Sunday, May 15, 2016

Wild White Indigo - Baptisia alba

Wild white indigo (Baptisia alba)  is one of eight native species in this genus and one of two with white flowers. The other white-flowered species (B. albescens) has noticeably smaller flowers and narrower leaves. The flattened ripe seeds pods are black instead of brown. Wild white indigo is native to well-drained upland sites in much of the northern one-third of Florida and throughout the eastern half of the U.S.
Wild white indigo is a perennial sub-shrub that can grow to 3 feet tall from a stout main stem, 6 inches in diameter. It dies back to the ground in winter and emerges again in early spring. Like many members of the bean family, the leaves are three-parted. Each leaf is about 3 inches long and has a whitish cast on the upper surface.
Flowering occurs from late spring into summer. Many upright flower stalks are produced and they stand a foot or more above the foliage in very showy racemes. As the name implies, the flowers are creamy white in color with a pronounced lower lip and smaller upper petal. Each bloom is nearly 1 inch long. They are pollinated primarily by large bees. It also is the larval food plant for Zarucco and Wild Indigo Duskywing Skippers.
This species is the most widely propagated member of this genus in Florida and is available from a number of nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. I have not had success with it in my central Florida landscape, but it is relatively easy within its more-northern Florida range if given well-drained sandy soils and at least a half day of sun.

Venus' Looking-glass - Triodanis perfoliata

Venus' looking-glass (Triodanis perfoliata) is an annual member of the bluebell family (Campanulaceae) and common to disturbed sites and roadsides throughout the northern two-thirds of Florida and nearly all of Canada and the U.S.  Its natural range occurs south to Argentina and it is naturalized in China, Korea and Australia. 
The common name likely refers to the shiny lens-shaped seeds which can act like a mirror, though they are too tiny to see without some magnification. The stem is unbranched and reaches a mature height of 6-12 inches by bloom time. The stem is deeply furrowed and lined with small white "hairs."  The leaves are alternate along the stem until they reach the top - where they become opposite each other. Each leaf is heart-shaped (chordate), lime green in color, slightly toothed along the margin and clasp the stem. Flower buds form (generally three in number) in each of the leaf axils.  
Flowering occurs for about a month in late spring to summer. Though 1-3 buds are formed at each axil, only one is generally open at a time. The blooms are deep violet to purple in color, and quite attractive, though only about 1/2 inch in diameter. Each is composed of five petals which generally open more flat than the flowers pictured above. The throat is lighter in color and the white-colored, prominent reproductive parts emerge from the base. Pollinated flowers (though the lower ones generally are self pollinating - cleistogamous) ripen to brown seed capsules in early fall. Like other members of this family, they explode when ripe and scatter the many seeds away from the parent.
Though attractive, the annual nature and small stature of this wildflower limit its potential in cultivation. It is only rarely offered and difficult to maintain in a typical landscape setting. It thrives in poor soil and open conditions, and does not tolerate being overly crowded by other plants. It is recorded that the Cherokee Nation used a tincture made from its roots to treat stomach ache.

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.