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Goat’s beard, feathery white plumes of the Aruncus dioicus plant

Large goat's beard shrub, Aruncus dioicus

Goat’s beard, Aruncus dioicus, is a very showy plant that grows up to 6 feet / 1.5 meters tall, forming large bushy clumps.

Name – Goat’s beard, Aruncus dioicus
Family – Rosaceae
Type – perennial

Height – 3 to 6 feet (1 to 1.5 meters)
Exposure – well-lit
Soil – moist, acidic

Foliage: deciduous
Flowering: end of spring, beginning of summer

The species is now naturalized across the entire temperate Northern Hemisphere. This means planting Aruncus dioicus is easy in our whereabouts! Butterflies are very much attracted to the many white flowers. Flowers, which are also great as cut flowers in a vase, stay magnificent for about 10 days.

The long, showy plumes of tiny white goat’s beard flowers are similar to those of Astilbe. Since it’s a dioecious plant, each plant is either male or female. The flower panicles are 6 to 38 inches long and the plant as a whole never grows much taller than 5-6 feet (150-180 cm). They’re quite massive! Male specimens have the most impressive flowers.

Planting goat’s beard, Aruncus dioicus

The species as a whole, Aruncus dioicus, requires moisture, proper sunlight and rich, rather acidic soil (not limestone). Goatsbeard tolerates seasonal flooding. It needs a lot of space. As a result, you’ll only be able to grow it outside.

  • Planting goats beard near a streamPlant either a single plant or a cluster of several along a stream or in a water garden.
  • Select the planting site with care: it must stay moist.
  • Amend the soil with abundant amounts of organic matter before planting.
  • Space plants by 2½ to 4 feet (0.8 to 1.2 m) to give each one enough room to grow. Once it has settled in, it’s very difficult to move this species to a different spot. The wide space between the plants while still young can be filled in with annuals until such time they fluff up and fill it out.

Clearly, this is a plant to use for landscaping for its incredible white inflorescence in spring and summer. For instance, plant a few goats beard as irregular clusters along a slope. Indeed, these taller plants make for a great backdrop, behind shorter flowers. In particular, the shaded and wetter areas around forest clearings or in a shrub bed.

Note that it’s impossible to determine whether a plant is male or female upon purchase.

Growing and care for Aruncus dioicus

Proper care for Aruncus dioicus leads to beautiful bloomingGrowing Goat’s beard requires nearly no care at all.

Eliminating spent flower scapes won’t trigger new blooming, but it will make the plant look nicer. Simply chop up the wilted stems and spread them on the ground: this can help retain water in the soil to maintain high moisture levels.

For female plants, however, you might prefer to keep the flower stems on the plant, without cutting them: they turn into beautiful plumes of seeds as they dry out.

Info: as long as soil moisture is constant, goat’s beard will do great even in full sun in climates where it doesn’t get too hot. In warmer climates, part shade is better.

Propagating goat’s beard:

Propagationg for Aruncus dioicus is through division or seedsAruncus dioicus easily multiplies through clump division and seed sowing. Plants may take a while to truly settle in. Indeed, when grown from seed, it make take two or even three years before you get your first flower.

Reminder: since each plant is either male or female, you’ll need to have at least one of each to get fertile seeds. Harvest the seeds about one month after the blooming, from the female plants. To sum it up, it’s almost impossible to collect perfectly viable seeds!

Diseases and pests:

Diseases are rare, pests even more soNo disease in particular, no pests either. Leaves dry out very quickly if the soil gets dry. In the wild, Goat’s beard usually grows alongside streams, in wet bogs in forests and prairies.

The occasional caterpillar might feed on its leaves.

Good to know about Aruncus dioicus, goat’s beard

The Aruncus genus, from the Greek word aryngos , literally means “beard of the goat”. It refers to the showy flower clusters that look like fingers, forming feather masses with all the male and female flowers.

In western countries, another species was included. Its name was Aruncus sylvestris, among other names. There are four natural varieties, three of them are native to North America. Aruncus dioicus var. vulgaris is native to western and central Europe, Russia, and the Caucasian mountains. However, some botanists dispute this and consider that plants in the west are of the pubescens variety, while others vouch that it is acuminatus instead.

False goat’s beard Astilbe biternata looks very similar. However, it belongs to the saxifrage family. Also, a key difference with Aruncus dioicus is that each leaf has a lobed, terminal leaflet at the tip, and two pistils.

Medicinal use

Native Americans used goat’s beard for medicine. For instance, they’d prepare poultices from the roots to heal wounds. Root infusions were used to treat a few different ailments, like rheumatism, sore throat, fever and blood diseases.

Landscaping with goat's beard as a backdrop

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY-SA 2.0: Joan Simon, Megan Hansen
CC BY 2.0: Forest Service Alaska Region, USDA, K M, Line Sabroe
Pixabay: Hans Braxmeier
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