Friday, April 3, 2020

Meadow Garlic - Allium canadense

Meadow garlic (Allium canadense) is a perennial herb that is found throughout north and central Florida in open habitats ranging from pine savannas to disturbed fields. It also is found throughout the eastern US from North Dakota in the north to Texas. A member of the amarillis family, it grows from a bulb and produces its fragrant foliage in a whorl from it. Meadow garlic makes its appearance in the spring and tends to die back to the ground after it blooms and produces its tiny bulblets in the summer.
The foliage consists of succulent strap-like leaves that resemble those of its common garden relatives - onions, garlic and chives to name a few. Like its relatives, these leaves give off a strong odor of garlic, especially when crushed, and can be used in cooking. The leaves are 6-12 inches long by maturity.
Flower stalks rise from the center of the plant in spring. The blooms range from a soft pink to bright white, like the ones in this photograph. They are visited by small bees and butterflies. Pollinated flowers produce seed heads containing tiny seeds. What makes this plant unique among most of our native wildflowers is that the flowers are surrounded by small bulbs that are produced vegetatively. These drop to the ground once the flower stalk is fully mature and produce new plants near the base of their parents. 
Meadow garlic is a fun plant to grow in a garden - especially in one devoted to permaculture. Plants require very little extra care and do well in most typical upland spoils and sunlight. Care must be taken, however, to mark the areas in which it is planted as it seems absent for about half the year. This wildflower is rarely offered for sale by members of FANN - the Association of Native Nurseries, but once acquired, it is easy to propagate. It also spreads over time if given a space where it is not disturbed too often. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Golden Club - Orontium aquaticum

Golden club (aka Neverwet) (Orontium aquaticum) is a perennial wetland plant found nearly statewide in Florida and throughout most of the Southeast Coastalplain from Texas north to New York and Massachusetts.  As its Latin name suggests, it is found in shallow aquatic areas - primarily along slow moving streams and rivers. Its common names are also easy to understand as the flower stalk (a spathe) is a bright golden yellow and its foliage repels water. When water comes in contact with it, it immediately rolls off the surface as it were waxed.
Golden club is a member of the Araceae family and therefore its flower stalk is technically a spathe - like in Jack-in-the-pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum). These are not evergreen plants, but lose their foliage in fall and reemerge again in spring. The large deep-green lanceolate leaves may be 12 inches in length., though some of it may be below the waterline. They arise in a whorl from the main stem and rise well above the waterline. Plants tend to form colonies given enough time.
Flowering occurs in late spring to summer.  Tiny yellow flowers occur along the tip of the flower stalk. These are monoecious, so each is capable of being pollinated. The ripe fruit are tiny berries and the seeds are said to be edible and tasty if slightly roasted. Of course, some caution should always be taken when sampling wild foods. The flowers are pollinated by small bees and, possibly, skipper butterflies.
This is a handsome plant, but very difficult to propagate and to keep in a landscape. It is very rarely offered in the commercial trade and would only be appropriate in the types of settings it naturally occurs in. This is a plant to be admired in the field - especially when encountered in full bloom like the specimens photographed above.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Virginai Peppergrass - Lepidium virginicum

Virginia peppergrass (Lepidium virginicum) is neither a "grass" or a "pepper", but a native member of the mustard family. It occurs statewide in Florida and in every state in the continental US and in most of Canada's southern provinces.  It is a common turf grass "weed" and is present in most upland sites that are routinely disturbed by mowing and discing. 
Virginia peppergrass is an annual and persists by its heavy production of seed. It starts out each season as a dense deep-green cluster of toothed leaves on a stout stem and eventually reaches a mature height of several feet. As a mustard, the seeds are "hot" to the taste and make a good substitute for black pepper as a spice. They are produced throughout much of the frost-free months of the year and the brown disc-shaped pods contain many seeds inside. Flowering occurs in most months. The tiny white blooms form on the tips of the branches and are technically a raceme. 
Though peppergrass is not a wildflower generally propagated purposely, it has value in the landscape as a host plant for several of the whites - particularly the great southern white and the checkered white. I always leave small patches of them in the corners of my landscape for that purpose. If left alone, however, it will take up an ever-increasing area of a landscape.

Pink Purslane - Portulaca pilosa

The moss rose genus includes a very popular cultivated plant that is used nearly everywhere in the landscape or as a short-lived flowering plant in pots. There are a few other nonnatives that have escaped into Florida's natural areas, but the diminutive pink purslane (Portulaca pilosa) is a native. Pink purslane is an annual or short-lived perennial that occurs statewide in Florida, most commonly as a lawn weed. It also occurs throughout all the states of the mid- to Deep South. The photos above were taken in my Pasco County lawn at the end of March. In my landscape, it forms a ground cover that slowly spreads outwards over time; eventually forming a mat a foot or more across. It is a self-seeder as well and so it shows up throughout my lawn.
Pink purslane can be distinguished from the common nonnative lawn weed, Paraguayan purslane (P. amilis) by its much smaller stature and rounded foliage. Unlike the latter which has flat leaves, pink purslane has rounded cylindrical foliage. Flowering occurs year round where I live and during much of the frost-free months further north. The flowers are less than 1/3-inch across and deep pink in color. They tend to close by midday. It is visited by small pollinators, such as some of the grass skippers.
This is not a plant to be propagated by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries as it is almost ubiquitous in its distribution already and does not need to be added to most landscapes. Nevertheless, it is an attractive and useful ground cover in a lawn and I leave mine alone because of that. I do, however, weed out the nonnative species.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Common Fanpetals - Sida ulmifolia

Common fanpetals (Sida ulmifolia) is a common lawn weed in a genus of common lawn weeds. While a few of these are not native, this one is. It is found throughout Florida in open disturbed sites. Although the taxonomy is somewhat questionable, this species is known only from Florida and parts of the Caribbean.
This is a perennial semi-woody wildflower that will reach several feet in height if not mowed regularly like it often is within a lawn setting. It is multiple branched with oval noticeably toothed leaves.
Although S. acuta has often been applied to Florida material, Krapovickas (2003) restricted the use of S. acuta to plants with a glabrous to ciliate calyx and (5-)6(-7) mericarps. Sida ulmifolia is then applied to plants with a stellate-pubescent calyx and 7-12 mericarps, which applies to the specimens common in Florida.
What makes this species most significant as one of our wildflower flora is that it serves as the host to several butterflies - the three checkered skipper species, as well as the gray and mallow scrub-hairstreak.  Because of this, common fanpetals deserves a place in a landscape where butterflies are desired. If left alone, it will reseed and spread, however, so I leave it alone in out-of-the-way corners of my more-designed native plant landscape and weed it elsewhere. Common fanpetals is forgiving of just about every typical landscape setting except extreme and prolonged inundation. Give it sun and typical soils. It will bloom in nearly every frost-free month. The creamy pale yellow flowers are attractive and of interest to a variety of bees and other pollinators.

Checkered skipper nectaring on Sida ulmifolia

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.