How is it that the 2 leading common names of Aruncus dioicus are Goat’s Beard and Bride’s Feathers? Apparently plants can be a sort of Rorschach test, reflecting great variations in perception within the human psyche.
For myself, I can see Goat’s Beard – though it would have to be a fairly elegant goat with beard hairs both fluffy and snowy white. Admittedly, none of the goats I have ever met personally could be described as elegant. But Bride’s Feathers? First of all, what sort of bride has feathers? A bird bride, I suppose.
In any case, Goat’s Beard is a useful woodland perennial, native from Pennsylvania to Iowa and across much of the upper south. It brings forth feathery plumes of tiny white flowers in early summer, after most woodland plants have finished blooming.
It’s a substantial plant, up to 5′ tall, with the presence of a small- to medium-sized shrub. The dried seed heads remain attractive, and in moist shade the foliage stays dark green into fall.
In our garden it makes a good specimen plant. I suppose a row of them could make a low herbaceous hedge. It is a host plant for the Dusky Azure Butterfly.
So what would you call it – Goat’s Beard or Bride’s Feathers? And would you grow it in your garden, if you had some reasonably moist shade?
I would call it bride’s feathers because of its white froth, similar to a veil or a dress. I would absolutely grow it in my garden if I had the place. Beautiful by any name.
Neither. I have never grown it. Because think both names are silly, I would likely know it simply as Aruncus.
Lots of plant names are silly, but it’s not the plant’s fault.
Do they think our names are silly?
They might, and often with good reason.
NICE! I would certainly grow it and is on my wish list. It would be AWESOME to find in the wild. I agree with you about the common name. Doing wildflower research, I run across a lot of common names that leave me wondering… Great post and thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome! Thanks for visiting.
I would call ir Aruncus dioicus or is it the variety Aruncus dioicus Kneiffii, this is the trouble with local names, people elsewhere don’t know what you are referring to! I have tried to grow Aruncus, you say it likes moist soil, my encyclopedia says it likes shade but well drained soil, maybe that is why mine died, must try again in my bog!
I wish you success.
I’d go for the goat or the bride any day over Aruncus dioicus. Yes, I would probably have it in a garden if I had a place for it; I’m a big fan of white in a garden. I do like your theory of the Rorschach test. Maybe not as helpful scientifically, but a lot more fun.
Aruncus is certainly not a pretty name.
I have three of the large and numerous dwarf ones. I love each and every one. 🙂
I’d like to see them all in bloom together!
Never heard the name Bride’s Feathers. I no longer plant anything new – just getting too old – but I do think it would have looked lovely in my back boggy corner.
I can imagine it would.
What an interesting plant! I needed to google it and learned it has for example culinary and pharmaceutical uses. The flowers are very pretty indeed.
Its Finnish name is iso|töyhtö|angervo. The first two parts of this compound word mean big and crest/tuft/plume… and angervo is a tricky word because it can mean an Aruncus, Filipendula, Sorbaria etc. 🙂
Happy Midsummer! Stay safe!
Somehow I have to find out how that Finnish name is pronounced.
I have two beautiful Goat’s Beards in our shady back garden here in Freeport, IL, and love them! I bought them at a nursery in Eagle River, Wisconsin that specializes in shade plants, but they’re also available from Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin (although I think all of their stock is sold out for this year). Love your blog!
Eagle River is a long way from Freeport! All the plant nurseries sold out early this year.
Common names for plants come from the mouth of whoever is speaking. That’s why so many native plants have common names used in different regions. I was a tour guide at an Arboretum for many years and when I was asked to idntify a plant I didn’t know, I simply said, “Some people called it a (fill-in-the-blank)wort. It got me through the tour, and I really didn’t lie because I counted as “some people.”. 🙂
Very clever! I like the way you think!
I love the look of Goats Beard. I have tried to grow it. My shade is too dry unfortunately.
Dry shade can be a challenge, though not an impossible one.
There was an unfortunate period when feathers became all the rage for women’s hate and headpieces — particularly unfortunate for egrets. Possibly the ‘bride’s feathers’ name dates from that era. It’s native here, and most people who know if call it goat’s beard. Like you, I’ve not seen any goats with beards quite so clean and luxuriant. Your plant is a beautiful specimen!
That makes sense about the bridal hats. Regardless of the name, I’m quite pleased with the plant.
Hi Jason .. I have been having trouble commenting lately .. I wanted to comment on a couple of your other posts but I couldn’t sign in properly .. so here I am trying again ! LOL
I have had two gorgeous Goat’s Beard plants along the same border at different intervals and I love them.
They are still gorgeous when the finer feathery flowers change to almost a chain like seed head.
I just bought “Kneiffii” this year and I am intrigued by it because the foliage is such a fine cut type.
Same feathery head but this foliage is so much more delicate , so interesting !
I love these big bold statement plants in the border, yours looks terrific 😉
Sorry you have been having trouble commenting. I agree, this is a bold plant. Not familiar with ‘Kneiffii’, I’ll have to check that out.
I know it as Goat‘s Beard and the same in German (Geißbart). I have never planted it myself as I am not overly keen on it, but it grew in my old garden in the full sun and attracted so many different insects it was a pleasure to watch as the tall flowers mean they are at eye level. 😉 It did get singed in the July sun though.
Ours doesn’t get singed, thanks to the shade I guess.
I’m with Pauline, stick to the Latin so that we are all on the same page. You have a lovely specimen. Do you find it seeds about? Mine spreads itself about a bit but I don’t mind, it’s so pretty. I’m not quite sure how it manages it as I believe it is dioscious.
That’s what makes the Latin so useful. I also think it is dioecious. Mine has not seeded itself at all.
I do grow it but I’ve never heard the name Bride’s Feathers.
It was new to me as well.
I think it suits both names. I just love it, I really must try to buy one.xxx
Give it a try!
I think Goat’s Beard suits it. I’ve started a dwarf aruncus variety from seed just this year, and the foliage is very different from your beauty, and delicate.
It’s a different species, same genus.
Ah, those common names. “Goatsbeard” also is a name for our native Clematis drummondii. It’s perhaps more amusing than it should be that two other commonly used names for the Clematis are “old man’s beard” and “virgin bower.” There are some echoes of brides and (old) goats, there!
Another cup of coffee, and I might remember to close my tags…
Virgin’s Bower is the common name for Clematis virginiana. Is that the one you are referring to?
It’s sometimes applied to C. drummondii, too. So much confusion!
“What sort of bride has feathers”? I assure you, some bridal gowns have feathers.
I would prefer to use the botanical names if I could remember them, and even when I do they are too often tongue twisters. The blooms remind me of fireworks or birthday sparkles.
I googled Dusky Azure butterfly. Lo and behold, it’s not azure at all!
I’ll take your word for it … but that sounds very strange to me.
Love this plant — never thought about the name. Lol!
Think it is native to MD and DE.
I’m going for Goat’s Beard. I can imagine why it would be called “Bride’s Feathers” but it doesn’t stick as well as an old goat, for me.
Is old goat a description of the plant or the gardener?