Goat’s beard, or Aruncus dioicus, is a common wildflower that belongs to the Rosaceae family of plants. It is also known as wild spirea and bride’s feathers, and is native to temperate wooded areas of the United States as well as parts of Asia and Europe. Goat’s beard is very easy to grow, as it will take root nearly anywhere. It thrives in damp, shady woodlands and wildflower gardens, and looks great when planted in the back of the border.
These plants resemble the common astilbe, but are much taller, often growing into a shrub up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) or more. They produce plumes of tiny white or yellow blossoms in late spring and early summer, but the bloom time is just a few weeks. The flowers are often used in both fresh and dried flower arrangements, as the arching flower clusters appear about 8 inches (20 cm) above the dark green, fern-like leaves. The leaves are quite ornamental and add interest even after the plants are done flowering.
Caring for Goat’s beard is quite easy, as it requires nothing more than rich soil and either dappled sunlight or full shade. Unlike many other plants, it will grow in wet boggy conditions and does not require much attention. Long-lived and hardy, it does best when the surrounding soil is simply covered with a layer of mulch and then left alone. Goat’s beard tends to sprawl out, reaching as much as 6 feet across (1.8 meters) and should be given plenty of space to keep it from crowding out other smaller plants.
Goat’s beard germinates quickly from seed on the soil surface, causing a mature plant to often self-sow when seeds drop onto the ground. It can also be propagated by dividing large root clusters into several small sections in early to mid-spring and replanting them. This plant has long tap roots, however, which may make it difficult to dig up the entire root system without breaking it. Care should be taken to dig deeply to prevent this from occurring.
Native Americans have been using the root of the Goat’s beard plant for years as a natural remedy for bee stings. It is made into a poultice and applied to the affected area to reduce pain and swelling. A tea that is brewed from the root is said to ease stomach pains and diarrhea as well. The tea is also used as a soak for swollen, painful feet.