Welcome to Bluestem Farm!

Our goal is assisting you in the restoration and maintenance of well functioning biodiverse ecosystems.

•    Functioning--ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, pollination, soil protection/erosion control, water infiltration, and carbon sequestration are all taking place.
•    Biodiverse--many species of plants, insects, birds, fungi, and mammals.
•    Ecosystems--the group of beings (plants and animals) and how they interact.

Bluestem Farm is changing course slightly.  In 2020 we concentrated our efforts on catching up on delayed maintenance around the farm.  In light of the pandemic, our only sales were custom propagated native plants for individuals and organizations.   Moving forward, custom propagation, consulting, and limited sales of no-spray produce will be the primary focus of our efforts, although only time will tell what will happen. We  believe in diverse native landscapes and will continue promoting them as we can.  We don't update this website very often; find out what's happening now at Bluestem Farm on Facebook: BluestemFarmBaraboo

We chose the name Bluestem Farm to honor four bunches of little bluestem that survived heavy grazing prior to our acquiring the farm. We started restoration work shortly after purchasing the land in 1988. First we concentrated on restoring the prairie and oak savanna community and later put our energy into wetland restoration. We are fortunate to also have a mature red oak and maple woodland, and stream and riparian habitats. Such diversity is common in the Baraboo Hills and has given us a breadth of experience that few other nurseries have. Observing and working with the plants in the nursery as well as in their natural habitat gives us valuable insights into the requirements of those plants. Scott has worked with several public and private organizations in ecological restoration since 1979. He has been fortunate to study the progress of these projects for forty years!

We offer consulting services including biological surveys, site evaluation, and seed mix design. There is still quite a bit of lightly used land in southern Wisconsin with tremendous restoration potential. The first steps in restoration should involve learning about what is there, what was there historically, and what could be there (given soil type and slope). In our consulting, we conduct plant inventories as a part of wildland assessment, and inventory other species such as birds and bumble bees. We write up restoration plans for prairie and savanna areas, with the understanding that methods need to be continuously evaluated and modified by the person(s) doing the work; working with nature requires listening to what she has to say about your plans.

What started as organic fruit production for our own use has grown to become a collection of over a hundred varieties of apples, pears, cherries, and grapes. These include both heirlooms and some new varieties bred for cold climates and disease resistance.  We avoid using poisons on our farm and use natural fertilizers (composts, mulches, manures, seaweed and rock powders) in the fields.  

As part of living lightly on the land, we:
•    use no -cides on the fields or in the greenhouses;
•    use only a limited amount of synthetic fertilizer in the greenhouses;
•    use only sun heat in the greenhouses;
•    produce our plants from seed or cuttings produced by plants on our own farm;
•    use photovoltaics to provide most of the electric power for our house and farm;
•    try to avoid unnecessary energy expenditures--in heating and cooling, lighting, and driving .

Wild Plum is an easy to grow small tree. It blooms young--when it's as small as 4 feet tall--and blooms very early, usually around the first week of May. The flowers are incredibly fragrant and well frequented by solitary bees. Wild plums are happy in either full sun or partial (filtered) shade, and in most soils as long as they aren't dry. On top of that they produce plums which make an awesome syrup or jam. The skin of the fruit is sharp tasting, but the flesh when fully ripe is as sweet as any other plum. They can eventually reach 10 to 15 feet tall. Wild plum has one potential problem as a yard tree: it sends up lots of sprouts from the roots, and will turn into a thicket if they are not mowed off.

Three Easy Species. These three species are very easy to grow rain or butterfly garden plants. All of them grow in full sun on intermediate to moist soils; Sweet Black-Eyed Susan can also grow in light shade. Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya, on the left) is a tall grower that blooms in late July or early August. The lavender flower spikes are full of nectar and pollen for butterflies. Some of the domestic blazing stars have been bred for reduced amounts of nectar; this negates their value to pollinators. Sweet Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa, upper right) is another tall grower, sometimes reaching five feet but usually shorter. It, too, is attractive to butterflies. The flowers look similar to the more common Black-Eyed Susans (Common Black-Eyed Susan, R. hirta and Showy Black-Eyed Susan, R. fulgida), but this one is taller and bushier, blooms slightly later in the summer, and is more reliably perennial. Its' stems are rough, but not hairy-prickly like the Common Black-Eyed Susan. Wisconsin is outside of the historic range of Showy Black-Eyed Susan. Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, lower right) blooms in late June or early July. In addition to being attractive, the flowers are very fragrant. It is a good nectar source for all sorts of pollinators. If you want to raise monarch butterflies you should know that it is one of the preferred milkweeds for the larvae to feed on. Swamp milkweed needs moist soils; you can get one year of blooming on average soils, but it is only likely to persist in wetter spots. The extra moisture in a rain garden may be just the thing to keep it going.

                                   Hummingbird at penstemon                                                                          

White Penstemon lives fast and dies young, but it leaves behind a generous supply of seeds.  It tolerates a range of soils in full sun to light shade, and attracts hummingbirds as well as other pollinators.   Prefers not to have a lot of grassy competition.

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This picture shows a Giant Swallowtail on the New England Aster outside our front door, with the inset showing two Monarchs on a different day. Around here, New England Asters are major nectar sources for Monarch butterflies while they are on migration in late August and September; it takes more than just milkweed to keep the Monarchs going. They are popular with all of the butterflies that fly in the fall, and are important for butterfly gardens. In bloom for a long time, often starting in August and continuing into October.  I occasionally see a quicksilver-fast hummingbird visiting them. The plants are large (getting up to four feet tall) and vigorous growers; their tendency to self-seed can be an issue although you may not object while they are blooming! They do need full sun and intermediate to moist soil; too much drought will remove them from your garden. All of the asters are important for butterflies and bees that are preparing for winter, but on our farm I see the greatest density and diversity of visitors on the New England Asters.


White oak is a generous tree. Generous with its shade (with its broad shape), and generous with the bird life it supports through the insect life it feeds. Generous with its beauty, from the misty loveliness of its first growth in the spring, through the imposing greenness of its summer foliage to the short-lived but gorgeous red-green that it wears while transitioning to the red-brown of late fall (it's one of the last trees to lose its leaves in the autumn). Every few years it produces generous quantities of acorns that feed blue jays, turkeys, and deer as well as squirrels. If you ever need to take it down, it will make excellent firewood, or lumber if it's large enough. They have a reputation for being slow growers, but given plenty of light, space, and water they grow fairly quickly.  It still may be 15 to 20 years before you get acorns. If you don't plant it, who will? Prefers full sun, and tolerates most soils except very wet, or very dry sandy ones.

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Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) is a favorite with all sorts of pollinators. Beauty is more than skin deep; the plants may sometimes look a bit ragged to us, but the ones who really know flowers seem to find them infinitely attractive. Their many tubular lavender flowers are generous producers of nectar that draws in hummingbirds, hawk moths, bumble- and honey-bees, and many sorts of butterflies. Bergamot is easy to grow, not being particular about what kind of soil it has or whether it has full sun or partial shade. It also is vigorous without taking over the garden.   If you want to watch bumblebees, bergamot is one of the plants that you need in your garden.


Juneberry (Amelanchier laevis). Juneberry is a small tree growing up to 30 feet tall. It is adaptable as to soil type, although the only mature trees growing wild on our farm are in moist to wet soil. We do have two that we planted near the greenhouses on shallow mesic (intermediate moisture) soil that are both doing great.  In late April or May Juneberries are covered with showy white flowers which develop into blueberry shaped reddish fruit in mid- to late June. They are tasty and productive, although the birds will attempt to harvest them all before you get to them. In fall the leaves turn glowing yellow.
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Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia). Many older folks remember shooting stars on the farms where they grew up. It is declining in abundance in the wild; it is now found mostly in savannas and open woodlands, but formerly was common in prairies throughout southern Wisconsin. It is usually in bloom for Mother’s Day. The flowers are incredibly fragrant. It is easy to grow, although slow to reach maturity.  A plant may be four or more years old before you see flowers.  Once it reaches flowering size it is likely to live many years and bloom most of those years unless seriously set back by a late spring burn or repeatedly being eaten by deer.  It germinates well and should be included in more seed mixes.

Petite Jewel Grape

The late Elmer Swenson of Osceola had a dream of breeding grapes that were well adapted to Wisconsin's growing conditions. He bred many grapes that have been introduced to commerce, including the seedless variety Petite Jewel pictured here. He managed to combine hardiness with European grape flavor, coming up with a grape with an intensely sweet and flavorful--if small--fruit.  Some years we have fruit for sale in late August when it ripens, but all too often the birds harvest most of ours.

Well Behaved Plants for Gardens and Landscaping

Amorpha canescens Leadplant

Aquilegia canadensis Columbine

Asclepias incarnata Swamp Milkweed

Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Weed

Aster linariifolius Stiff Aster

Aster sericeus Silky Aster

Baptisia, either species Wild Indigo

Campanula rotundifolia Harebell

Dodecatheon amethystinum Amethyst Shooting Star

Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Star

Echinacea pallida Pale Purple Coneflower

Eryngium yuccifolium Rattlesnake Master

Fragaria either species Wild Strawberry

Geum triflorum Prairie Smoke

Heuchera richardsonii Prairie Alum Root

Hypoxis hirsuta Yellow Star Grass

Liatris aspera Rough Blazing Star

Liatris cylindracea Dwarf Blazing Star

Liatris pycnostacha Prairie Blazing Star

Lilium philadelphicum Wood Lily

Mitella diphylla Miterwort

Oenothera perennis Sundrops

Petalostemum candidum White Prairie Clover

Petalostemum purpureum Purple Prairie Clover

Phlox pilosa Downy (Prairie) Phlox

Polemonium reptans Jacob’s Ladder

Potentilla arguta Prairie Cinquefoil

Rudbeckia subtomentosa Sweet Black-Eyed Susan

Silphium laciniatum Compass Plant

Silphium terebinthinaceum Prairie Dock

Sisyrinchium campestre Blue Eyed Grass

Solidago rigida Stiff Goldenrod

Solidago speciosa Showy Goldenrod

Thalictrum dasycarpum Purple Meadow Rue

Thalictrum dioicum Early Meadow Rue

Veronicastrum virginicum Culver’s Root

Zizia aurea Golden Alexanders

Andropogon scoparius Little Bluestem

Carex radiata Starry Sedge

Carex vulpinoidea Fox Sedge

Sporobolus heterolepis Prairie Dropseed

Acer rubrum or saccharum Native maples

Amelanchier laevis Juneberry

Carpinus caroliniana Musclewood

Carya ovata Shagbark Hickory

Ceanothus americanus New Jersey Tea

Celtis occidentalis Hackberry

Cornus alternifolia Pagoda Dogwood

Red, White and Bur Oaks

Aggressive Plants to be aware of

Many of these are fine in landscaping, as long as their tendencies are taken into account. Others are only suited for restoration work.

Anemone canadensis Canada Anemone Clonal. Roots must be contained.

Asarum canadense Wild Ginger Clonal--spreads slowly, but inexorably.

Asclepias syriaca Common Milkweed    Very clonal—but great food for Monarch caterpillars, and excellent nectar source for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

Aster novae-angliae New England Aster   Valuable nectar plant, but aggressive self seeder.

Aster oblongifolius Savory-Leaved Aster    Clonal.

Aster prenanthoides Crooked Stemmed Aster    Another clonal aster, but less of an issue.

Aster puniceus Red-Stemmed Aster  Clonal, but unlikely to spread outside of wet areas.

Aster sagittifolius Arrow-Leaved Aster   In the absence of deer this may be a vigorous self-seeder.

Coreopsis palmata Prairie Coreopsis   Clonal. May or may not be a problem.

Fragaria vesca and virginiana Wild Strawberries   Spread vigorously, but short-statured and seldom hard to control.

Galium boreale Northern Bedstraw   Seeder, clonal, and suppresses the growth of other plants.

Helenium autumnale   Helenium    Self-sows readily. Seedlings should be easy to control.

Helianthus occcidentalis Western Sunflower   Clonal. Other Helianthus species are far more aggressive

Heliopsis helianthoides Ox-Eye   Self seeds readily, and seedlings grow fast.

Iris shrevei Wild Iris    Clonal, but spreads fairly slowly.

Pedicularis canadensis Wood Betony    Clonal. May suppress other plants’ growth

Polygonatum biflorum Solomon’s Seal Clonal.

Silphium integrifolium Rosin Weed Self sows vigorously. Not recommended.

Silphium perfoliatum Cupplant Self sows vigorously. Not recommended.

Smilacina racemosa False Solomon’s Seal   Clonal. May be hard to contain.

Smilacina stellata Starry False Solomon’s Seal    Clonal. May be hard to contain.

Solidago flexicaulis Zigzag Goldenrod   Clonal. Usually stays small, but I’ve heard occasional reports of it spreading aggressively.

Solidago graminifolia Grass-Leaved Goldenrod   Clonal. Hard to contain. Not recommended.

Vernonia fasciculata Ironweed    Clonal. Extremely vigorous when soil is moist enough to be happy.

Andropogon gerardi Big Bluestem   Self-sows vigorously. May be hard to contain.

Calamagrostis canadensis Blue Joint Grass    Clonal. Not for gardens.

Hierocloë odorata Sweet Grass    Clonal. Roots must be contained but might not spread to dry ground.

Sorghastrum nutans Indian Grass   Self-sows vigorously. May be hard to contain.

Spartina pectinata Prairie Cord Grass   Clonal. Only for restoration plantings.

Amorpha fruticosa Indigo Bush   Self-seeds aggressively.

Celastrus scandens Native Bittersweet   Sends up many sprouts from the roots.    All bittersweets are somewhat dicey in garden settings.

Clematis virginiana Wild Clematis (Virgin’s Bower)   Aggressive vine that roots wherever it touches the ground.

Corylus americana American Hazelnut     Many root sprouts.

Prunus americana Wild Plum Clonal. Sprouts can be contained with the lawn mower.

Rubus occidentalis    Black Raspberry Needs to be kept pruned.

Sambucus canadensis Elderberry    Sends up root sprouts--not for small spaces.

Rock Garden type plants

Anemone patens Pasqueflower
Antennaria neglecta
Antennaria plantaginifolia
Asters linariifolius or sericeus
Campanula rotundifolia

Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Star
Dodecatheon amethystinum Amethyst Shooting Star
Geum triflorum Prairie Smoke
Heuchera richardsonii Prairie Alum Root
Hypoxis hirsuta Yellow Star Grass

Liatris cylindracea Dwarf Blazing Star
Mitella diphylla Miterwort
Oenothera perennis Sundrops
Penstemon pallidus White Penstemon
Phlox pilosa Downy (Prairie) Phlox

Potentilla arguta Prairie Cinquefoil
Sisyrinchium campestre Blue-Eyed Grass
Solidago nemoralis Old-Field Goldenrod
Solidago speciosa Showy Goldenrod
Thalictrum dioicum
Early Meadow Rue

Bouteloua curtipendula Side Oats Grama
Koeleria cristata

Butterfly Plants Good sources for larval food or nectar (nectar sources are highlighted)
         Asclepias incarnata, syriaca, or tuberosa Any milkweed is consumed by Monarch caterpillars

Antennaria Both species are consumed by the American Painted Lady caterpillars

Asters Pearl Crescent larva Aster novae-angliae (New England Aster) in particular is a superb nectar plant

Cassia hebecarpa (Wild Senna) Sleepy orange and cloudless sulfur larvae

Other legumes such as Amorpha (leadplant and indigo bush) and Lespedeza (bush clovers) are larval food for the showy Silver Spotted Skipper

Chelone glabra (Turtlehead)  Baltimore larvae

Violets various fritillaries

Warm Season grasses Common Wood Nymph and various Skippers

Various other butterflies develop on Black cherry, Hackberry, Oaks, aspens, pines,  and willows.

Hops feed young Commas (“Hop Merchants”), Red Admirals, and Question Marks

Nettles (in addition to being good for us!) provide food for the caterpillars of  Red Admirals, Milbert's Tortoise Shells, Question Marks, and Commas

Bergamot, Pycnanthemum (Mountain Mint), Echinacea, and all Blazing stars, Rudbeckias, Eupatoriums, and goldenrods are good nectar producers

Hummingbird Flowers

Aquilegia canadensis Wild Columbine

Asclepias species—all millkweeds

Aster species

Astragalus canadensis Canada Milk-Vetch

Baptisia species—the Wild Indigos

Epilobium angustifolium Fireweed

Heuchera richardsoni Alum Root

Liatris species—the Blazing Stars

Lilium species—Michigan and Wood Lilies

Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal Flower

Monarda fistulosa Bergamot

Pedicularis canadensis Wood Betony

Penstemon species

Silene virginica Fire Pink

Silphium laciniatum Compass Plant

And quite a few more!

Also Apple, Raspberry and currant flowers

Rain Garden Plants

Rain Garden plants have to be able to tolerate both dry periods and standing water, although an established rain garden shouldn’t have rainwater standing for more than a day or so following a storm. Most of these are plants that could be found in the wild on wet meadows or floodplains.


Allium cernuum Nodding Wild Onion

Asclepias incarnata Swamp Milkweed

Aster novae-angliae New England Aster

Aster prenanthoides Crooked Stemmed Aster

Astragalus canadensis  Canada Milk Vetch

Baptisia leucantha White Wild Indigo

Cacalia suaveolens Sweet Indian Plantain

Cassia hebecarpa Wild Senna

Chelone glabra Turtlehead

Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Star

Epilobium angustifolium Fireweed

Eupatorium maculatum Wetland Joe-Pye

Fragaria virginiana Wild Strawberry

Geranium maculatum Wild Geranium

Helenium autumnale  Helenium

Heliopsis helianthoides Ox-Eye

Heuchera richardsonii Prairie Alum Root

Hypericum pyramidatum Great St. John’s-wort

Iris shrevei Wild Iris

Krigia biflora Cynthia (False Dandelion)

Liatris pycnostachya Prairie Blazing Star

Lilium philadelphicum Wood Lily

Liparis loeselii Loesel's Twayblade

Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal Flower

Lobelia siphilitica Great Blue Lobelia

Mimulus ringens Monkey Flower

Monarda fistulosa Bergamot

Oenothera perennis Sundrops

Phlox pilosa Downy (Prairie) Phlox

Polemonium reptans Jacob’s Ladder

Pycnanthemum virginianum Mountain Mint

Ratibida pinnata Yellow Coneflower

Rudbeckia laciniata Wild Golden Glow

Rudbeckia subtomentosa Sweet Black-Eyed Susan

Silphium terebinthinaceum Prairie Dock

Solidago rigida Stiff Goldenrod

Solidago speciosa Showy Goldenrod

Spiranthes cernua Nodding Ladies’ Tresses

Thalictrum dasycarpum Purple Meadow Rue

Tradescantia ohiensis Spiderwort

Vernonia fasciculata Ironweed

Veronicastrum virginicum Culver’s Root

Zizia aurea Golden Alexanders

Grasses and Grass-like Plants for the Rain Garden

Andropogon gerardi Big Bluestem

Carex vulpinoidea Fox Sedge

Elymus canadensis Canada Wild Rye

Elymus riparius Riverbank Wild-Rye

Hierocloë odorata Sweet Grass

Sorghastrum nutans Indian Grass

Sporobolus heterolepis Prairie Dropseed

Woody Plants for a Rain Garden

Amelanchier laevis Juneberry

Amorpha fruticosa Indigo Bush

Carpinus caroliniana Musclewood

Ribes americanum American Black Currant

Sambucus canadensis Black Elderberry

GROUND COVER PLANTS Because sometimes you want a solid stand of something low-growing

Anemone canadensis Canada Anemone

Antennaria neglecta Pussytoes

Asarum canadense Wild Ginger

Fragaria vesca Woodland Wild Strawberry

Fragaria virginiana Wild Strawberry

Geum triflorum Prairie Smoke

Helianthus occidentalis Western Sunflower

Heuchera richardsonii Alum Root

Lysimachia lanceolata Savanna Loosestrife

Maianthemum canadense Canada Mayflower

Pedicularis canadensis Wood Betony

Carex pensylvanica Pennsylvania sedge

Questions or comments? Please write to bluestem_farm(at)

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Bluestem Farm

S5920 Lehman Road -- Baraboo, WI 53913