you had to have a bridge and troll! No goatsbeard in my garden. Too much dry shade.
The bridge and troll seemed like necessities.
I tried it once in a very shady moist spot. It just withered away. I am going to try again. Your spectacular example inspired me.
Thanks – hope the second time is the charm.
Lovely plant and yay that it’s a pollinator host! Your troll and bridge are darling–will they let you pass?
Only if I bring them a shrubbery.
I’ve had one for several years, but it didn’t come back this year. Your post convinced me I need to get another one!
Could be worth it if it lasted several years the first time. Maybe give it a little protection over winter.
I grow it but it’s in dry shade and though it grows and blooms each year it doesn’t like being so dry, so it doesn’t reach the heights I hoped it would.
Maybe consider moving it
I have not known this plant, Jason. Thank you.
You’re welcome, Nadezda!
I don’t have it in my garden…yet! The shady north side of the house is on the list for next year and I’m thinking this would be a great candidate.
Sounds like it!
I do love the goatsbeard, such frothy flowers. The Dusky Azure butterfly is just delightful, so delicate, I do hope you find caterpillas. I am enjoying the Billy goat grugg, the bridge and the troll, must set something like that up for grandbabe.xxx
Sounds like fun.
I love goatsbeard and currently have three in my garden. The one at the back of the house is partially under the dripline from the roof, and I need to stake it so that it doesn’t get bent down to the ground in heavy rain. I have one male plant and one female, and one volunteer seedling that showed up a few years ago and is currently planted in my holding area awaiting a suitable permanent place in the garden.
Nice that you have multiple specimens.
My new garden has loads of shade. I may have to add this big guy to the party!
He should fit right in!