Wednesday, February 26, 2014
These members of the lily family are true spring ephemerals. Though perennial in their growth habit, they emerge with their two speckled leaves in very early spring, send their single flower bud up just a few days later, bloom, and then essentially disappear for another year. If pollinated, the small capsule will remain above ground until the seeds are dispersed, but that is all that remains. The leaves shrivel and die back to the ground.
When present, the 6 inch narrow fleshy leaves are distinctive. Like our native trilliums, they are dark green and covered by maroon-colored splotches. I suspect these plants produce side bulbs like other lilies over time and slowly spread outward, but they are slow to reproduce. It takes several years for young plants to flower and set seed.
The plants above were photographed on Saturday, February 22. The peak of blooming often occurs in mid-February to early March, depending on the winter temperatures that precede it. The single lemon yellow flower stands less than 6 inches above the ground and only opens on days with sufficient sunlight. The buds remain closed on extremely cloudy days and close up in the evening. Individual flowers may open on several consecutive days. They are pollinated by bees.
The spectacle at Wolf Creek Preseve is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the Deep South and everyone that loves wildflowers should add it to their list of places to visit. I made the 550-mile round trip from my home in Pinellas and it was one of the most worthwhile days I've ever spent. Trout lilies are not a landscape plant unless you can meet their exacting requirements. NEVER dig plants from the wild. A few native nurseries offer plants that are nursery propagated. I tried this once and they failed miserably in my central Florida landscape. From now on, I will be content to visit them in the wild.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Blanketflower overwinters as a rosette of leaves that hug the ground. Some are nearly devoid of teeth, but the vast majority of the leaves are deeply notched and quite distinctive. They are several inches long, light green in color, and roughly hairy. Flower stalks emerge in late spring and the plants become more upright, standing 12-18 inches tall without including the flower heads. They form a somewhat rounded mass. and often become top heavy as the blossoms form - tipping to one side under that weight.
Flowering can occur in most months from spring through fall. Each bloom is several inches across and very showy. Normally, the ray petals are deep orange in color, tipped in bright yellow, though yellow forms are common and there is quite a bit of variation in the depth of orange present. The ray petals surround a mounded central disk that is dark orange to nearly red. These persist well after pollination and eventually become silvery as the seedheads mature and disperse. Like all asters, blanketflower is attractive to a variety of insect pollinators.
This is one of the most widely propagated wildflowers native to Florida and is commonly used along roadsides and in other cultivated wildflower plantings. It requires high sunlight and sandy soils to prosper, but it can be grown nearly anywhere if not given too much shade or moisture. In a mixed planting, it can spread too abundantly and shade other, less robust, species, but it is easily weeded if this becomes a problem. Do not use it in mass plantings unless you are aware that it will die back in late fall and leave your planting bed virtually bare until spring. I like it best planted with other robust beach-dune species such as beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis) that typically keep their foliage through winter.
Friday, January 10, 2014
Sea purslane, however, is a prostrate perennial designed for life in the harsh conditions found along the coast. Its stems and leaves are especially waxy to reduce water loss and the leaves are succulent-like. Both the stems and leaves often are reddish in color - especially in areas where they receive high light and salt. This foliage scrambles along the ground, rooting periodically, and forming large mats. The leaves are high in vitamin C and are salty in taste, therefore, it has been used to treat scurvy and is often added to salads. In some locations, the pulverized leaves are also used to soothe wounds caused by the spines of venomous fish.
The soft-pink 5-petaled flowers are produced year-round in warm areas. They form along the stems, but open for only a brief period in mid-day. Do not look for the blooms first thing in the morning.
Sea purslane is an excellent coastal plant to help stabilize dunes, but it is not a very good candidate for home wildflower gardens. It is widely propagated by native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN (Florida Association of Native Nurseries) - primarily for coastal restoration projects. Look for it along the coast, and taste a leaf as you walk by.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Daisy fleabane is also known as "oakleaf" fleabane as the basal leaves are lobed like some oaks are. In fact, the Latin name means "foliage like an oak." These leaves form rosettes that are up to 6 inches across. The leaves lie flat to the ground, are somewhat linear and have a deeply notched margin. They also are often yellow-green on color and are rough to the touch.
Leaves emerge in the spring or overwinter and the basal leaves form colonies of many plants. Flower stalks emerge from the center of each and reach a mature height of 12-24 inches by early summer. The flower heads are only 1/4-inch across, but are produced in large numbers. Each is composed of many thin white ray petals surrounding a rounded yellow disc. The flowers attract a diversity of small pollinators.
Daisy fleabane is sometimes sold commercially and can easily be propagated from seed collected in the late summer and fall. It is not fussy as to growing conditions, but should not be grown in shade or in wet soils. I find it to be a bit weedy, but can be attractive if used in mass with other wildflowers.
Friday, January 3, 2014
Bluefower eryno is easily distinguished from other species in this genus by its arrow-shaped leaves that clasp the main stem and are deeply notched along the margin. It is a perennial forb. The basal leaves can be up to 4 inches long and have stalks. These are evident in early spring. The main stem arises from these leaves shortly after. It is slender and reaches a mature height of 2-3 feet by summer. The stem produces multiple side branches near the top and the flowers are formed at the top of each. These are about 1/2 inch across, rounded in shape, and composed of many tiny blue flowers. Each flower head is subtended by long thin bracts that also are blue in color.
Eryngiums are in the carrot family and a few are used by the larvae of the Eastern black swallowtail butterfly. Blueflower eryngo, however, has not been reported as one of those species and it is likely not a good candidate for a butterfly garden. This species has never been offered for sale commercially by any nursery associated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Look for it in late summer in the same type of open wetland that you might find pitcher plants and grass pink orchids.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Early fleabane is easily distinguished from daisy fleabane by two significant differences. The first is their difference in blooming season. Early fleabane blooms only in early spring while the latter has an extended flowering period from summer through fall. If you find a patch of fleabane in March or April, it most assuredly is early fleabane. The second difference is in the basal leaves. As the photo above (from Shirley Denton and taken from the University of South Florida ISB site) shows, early fleabane has somewhat succulent basal leaves that lack teeth along the margins (sometimes shallow teeth are present) and are oval in shape. Daisy fleabane has rough elliptical basal leaves that are deeply toothed. Even in winter, when neither is blooming, they are easily told apart.
Early fleabane maintains its basal leaves year-round. They form small colonies on the ground, slowly dividing over time. It is a short-lived perennial, often a biennial, and produces its 18-24 inch flower stalk in early spring. The outer white ray petals are thinner and more delicate than in daisy fleabane, and surround a central yellow disc. All fleabanes attract the attention of small pollinators.
Though not sold in the trade, it makes an attractive addition to a wildflower garden. It is easily grown from seed collected in late spring, but needs to reseed in the garden to persist. Look for it in early spring in moist open habitats and learn to distinguish it from its ubiquitous later-blooming relative.