Saturday, July 25, 2015

White tassels - Dalea carnea var. gracilis

White tassels (Dalea carnea var. gracilis) is a white-flowered form of the more ubiquitous pink-flowered Dalea carnea var. carnea. Though some plant taxonomists consider it to be a distinct species (D. mountjoyae) most Florida ones give it only distinct variety status. White tassels is restricted in Florida to the central and western Panhandle counties in typical mesic flatwoods and open pinelands. Unlike our other more-widespread Dalea species (D. pinnata and D. feayi), it is more tolerant of moist soils during the summer rainy season. White tassels is also found in the states just north and west of us - Georgia to Louisiana.  
Where D. carnea var. carnea is often upright, white tassels is typically a trailing herbaceous species that acts almost like a vine, creeping through the adjacent vegetation.  The other white-flowered form (D. carnea var. albida) is typically upright as well.  White tassels is a perennial plant that dies back to the ground in winter. At maturity, in early summer, its stems are often several feet long and multiple stems are produced. The compound leaves alternate along the stem and are composed of 3-11 narrow oblong leaflets, mostly less than 1/2 inch long. Most leaves along the stems (those not at the ground) are composed of only 3-5 leaflets.  Those of other varieties normally have 7-9 leaflets on the stem.
White tassels blooms in late summer to early fall - before the other two species mentioned above typically flower.  Oblong flower heads occur at the end of each stem and the bright white flowers open a few at a time from the base of these heads to the tip. Plants remain in bloom for several weeks and are quite showy. They attract the attention of a variety of pollinators as well. Though a legume (the bean & pea family), it is not listed as a larval plant for any of the butterflies in Florida (such as the long-tailed skipper) that use other legumes.
Though white tassels is a beautiful and interesting wildflower, I have never seen it offered for sale commercially by nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. As a long-time admirer of this genus, we have dabbled a bit with typical D. carnea var. carnea as well as D. pinnata and D. feayi. I have found the latter two species to be exceptionally difficult to maintain in containers for any period of time and we no longer attempt it. I sow the seed directly into our "scrub" and over the years our plants have prospered and multiplied. D. canea var. carnea, however, has been more forgiving. I suspect that white tassels would also be a good candidate for cultivation - and I hope someone takes it on sometime in the future.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stinking Camphorweed - Pluchea foetida

Stinking camphorweed (Pluchea foetida) occurs statewide in a variety of freshwater wetland habitats. It also is reported throughout the Southeast Coastal Plain from New Jersey on the east coast to Texas on the west. Though all members of this genus exude a strong camphor-like fragrance when their foliage is crushed, stinking camphorweed is especially aromatic.
This is a short-lived perennial herbaceous species.  It tends to die back to the ground in winter and re-emerges in early spring. By mid-summer, it reaches its mature height of 2-3 feet.  The stout stem is often reddish in color, but this is variable. The specimens photographed above in early September near Pensacola, Florida had very little red in their stems.
Stinking camphorweed shares many characteristics with a Florida endemic, P. longifolia.  Key differences lie in the foliage. Both species have elliptical leaves that clasp the stem (sessile - without a petiole) and with teeth along the margins, but the leaves of stinking camphorweed are a bit narrower and more widely spaced on the stem. In P. longifolia, the leaves nearly overlap each other.
Like other members of this genus, the flowers are arranged in small heads at the end of the stem and lack ray petals. The flowers of stinking camphorweed are white - sometimes with a faint blush of pink. They are not especially showy, but attract the attention of various pollinators. Blooming occurs from mid-summer through early fall.
Stinking camphorweed is commonly encountered throughout Florida in freshwater wetlands and along roadway ditches. It has never been commercially propagated by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Camphorweeds normally spread rapidly by underground runners. This habit and this species' understated aesthetics make it unlikely to be offered for home landscapes in the future.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sweetscent Camphorweed - Pluchea odorata

Sweetscent camphorweed (Pluchea odorata) occurs statewide in Florida in a wide variety of wet sites from tidal marshes to the edges of wet ditches and hardwood hammocks.  This species is also found throughout eastern North America as well as much of the southern U.S. - being absent only from the Great Plains and the Northwest. Camphorweeds, as a genus, sometimes get a bad name for their highly aromatic foliage which smells something like mothballs.  Sweetscent camphorweed is somewhat more pleasing to some observers than the others.
Sweetscent camphorweed is an annual or sometimes a short-lived perennial.  Like other members of this genus, it is a coarse herbaceous species with stiff stems and rough foliage. It reaches its mature height of nearly 6 feet by early summer. The leaves are 2-6 inches in length, elliptical in shape and with a toothed margin.  Unlike a few others in this genus, the leaves have a distinct petiole, nearly 3/4 inch long, that attaches them to the main stem.
Flowering occurs from summer to early fall.  The pink to rosy flowers are borne atop the main stems in flat clusters - cymes.  Only a few remain open at any one time. Despite the lack of ray petals, sweetscent camphorweed is somewhat showy at the peak of blooming.  The large number of blooms attracts pollinators, especially bees.
Camphorweeds are somewhat weedy in their growth habit and tend to spread in the home landscape. Given this trait and the fact that sweetscent camphorweed is also an annual, it has limited use in a home landscape designed around wildflowers. It has not been grown commercially by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  It would be easy to propagate, however, from the wispy seed heads in fall. Just make sure you can give it the moisture it requires - either salt or fresh.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summer Open House - Inventory Reduction Garage Sale - Saturday August 8. 9 am-1 pm

Flyr's nemesis

Halberd-leaved rosemallow - Hibiscus furcellatus

 It is time once again to reduce the number of plants we have growing on the side of our home. The plants we need for our landscape have been set aside. The rest are extra and we'd love to share them with you at our upcoming Open House/Plant Garage Sale.  
Chapman's blazing star
 Email me for a list of all we have extras of at the moment and/or for directions and questions.  Our hours will be 9 am- 1 pm, Saturday August 8

False Pimpernel - Lindernia grandiflora

False pimpernel (Lindernia grandiflora) is one of Florida's ubiquitous wetland ground covers - occurring in nearly every moist- to wet-soil habitat in the state (except the central and western Panhandle). It is also reported from parts of Georgia. Like the Bacopa spp. and Browne's savory (Clinopodium brownei), it is a mat-forming ground cover that roots periodically at the nodes and creeps across the landscape.
Like Bacopa spp., the thin stems and oval leaves are succulent in appearance. They are opposite each other on the stem and without a petiole (sessile).  This species rarely stands taller than 6-8 inches.  It is an annual, dying in the early winter and recovering in spring from the copious seed left in the seed bank.  The foliage is not aromatic - making it seem nearly identical to water hyssop (Bacopa monnieri).
What makes this species unique are its flowers.  The flowers have three distinct lower petals larger than the two short upper ones.  They are lavender to purple in color and surround a tubular throat that is deeper purple, surrounded by white.markings.  These tiny blooms can occur from spring to fall, are not paired, and have a short stalk attaching them to the stem.  Small pollinators are attracted to them also.
False pimpernel performs best when given wet soil conditions, though it has tolerance of short-term drought. Because it's an annual, it requires open soil to reseed well and is not the best candidate to use on a moist slope or bank for erosion control. It mixes well, however, with other creeping perennials such as Bacopa, and it can be an effective plant for a hanging pot - though annual in nature.  False pimpernel is not currently propagated by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.

Browne's Savory - Clinopodium browneii

Browne's savory (Clinopodium brownei) was formerly known as Micromeria brownei and appears under that name in most currently published books. It is found sporadically throughout Florida and a bit north of us from Georgia to Texas.  It also is reported from the Caribbean where it is sometimes called West Indian thyme.  Throughout its range, it is found in freshwater wetlands, from disturbed ditches to the edges of intact forested systems.  It tolerates full sun in wet areas, but will persist in moist locations with less sun. It is a perennial that dies back to the ground in winter.
Browne's savory is a mint.  Its small square stems give this away as does its highly aromatic foliage. I was first made aware of this plant by my late friend and edible plant expert, Dick Duerling, who used to bring it to his talks and extol its virtues as a tea. The fragrance is unique, but quite minty.  The stems creep across the ground in all directions, rooting at the nodes and forming a mass.  The arrow-shaped leaves are opposite each other and have a distinct petiole.  This helps to separate it from other species that have the same growth habit and habitat preference - Bacopa and Lindernia, especially. The leaves also have a wavy edge.
Flowering is most common in the spring and summer. The five-lobed blooms occur in pairs at the leaf nodes. The upper three lobes are rounded while the lower two are more pointed in appearance. Each flower is white and tubular in shape, with distinct purple splotches in the throat. They attract very small pollinators.
Browne's savory is a wetland plant that will not persist if planted in sites that dry out. It is somewhat forgiving of short-term drought if protected from full sun, but it has always failed in my droughty woodland landscape when I fail to water it regularly.  In the right location, however, it makes a very attractive ground cover.  It also makes an interesting plant for a hanging basket - which is where we have ours currently. Just don't forget to water it frequently. This plant is only sporadically sold by nurseries affiliated with FANN - The Florida Association of Native Nurseries.

Water Hyssop - Bacopa monnieri

Water hyssop (Bacopa monnieri) is an herbaceous perennial that occurs throughout Florida, the rest of the lowest tier of states across the U.S., and into the West Indies and parts of Central America. It is a mat-forming species that creeps across the ground, rooting as it advances from the nodes on its stem.  Ultimately, individual plants form large masses that meet each other and become indistinguishable.  It dies back to the ground each winter, however, and returns again in early spring.
In more tropical parts of its range, it is evergreen. As its name implies, water hyssop is a wetland plant that thrives at the edges of both freshwater and brackish water habitats. If  the ground is moist, it can persist in lawns and the edges of disturbed sites and it will tolerate partial sun as long as its moisture needs are met.  It prefers full sun and plenty of water.
Water hyssop rarely stands above 1-2 inches in height.  The lime green stems and the small oval leaves that are opposite each other are succulent in appearance and make it attractive as a ground cover. The leaves are without fragrance, unlike its close cousin, lemon bacopa (B. caroliniana).
Flowering occurs from spring into mid-fall, except in the more tropical parts of its range where it can bloom year round.  Small white to pinkish tubular blooms are lined in violet and composed of five petals. They attract the attention of small pollinators.
Water hyssop is the preferred larval food for White Peacock butterflies - the butterfly pictured below. They seek it out above other plants, like Phyla nodiflora, that are also sometimes used. We have a nice patch in our landscape that we planted next to the edge of our small landscape pond. The plants grow out into the open water as well as creep along the pond edge. It has never, however, ventured out into the rest of the yard as it is too dry.  Butterfly gardeners can also use this plant in hanging baskets when landscape conditions preclude adding it directly into the ground.  It is somewhat forgiving of very short-term drought, but it should be watered regularly. Because of its value to butterfly gardeners and its attractive foliage, water hyssop is rather widely propagated by commercial sources and should not be too difficult to find.