There are not many native biennials that I fuss about with, but the delicate woodlander called Allegheny fringe (Adlumia fungosa) is worth the effort it takes to keep it the garden. A true biennial, this plant makes a charming little foliage mound in its first year,
and then, in its second and final year, it extends into delicate twining strands strung with dangling pale pink hearts. In the wild, I have found it in areas of cool damp mossy limestone. In the garden, it adapts to a variety of dampish, shady conditions but it probably won’t naturalize, and will need your help to propagate it from seed from year to year.
This plant is uncommon in the wild and is considered endangered or threatened in some of the States where it occurs. I first saw it on Hill’s Island, in the St. Lawrence River. I have also seen it on the Niagara Escarpment.
In my garden, Allegheny fringe gets more sun and less competition than any I have seen in the wild, and it becomes much more floriferous. The vines continue to grow in length, and to unfurl new clusters of pale pink hearts, over several weeks in summer. I see few insects visiting the flowers and so I wondered who pollinated them. A few days ago, I got my answer when I saw a ruby-throated hummingbird going from heart to heart.
While the flowers are not as showy as the garden bleeding heart, a Japanese species, the delightful Allegheny fringe, also known as climbing bleeding heart, is one of the most charming native woodlanders for eastern North American gardens. Easy from seed, and blooming in its second summer, it is also a native woodlander that does not require extraordinary stores of patience from the gardener.