Butterburs In Your Future

butterburr23The temperatures still hover at or below the freezing mark here-typical for the Midwest.  But there are signs of life.   The butterburr flowers are stirring. They are preceded by huge cracks in the earth. Ungainly and ill-proportioned, they look dead as they emerge from the ground, and grow downwards back to the earth-astonishing.  However unappetizing, these flowers are quickly replaced by giant, faintly prehistoric, leafy plants of  equally astonishing scale. They form large colonies overnight-the kind that would spread into your house via the bedroom window-if you are not the vigilant sort.butterburr4

Their immense leaves are stunning. There is no texture like this, unless you live in the tropics.


How dramatically they fall to the ground in a heap when dry will make you laugh out loud. They compliment bitty -textured plants beautifully. But like many things in this world, they are willing to a fault. Give them an inch, and they will take Ohio.  They spread uncontrollably, into the most unlikely places.  The cracks in the driveway, the center of ancient and bristly yews-some surprise you by breaking forth many yards from their home. Shade will slow them down, should you have some. The butterburr battle is a loosing battle that I do not tire of.  Once I spent days removing every scrap and shred of them from a large bed. In three weeks they were back with no sign that I had ever touched them. So I embrace them, and chase them.  Our relationship is my idea of garden drama.
The design lesson here: the things you cannot change- the driveway you were dealt, the weather, the boundaries of your land, the butterburrs-make them work for you.
Give thought to where you are, who you are, and what you want. Most of all, sort out what you think is beautiful.  Be prepared to revise these answers regularly.  Then design. There could be butterburrs in your future.



  1. Diana Noone says

    Are there any nurseries in Michigan that sell Butterburr?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Wiegand’s, in Macomb, grows them-all from my patch at home! Gary digs out all of plants that are growing where they have no business growing.

  2. Diana Noone says

    Thanks Deborah!

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