By Fred Nation
When we think of sunflowers, most of us have mental images of big, yellow daisy-like flowers. This is true, of course, but the sunflower family has much more to offer, including flowers of literally every color in the rainbow. One especially handsome sunflower relative is our native Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum). The blooms range in color from sky blue to lavender, with masses of showy flowers that begin in July and continue into November.
Blue Mistflower plants are herbaceous (non-woody) perennials, up to about four feet high. The triangular leaves, sometimes heart-shaped, grow to four inches long with sharp teeth on their edges. The plants can be found growing wild throughout Alabama, Baldwin County, and the Weeks Bay Reserve. They can be grown from seed or potted stock from nurseries or native-plant sales. Mistflowers are among the easiest wildflowers to grow as attractive, trouble-free bedding plants. They will benefit from an inch or two of mulch to keep the soil moist, and an occasional pruning to keep them in bounds.
For centuries plant remedies for various injuries and diseases have been prepared and dispensed by herbalists and traditional medicine practitioners. For example, a poultice made from Blue Mistflower leaves has been used to treat infections. Tea brewed from the leaves is suggested as a soothing treatment for sore throats, and the leaves have also been applied to wounds to stop bleeding.
Blue Mistflowers are attractive to bees, moths, and a few desirable butterflies, including buckeyes, sulphurs, and monarchs. When they are grown together with our native yellow sunflowers, the color combination is beautiful, and the butterflies will come–guaranteed!