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?