Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wild rosemary - Conradina canescens











Wild rosemary (Conradina canescens) is a truly beautiful species native to coastal scrub habitats in the western Panhandle area of Florida as well as parts of Georgia and Alabama. A small disjunct population has been found in Hernando County in the central peninsula as well, but I can find very little confirmation of it there and have never stumbled onto the supposed population. I question whether this species is truly native or was planted. Some taxonomists have recently lumped another member of this genus, the short-leaved rosemary (C. brevifolia) with this species, but I believe them to be different and have kept them separate. Short-leaved rosemary is a very rare species found only in Polk and Highlands Counties; the scrubs of the Lake Wales Ridge.

Wild rosemary is a robust woody sub-shrub that can eventually attain a mature height of 3-4 feet. It is often a bit sprawling too and may be even larger in diameter. Like other members of this genus, the needle-like foliage is evergreen and quite attractive. Unlike the other members, it is somewhat "canescent" or fuzzy. This makes it an exceptional foliage plant in a mixed wildflower planting - if planted in areas of deep sands and good light.

Wild rosemary is also an exceptional flowering plant. Blooming may occur nearly anytime from spring to early winter, but a definite peak occurs in late spring. At this time, the entire plant may be covered by the white and lavender flowers. Conradinas have a double lip. In this species, the lower lip is most always a rich lavender. The rest of the bloom is mostly white flecked by purple spots.

Wild rosemary flowers are extremely attractive to bees and other such pollinators. Butterflies sometimes visit them too, but these are not really "butterfly plants". This species is often available from the native nursery trade and I have had great success over the years using it in my landscapes. It is somewhat forgiving of soils. Whereas I have often had to actually remove my topsoil "sand" down to the deeper sand layers and then replace the upper layers with true scrub sand to make other species of native perennial mints thrive, I have planted wild rosemary in my native yard soil and had it live for years - once established.

Establishing all of these species is the most important step. just because they are "drought tolerant" does not mean they do not need water. Water them well for the first month or so and then be prepared to give them some supplemental watering if your landscape enters an extreme drought period. No plant survives if their roots dry out.

If you have an area where this plant might thrive, I would encourage you to try it. It is one wildflower that is beautiful year-round and it never completely ceases to make an impression.



4 comments:

  1. These mints could be used in something like an herbal tea.

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  2. when I dig the rosemary, how much root ball do I need to get?

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  3. I never recommend digging wild plants from the wild. This species is available from a number of nurseries and that is always the best approach - even a few mail order sources offer it - so it can be obtained without any effort at all. If you wish to propagate it, it is not difficult from cuttings of newer growth - soft wood, not herbaceous portions. This does not result in the wild plants being removed. IF the plants are on a lot that is being cleared for development, you can move VERY small plants if you dig deep and get the deep roots with the sand - on 2 inch plants, go at least 1 foot down. It is not possible, under most circumstances, to move adult or medium-sized mature plants. Do not try it unless the plants are going to be killed in the near future by a bulldozer. Either way, it would be far better to taqke cuttings from these plants and trying to keep them alive this way.

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