Sunday, November 22, 2015
Apalachicola meadowbeauty is a perennial herb that dies back to the ground in winter. It emerges in spring, but remains small and can go largely unnoticed in the understory vegetation until it blooms in summer. Few plants reach a mature height of 16 inches; most are less than 1 foot tall. The stems are square and somewhat "hairy", while the leaves are 1/2-1 inch long, oval in shape and attached to the main stem by a petiole. No other meadowbeauty in Florida combines this feature with white petals. The common pale meadow beauty (R. mariana) is only sometimes white, does not have leaf stalks, and normally occurs in drier habitats.
The flowers are composed of four bright rounded white petals and are normally less than 1 inch across. The reproductive parts are bright yellow and the anthers curl slightly backward. The blooms mostly attract the attention of bees.
Apalachicola meadowbeauty is one of many examples of how unique the state's flora is. This is a difficult plant to locate and requires some sleuthing in wet habitats during the summer to locate it. If you do, simply admire it for its subtle beauty. Do not attempt to collect any portion of it for any purpose without permits. This is not a specimen for use in a home landscape. There are many, more common species better for that purpose.
This, like other members of the genus, are perennial herbs that die back in winter. Stems arise from the hardened base in spring and reach a mature height of 6 inches to 2 1/2 feet. The plants photographed above in a pitcher plant bog in Apalachicola National Forest in mid-August were on the taller end of the height spectrum for this species. The leaves are oval, clasp the stem and are less than 1 inch long. Noticeable hairs occur on the margins.
Flowering lasts from June until early fall. The 4-petal pink flowers are borne singly or in small clusters at the end of the stems. The blooms are about 1-inch across and nearly indistinguishable from Nuttall's meadow beauty. The petals tend to have wavy margins and curl upwards. Most other meadow beauties hold their flowers at 90-degree angles to the ground and have more-flattened petals,
Fringed meadow beauty is not currently grown commercially in Florida by any nursery affiliated with FANN- the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Its somewhat demure aesthetics make it unlikely to be added in the future.
This is a unique member of an interesting genus; its species name, difformis, is derived from its atypical form, and it is distinctive enough not to be confused with other rose-gentians. Lance-leaf rose-gentian dies back to the ground in winter, but reaches a mature height of about 3 feet by late spring. The leaves are only about 1 inch long, narrowly lanceolate, and tend to point upwards. They also lack a petiole (the leaf stem) and strongly clasp the main stem. The basal leaves are normally absent (or underwater) by blooming season.
A multi-branched flower stalk is produced atop the main stem and may be 6 inches across. Clusters of bright white, 5-petal flowers open from May through late summer. Each petal is nearly 1/2 inch long, making the mature inflorescence quite showy. They attract pollinators.
Lance-leaf rose-gentian is not grown commercially in Florida and would require specific conditions to prosper. Look for it in open marshes and bogs in summer and admire it for its simple beauty.
Doll's daisy dies back to the ground in winter and emerges in early spring. As it suckers profusely underground, it normally occurs in colonies. It reaches a mature height of 3-5 feet tall by summer. The leaves are narrow, alternate along the stem, and are less than 1 inch long. The leaf margins are often smooth, but may have several small teeth.
Flowering occurs from summer through fall. Each bloom is 1/2 inch across, on average, and composed of numerous white to light lavender ray petals surrounding a bright yellow disk. Each is held on long stems on top of the main branches. Like all members of the daisy family, they attract pollinators.
Doll's daisy requires seasonably wet to shallowly inundated soils. As such, it is not a wildflower likely to be offered for home landscape purposes. Its small flowers and spindly stems also reduce its aesthetic qualities, but it has value in a wetland pollinator garden. To my knowledge, it is not available commercially, but could be grown from seed collected in fall.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Scrub buckwheat is a perennial forb that generally maintains its linear basal leaves through the winter. These leaves are 6-8 inches long, deep green in color and slightly "hairy" on the upper surface. Like its close (and much more common) cousin wild buckwheat (E. tomentosum), the undersides of these leaves are densely silvery hairy. The third photo from the top shows this.
A central flower stalk is produced in the center of this basal rosette of leaves and it can appear almost anytime from early summer to fall. Flowering is sometimes stimulated by fire, but it is not necessary. The plant above is in my landscape and began blooming in late October - without fire. The flower stalks reach 2-3 feet tall prior to the flowers opening. It is multi-branched near the top. Each branch contains 10-20 small silvery white flowers with a yellow center. The flower stalk, flower buds, and the undersides of the sepals are covered by silky silver "hairs".
Though rare in nature, scrub buckwheat is uncommonly offered by native nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It is not an especially showy addition to a scrub/sandhill wildflower garden, but it is interesting - especially if planted in small clusters. To date, our single plant has done well in sandy soil in nearly full sun that also has various Conradina's and other scrub plants around it. In the spring, before flowering, it can be confused with wild buckwheat as both have linear leaves arranged in a rosette, with silvery undersides. If you find scrub buckwheat, do not collect seed, but simply admire it for its uniqueness.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Water hoarhound eventually reaches a mature height of about 3 feet. It produces many single stems off its spreading system of underground rhizomes, so when you find it, it normally is present in clusters or in mass depending on the openness of the habitat surrounding it. As this is a mint, the stem is square. It also is slightly "hairy" and a deep maroon red in color. The leaves are opposite on the stem, normally sessile (without a petiole), and elliptical in shape. The edges have distinctive teeth.
Blooming occurs from summer into late fall. The small white flowers are produced in the leaf axils in clusters. Individual blooms last just a few days, but each cluster produces more over a several month period. Each bloom is about 1/4 inch long and somewhat tubular; the five petals are mostly fused. The anthers are purple and the throat has several tiny purplish dots, making the flowers appear somewhat pinkish from a distance. They are pollinated by small bees and butterflies.
Water hoarhound can be commonly encountered in the wet areas of Florida, but overlooked when not in bloom. It is not currently being propagated and is unlikely to be in the future as more-showy wetland species are the ones in demand for landscape purposes.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Downy lobelia dies back to the ground in winter and emerges in early spring. It quickly produces a set of basal leaves that are up to 5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. The leaves are elliptical, clasp the stem (lack a petiole), and are finely toothed along the margin. They also alternate up the stem.
Flowering occurs in late summer and well into fall. The mature flower stalk is 3-5 feet tall and the deep lavender flowers are produced singly on the upper 2-3 feet. Each bloom is nearly 1 inch long with a distinct white blotch in the throat. Sharply pointed sepals subtend each flower and a nearly sagittate wavy leaf occurs opposite.
Although some lobelias have found favor in the landscape trade, downy lobelia has not in Florida. Though quite showy and adaptable to non-wetland conditions, it has not been offered by nurseries affiliated with FANN, the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It is sold commercially by native nurseries to Florida's north, however. We have not experimented with downy lobelia at Hawthorn Hill and I do not know how adaptable out-of-state stock is to our growing conditions. If you attempt it, give it mesic to moist conditions. In mesic conditions, it is likely to do best in partial to half sun. If you are growing it, let us know what you've discovered. I hope this beautiful wildflower is someday made more available in Florida than it is at present.