One of the rare plants here is a pretty little daisy called Perky Sue. Harsh Southwestern mountains have bred their own plants that only grow in this part of the world, and Perky Sue is only native to parts of Arizona and New Mexico.
This little girl is new this year, her sisters are uphill and larger. They can have over two dozen blooms as they get larger and are 6-8 inch tall perennials. This grows well in sunny dry areas or in a rock garden. I have planted seed in a “river” of yellow blooms cascading down an open area on the hill, and Perky Sue is one of the plants I used for that. She helps hold soil in place and will eventually be shaded out by larger plants. My driveway is at the bottom of this bare area and these probably seeded from the ones I have uphill. I think I will start calling this my alpine rock garden and treat it with more respect.
If you look closely, you can see that the succulent leaves are covered with fine hairs, they are very soft, like rabbit fur. Trichomes are fairly common here, they both shade the leaves and discourage predation. Trichomes or wax to keep the moisture in are big items for plants in New Mexico. If I have to adapt, I vote for waxy skin over rabbit fur.
The Navajo used the plant in a cold infusion as a life medicine and psychological aid. Perky Sue can also be used as a lotion for eczema and emergency treatment for injuries. You can drink it for gastrointestinal problems and heartburn. It is also a disinfectant.
I admit I have not used Perky Sue for anything but her tenacious beauty in my alpine rock garden. I have too many common plants for disinfectants to kill a little rare beauty, but look forward to testing her as a skin lotion. After all, I haven’t grown a waxy coating to protect me from sun, low humidity, and fierce winds.
I am pleased to see herbal medicines regain acceptance among US citizens, we’ve pretty well been hijacked by Big Pharma and the AMA for even minor problems. I read recently that 80 percent of humans still use medicinal plants. Westerners are now being sold herbal preparations through the market economy, many of which are shipped across oceans to be packaged and sold here for astonishing prices. As I research all the native plants around me, I see the same properties as I see from exotic imports. I am confident that Americans and other societies will eventually turn to finding healing in their own backyards both from herb gardens and from native plants.
As for wildlife, like other Asters, Perky Sue attracts bees and butterflies and is especially valuable because she starts blooming before our last frost date and provides food for our pollinators. It brings pollinators in and helps keep them in my food forest all season. For great pollination, polyculture feeds the pollinators before, during, and after crops bloom. It is irrational to expect pollinators to only eat a couple weeks out of the year, and sets up bizarre practices like shipping (and stressing) honeybees in for pollination. Blooming early gives Perky Sue an advantage when there is little competition for pollinators, she likely has a high rate of fertilization. Her seed is disbursed by the endless wind, quite effective for Southwest and Midwest plants in general.
I am honored to have this rare flower with the common name Perky Sue as a member of my pharmacopeia, circular economy, and food forest.