By Debbie Roland and
Called by many common names, Conclinium greggii is well known to anyone who gardens for pollinators. Most simply call this plant Gregg’s blue mistflower. A Texas SmartScape plant, the 2020 Texas Butterfly Ranch unofficial plant of the year and a staple on any Texas pollinator plant list, it is a carefree butterfly magnet and especially good for fall migrating monarchs.
Gregg’s blue mistflower is native to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. It is a perennial, root hardy to 0o Fahrenheit and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. It grows to about 1.5’ and can spread to 3’. It is tolerant of dry, calcareous soil; give it additional water if you want it to bloom profusely. The light purple to powder blue blooms can appear as early as May. It will bloom through the summer and come into full glory in the fall attracting queen butterflies, migrating Monarchs and many other pollinators until a killing frost.
It is deciduous turning brown in winter so cut it back in early spring and then again midsummer to promote blooming. The blooms are a welcome addition to summer and fall wildflower arrangements. You can find this plant readily in native nurseries or as a pass-a-long from someone who grows it.
One historical tidbit about Gregg’s blue mistflower is the story of Josiah Gregg, an early Texas naturalist and explorer who explored and collected plants throughout Texas. He wrote Commerce of the Prairies (1844) about his time on the Santa Fe trail from 1831 to 1840 and it included maps which late explorers used. Gregg became a doctor, acted as a reporter in the Mexican-American War and then returned to Texas and collected plants. In 1849, he left for the California Gold Rush and during an ill-fated expedition to Humboldt Bay, he died attempting to return to the San Francisco. But his name and legacy live on in the roughly 80 species of plants which bear his name, Gregg’s blue mistflower being one.
Besides being connected to history, Gregg’s blue mistflower also helped to develop the idea of nuptial giving. In this case, there is a natural collaboration between a flower and the queen butterfly which explains why queen butterflies are so attracted to Gregg’s blue mist. Gregg’s blue mistflower has a chemical compound which the male queen obtains as he nectars. He passes this chemical to the female queen when they mate. That compound helps the female to produce a toxin which makes the eggs unpalatable to predators. So it’s a win-win for all.
For more information, call the AgriLife office at 498-4071 in Odessa or at 686-4700 in Midland or visit aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu or westtexasgardening.org.