Wednesday, September 2, 2015

One-flowered Honeycombhead - Balduina uniflora

While honeycombhead (Balduina angustifolia) is ubiquitous throughout Florida in dry uplands, the more diminutive one-flowered honeycombhead (B. uniflora) is reported only from north Florida counties in moist open savannas, roadsides, and moist pinelands.  It also is recorded from most of the Southeast Coastal Plain - from Louisiana to North Carolina.
One-flowered honeycombhead is an herbaceous perennial that dies back to the ground in winter. In spring, it emerges and forms a small rosette of elliptical leaves that are about four inches long. From this, a single thin stem is produced. It has tiny elliptical leaves up the 2-3 foot tall stem. A single flower typically is produced at the end of this stem, though sometimes it branches. A single flower is produced at the end of each stem.
Flowering occurs in mid-summer to November.  The yellow central disk is typical of the genus, being "bumpy" in appearance. This gives way to a stiff papery fruiting structure after flowering which looks something like a honeycomb. The bright yellow ray petals are thin and widely spaced around the central disk. Overall, the flowers are large for the size of the plants; both the central disk and the ray petals are 1 inch long on average - making a flower that is 2 inches across. Honeycombheads are in the aster family and therefore are good plants for pollinating insects.
Though its upland cousin is widely propagated, one-flowered honeycombhead is not and currently is not available from any nursery affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  I hope that gets rectified someday as this wildflower seems to have many attributes that would warrant its inclusion in a home landscape - one that is moist to wet in the summer months. We do not currently grow it at Hawthorn Hill.

Mohr's Coneflower - Rudbeckia mohrii

Mohr's coneflower (Rudbeckia mohrii) is a near-endemic, found only in a nine-county area of the Florida Panhandle and in a small portion of Georgia. Throughout this region, it can be locally common, but confined to open wetlands, such as savannas, roadside ditches, and the upper edges of marshes and swamps. It does not persist in areas that are not exceptionally wet to shallowly inundated in the summer rainy season.
Mohr's coneflower is unique among our nine species of black-eyed susans and cannot be mistaken for any of the others.  It is the only yellow-flowered species to have grass-like leaves and a tall leafless (or near-leafless) flower stalk. This is a perennial species that dies back to the ground in winter and emerges in spring from a stout central stem. As stated above, the basal leaves are linear in shape, without teeth, and up to 12 inches long. From this, a slender flower stem emerges and eventually reaches a mature height of 2-4 feet by the summer.
Flowering occurs from mid-summer to early fall. The photos above were taken in Apalachicola National Forest 13-14 August 2015.  The flowers are typical of most black-eyed susans; yellow ray petals surround a chocolate-colored disk.  The ray petals are thin and 1 inch long while the central disk is compact and about 1/2 inch across.  The ends of the flowering stalks often branch near the top and multiple flowers are the norm atop the stems. Like all black-eyed susans, they attract the attention of various pollinating insects.
Mohr's coneflower has not been regularly offered by commerical nurseries associated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Its need for moist to saturated soils limits its use in a typical landscape setting, but its perennial nature and attractive flowers make it a wonderful addition to a wetland planting.  Presently, we are growing this black-eyed susan at Hawthorn Hill and hope to have some extra plants ready for others by spring 2016.  Let us know if you are interested.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Grassleaf Barbara's Buttons - Marshallia graminifolia

Grassleaf Barbara's buttons (Marshallia graminifolia) is found throughout much of north and central Florida in moist pinelands, savannas, and the upper edges of open marshes. It is resident to the Southeast Coastal Plain and occurs from Texas to North Carolina as well. It can be distinguished from the other three native Barbara's buttons in Florida by its small linear leaves.
Grassleaf Barbara's buttons is a perennial that dies back to the ground over winter. It produces a whorl of basal leaves, 3-6 inches long in spring that are soft and spreading. From this, a solitary erect stalk arises that eventually stands 3-4 feet tall.
Flowering occurs in mid-summer to early fall. The round, button-shaped head, about 1 inch across, produces many light pink flowers that open from the bottom to the top over several weeks. All the blooms are disk flowers; there are no ray flowers along the outer edge. These pink tassels can occur in abundance in the right habitat and are quite showy. As these are in the Aster Family, they also attract the attention of pollinating insects.
For some reason, none of Florida's Barbara's button species are being propagated commercially by nurseries associated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, though M. tenuifolia is available from various native nurseries in the Southeast. There is some argument among taxonomists currently that would put this species as a variety, M. graminifolia var. cyanthera. If you purchase this variety or locate a Florida source, it requires moderately high light and moist soils - especially during the summer and early fall.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mock Pennyroyal - Hedeoma graveolens

Mock pennyroyal (Hedeoma graveolans) is endemic and found only in a seven-county area in and around Apalachicola National Forest in the central Florida Panhandle. It's narrow geographical range and very spotty distribution within it has led to it being listed as a state-endangered species. Within this range, it is most common in dry pinelands, mostly sandhills and xeric pine flatwoods.
Mock pennyroyal is in the mint family, but does not have the same strong fragrance of false pennyroyal (Piloblephis rigida) nor shares the same growth habit.  It is a semi-woody evergreen sub-shrub with thin stem that creep just above the vegetation. It rarely seems to stand upright and is most often less than 20 inches tall, but with numerous stems arising from the main one. The branches and the leaves are noticeably "hairy."
The leaves are tiny and curled inward, 0.5 inches long (smaller near tips of stems), aromatic, opposite, oval, sessile, and with margins entire or slightly toothed. Though difficult to find this plant when not in bloom, it is distinctive because of these characters.
Flowering occurs in summer, May-September. The photographs above were taken 13 August and I thank my friend Eleanor Dietrich for taking me to this spot where she had previously taken her own photos. The tiny (0.5 inch long) deep pink blooms occur at the tips of the many stems and have a noticeable 3-lobed lower lip and a hood above. The "mouth" of the lower lip is deeply spotted. Like all mints, the flowers attract pollinating insects.
Mock pennyroyal is rather diminutive, but has a great many aesthetic qualities. Despite this, it is not being propagated by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, and I have never seen it offered during my 30 years in this state.  Look for it during the summer in sandy uplands when it is in bloom and simply admire it for its simple beauty. You'll have to look closely to see it, but the effort is worth it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Leconte's Thistle - Cirsium lecontei

Leconte's thistle (Cirsium lecontei) is somewhat similar in appearance to the more-widespread Nuttall's thistle (C. nuttallii), but differs in several features. For one, Leconte's thistle does not have leaves that ascend the flower stalk. It also is a bit shorter in stature and the flower stalk normally produces only a single flower instead of ending in a branched/multiple flower structure.  The two species barely overlap in geographic range in and around Leon and Wakulla Counties.  Leconte's thistle is found throughout the central and western Panhandle region of Florida. It also occurs in the Southeast Coastal Plain from North Carolina to Louisiana. It is considered "imperiled" in Georgia, "rare" in Louisiana, and of "special concern" in Mississippi.  In Florida, it is common in its rather limited range, in savannas, moist flatwoods, and the edges of open marsh systems.
Leconte's thistle is a perennial herb that dies back to its basal leaves in winter. The lower leaves are narrow - up to 12 inches long, but only about 1 inch wide. The young leaves are velvety in appearance with a dense matted covering of white hairs. The upper leaves are smaller than the basal ones, but are still long and narrow in appearance. Like other thistles, they are armed with stout spines along the leaf margins and stems.
Flowering occurs in mid-summer to early fall. The photos above were taken 13 August 2015 at the upper edge of a pitcher plant bog in Apalachicola National Forest. The leafless flower stalk reaches a mature height of 2-4 feet and the urn-shaped inflorescence is composed of light pink to pinkish purple flowers. These are quite attractive and, like all thistles, are especially favored by a wide variety of pollinating insects.
Thistles are generally considered a nuisance in the landscape because of their thorny nature and tendency to spread. As such, they tend not to be grown commercially and, in some states outside of Florida, it is even illegal to propagate them. Nevertheless, thistles have great value in a pollinator garden - managed by a gardener willing to contain them. Thistles are easily grown from seed collected in late fall and sown just below the soil surface. Leconte's thistle should not be grown outside its natural range and requires sun and moist soils to prosper.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tall Milkwort - Polygala cymosa

Tall milkwort (Polygala cymosa) occurs nearly statewide, except the lowest tiers of counties in Florida, in wet prairies, marshes, and other depressional wetlands.  It is an obligate wetland plant and, unlike others in this genus, does not persist in areas that are not consistently wet. This also is a species of the Southeast Coastal Plain and is reported from North Carolina to Louisiana.
Tall milkwort can be confused with short milkwort (P. ramosa) as both have canary yellow flowers arranged in a terminal cyme atop a single stem.  As its common name implies, however, tall milkwort is about 4 times as tall at maturity (about 3-4 feet) and the flower heads tend to be not quite as spread out as they are in P. ramosa. Both are annuals with alternate linear leaves and both produce a basal rosette of somewhat longer leaves that normally disappear as the flower stalk matures.
Flowering occurs in late spring to early summer. The plants photographed above, were in full bloom when I visited Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park on 24-25 April 2015.  The vivid heads of flowers mostly draw the attention of bees.
As an annual and an obligate wetland plant, this species is not an easy choice for the home landscape and it has not been grown commercially to the best of my knowledge. It would need consistently wet conditions to persist and about 6 inches of standing water during the warm summer months. Given the right conditions, however, it tends to produce large colonies that are strikingly attractive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Scalloped Milkwort - Polygala crenata

Scalloped milkwort (Polygala crenata) is found throughout the western Panhandle counties in Florida and in the Southeast Coastal Plain states from Georgia to Texas.  In this region it is found at the upper edges of marshes and open savannas, as well as along roadsides.
This species is an herbaceous perennial that forms many stems and has a somewhat "shrublike" appearance. It dies back to the ground in winter and reaches its 1-foot mature height by summer. The leaves are elliptical, opposite along the stem, deeply veined, and about an inch in length.
The flowers are produced in clusters in mid-summer atop each stem. Each is a rosy pink in color with a deep pink lower lip. As in many other milkworts, the two side petals are elongated and form "wings". Multiple flowers remain open at any one time and flowering occurs for several weeks.
I found very little reported on this species. It is not sold commercially, though an attractive wildflower and perennial in nature.