Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pineland Waterwillow - Justicia angusta

Pineland waterwillow (Justicia angusta) is not a pineland plant, but an obligate wetland one, common to open wet meadows in all of penisular Florida and a few counties in the panhandle. It also has been reported from two counties in southern Georgia. As such, it is a near-endemic of Florida.
Pineland waterwillow is a perennial forb that dies back to the ground in winter. It emerges in early spring and quickly produces a very slender stem that can stand 3-4 feet tall.  As the Latin name indicates, the leaves are exceptionally narrow. Pineland waterwillow often grows in shallow standing water, the stem standing several feet above the waterline.
Flowering can occur in most months from spring through fall. The photos above were taken 8 July 2016 in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Collier County. As is typical of this species, the flowers are solitary on the stem, but multiple blooms are produced during the extended blooming season.  Each is a rich pink to violet in color. The two small upper petals are curled backwards while the larger lower petals are slightly fused and form a broad 3-lobed lip.  The center of the lower petals is noticeably lighter in color and spotted with deep purple dots. The flowers are mostly visited by bees.
Pineland waterwillow makes an interesting addition to an open marsh planting, but it is not offered commercially by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  It's close relative, looseflower waterwillow (J. ovata) is reported as a larval plant for two crescent butterflies - the Seminole Texan and Phaon crescents. As the phaon crescent's range in Florida extends well south of the range of J. ovata, it may use J. angusta in south Florida.  This should be watched for and reported if it occurs.

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