Wednesday, November 10, 2010

False Pennyroyal - Piloblephis rigida

False pennyroyal (Piloblephis rigida) is a near endemic; found only in peninsular Florida and a few counties in Georgia.   Throughout this range, it occurs in well-drained sunny locations including pine flatwoods, sandhills, and open woodlands. 
False pennyroyal is a mint and its foliage gives off an aroma very similar to true pennyroyal when bruised.  It is a short-lived perennial with thin woody stems and dense needle-like foliage.  At maturity, individuals may attain a height of about 8-12 inches and a circumference of about 12-18 inches.  These round, deeply evergreen plants are especially attractive even when not in flower and make wonderful accents in the landscape.
Blooming is mostly confined to the spring.  Rounded rabbit's foot flower heads are formed at the ends of each stem and tiny light lavender flowers occur in abundance.  Each flower has dark purple spots on the lower lip.  Because false pennyroyal blooms at a time when few other native wildflowers are available, butterflies and bees are especially attracted to them. 
False pennyroyal is adatable to a variety of growing conditions except wet soils and salt, but even in the best locations it does not live more than a few years.  In the landscape, I have not found it to reseed itself reliably and it will do so only when planted in areas with open sand and good sunlight.  Otherwise, it will have to be replanted every few years.  Use this plant in small clumps near the front half of a mixed wildflower planting.  Good companions are twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia), wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis), grassleaf goldenaster (Pityopsis graminifolia), and other scrub and sandhill mints.
False pennyroyal is widely propagated by nurseries affiliated with AFNN - the Association of Florida Native Nurseries and should be relatively easy to locate.  We have no intention of adding to our list at Hawthorn Hill - not because it doesn't have great merit, but because others are doing the job just fine.

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