Saturday, March 26, 2016

Carolina Cranesbill/Wild Geranium (Geranium carolinianum)

Wild geranium (Geranium carolinianum) is a native weedy wildflower found throughout the state and all of the U.S. and lower tier of Canadian provinces. This wild relative of our common horticultural geraniums is a relatively short-lived annual that makes its appearance in spring and is generally gone by mid-summer.  It is common to most upland sites, especially disturbed sites and urban landscapes.
Wild geranium has the distinctive deeply lobed foliage of its showier cousins, The stems are somewhat prostrate, hairy, and rarely stand taller than 1.5 feet tall.
Flowering occurs mostly in late winter until summer. The pinkish 5-petal flowers occur at the ends of the growing stems and are only about 1/4 inch in diameter.  The flowers are pollinated mostly by small bees and quickly form beaked fruits that reach about 1/2 inch in length. The shape of these fruits is what gives this plant its other common name - cranesbill.
Wild geranium is generally considered a weed and is not propagated purposely. It's showier cousin, spotted geranium (G. maculatum)  has been reported in Florida only in Gadsden County and is listed as a state-endangered species.

Canadian Toadflax - Linaria canadensis

Canadian toadflax (Linaria canadensis) is a slender biennial common to all of Florida and to virtually all of the U.S. and Canada except the arid western plains and desert states.  This member of the snapdragon family is noticeable along roadsides and open fields  in average to upland sites and can form a light lavender carpet that covers hundreds of acres in rural pasturelands during the spring in Florida.
The leaves of Canadian toadflax are narrowly linear in shape and less than 1-inch in length. The stems reach 1-2 feet tall during the spring blooming season.  Individual plants are exceptionally thin with very short side branches.
Unlike bay lobelia (L. feayanna), the flowers are composed of 4 petals, not 5, and they are evenly spaced and distinctly rounded in shape. The petals are a light lavender with a broad white patch in the middle.  Overall, the flowers are quite small - rarely more than 1/4 inch across/wide.
Following its 1-month blooming season, Canadian toadflax quickly goes to seed and dies.
Its diminutive size and biennial nature make this species an unlikely candidate for use in landscapes. In mass, however, it makes a stunning display from afar. Look for it in spring and admire it for that quality.

Bay Lobelia - Lobelia feayana

This diminutive member of the Lobelia genus, bay lobelia (L. feayana) is common throughout much of Florida, yet endemic to the state. It is a common roadside plant, most often occurring in ditches and depressions in large masses that paint the medians and road shoulders a rich lavender in spring and early summer.  This is a plant indicative of moist soils.
Bay lobelia is a perennial that spreads by underground stems. The basal leaves (not pictured here) are 1/4-1/2 inch long and often difficult to find as this plant twines around and through other ground covers in areas frequently mowed. Even when not subjected to mowing, bay lobelia rarely stands taller than about 12-18 inches.
Like all members of this genus, the flowers are composed of five petals, the two on the top are thin and upright while the three lower petals form a broader lip. A distinct white patch is present in the middle, near the reproductive parts. Lobelias are mostly bee pollinated.
Though commonly encountered, bay lobelia is not currently propagated by nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Its small size limits its appeal as a landscape plant and its need for soil moisture limits the type of site it would prosper in.  This plant is sometimes confused with another common roadside plant with light lavender flowers - Canadian toadflax (Linaria canadensis), though the two are quite distinct on closer examination.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Extra Seed - Willing to Share

Garberia (Garberia heterophylla)

                                              Woody Goldenrod (Chrysoma paucifloculosa)

I have more seed from these 2 species than I can use. If any of you wish some of it before its viability declines, please send a SASE to me and I will share some. BOTH of these are woody shrubs that require deep sandy soils and full sun. They can tolerate temperatures into the low 20's F, but have done well in our Pinellas County landscape where it rarely, if ever, freezes. Send the SASE to: Craig Huegel, 9900 133rd St, Seminole, FL  33776

Friday, January 29, 2016

Wild Cotton - Gossypium hirsutum

Wild cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) is a state-listed endangered species found naturally in south Florida, though it has been reported from Pinellas County on the central west coast and Gilchrist County in north Florida. It also ranges through much of the Caribbean and parts of Mexico.. It is a member of the Hibiscus/Mallow family (Malvaceae) and is the wild source of cultivated cotton that is still a staple of the fabric industry. Its current status in Florida is now largely a result of past attempts to eradicate it as a host to the boll weevil that once severely threatened the industry. It is still illegal to sell this plant, though it is propagated and traded by native plant enthusiasts.
Wild cotton is a woody shrub that can reach 12 feet tall. As the Latin species name implies, the stems are hairy. The evergreen leaves are 3-lobed and 2-6 inches long.. Overall, the plants are thin with short branches.
Flowering can occur throughout the year. Like all hibiscus, the solitary blooms remain open for only one day before folding up. the five petals are white and often have a dark maroon spot at the base of the flower. The white petals also often turn pinkish as the day progresses. The flowers pictured here are recently opened and are from plants in our Pinellas County landscape. Pollinated flowers quickly form a broad seed capsule that eventually turns brown and splits along the carpel seams. When this happens, the seeds are surrounded by cotton fibers. Pollination is mostly performed by bees in my landscape and it is a larval food of the gray hairstreak.
My wife, Alexa, planted our wild cotton more than 10 years ago and it has persisted despite complete neglect. Though none of our plants seem to live more than a few years, it reseeds. Plants that germinate in partly shady, well-drained locations persist longer than those in other conditions.
Wild cotton makes an interesting addition to the landscape, though it looks best when mixed with other species. It is unfortunate that we cannot share this plant as part of the plants we offer at Hawthorn Hill because of its current legal status. Perhaps it will someday be legal to propagate and sell this plant, especially in the southern part of Florida where cotton is not grown as a fiber crop.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Apalachicola Meadowbeauty - Rhexia parviflora

Apalachicola meadowbeauty (Rhexia parviflora) is an especially rare member of this common genus and listed as a state endangered species. Found in Florida only in the central and western Panhandle counties, it also has a very limited distribution in parts of adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Throughout its limited range, it is resident to moist soil habitats such as seepage slopes, depression marshes, and the upper edges of cypress domes. The plants photographed above were found growing in about 1 inch of water at the edge of an isolated cypress dome in the Apalachicola National Forest in mid-August.
Apalachicola meadowbeauty is a perennial herb that dies back to the ground in winter. It emerges in spring, but remains small and can go largely unnoticed in the understory vegetation until it blooms in summer. Few plants reach a mature height of 16 inches; most are less than 1 foot tall. The stems are square and somewhat "hairy", while the leaves are 1/2-1 inch long, oval in shape and attached to the main stem by a petiole. No other meadowbeauty in Florida combines this feature with white petals. The common pale meadow beauty (R. mariana)  is only sometimes white, does not have leaf stalks, and normally occurs in drier habitats.
The flowers are composed of four bright rounded white petals and are normally less than 1 inch across. The reproductive parts are bright yellow and the anthers curl slightly backward. The blooms mostly attract the attention of bees.
Apalachicola meadowbeauty is one of many examples of how unique the state's flora is. This is a difficult plant to locate and requires some sleuthing in wet habitats during the summer to locate it. If you do, simply admire it for its subtle beauty. Do not attempt to collect any portion of it for any purpose without permits. This is not a specimen for use in a home landscape. There are many, more common species better for that purpose.

Fringed meadowbeauty - Rhexia petiolata

Fringed meadow beauty (Rhexia petiolata) is a common component of wet open habitats throughout much of Florida (except the very lowest tiers of counties). It also occurs in much of the Southeast Coastal Plain from Texas to Maryland. It can be easily confused with the also-common Nuttall's meadow beauty (R. nuttallii), with which it overlaps significantly in geographic range, but fringed meadow beauty has no hairs on the outside of its rounded urn-shaped seed capsules while Nuttall's is conspicuously covered by glandular hairs.
This, like other members of the genus, are perennial herbs that die back in winter. Stems arise from the hardened base in spring and reach a mature height of 6 inches to 2 1/2 feet. The plants photographed above in a pitcher plant bog in Apalachicola National Forest in mid-August were on the taller end of the height spectrum for this species. The leaves are oval, clasp the stem and are less than 1 inch long. Noticeable hairs occur on the margins.
Flowering lasts from June until early fall. The 4-petal pink flowers are borne singly or in small clusters at the end of the stems. The blooms are about 1-inch across and nearly indistinguishable from Nuttall's meadow beauty. The petals tend to have wavy margins and curl upwards. Most other meadow beauties hold their flowers at 90-degree angles to the ground and have more-flattened petals,
Fringed meadow beauty is not currently grown commercially in Florida by any nursery affiliated with FANN- the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  Its somewhat demure aesthetics make it unlikely to be added in the future.