Thursday, July 23, 2009

Panhandle lily - Lilium iridollae

The panhandle lily, or pot-of-gold lily, (Lilium iridollae) is easily one of my favorite native Florida wildflowers and one our greatest treasures at Hawthorn Hill. This species is naturally found within the Florida panhandle from Walton County west to Baldwin County Alabama; a geographic range of 7 total counties worldwide. It is not common anywhere within this narrow range and is listed as a State Endangered species in Florida, critically imperilled in Alabama, and is under review for listing nationally by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The panhandle lily is found in seasonally wet areas; low flatwoods, seepage bogs, and wet prairies. These habitats are similar to those where pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.) are commonly associated. In these areas, they get good moisture and at least a half day of sun. Don't try to grow them in too much shade or they will get lanky and fall over. If you give them a lot of sun, however, you best make sure that they get ample moisture.

Like all of Florida's true lilies, the panhandle lily is deciduous and dies back to its bulb in late fall. By early spring, new leaves appear and they form a basal rosette quickly. This begins to elongate in late spring and flowering occurs by mid- to late-July. Native lilies often fail to flower, however, and may spend years emerging each spring as a basal rosette of leaves if conditions are not quite to their liking. Young plants also are slow to mature and may take more than 2 years from seed to flower - even under ideal conditions.

The flower stalk may reach as tall as 6 feet, but is often a foot or two shorter. Individual flower stalks produce only one solitary flower that ends up hanging downward from the stem. The flowers are spectacular. Each is 3-4 inches across and ranges from a pale yellow to a rich orange in color. The petals recurved and touch each other over the back of the stem; forming a sort-of basketlike appearance. The petals are also heavily spotted and the stamens hang downward like spider legs.

Like other native lilies, the panhandle lily is pollinated mostly by large swallowtail butterflies. If pollination occurs, a large seed capsule eventually ripens that may contain many hundreds of seeds. Getting these to grow, however, is quite the feat.

Here at Hawthorn Hill, we hope to eventually get our panhandle lilies to produce seed and seedlings. To date, we have not been very successful with the latter. Until that time, we will simply admire our plants and look forward to each blooming season.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kidneyleaf Rosinweed - Silphium compositum

Though I hate "Kidneyleaf rosinweed" as this species' common name, it is the one most widely used for this wonderful wildflower. In actuality, the leaves are not kidney-shaped at all, but deeply lobed. The leaves are one of the most attractive features of the plant and they add immense character to a mixed wildflower planting during the months it is not blooming.

Kidneyleaf rosinweed is native to sandy uplands throughout much of Florida's panhandle and south to Pasco County on the west coast. It prefers full sun, but also occurs in open woodlands and woodland edges where it receives less. In these habitats, it produces a deep tap root. It will not succeed in areas where this tap root cannot extend (e.g. areas with a shallow confining layer of clay or limestone in the soil) or in areas that stay too wet. Given the proper soils and drainage, however, this wildflower is wonderful.

Well-established plants (2 years old and older) produce a large rosette of basal leaves in the spring. Each leaf may be 12-18 inches long and well more than a dozen may be produced. These are a rich green in color and deeply lobed and/or toothed.

The flower stalk is evident by late spring and quickly grows skyward. Flowering begins in July and is usually finished by August in Florida. Flower stalks can reach 6-8 feet in height and often are composed of over a dozen flower heards.

While its close cousin, starry rosinweed (S. asteriscus), has become widely available to Florida gardeners, kidneyleaf rosinweed has not for some reason. Though its flowers are a bit smaller, it makes up for that in its amazing foliage and exceptional drought tolerance.

Use this plant in a mixed planting of wildflowers with similar soil and sun requirements. Good companion plants are various blazing stars (Liatris spp.), resindot sunflower (Helianthus resinosus), summer farewell (Dalea pinnata), grassleaf goldenaster (Pityopsis graminifolia), and various true asters (Symphyotrichum spp.). Because it gets tall, use it in the back of the planting; and because the basal leaves get large, plant individuals at least 12 inches apart. I prefer it planted in small isolated clumps instead of as individual plants.

Kidneyleaf rosinweed is a wonderful nectar source for butterflies and a seed source for seed-eating songbirds. Hawthorn Hill is proud to be producing this wildflower for the general public. Our plants are grown from seed originally collected in Citrus and Hernano Counties - near the southern end of its Florida range. We have been growing it successfully now in our Pinellas County landscape for 2 years and believe it is adaptable south of its natural range if planted in well-drained soil.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Elegant Blazing Star - Liatris elegans

Elegant blazing star (Liatris elegans) is one of the most unique and beautiful of our 17 native Florida species. Found throughout much of the northern half of Florida, its national range includes most of the Southeast. But, despite this, it is not widely available in the trade and is only available by seed in Florida - except from Hawthorn Hill.

Elegant blazing star is tall and robust. At maturity, it may stand nearly 4 feet tall. Its flower stalk is thick and not as prone to falling over as some of our other tall species.

Like most Florida blazing stars, it is native to open habitats with well-drained soil. This includes sandhills, open roadside edges, and upland fields. I see it frequently growing with other blazing stars; especially graceful (L. gracilis), scrub (L. tenuifolia), and Chapman's blazing stars (L. chapmanii), and all four species work well together in a mixed wildflower planting.

What helps make this species so unique is the flowers. Unlike other species, elegant blazing star normally has white flowers inside each flower head, but these are surrounded by pinkish lavender bracts. This gives it its other common name: pinkscale blazing star.

A large number of buds are formed along the top one-third of the flower stalk, but they are spaced relatively far apart from each other and each contains less than a dozen flowers.

Elegant blazing star emerges from its winter dormancy in early spring and quickly produces its large basal leaves. Flower stalks begin to ascend almost right away and flowering occurs in fall; late September to October.

Once flowering ends, the seeds begin to ripen. Unlike other native species, the appendages at the back of the ripened seeds are feathery and quite distinct.

Hawthorn Hill is pleased to make this wonderful blazing star available to other wildflower enthusiasts. Our plants are grown from seed originally collected from Citrus County, near the southern edge of this species' natural range. This is a touchy plant to grow successfully, requiring good drainage to prosper. If you have these conditions, it is well worth adding to your landscape.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Scaly Blazing Star - Liatris squarrosa

Scaly blazing star (Liatris squarrosa) is a rather rare component of Florida's native flora; ocurring in only 4 counties in the extreme northern part of the state. It is a rather widespread species elsewhere, however, and is found throughout much of the eastern half of the nation - except the most northern states.

Like many of our blazing stars, it occurs in upland sites where it has well-drained soils and plenty of sunshine. In Florida, this includes dry open woodland edges, calcareous openings, and open pinelands.

Scaly blazing star begins blooming in July (much earlier than most species in this genus) and is finished by August/September. Unlike most members of this genus, it rarely exceeds 2 feet in height and is often multi-stemmed. The flower buds are rather few per stem and include about 10-15 flowers each.

Despite this, scaly blazing star is quite showy when in bloom. Individual flowers are deep lavender in color and the flower buds are rather large. The common name is derived from the noticeable hooked scales that surround each bud - a feature that makes identification quite easy.

Scaly blazing star is sometimes offered by native nurseries outside of Florida and several of these are the source of Hawthorn Hill's plants. We have grown this species for 2 years in our Pinellas County landscape and we are selecting individuals adapted to our site from the seedlings we are growing from our source plants.

If you are a fan of blazing stars - as we are - this is a species well worth getting to know better. We anticipate having seedlings available in the spring of 2010. Please check with us after the first of the year to see how production is coming.