Monday, January 20, 2020

Floating Bladderwort - Utricularia inflata

Floating bladderwort (Utricularia inflata) is one of the most distinctive members of this semi-carnivorous genus. It's bright yellow flowers are common to many, but its floating leaves that stretch narrowly across the surface of shallow ponds and other wetlands are rather unique. Floating bladderwort is found statewide in Florida and is vouchered for most of the Southeast. It also occurs in the state of Washington.
The narrow linear leaves are about 6 inches long just below the water surface, but it is rooted in the bottom mucky soil. The tiny bladders used to trap various invertebrates are also below the water surface. In central Florida, where these photos were taken, floating bladderwort holds these leaves through the winter. It is a perennial, and emerges in the early spring.
Flowering can occur in most months in warmer climates. These photos were taken in mid-January in Pinellas County, Florida. In colder climates, it tends to occur in spring and summer after rains fill the shallow wetlands it occurs in. The flowers are typical for the genus - bright canary yellow with a broad 3-petaled lower lip. It does not have a "horn" as some of the ones I've previously published do.
Bladderworts are amazing wildflowers, but do not lend themselves well to typical commercial propagation. I have never seen any offered for sale, even by native nurseries that specialize in wetland restoration. They are quite sensitive to hydrological conditions. In the proper ones, they can form large "carpets" across the water surface and then "disappear" when the water recedes.  If you are passing by a shallow wetland covered with bright yellow blooms, chances are you are looking at floating bladderwort.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Horned Bladderwort - Utricularia cornuta

Horned bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta) is yet another yellow-flowered bladderwort that roots itself in the substrate instead of floating on the water surface.In many respects, it is quite similar to one I've already posted - U. junceus. Both have "horns" below the bright yellow blooms and both have noticeable "humps" in the lower petal.  The major difference between the two is in the length of the horn-like spur. In U. juncea, the spur is rarely longer than 6 mm, while in U. cornuta the spur is normally longer - up to 14 mm.
Horned bladderwort is common in Florida's wet habitats and it tends to flower during the wetter rainy season. It is reported statewide and in nearly every state and Canadian Province in the eastern half of North America. There are scattered reports in some states and provinces west of this region as well.
Horned bladderwort shares the same ecological attributes of others I've previously written about. They are semi-carnivorous and use their tiny bladders to supplement their diet with small invertebrates.
Look for this species and others in this genus once the summer rainy season floods shallow open pond edges and in wet prairies and marshes.

Humped Bladderwort - Utricularia gibba

Bladderworts are very interesting species as they are semi-carnivorous and augment their diet by using tiny bladders near their roots to capture even smaller invertebrates such as insects and nematodes.  Humped bladderwort (Utricularia gibba) is one of 10 yellow-flowered species native to Florida. It is found statewide in shallowly flooded open habitats such as pond edges and also is reported from every state in the eastern half of the US and from all of those states along the west coast as well.
Humped bladderwort is one that is rooted in the wet substrate instead of one that floats in the water column. The leaves are not very substantial and the 6-inch or so flower stalk emerges during the summer rainy season. Several bright yellow flowers occur along the top of this stem. Unlike most others, these small yellow flowers are held at an almost-45-degree angle. This is the best characteristic to distinguish it from other similar yellow-flowered species.
As bladderworts have little commercial interest, they are species to be admired when out in the field. Look for this one in seasonally and shallowly flooded areas at the edge of ponds and open wet prairies and marshes.

Southern Bladderwort - Utricularia juncea

Southern badderwort (Utricularia juncea) is one of 14 native bladderworts found in Florida. A few of them have purple blooms, but the vast majority have yellow - like this species does. Identifying them can be a bit of a challenge and the first step I take is to see if the plant is firmly rooted in the substrate or floating in the water. The second step is to look closely at the size and shape of the flowers. Southern bladderwort is one of those that is rooted below the waterline and it's flowers are somewhere in the middle range of the overall group.
Southern bladderwort is common to most of Florida. It is found in inundated areas in most counties from the western Panhandle into extreme south Florida. It is not vouchered in many of the counties in between, but I suspect that's simply for lack of looking for it. Bladderworts are not especially noticeable when not in bloom. This species is also rather widespread in the US and has been reported along the Gulf Coast from Texas and then north to New York.
Bladderworts are semi-carnivorous. The tiny bladders that lie either just below the waterline or soil line have one of the fastest trigger mechanisms in the plant world and they use it to capture tiny invertebrates such as insects and nematodes. As its Latin name implies, southern bladderwort has small narrow leaves near the base. Its flower stalk arises from this center and stands up to 6 inches above. The bright yellow blooms are about 1/2 inch long and without the definite "hood" seen in a closely related species - U. cornuta.
Bladderworts are very interesting species, but not ones with a lot of horticulture significance. I have never seen any of our native species offered for sale commercially. Just appreciate them for what they are and look for them once the summer rainy season is underway in shallowly flooded open habitats.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Dollarleaf - Rhynchosia reniformis

Dollarleaf (Rhynchosia reniformis) seems aptly named as its leaves are decidedly round and shaped somewhat like a silver dollar. This genus is also known as the "snoutbeans" which also is aptly named as the flowers have a decided "beak" (the Greek definition of the word Rhynchosia).  This species occurs in dry upland sites throughout much of north and central Florida. It also occurs throughout much of the Southeast Coastal Plan - from Texas in the west to Tennessee and North Carolina in the east.
These are perennial legumes that die back to the ground in winter. This species emerges in spring and forms a somewhat sprawling low-to-the-ground herbaceous plant that rarely stands taller than 6 inches. Because of this, it can be overlooked when not in bloom. Dollarleaf responds quickly to fire and prefers the open habitat that fire maintains.  The leaves are somewhat fuzzy and not compound like many other legumes.
The flowers are formed on short stems at the leaf axils and are arranged in a circular "head."  Single bright yellow flowers are generally produced one at a time within this arrangement. Each is small - about 1/2 inch long. Like many legumes, the flowers are of special interest to bees - especially bumblebees. Flowers can be produced in most months when temperatures don't fall below freezing.
Dollarleaf (and other Rhynchosias) are host plants for several skippers that use a wide variety of legumes - in particular the long-tailed and dorantes skipper.
Legumes are important nitrogen fixers and, because of that, they improve soil nutrition. They also serve as butterfly host plats and nectar sources for bees. Dollarleaf and other Rhychosias, however, have not been commercially propagated in Florida by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It is unlikely that this will change as other legumes are more "showy" and serve some of the same services as this genus. Look for this species in sandhills and open dry flatwoods.

Gopherweed - Baptsia lanceolata

Gopherweed (Baptisia lanceolata) is a pretty poor name for such a beautiful wildflower. Baptisias as a whole are wonderful wildflowers and various species come in a variety of colors. Gopherweed is one of the yellow-flowered species. This species is found in a scattered geographic range that includes counties throughout north and central Florida. It also is recorded in states just north of us - Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. Like most species in this genus, it occurs in well-drained uplands in full sun.  It is a perennial that dies back to the ground during the winter months.
Gopherweed reaches a mature height of about 3 feet. Its thick stem supports a wide crown of herbaceous branches that may spread out to 2-3 feet in width. Like most legumes, it has compound leaves in threes. As its Latin name suggests, each of the three leaflets are lanceolate in shape; about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide.
Flowering occurs in late spring. The canary yellow flowers are typical for many in the pea family - a prominent lower lip below two smaller wings. They are about 3/4 inch long and pollinated mostly by bumblebees.  Many Baptisias are important larval host plants. This plant is no exception and serves the needs of the orange and clouded sulfur, frosted elfin, eastern tailed blue, and two species of broad-winged skippers - the hoary edge and wild indigo duskywing. Because of this, gopherweed (and most other species in this genus) are important members of a native-plant butterfly garden.
Some species in this genus are occasionally propagated by native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but I have not seen this one offered. Baptisias are not difficult to propagate from ripe seed collected as the dry seed capsules start to dehisce. Scratching the seed coat tends to speed up germination. They are fussy, however, about growing conditions. If you wish to add this plant, make sure that you can provide the sunny well-drained sandy soil that it requires.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Common Yellow Woodsorrel - Oxalis corniculata

Often viewed as a lawn weed, common yellow woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata) is also a native Florida wildflower and has its merits. If it wasn't so common it just might be appreciated more. Native throughout Florida in nearly every mesic upland habitat, It also is vouchered across the US and has been introduced in every southern Province of Canada, except Alberta - and I'm betting it occurs there too.
Common yellow woodsorrel is a perennial herb that dies back to the ground in cold climates, but stays evergreen here where I reside in south-central Florida. It is a creeping ground cover that sends plantlets off of its stoloniferous stems that slowly spread outwards in all directions from the main plant. Each mature plant is diminutive, standing no more than 2 inches tall and about 6 inches across. Over time, however, each cluster of plants can occupy areas several feet across.
Woodsorrels have clover-like leaves, but they are not in the same family. While clovers are legumes, woodsorrels are in the Oxalidaceae - the oxalises.  As such, their leaves are high in oxalic acid and this makes them sour to the taste. They are sometimes used as a salad green, but too much consumption of oxalic acid can lead to health issues. 
Flowering can occur year-round in southern latitudes and from spring through late fall where regular freezes occur.  The tiny 5-petaled bright yellow flowers are attractive. The inner throat is sometimes lined with red streaks near the base of the petals. They are pollinated mostly by small bees.
Taxonomists find this species a bit confusing and some would split this species into several different ones. I do not believe that I've lived in any yard since moving to Florida 33 years ago that did not already have common yellow woodsorrel in it. There seems little reason to propagate it commercially.