Hubricht’s amsonia or Arkansas bluestar is one of approximately twenty plant species endemic to the Ouachita Mountains of central Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma.
Collected as early as 1879 by Western plant explorers, Amsonia hubrichtii wasn’t recognized as a distinct species until 1942. Leslie Hubricht, renowned mainly as a malacologist, brought live plants and herbarium specimens to Missouri Botanical Garden as he thought it distinctive. Robert E. Woodson Jr. eventually agreed (after seeing the live plants grow throughout the year), and described and published the species, naming it in honour of his friend. Of its gardening qualities, Woodson wrote:
In the perennial borders of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Amsonia hubrichtii has proved to be a much more satisfactory plant than the “A. tabernaemontana” (frequently actually A. illustris) offered by many nurserymen. It is a neater plant of more refined growth, the foliage is ornamental, and the clearer blue flowers are displayed to better advantage.
It would take another five decades or so before Arkansas bluestar became prevalent in gardens. In a 2005 article for The Plantsman on Amsonia in cultivation (PDF), noted horticulturist Rick Darke wrote:
Though the preceding are fine garden plants, this species [Amsonia hubrichtii] is truly distinct and extraordinary, and represents the most dramatic and important recent addition to the garden palette of bluestars. Ten years ago it was an obscure collector’s plant and today it is increasingly available through retail nurseries in the US and UK…[Mature plants form] a broad-spreading billowy mass of the finest texture. In spring the stems are topped by a multitude of sky-blue flowers lasting about 2–3 weeks…When grown in strong sunlight, the peak season for this species is autumn, when the stems and leaves turn a vibrant gold that endures for a month or more.
Of course, I’ve never photographed it in autumn to share with you. Fortunately, Nancy J. Ondra, prolific gardening book author and writer of Hayefield: A Pennsylvania Plant Geek’s Garden, has this covered. Read her entry on One Plant, Three Seasons for her experiences with the plant, where she shares many photographs of the species in gardening context throughout the year.