Description & Overview

This Wisconsin native perennial begins as a mound of green leaves which give rise to a wiry, hairy stalk that produces inconspicuous drooping flowers. Prairie Alumroot’s tiny, bell-shaped flowers bloom for up to a month and though they can go unnoticed, the orange stamens are easily spotted by small bees. Seeds are dispersed by the wind.

You may also know this plant as Richardson’s Alumroot.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 1-3 feet

Mature Spread: 1-2 feet

Growth Rate: Perennial

Growth Form: Upright, clump-forming, and spreading.

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Site Requirements: Dry – mesic, well-drained.

Flower: 1/2", or smaller, asymmetrical, green-cream, 7" panicles, drooping flowers with orange anthers.

Bloom Period: Early June to mid-July

Foliage: Basic leaves, long-stalked, palmately divided to seven to nine lobes.

Fall Color: Variable - Green, red, orange, and yellow.

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Dark brown capsule with black seeds (smaller than grain of black pepper).

Suggested Uses

Prairie Alumroot is found throughout Wisconsin, except the peninsula and the north-central counties, in hilly prairies, sand prairies, limestone glades, and rocky uplands. The places we love to see this plant the most are in the dwarf forest of the Niagara escarpment and the rocky tops of the Kettle Moraine, where these plants can live to a great age among the twisted and warped plants that are almost bonsai-esque in appearance. This is to say that Prairie Alumroot is one very tough plant. It’s extremely adaptable and an underused landscaping plant, and once established it tolerates drought well.

Planted in masses underneath Serviceberry or Bur Oak would be an excellent groundcover. Its short stature makes it a great border planting and it is tough and adaptable enough to survive the dappled shade of hickories and oaks. That said, deep shade is a no-no, so do not shade it with larger perennials.

Planting in a rock garden adds a nice contrast to the bold texture of the rocks.

In prairie restorations, having Prairie Alumroot signifies good quality or recoverable habitat.

This Wisconsin native perennial begins as a mound of green leaves which give rise to a wiry, hairy stalk that produces inconspicuous drooping flowers.…
This Wisconsin native perennial begins as a mound of green leaves which give rise to a wiry, hairy stalk that produces inconspicuous drooping flowers.…

Wildlife Value

Flowers offer both nectar and pollen. The flowers droop downward to protect precious nectar and pollen from the rain.

Specialist bees such as Colletes andrewsi, a ground-nesting solitary bee that specializes in the Heuchera genus, especially Heuchera richardsonii, along with Colletes aestivalis are frequent visitors.

Other beneficial visitors include Dagger Moths (Acronicta impressa), Green Sweat bees (Augochlorella spp.), small sweat bees (Lasioglossum spp.), and cellophane bees (Colletidae spp.).

Maintenance Tips

Requiring minimal upkeep once established, Prairie Alumroot is an easy-to-care-for plant once established. Water well until established, especially during drought periods.

Applying mulch after the first frost will help prevent root heaving. Dividing the clump every 2 to 3 years will increase air circulation and prevent disease.

This Wisconsin native perennial begins as a mound of green leaves which give rise to a wiry, hairy stalk that produces inconspicuous drooping flowers.…
This Wisconsin native perennial begins as a mound of green leaves which give rise to a wiry, hairy stalk that produces inconspicuous drooping flowers.…

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: No
Rabbit Resistant: No

No serious pests or problems. Deer and rabbits may feed on the leaves sparingly. Aphids will sometimes suck juices from plants but are not detrimental to the health of the plant.

Heuchera americana, American Alumroot, is not tolerant of black walnut; however, Prairie Alumroot, the subject of this profile seems to grow quite well with juglone.

Leaf Lore

The genus “Heuchera” was named after the Professor of Medicine and Botanist at Wittenburg, Germany, Johann Heinrich von Heucher. The specific epithet “richardsonii” was named after its discoverer, Sir John Richardson, a Scottish naturalist and explorer credited with discovering Prairie Alumroot.

The common name “alumroot” is derived from the alum-taste of the roots and leaves, which are said to have an astringent property once used for dressing sores and closing wounds. The Lakota, Cree, and Blackfoot infused the root and used as a tonic for diarrhea.

Companion Plants

Although not picky about its companion plants, those that enjoy similar habitats and would co-exist well include Blue Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis), Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa), Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Cream Wild Indigo (Baptisia leucophaea), Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum), Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea), Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense), Bird-foot Violet (Viola pedata), and Side Oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula).

Other non-native border plants that are shorter and would contrast nicely include Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata), Bigroot Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum), Dwarf Goatsbeard (Aruncus aethusifolius), Dwarf Chinese Astilbe (Astilbe chinensis ‘Pumila’), Sea Thrift (Armeria spp.), Geum (Geum spp.), Petite Delight Bee Balm (Monarda didyma ‘Petite Delight’), Blue Ice Amsonia (Amsonia x ‘Blue Ice’), Firewitch Dianthus (Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Firewitch’), and Cat’s Pajamas Catmint (Nepeta ‘Cat’s Pajamas’ PP31,127).

This Wisconsin native perennial begins as a mound of green leaves which give rise to a wiry, hairy stalk that produces inconspicuous drooping flowers.…
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Written by Beth DeLain