Monday, May 11, 2015

Rugel's Hoarypea - Tephrosia rugelii



Rugel's hoarypea (Tephrosia rugelii) is endemic to Florida, but found in most counties in the peninsula as well as being reported from Jefferson County.  It is one of eight species found in Florida; a genus that can sometimes be confusing. Hoarypeas are legumes and they share the many characteristics of the family - compound leaves and flower shape, to name two.
Rugel's hoarypea is similar to Florida hoarypea (T. florida) and can be told apart mostly by the length of the petiole - the part of the leaf that attaches it to the main stem.  Rugel's hoarypea has much shorter petioles than Florida hoarypea.  Both species are common in upland well-drained sites and bloom from late spring into fall.  The specimens above were photographed in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, not in sandhill, but where the water table often rises to the surface during wet summers.
This is a perennial that dies back to the ground in winter.  Its stems are herbaceous and they are upright, though they grow outward more than upward and extend for several feet from the root in many directions.  The compound leaves are comprised of many elliptical leaflets, ending in a sharp point.
The blooms are interesting.  The deep rosy buds open by mid-morning, producing bright white flowers. By late afternoon, these blooms turn rosy once more before closing.  This makes it easy to identify this plant as two separate species, but of course, it is not.
Tephrosias are of great interest to pollinators such as bumblebees and serve as larval food for several butterfly species - including several species of skippers.  None, however, have ever been propagated to my knowledge by any of the native plant nurseries associated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  Tephrosias, like Rugel's hoarypea would make a useful ground cover within a naturalistic mixed wildflower garden.  Perhaps someday at least one of them will be offered for that purpose.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Whitetop Aster - Oclemena reticulata



Whitetop aster, also known as pinebarren aster, (Oclemena reticulata) is one of many asters formerly included in the genus Aster, and now distinguished within a new and separate genus.  This species is the only one included in Oclemena, and it has characteristics that separate it from the many asters now included in Symphyotrichum. This species is found nearly statewide, except extreme south Florida and in states immediately north of us - Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.  It is common to open prairies and moist pine flatwoods.
Whitetop aster is a perennial that dies back to the ground in winter and quickly reemerges in the early spring.  Its many stalks reach a mature height of about 3 feet by April.  Unlike other asters, it blooms in April to early May, sets seed shortly after and then largely stays dormant the rest of the growing season.  It leaves are oval, lime green in color, with a few teeth along the margins and with deeply incised veins.  These are on thin, but stiff stems.  Whitetop aster spreads by underground rhizomes in good growing conditions and quickly forms extensive colonies.
The flowers are typical of many "asters"; the ray petals are thin and white, surrounding a central core of yellow disk flowers.  The loose panicle of blooms stands well above the foliage and attracts a diversity of pollinators.  Unlike the vast majority of other "asters", these blooms are available early in the season and therefore can be a critically/valuable resource to bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects.
Whitetop aster is only rarely available from commercial sources, despite its utility and understated beauty.  In the home landscape it requires sun and relatively moist soil - especially during the spring and summer.  It will slowly decline if kept too dry.  In the right conditions, it can become a problem because of its tendency to sucker and spread, but this can be controlled through occasional thinning.  Do not use it in small mixed wildflower beds, but in more expansive areas it provides color at a time when few other wildflowers are blooming and it becomes a magnet for bees and butterflies. I have recently collected seed of this species and we hope to make it available by fall 2015.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hairyjoint Meadowparsnip - Thaspium barbinode



Hairyjoint meadowparsnip (Thaspium barbinode) is one of two meadowparsnips found in Florida; both are rare in the state.  While purple meadowparsnip (T. trifoliatum) has been reported in 5 counties in the central panhandle (in and around Torreya State Park), T. barbinode has only been documented in Jackson County in Florida.  It is not a rare plant, however, as it occurs throughout much of eastern North America, north to Ontario, Canada.  It is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae) and it exhibits the foliage and umbelliferous flower heads distinctive to this family.
Hairyjoint meadowparsnip is a perennial that dies back to the ground in fall and reemerges in early spring.  It is an upland species, most commonly present in woodland slopes in our region of the US where it gets some protection from the summer sun.  It will not fare well, however, in deep shade. Further north, it occurs in rich prairie soils in high sun. Very little has been written about it in the Deep South, but my Florida plants do not reach the size of those in the Midwest Prairie States.  In places like Illinois and Missouri, the basal leaves may reach 12 inches long and the plants stand 4-5 feet tall when flowering.  The three plants I have in my landscape are only about half that size and likely represent the stature of those in Jackson County - though I have not seen this plant in the wild in Florida. The foliage is more than once compound (decompound), while T. trifoliatum is simply trifoliate.  Where the petiole attaches to the stem, noticeable hairs are evident at this "joint" - hence its common name.  Each leaflet is sharply toothed.
Flowering occurs in early spring. Those in our landscape begin flowering in March on 3-foot-tall stalks.  The tiny yellow flowers are arranged in circular clusters (umbels) and they attract a wide variety of small bees and other pollinators.  Small, reddish brown seeds follow about 3 weeks later.
Native carrot family species are in great demand by butterfly gardeners as larval food for the Eastern black swallowtail. Many of our native wildflowers in this family are either wetland plants and difficult to keep in a landscape, or (like most Eryngiums) not used.  This is a good exception. Though I have not yet had caterpillars on our plants, it is reported to be used in other states and I suspect it is here too. This species has just recently come into cultivation (like its cousin, golden alexander, Zizia aurea) by Trillium Gardens in Tallahassee.  Our plants have done well in our Pinellas County landscape for several years without much attention so I suspect it can be used in most of north and central Florida as long as its growing requirements are met.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mexican Pricklypoppy - Argemone mexicana



Mexican pricklypoppy (Argemone mexicana) is an annual found primarily in disturbed sites throughout peninsular Florida.  It is also found in scattered locations throughout the Panhandle, and is documented in most states in the eastern 2/3rd's of the US.  It also has been introduced into Ontario and Alberta Provinces in Canada.
Mexican pricklypoppy might be considered an unwanted weed were it not for its beautiful flowers.  It behaves quite similarly to the true thistles in the genus Cirsium.  Plants develop from the copious seed in late winter/early spring.  A deep taproot is quickly developed as is a basal rosette of extremely spiny leaves.  Each of these leaves is about 6-8 inches long and deeply lobed.
Growth upwards begins in earnest by early spring.  Plants eventually stand 2-3 feet tall. In central Florida, full growth is achieved by mid-March and flowering commences. The bright canary-yellow blooms are several inches across and are similar in appearance to its well-known cousins, the true poppies.  Mexican pricklypoppy flowers are of great interest to pollinators.
This is a difficult plant to keep in cultivation as it spreads quickly in agreeable sites and its thorniness makes it a challenge to weed.  As it is an annual, it requires open soil around it to reseed effectively. Nonetheless, it and its white-flowered relative (A. albiflora) can make good additions to a pollinator garden if you are willing to do some thinning each year.  Plant it in open sandy and sunny areas, somewhere in the back half of the planting bed and not near a walkway or trail.  I have not seen this species offered in cultivation by members of FANN, the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, so gather some seed along roadsides or disturbed fields if you are determined to use it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pale passionvine - Passiflora pallida


Pale passionvine (Passiflora pallida) is a state endangered species, found naturally only in Collier, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties in the extreme southern portion of the state.  It also occurs in the West Indies. In many respects, it shares the many attributes of purple passionvine (P. incarnata) described previously.  It differs by its foliage and in the color of its blooms.
Pale passionvine naturally is found in hardwood hammocks and the edge of forested wetlands. Unlike purple passionvine, it tolerates low light levels and clambers up into the forest canopy to seek additional light.  Large numbers of flowers occur from spring through fall. Each bloom is about 2 inches across. The petals are white or with a slight purple blush while the many filaments are banded in deeper violet. Although it has remained evergreen in our Pinellas County landscape, it does not flower during the winter here and grows very little. The flowers close during the evening and open  by late morning.  They are slightly fragrant, and plants in full bloom can be detected some distance away.  They are pollinated by bumblebees.  The fruit is similar to that of purple passionvine, but is lower in acidity and not nearly as tasty. The leaves are only slightly lobed.  They resemble those of yellow passionvine (P. lutea), but are several inches across.
Pale passionvine is a beautiful wildflower with the same butterfly-garden role as its other native cousins, but it is only infrequently offered for sale by nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  Our plant has set seed and we are optimistic that we can offer it in the future at Hawthorn Hill.  Although we have kept this plant in our landscape for more than a year, it has not been tested against freezing temperatures or extreme drought. As a south Florida native, it may not be cold tolerant. It is most likely tolerant of enough drought as to be adaptable to most landscape settings.

Purple passionvine - Passiflora incarnata


Purple passionvine (Passiflora incarnata) occurs statewide in a variety of upland habitats.  Named by early Spanish missionaries, passionvines supposedly helped tell the story of the "passion" of Christ; the crucifixion story.  The pointed tips of the leaves were taken to represent the holy lance, the tendrils the whips used in the flagellation of Christ, the ten petals/sepals represented the 10 faithful apostles (excluding Peter and Judas), the radial filaments represent the crown of thorns, the 3 stigmas the 3 nails, and the 5 anthers represent the 5 wounds he received.  All a bit of a stretch in modern times, but a useful story model in trying to gain new converts among native peoples.
Purple passionvine is an aggressive vine when grown in favorable conditions.  It produces multiple stems that can exceed a dozen feet in length and the tendrils it produces along the length of each allows it to climb and clamber over all the vegetation it encounters along the way.  Usually, it remains close to the ground and partially smothers low shrubs and herbaceous vegetation. It rarely climbs upwards toward the canopy of trees. Over time, passionvines also sucker and new stems can emerge many feet away from the parent plant.  All of this means that passionvines can be a bit unruly and are best used in a landscape where this will not be a problem.
What makes passionvines wonderful additions to the landscape are their wonderful flowers and the fact that they serve as larval host plants to several beautiful species of butterflies. Purple passionvine is one of the state's showiest wildflowers.  Blooming occurs from early summer to fall. Each light lavender bloom can be 3+ inches across and they are slightly fragrant.  The flowers are mostly pollinated by bumblebees and the pollinated blooms eventually form rounded fruit that become yellowish and wrinkly at maturity.  Inside, the many seeds are covered by a sticky gelatinous flesh that is high in citric acid and quite tasty to eat.  
Caterpillars of gulf fritillaries and several heliconias - zebra longwings and julias, feed on the foliage. If your landscape has a lot of butterflies, their feeding can easily keep the foliage in check.  Purple passionvine has leaves with three lobes and no fuzzy hairs - like some of the nonnative purple-flowered species have.  
Because of its beauty and utility to butterfly gardeners, purple passionvine is rather widely propagated and should not be too difficult to locate.  In a landscape, however, this species is touchy as to growing conditions.  It requires exceptionally good drainage and high light levels to persist over time.  If kept too moist, especially during the summer rainy period, it will decline and eventually die.  Other passionvines are better for shady and/or moist soils.  I think this species is best used on a trellis where the flowers are best seen and the stems are somewhat confined.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Plants on the Way & Some Seed to Give Away



Happy New Year from Hawthorn Hill - Craig & Alexa Huegel. We are busy sowing seed for Spring 2015 plants.  One of the species we have germinating right now is Rudbeckia graminifolia, pictured at the top.  It should be a very interesting year here. My new book, on using native plants in shady landscapes is off to the printer and should be available in April of this year.  Foolishly, I am starting a new book as well - more on that someday in the future if the University Press of Florida is willing to take it on as well....

We don't usually have extra seed, but we have limited quantities of the following.  Seed loses its viability quickly so there is no sense in saving it on my end.  If any of this is of interest to you, please email me - huegelc55@aol.com  and inquire.  I will give it away first come, but will ask you to send me a SASE.

1. Garberia heterophylla - Garberia
2. Symphyotrichum georgianum - Georgia aster
3. Chrysoma paucifloculosa - Woody goldenrod
4. Chrysopsis mariana - Maryland goldenaster
5. Chrysopsis liniarifolia - Linear leaved goldenaster

Quantities are very limited.  All of these species are in the blog if they are not familiar to you.