Yellowwood Tree / Cladrastis kentukea
Yellowwood is one of the loveliest southern native trees and it just so happens to also be the Tennessee Bicentennial tree (not to be confused with the Tennessee State Tree, tulip poplar). A member of the pea family, Fabaceae, flowers are pendulous, white, fragrant and a nectar haven for bees. It blooms between May and June here in Nashville. Yellowwood ranges between 30 and 50 feet in height and is a low-branching tree with a rounded habit. The bark is an attractive smooth gray, which is similar to beech. It makes for an excellent shade tree with little disease and pest issues. The common name reflects the yellow heartwood of the tree.
Common Sweetshrub / Calycanthus floridus
This gorgeous native with large red blooms, which start off maroon and brighten in color as they open (great for arrangements as they are long-lasting), responds best in both flower power and stature when grown in full sun, even though its natural habitat is deep within the forest canopy. Calycanthus is found in the wild from Virginia down to Florida. Plant in either sun or shade near an entranceway to maximize your exposure to its fragrance, a spicy apple. Even the bark of sweetshrub is scented and was once used as a substitute for cinnamon. This shrub is also deer resistant and tolerant of a wide range of soils.
Crossvine / Bignonia capreolata
When given a suitable structure such as a fence, trellis, or even a building or tree, crossvine can climb from 30-50 feet by it’s tiny tendrils with disk extensions. It’s trumpet-shaped flowers are seen mostly in an orange-red color, flowering in May in our area. Its leaves are semi-evergreen and the flowers emit a mocha-like fragrance.
Indian Pink or Pink Root / Spigelia marilandica
Spigelia has upward facing, red trumpet-shaped flowers with yellow throats. Native to the southeastern U.S., it is one of the most beautiful star-shaped wildflowers found in our Tennessee forests. To happen upon this stunning flower is an incredible treat, however, they are most impressive when given more sunlight than the deeply canopied woodland they are commonly found. The tubular red flowers are a beacon for all the resident hummingbirds and deadheading will encourage a rebloom.
Little Bluestem / Schizachyrium scoparium
Little bluestem is one of the most useful and attractive grasses for multi-seasonal interest that is native to our limestone rich soil, growing 2–4 feet in height. During the early period of growth, stems appear red-purplish in color, later maturing to a reddish brown with lavender-blue stem bases, and eventually turning into a bronze-orange hue in fall and winter. The puffy seed heads that follow the small purple flowers add a soft texture to the landscape. Little blue stem is an excellent grass selection for controlling erosion, restoring poor soils, and providing proper habitat. It is also deer tolerant.