Sunday, January 3, 2010

Flyr's Nemesis - Brickellia cordifolia


Flyr's nemesis (Brickellia cordifolia) is another very rare Florida wildflower, known to occur in only 5 counties along the Georgia and Alabama border in the panhandle and in a disjunct population in Alachua County near Gainesville.  It is a state-listed endangered species and is limited worldwide to these Florida counties and a few locations in Georgia and Alabama.
Flyr's nemesis is a perennial herbaceous wildflower with a strong main stem that can reach 4-5 feet tall by late summer.  As the Latin name implies, its leaves are heart shaped.  They are up to 4 inches long, the margins are slightly toothed, and the leaf veins are noticeably indented. 
Flyr's nemesis occurs in well-drained sandy open woodlands; often in association with southern red oak (Quercus falcata) or in woodland openings in association with spruce pine (Pinus glabra) and southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora).  It may persist for short periods in overgrown woods, but responds quickly to fire-induced openings or disturbances such as trails.
Flowering occurs in late summer and early fall.  Unlike most members of the aster family, the flower heads contain only disk flowers - and they resemble somewhat those of ageratum (Ageratina aromatica).  The light pink flowers are striking and especially attractive to butterflies.
Flyr's nemesis has many qualities that would recommend it for cultivation; especially within a butterfly garden, but it is not currently being propagated to the best of my knowledge.  Hopefully, that will change someday in the future.  Because of its height, it would be best planted near the back of a mixed wildflower garden and because of its growing requirements it should be given good drainage and at least half-days of sun.

4 comments:

  1. Saw this at wilcox Nursery and could not resist buying it, just because of the name. Who was Flyr, and why is this plant a nemesis?

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  2. Native Plant Nursury, 1661 Centerville Rd in Tallassee sells this plant. I was told there was a man doing a PhD thesis on it as the host plant for a local butterfly and he was driving here from TX and was killed in a car accident.

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  3. Native Plant Nursury, 1661 Centerville Rd in Tallassee sells this plant. I was told there was a man doing a PhD thesis on it as the host plant for a local butterfly and he was driving here from TX and was killed in a car accident.

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  4. I believe the late Dan Ward gave the common name in the mistaken belief that David Flyr (Fle-er) committed suicide because of his frustration with this plant. I was curious about this so I did some genealogical research on David Flyr. David was a PhD botanist from Texas who worked on Brickellia in south Texas and Mexico and he did hang himself in 1971. I also learned that David's older brother was still living and wrote to him about his brother. He told me that David probably would have been diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder and that he experienced bouts of depression all of his life. He had just moved to Harvard for a post doc, his piano had just been delivered (his brother said he began playing the piano as soon as he was tall enough to reach the keys), and everything looked bright. Then he experienced a depressive episode and his family moved him to a psychiatric hospital associated with Parkland General in Dallas. There he killed himself by hanging. From what I've learned, David was an excellent botanist and a fine taxonomist. His brother said there was no way that plants had anything to do with his suicide and that plants were often David's salvation. I aim to set the record straight for David's legacy. He was not killed in an accident in Georgia. Brickellia was not his nemesis. I have a lot of respect and empathy for him since I know what it is like to suffer depression. I have corresponded with Roger Hammer, and he hopes to have the common named changed soon. Thank you for helping to give David Flyr the recognition he deserves. Gail Fishman, author, Journeys Through Paradise, Pioneering Botanists in the Southeast.

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