Wisconsin drought resistant plants

Written by Michaela Rosenthal
    Tuesday, 26 September 2017
Wisconsin drought resistant plants

Has the weather lately left you feeling parched yet sweaty? Us too, but we can hardly stay inside knowing Autumn’s flower and foliage color display is on its way. While the weather remains unseasonably warm and minimal if any rain is in sight, many of our Wisconsin native plant species can take the heat as well as the drought conditions.

Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, and Bottlebrush Grass, Elymus hystrix, are grasses that not only tolerate dry soil conditions but have some of the most beautiful leaf color and seed head displays this time of year. With its bottlebrush-like seed heads ripening to a golden brown color in September, Bottlebrush grass is a fantastic species found in dry shady areas.Little bluestem changes leaf and stem color from a bluish-green hue to a russet red. A sun-lover, Switchgrass foliage transforms from green to an eye-stopping golden color in early Autumn.

Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium. Photo: Klhem's Songsparrow Nursery

Also found within the sunny patches of the park’s is the Purple Prairie Clover, Dalea purpurea. This short statured prairie plant is still showing off its summer flower color, despite the dryness. The multitude of Aster species’, Symphyotrichum sp., flower colors --pink, purple, white, and blue-- dance throughout our prairies, savannas, and woodland plant communities.

Aster, Symphyotrichum sp. Photo: Michaela Molter

ZigZag Goldenrod, Solidago flexicaulis, found in our woodland and forest areas only shines brighter with its brilliant yellow flower color during dry weather.

ZigZag Goldenrod, Solidago flexicaulis. Photo: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Let’s not forget the vibrant splash of reds, yellows, and oranges that our native Smooth and Staghorn Sumac, Rhus glabra and Rhus typhina, provide!

Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra. Photo: John Barger

Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus, grows in dry areas of full sun to full shade and produces clusters of white, blueberry-sized fruit that provide a unique textural contrast of the changing seasons. And the mighty White Oak, Quercus alba. While its Autumn leaf colors vary, it shows a tolerance beyond question for our presently dry soil conditions and provides some great shade to enjoy what days remain for our 2017 growing season. Come join us in the parks and marvel at what changes in the season brings of our Wisconsin native plants.  

Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus. Photo: Careann's Musings


Michaela Rosenthal

Michaela Rosenthal

Michaela began her days at the UEC as a volunteer, assisting the Land Stewardship team with buckthorn removal, tree and shrub planting as well as seed collecting and cleaning.  In 2013, she joined the Stewardship team as the UEC Washington Park Branch Land Steward.  Aside from her passion for land management, Michaela enjoys cooking, vegetable gardening and traveling around the United States as well as internationally.  She takes any and all opportunities to explore the outdoors.  When possible, she volunteers with local triathlon clubs with event/race set up, aid station dispenser or simply as the ultimate cheerleader.


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