Meehania cordata: Plant Hunting in My Own Back Yard


By Guest Author - Barry Glick

When Thomas Meehan, a Philadelphia Botanist, died in 1901, I'm sure he went to the big forest in the sky feeling proud that Nathaniel Lord Britton (1859-1934) named a genus of plants in his honor. I'd also bet that he didn't now how wonderful his namesake plant was. In fact most people don't know how wonderful Meehania cordata is.

Charles and Martha Oliver are proprietors of the Primrose Path Nursery in Scottdale PA and dear friends of mine. I'd noticed Meehania cordata listed in their catalog. After reading their description and hearing them extol the virtues about how charming this little plant was, I asked them to please bring me one on their upcoming visit. I had requested one the year before, but it always seemed they were sold out. So I was emphatic that I must have one, and intimated should they not bring me one, they may end up sleeping in my barn that chilly Autumn night. Tiarella, Heuchera and Heucherella are the main focus of their breeding work, so we had planned a day of Tiarella hunting in Wolfpen Hollow, a hauntingly mysterious woodland area near my farm. We'd just descended a summit into the foggy creekbottom when I heard Charles laughing hysterically behind me on the trail. I turned to see what he found so amusing and saw him pointing to the ground. There, all around him, the ground was covered with Meehans Mint. Talk about getting caught not "practicing what you preach". Me, who in all of my lectures on Native plants makes a point of telling people to "look in your own backyard"! Well, after I recovered from my initial embarrassment, we looked further, and found the entire West facing slope of the hill down to the creekbed was a veritable carpet of dark, almost glossy green, cordate, ( heart shaped, hence the specific epithet cordata) leaves, vining over rocks and decaying tree limbs basking in the deep shade of the Hemlock and oak woods above the water. I took some cuttings, not knowing whether they would root so late in the season but I had a gut feeling of optimism. Sure enough they rooted in a matter of weeks. The following Spring, I checked in on the population and found that the new growth was thick and lovely. In June, I went back to observe the flowers and found a sea of lilac, pink and lavender trumpet like blooms at the tips of the stems. They reminded me very much of Scuttellaria, another member of the mint family and close relative of Meehania. In my garden, now having many plants from the rooted cuttings that I overwintered under a dark bench in a poly tunnel (another testament to the virtues of Meehania is how deep a shade it thrives in), I proceeded to plant them under a small grove of Lilacs and Viburnums. They responded to the rich humus that had accumulated under these older shrubs and almost immediatly started to wind their way around on the ground.

Taxonomically speaking, Meehania cordata is a member of the Lamiacea (Mint) family. In North America Meehania cordata is a montypic (single) specie in the genus. Its reported range is from SW Pa to NC and TN. Its heart Leaves are on the small side, averaging 1-1 1/2 " wide at the petiole and are about 1" long. I suspect that it is hardy to zone 4, maybe even 3. I know of at least one other Meehania species in cultivation, that being Meehania urticifolia, Meehania cordata's Asian cousin. It can be found growing through the woods of the mountain forests in the Honshu area of Japan. The specific epithet urticifolia refers to the nettle like foliage. It's also very easy to propagate from stem cuttings and by division. Meehania cordata is one of the best plants I can think of for those dark and foreboding corners of the garden where there isn't enough light for most other plants. Even if it didn't have the added benefit of those really bright colorful flowers, I would recommend it as a very useful groundcover.


From time to time I plan on posting articles written by plant hunter both that want to share their plant hunting experiences, plant stories and related observations. Today's Guest Author is Barry Glick.

Barry is the owner of Sunshine Farms & Gardens, a specialty perenial nursery with a focus on hellebores. Over the past 32 years he has amassed a diverse plant collection of well over 10,000 different, hardy to zone 5 perennials, bulbs, trees and shrubs from every corner of the Earth to test and grow on his 60-acre mountain top at 3000 feet in beautiful Greenbrier County WV.
If you are interested in submitting a guest article please contact me or send me your story at

Share your Plant Hunting Stories

Dear Friends, Colleges and subscribers:

I am looking for Guest Authors interested in sharing their plant hunting stories.

I regularly publish the "Modern Day Plant Hunter" ( that highlights some of my plant hunting trips and the people and plants I meet along the way. To keep it fresh, objective, and interesting I thought it would be great to publish your stories too.

The blog has thousands of subscribers ( from around the world (

If you are interested in writing a Guest Article please contact me or send me your story at

I know that many of you have some great stories about the plants and people you’ve met on your travels. I believe my subscribers would love to hear about your adventures.

If you have a nursery, a business or book that you would like to promote at the same time – great. I am happy to provide your bio and a link to your website. I only ask that the piece you write is not overtly commercial and that it the story is interesting to the readers.

I look forward to hearing from you.

PS – Please pass this invitation along to anyone you know that might have a good story to share.



Behind the Iron Curtain

Poland stirs my soul. The people are warm and loving. The food is superb, yet unpretentious (The mushroom porogies were unforgettable). It is a country of many contrasts. I am struck by the difference between the stark cement Soviet architecture of Warsaw and the old world beauty of Krakow. I feel the pride and triumph of Lech Walesa and the sorrow and cries of Auschwitz. But more than anything I feel Poland’s enduring love for freedom.

For decades, little was known about the nurseries of Eastern Europe and what plants they were cultivating there. There were rumours of Syringa (Lilac) breeding in the Soviet Union and of vast conifer collections in Czechoslovakia, but few if any Eastern plants defected and turned up in the West. With the fall of the Soviet Empire and the Iron Curtain the door was opened to discover what if anything might be found in Eastern Europe. From a cultural and climatic standpoint my greatest hopes were in Poland, East Germany, The Czech Republic and Hungary. Of these, Poland was the most interesting. Its people had a reputation for plants, gardening and hard work. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain Poland lead the East in the importation of nursery stock and cut flowers. Clearly the Polish people had an appreciation for plants. It was my hope that a nursery culture and perhaps even an underground nursery industry had survived the cold war.

Mateusz Milcznska was our key to Poland. A former intern at Spring Meadow, Mateusz volunteered to be our guide and translator while touring Poland. He spoke excellent English and he had the driving skills essential for navigating the narrow and hectic roads of Poland. Mateusz had arranged all of our appointments including of our most pleasant surprise, the nursery of Lucjan Kurowski. One look at Lucjan Kurowski’s nursery and you could tell he had a passion for plants.

Mr. Kurowski established his nursery in 1960. Initially it was started on a small acreage and his market was limited to his local area. Over the years the nursery prospered and had grown to its current size of 24 hectares, which includes 12 hectares of container plants and 4 hectares of in-ground plants. The fall Iron Curtain had a dramatic effect on his business and as a result Lucjan now exports to Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Lithuania, Belarus and Hungary.

We were surprised at the quality plants at Lucjan’s nursery and we were especially surprised by the mix of plants he was growing. All of the latest Western introductions were there. He had wasted little time in accumulating the best new plants from the West. We were also delighted to learn he had active breeding program and had even introduced five of his own selections.

The one plant that caught our eye was a narrow upright barberry with bright golden foliage called SunjoyTM Gold Pillar Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Maria’ ppaf). Adding to its appeal, hues of red and orange tinged the new growth. In essence it is a golden version of Helmond’s Pillar. With Mateusz translating, Lucjan explained that his selection was more than just beautiful; it was also extremely burn resistant - a bonus because most gold leaved variates burn in full sun. Lucjan showed us the proof; Sunjoy Gold Pillar was the only clean plant in a full sun test bed that included all the latest varieties.

While the discovery of Sunjoy Gold Pillar made our trip to Poland a success, importing it was whole new challenge. The problem is that some species of Berberis are host to a disease called Wheat Rust. While Sunjoy Gold Pillar and all other selections of Berberis thunbergii are resistant to wheat rust, Federal Law prohibits the importation of cultivars that are not listed as certified rust resistant. Obviously this plant was not on the list. The catch 22 was we had to import the plant in order to have it tested, but we could not import it because it had not been tested. With a bit of hard work and a lot of luck we were able to import the plant directly to the Federal Wheat Rust laboratory and after two years of testing and yet another two years to get the plant published on the Federal list, we are now able to offer this plant legally in the United States. While the entire process took over six years, it is exciting to see that our trip to the former Eastern Block was a success.

Getting a new plant can be a struggle, but it is nothing compared to the struggles Poland has endured to gain its Liberty. Still - I find satisfaction in both and I am not alone. According to Thomas Jefferson "The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave” and “The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture."