Cup plant – Silphium perfoliatum
Just when you think you know “everything” about a plant that you think makes it useful, some plants give you a surprise. This is especially true when it comes to the cup plant. This unique plant forms “cups” that hold water where they connect with its thick square stem. But that’s not all:
When planted in a thick row and well watered, this towering plant can reach superhuman heights of EIGHT feet! And its miniature sunflower-shaped flowers provide great pollen fodder for foraging bees.
The cup plant also…and this is a good thing thing, mind you…attracts a species of red aphid (Macrosiphum spp.). Common sense would have you believe that al aphids are unwanted.
However, the cup plant is able to withstand the Macrosiphum aphids, and because it does it attracts several species of beneficial aphid predators and parasitic wasps. In fact, even though the aphids colonized nearly the entire underside of the plant leaves, lacewing and syrphid fly maggots and parasitic wasps were able to control them naturally.
And surprise of surprises, one other benefit of the cup plant is its thick square stem’s pith can be hollowed with a dowel out to create the tunnels orchard mason bees need to lay eggs.