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50 Natives: Michigan: Petasites hybidus – Butterburr

April 28, 2009

Deborah Silver has a new blog called Dirt Simple (which is great and worth a visit) — and she recently mentioned Butterburr in a post….a plant I am completely unfamiliar with, but now plan to become intimately familiar with.

Since living in England I have wanted to be able to grow the commonly seen (there) Gunnera. The closest thing I had ever seen was rhubarb. Gunnera, if you don’t know, has GIANT leaves that can make even an adult feel like they fell through some sort of Alice in Wonderland Hole. Gunnera will not survive in New England, so with disappointment, I had given up on the idea of an oversized garden to make us feel enclosed and ensconced in a beautiful lush plant world.

Enter Deborah’s post about Butterburr and I am on a hunt to buy it RIGHT NOW. Seems Butterburr (Petasites hybidus) is actually a native of Massachusetts (where I live) and Michigan (where she lives) and I think should be successful in my garden. I can’t wait! Look at this gorgeous picture from Deborah’s house….

Dobroah Silver Dirt Simple butterburr plants
image from Dirt Simple.

I want edges to grassy areas and walkways that look like Picture #3 and Picture #9. BTW, I think Butterburr is actually one of those plants that gave me ‘vegetation disorientation’ (I love that term– sounds so medical…but we just made it up) in Sweden…I thought they were strange wild rhubarb…

I am reading that they are a bit of work to keep under control, but I am up for the challenge… have you grown these? I am wondering if a mulch filled trench (that can be seasonally dredged) might do the trick? (that was recommended to me for bamboo control by a local bamboo grower)

butterburr mosaic

1. Petasites hybridus – Groot hoefblad, Butterbur, 2. Huge and leafy!, 3. More and more of them…, 4. Petasites hybridus (Butterbur) Cromford Canal, 5. Petasites hybridus — Foliage, 6. Petasites hybridus, 7. petasites japonica, 8. big hand, bigger leaf, 9. Petasites hybridus, 10. Groot Hoefblad -Petasites Hybridus, 11. Petasites hybridus, 12. Common Butterbur Petasites hybridus

I am so excited to give these a try…if I find success in growing them myself, I feel as if I will have a new tool in my design arsenal…they are so dramatic and exciting, sure to wow clients.

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  1. joey says:

    Deborah Silver is amazing! We had our April garden club meeting at Detroit Garden Works, a green and artistic showplace hard to leave!

  2. Waxyhearts says:

    Whoa – those are crazy huge! They would take up my whole yard! Wow!

  3. Deborah Silver says:

    We contain beds of butterburs with 24 gauge sheet metal-which we buy from a heating and cooling place that makes ductwork. We have the sheets made 8′ long, and 24″ deep. We have them fold over the long edges, so no one gets cut installing it. This works for us. In my opinion, the butterburs would shoot through a bark verge in 2 minutes flat! Thanks again for the nice post. Deborah

  4. Sprout says:

    Think they can be grown on my 8′ x 8′ urban deck (my entire outdoor living space)?!

  5. michelle d. says:

    There was a huge pond of petasites growing on the Case Estate in Weston Ma.
    Harvard University owned the property ( they may still ? ) and ran the property as a horticultural display garden and exhibition growing grounds.
    When I was a horticultural intern at the University I was stationed there for a summer and would love to spend my lunch time sitting by the petasites.
    The Case estate in association with the Arnold Arboretum use to have plant sales there. If they still do, chances are that they will offer this prolific plant for sale.
    Maybe check the Arnold Arboretum website to see when their next plant sale is.
    Great plant !
    Doesn’t do well here in dry arid California. 🙁

  6. louise garwood says:
    found in carlisle at Blanchette gardens

  7. pat finlay says:

    I am so interested in purchasing at least 2 -3 petasites hybidus plants.

  8. lyn says:

    Thought you may be interested in this about Butter Burr – when I was a child in Lancashire, England, giant Butter Burr grew in profusion along the river banks and we children were told that they were ‘rat leaves’ and poisonous so we kept away from them as we believed that rats ran about under their shade. I never saw any blossom though.

  9. joan altman says:

    In my PA garden, I have asterboides and Butter Burr in my spring. They have filled out and made very nice large colonies. I get more comments on them that any other plant. Children really love them. The pestasites that I grow are variegated. I love your pictures. Thanks so much.

  10. Marilyn Brownstein says:

    I live on an island in Puget Sound and put in three varieties of petasides two years ago: a red stemmed version, a variagated, and the green japonicus. My garden consists of raised beds and gravel walks with landscape fabric under the gravel. The japonicus while gorgous is everywhere and insistently spreading. I am beginning to have nightmares about it; the traveling runners or rhizomes are easily two inches in circumferance and in many cases more than 8″ deep. They are gorgeous and the beds with the spring bloom was wonderful, but I fear they are going to derstroy my beautiful perennial beds–which take sufficient beating from deer as is. We are in the rain shadow and receive only half as much rain as Seattle (about 17 in, a year, av. temp is probably 60, and we have an occasional winter freeze.). I grow some petasites in a bed that gets half day sun and at the border of a doug fir woods which is dark. They thrive both places but the plants that get half day sun are about to take over my garden, my house, my nightmares. I am considering poisoning them since they are nearly impossible to clear by hand. I bought my rhizomes from a website in Maryland. I will happily mail them anywhere free except for postage. I have grown bamboo. That is no challenge compared to this plant. Help or advice or requests for free rhizomes appreciated.

  11. CM says:

    Not native – introduced. Check USDA Plants website. Only native in states that are BLUE. Its common name is pestilence wort.

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