Jupiter’s Beard

Centranthus ruber

I have known this plant as Red Valerian for donkeys’ years, but the other day I found out it’s also called Jupiter’s Beard! What a lovely image that conjures up!

Not to be confused with Goats’ Beard, Jupiter’s Beard is perhaps the most perfectly suited to my garden. This wonderful plant loves poor, alkaline soil… the stonier , the better. It is drought resistant, very hardy, self-seeds but isn’t invasive, loves full sun and the summer heat, and flowers from the end of May until the first frosts! If I cut off the flowerheads as they fade I can keep it in check and it will continue flowering nonstop.

The flowers are a pinkish red, and the leaves are a bluish-green. It stands upright in clumps, grows out of walls at odd angles, and  always seems happy, whatever the weather. This perky little plant (that can grow to a metre tall) is native to the Mediterranean region, but is now naturalised in most of Central Europe. Bees and butterflies, and in particular the Hummingbird Hawk-moth, love the funnel-shaped flowers, and yet they don’t seem to be fragrant. In fact the leaves have a distinctly “bitter” smell.

I found this fabulous photo of a Hummingbird Hawk-moth, tickling Jupiter’s Beard, on Wikimedia Commons…

And then I attempted to photograph one myself…

… which wasn’t easy!

… They are so fast, zig-zagging from one inflorescence to the next…

There is also a white Valerian: Centranthus ruber “Albus” … shall we call it Angel’s Beard? 😉

Apparently there is a pale pink one too, but I haven’t actually seen one yet.

Does this plant grow where you live?