Compass plants reach for the sky

Probably my favorite wildflowers here at Three Willows are the compass plants, so named because supposedly their leaves always point north.

For two years I thought the compass plant was a bit of a bust. It had big interesting leaves, but that just made it kind of a fun little bush. I guess it takes some time for compass plants to mature to the point where they flower, and that third year made up for the boring beginning.

For the first few weeks, the then-lone compass plant showed its floppy leaves, same as always, but then one day a stem shot up about eight feet in the air, and a few days after that a half-dozen blossoms burst out. Talk about your ugly duckling transforming into a swan!

The flowers drop seeds as those long stems droop at the end of the summer, and after a few years we have compass plants all over the wildflower gardens. Between the compass plants and the cup plants — who deserve their own story one of these days — the field is a glorious display of green and gold, which is a lovely and appropriate sight not far from the shore of the bay of Green Bay.

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