Friday, December 6, 2019

Grassleaf Arrowhead - Sagittaria graminifolia

Grassleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria graminifolia) is a rather diminutive member of the "duck potato" genus - one that includes several very robust species commonly planted in wetland mitigation sites. As you can see in these photos, this species could easily go unnoticed when not in bloom. Despite its small stature, however, it is a common occurrence in the wet edges of ponds and marsh systems throughout Florida. It also is widespread throughout much of the eastern two-thirds of North America.
Grassleaf arrowhead is evergreen and tends to keep its basal rosette of leaves through the winter in areas without hard freezes. This "fan" of slender grasslike leaves rarely stands taller than 18 inches and is often no more than 12. 
Flowering occurs most often during the summer and early fall, though it can occur earlier depending on winter temperatures. The flower stalk emerges from the center of the basal leaves and reaches a mature height of about 12 inches. The flowers are small - less than 1 inch across - but identical in color and structure to other members of the genus. They are mostly pollinated by bees.
Although a common component of moist to wet habitat types, it is almost never included in wildflower field guides. That space is given to the more robust & showier members of the genus. I also have never seen it grown commercially by any of the Florida native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  Its small size, however, seems to make it an excellent candidate for small wetland/bog/rain gardens where there is no real room for its larger cousins. Perhaps, it will be grown someday for those specialized settings. Until then, look for it and simply admire it for its subtle elegance. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Small Butterwort - Pinguicula pumila

 Aptly named, small butterwort (Pinguicula pumila) is a very diminutive member of this semi-carnivorous plant genus. Occurring essentially statewide, it is found in nearly saturated acidic soils and supplements its diet by capturing small invertebrates on the sticky hairs found on its leaf surfaces. These leaves are slightly rolled up, elliptical in shape and only about 1 inch long. They are evergreen and slightly yellow green in color as they hug the ground surface. The distinctive foliage of all members of this genus make them relatively easy to identify even when the plant is not in bloom. Small butterwort, however, is so small that it is easily overlooked at those times.
Flowering occurs in almost every month in frost-free areas of Florida. This plant, photographed above in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, was blooming in early October. The single blooms are held on 6-8 inch stalks and are about 1/4 inch wide. The color of the flowers is variable. While this one is a very pale lavender, they can be white to a much richer purple. They are pollinated mostly by small bees.
While many of our native butterworts are state-listed species, this is not as it is common in the right habitats. Where it occurs, it is also very common to find other carnivorous plants in association with it - especially sundews (Drosera spp.) and other butterworts. None of these are commonly available in the nursery trade and would be specialty plants for seasoned gardeners who can give them the very specific growing conditions they require. Look for them in wet acidic flatwoods, prairies and marsh edges and admire them if you are lucky enough to encounter them. 

A very poor photo of the basal leaves

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wavyleaf aster - Symphyotrichum undulatum

Wavyleaf aster (Symphyotrichum undulatum) is one of 27 species in this genus native to Florida. It is vouchered from most counties in north and central Florida, south to a line at the southern border of Polk and Hillsborough Counties. I suspect it might be present in a great many other counties in this region, but I think it largely goes unnoticed. There are no photos, for example, on the ISB website directed by the University of South Florida and it is not included in any of the many Florida wildflower books I own - and I have a great many of them. This is a widely distributed wildflower elsewhere in North America, being recorded in nearly every state east of the Mississippi River and in Quebec and Ontario north of the U.S. border.
I have only recently acquired this species for my landscape and therefore have very little firsthand experience with it. The photo above was taken of my plant that still resides in a pot. I hope to collect seed from it and use it in various locations around my landscape. Until then, I mostly have information from other sources, in other states. The reliable site maintained by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (LBJWC) states that it occurs in dry woods, thickets, and clearings. Its common name comes from its clasping somewhat heart-shaped lower leaves that have a wavy margin. A stiff flower stalk emerges from these basal leaves by summer and eventually stands several feet tall.
Like many asters in this genus, it blooms in the fall and it produces a great many flowers. Each is about 1/2 inch across. My potted plant began flowering in very late October and it is still in bloom now, mid-November. My plant has light lavender ray petals that surround a yellow disk, but the LBJWC states that the flower color is variable and that the ray petals can vary from nearly white to a rich lavender.
Asters of this genus serve as the larval host for pearl crescent butterflies and they are remarkable magnets for pollinating insects of all types. I hope to be able to add this seemingly versatile aster to my landscape and my nursery by next spring. If you live outside of Florida, I suspect that there are native plant nurseries that offer it or its seeds. We are a bit behind here in propagating Symphyotrichum asters commercially.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Hartwrightia - Hartwrightia floridana

Flowers close-up
Flower stalk
Hartwrightia (Hartwrightia floridana) is a state-threatened species found throughout various counties in north and central Florida, in the central counties and not along either coast. It also is reported in Georgia where it is vouchered from 4 counties in the extreme southeastern corner adjacent to Florida. This is the only species in this genus and a member of the Asteraceae. Throughout its limited range, it is quite specific in its habitat requirements. It occurs in wet open habitats - flatwoods, prairies, and seepage slopes - most often in areas also dominated by cutthroat grass (Coleataenia abscissa). 
Hartwrighia emerges in early spring and forms a wide-spreading rosette of basal leaves. These leaves are 6-10 inches long, oval, with noticeable veins. I have posted a photograph below. A flower stem rises from these leaves and eventually reaches 3-4 feet by its fall blooming time. One unique feature of this plant is that its leaves, flower stem and flower buds are covered by noticeably sticky glands.

Basal leaves in fall
Flowering occurs on the tall flower stalks in October and into very early November. They occur in small umbels, each containing several dozen individual tubular flowers. The arrangement is quite similar to that of vanilla plant (Carphephorus odoratissimus), but Hartwrightia is a delicate pink in color and quite distinct.
I have not seen pollinators using this species, but suspect it attracts the same types as other aster relatives. It also has never been offered for sale by any of the native plant nurseries I am familiar with. This would be an interesting and beautiful species in the right type of landscape and perhaps it will someday be offered. Although I have not grown it myself, I suspect it would require high levels of sunlight and reliably moist soil.

Habitat in Polk County, Florida

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Low Rattlebox - Crotalaria maritima

Low rattlebox (Crotalaria maritima) is often considered to be a variant of the common rabbitbells (C. rotundifolia), but it is distinctive and considered a separate species by other taxonomists. Its very distinctive foliage leads me to agree with those that keep these two as separate species. Because of the confusion regarding its status, it is difficult to pinpoint its exact range in Florida and elsewhere. It seems to occur sporadically throughout Florida and there are records from 2 counties in extreme southern Alabama adjacent to Florida.
While the flowers of both species are indistinguishable, it has a different growth form and foliage. While rabbitbells has distinctly rounded leaves, the leaves of low rattlebox are linear, Each leaf is about an inch long and opposite on the stems. This perennial ground cover produces multiple stems that range about 12- 18 inches from the main stem.  They reach only about 6 inches above the ground.
The bright yellow flowers are produced at the ends of these stems and tend to open in the afternoon for a day. They are visited by bees. Pollinated flowers produce a rounded "pea" that turns black in color before splitting open to scatter the seeds. These are a favored food of seed-eating birds such as doves and quail. 
Although this species is most-often lumped together with rabbitbells, look for it in well-drained sunny habitats. This specimen was photographed in a sandhill understory in the Ocala National Forest in Polk County.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Spiked Hoarypea - Tephrosis spicata

Spiked hoarypeas (Tephrosia spicata) is a species with somewhat confused attributes as its flower buds are red, its flowers start out white when they first open in the morning and turn bright red by afternoon. Therefore, it is a difficult plant to ID simply from its flowers and/or from wildflower books with photographs that don't show this metamorphosis.
This is a species of open, well-drained habitats throughout the state, except for the Florida Keys. It also is reported from the entire Southeastern Coastal Plain from Louisiana up to Maryland on the East Coast. These photographs were taken in sandhill habitat within Ocala National Forest.
Spiked hoarypea is a perennial ground cover that emerges in the spring and sends its long thin stems in multiple directions across the ground.  Like other hoarypeas, the stems, leaves and even the flowers are covered in soft hairs.  Each of its compound leaves are composed of 5-15 oval leaflets and reach a length of almost 1 inch. 
As stated above, the flowers are white when they first open in the morning and turn bright red by afternoon. Each bloom is open for a day and they generally occur as pairs on the leaf stem.  Like most members of the legume family, the upper petal is broad and partially covers the fused petals of the lower lip. Each bloom at about 1/2 inch long. Blooming can occur from late spring until mid-fall. Bees are especially interested as pollinators, but it also is used as a host plant by the northern cloudywing skipper.  The seeds, like all legumes, are excellent food for birds such as quail and doves.
For the most part, members of this genus are not propagated by members of the Florida Association of Native Plant Nurseries (FANN) and their somewhat diminutive size and less-than-overwhelming floral display make them a group with limited appeal to the general landscaping public. Their usefulness in a wildlife garden, however, should make then more widely offered. This is not one of the hoarypeas that is currently being propagated at Hawthorn Hill.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Florida Sunflower - Helianthus floridanus

The genus Helianthus is aptly named as Helios was the God of the Sun in ancient Greek culture. There are 16 native species of sunflowers in Florida. Many of them are quite similar in appearance and difficult for the novice to distinguish from each other. Florida sunflower (H. floridanus) is one of those in my opinion. This sunflower shares some of the same characteristics as the common narrow-leaved sunflower (H. angustifolius), but has foliage that differs substantially.
Florida sunflower is a wetland perennial, though it can be found in moist habitats as well. It has been vouchered from Northeast Florida, from the Jacksonville area south to Osceola County. It has not been reported from this region west of the central counties. It also occurs in a four-state region north of us - Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas. There also are records from Louisiana. 
Florida sunflower is a large robust species that may reach 5-6 feet in height by its late-summer blooming season. It has distinctive wide leathery basal leaves that emerge in early spring. Each is about 6-8 inches long and several inches wide. They are deep green in color and glossy in appearance. Multiple branched stems arise from these leaves. Like most sunflowers, it spreads to form colonies that can become extensive over time.
Flowering occurs in late summer and early fall. The showy yellow ray petals surround a disk of yellow disk flowers. The petals are similar to those of narrow-leaved sunflower, but a bit narrower. They attract a wide variety of pollinators.
Florida sunflower grows best in sunny moist habitats. As a landscape plant it needs a lot of room as it spreads by underground rhizomes and its large size tends to overwhelm less-robust species. I have used it quite successfully in central Florida in plantings at the edge of lakes and wetlands, however. This species is only occasionally offered for sale by native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries and it may take some sleuthing to locate plants for sale. I do not intend to add it to the species I offer here at Hawthorn Hill, but I could change my mind if I felt that there was a demand.