Friday, August 27, 2010

October Flower - Polygonella polygama

October flower (Polygonella polygama) is another interesting member of the buckwheat family and found throughout Florida in a variety of well-drained sandy uplands.  It is also found throughout the Southeast, from Texas to Virginia.  This species is relatively common throughout, though not always that noticable when not in bloom.
October flower is a perennial wildflower which spends the winter as a small cluster of small half-moon shaped leaves.  In the spring, it begins growth and sends out its semi-woody multi-branched stems in a variety of directions.  These are mostly upright and eventually reach a height of about 2 feet.  Only a few leaves are noticeable along these stems and this makes the plants appear quite wiry.
Blooming occurs in October, as the common name implies.  Like other members of the buckwheat family, each flower is subtended by a papery bract which looks like the petals.  These are bright white in color, rather small individually, but clustered together in small racemes across the ends of each stem.  For 2-3 weeks, each plant is quite showy.  These bracts then turn brown and the plants return to being rather inconspicuous.
October flower makes a wonderful addition to a sandhill/scrub/upland planting, but is not very showy by itself.  Use it in combination with other wildflowers and native grasses with similar growing needs and use it in the mid-section of the planting bed.  This is a relatively easy plant to maintain, but it does not like to be crowded.  
It also may be difficult to find from a commercial source, though it is almost always available from a few nurseries associated with AFNN - the Association of Florida Native Nurseries.  It also is easy to propagate from seed collected in early winter from roadsides.   

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