Rare Plants, Perky Sue (Tetraneuris argentea)

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.

Perky Sue

    Perky Sue

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.



About rebeccatreeseed

I am a naturalist raised by naturalists. Treeseed is my earned name, while Rebecca is my birth name. I am of Northern European descent, with a quarter Irish.quarter thrown in. I suspect I was a product of northern invaders into Ireland into Ireland. but hard to say since DNA disproved the family story about Apache blood! I have found some odd ancestors to replace them. Last year I bought 5 acres of pinyon-juniper forest on the side of a mountain in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. I am fulfilling a lifetime dream of a cabin in the mountains and a food forest that will feed me and local wildlife. I want to share this new phase of my life with others that might be interested.
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6 Responses to Rare Plants, Perky Sue (Tetraneuris argentea)

  1. What a beautifully written post! I have been imagining the cascade of yellow flowers in your arid environment, and I do agree with you that, as a natural rock garden is creating itself, you should just go with the flow. We have a similar plant to Perky Sue here in Egypt, but with smaller flowers – same leaves of a greyish-green colour covered with very fine, soft hairs. But I am way behind you in discovering the plants’ natural healing powers. I do wonder about the name, though – how might “perky” and “Sue” have come together?!

  2. Sylvia,
    I looked Perky Sue up because I haven’t seen her before and I was curious too. No stories about that, and obviously not the Navajo name, which I did not find, either. I see the medicinals from all over the world on our market shelves, but every place has medicinals. One reason I am looking up the chemical properties is so that I can also look up those properties in other plants. Perky Sue only has the Navajo folk uses and no scientific commentary at this time. I try to collect both on my local plants. I make teas every winter and my health is so generally good that I don’t experiment on me much. I am studying medicinals at least an hour each day, it is amazing stuff.

  3. Hello Rebecca – would you recommend any particular source for information on medicinal properties? I have some books from Neal’s Yard in the UK, but they are somewhat limited in scope. Is there a good online resource?

  4. Hi Sylvia,
    A few places to get you started are Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel, gets you in the ballpark on plant identification, then once identified, I look at Plants for a Future database http://www.pfaf.org, which is excellent. I have a book on native American plants, and general Internet searches. My blogs are a blend of personal experience, folk medicine, Internet searches, and medical research papers. I recommend that you look up all the plants in your garden, it is amazing what you will find. To identify natives, we have university databases and the LBJ Wildflower Center. You probably have some Egyptian resources. Good luck!

  5. Thank you for the advice, particularly for the weblink. This will certainly help. We do have some resources re: plants found in Egypt, and they are good: I now need to translate that into using them more efficiently in our lives. It’s a pleasure to follow your blog, I learn so much.

    • Sylvia, thank you. I do have a lot of field identification manuals, I buy every one I see. Ours just have the flashier flowers most of the time. Right now I have a mystery Euphorbia I can’t find as being listed in New Mexico so I will check Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. It can be a puzzle.

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