Sunday, January 3, 2010
Blue Curls - Trichostema dichotomum
Blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) is a member of the mint family and common throughout Florida and the eastern half of North America, including the southern provinces of Canada. In Florida, it naturally occurs in a wide variety of well-drained habitats and colonizes disturbed sites fairly quickly as well.
Blue curls is an annual, dying shortly after it disperses its seeds in late fall. Like many mints, however, it produces huge numbers of seeds and there is never any danger of losing it once planted - if you do not mulch heavily and the seeds can find the soil surface. In fact, this is one of the few drawbacks to adding this plant to the home garden; it often spreads and has to be held in check by thinning it each year as the seedlings arise.
As a foliage plant, blue curls is not especially distinctive. It has a thin woody stem and soon becomes multi-branched. At maturity, it may reach 2 feet tall. The leaves are thin and ellitical, and like most mints, are quite fragrant when bruised. The fragrance is not especially "minty" and few would plant or use it in a potpouri for its scent.
Its the long season of flowering that makes blue curls worth a place in the home landscape. Flowering generally begins in the early summer and may continue well into early fall. Individual flowers are small, but an intense blue and exceptional in character. The lower petals are distinctively spotted while the reproductive parts - the stamens and styles - are long and curled. The flowers remain open only in the morning hours so this is not a plant for late risers to appreciate. My wife, Alexa, and I love to walk about our landscape with a cup of coffee early in the morning to appreciate this plant in full bloom. Individual flowers open for only a morning, but more take its place each day. Blue curls are pollinated mostly by bees. They are not a good butterfly flower.
Blue curls is often available from native plant nurseries. Because it spreads quickly in nearly any landscape setting except very wet and/or shady sites, you do not need to start with too many plants. Use it in the middle portion of a mixed wildflower planting where it will be noticeable in bloom, but disappear among other plants when it is not. Just be prepared to thin each year's seedlings to keep it from becoming too numerous.