Thursday, March 31, 2011

Annual Blue-eyed Grass - Sisyrinchium rosulatum

To be truthful, annual blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium rosulatum) is a lawn weed, but an interesting one with some beauty.  The photos above were taken in my yard - in a patch of mixed surviving turf grass and lawn weeds that Alexa and I have not quite gotten around to landscaping properly.  There has to be some kind of future project - right?
Although there seems to be a great deal of confusion regarding this species in the accounts I have looked up online, annual blue-eyed grass is not native to Florida (or anywhere else in North America), but was introduced from South America. It has become established throughout the Southeast, from Texas to the Carolinas and is found statewide in Florida.
As its common name suggests, this is an annual - producing large numbers of seed after its spring-blooming display.  The leaves are very similar to those of narrowleaf blue-eyed grass (S. angustifolium) - the species most commonly sold by commercial nurseries in Florida, except that they are more prostrate to the ground. Because of this, the plants go largely unnoticed except when in flower.
The flowers are typical of the genus, but tiny; rarely wider than 1/4 inch.  The color can vary.  Typical colors are those shown in the accompanying photos above and yellow; both forms with the same purple-lined yellow throat.
This is one introduced species not likely to take over the state and I enjoy seeing it each spring.  If it appears in your lawn, you can make up your own mind as to whether you should remove it or not.

Southeastern Sneezeweed - Helenium pinnatifidum

Many of Florida's most beautiful wildflowers have common names that do them a great injustice; this one, for example. Southeastern sneezeweed (Helenium pinnatifidum) has never caused me to stop and sneeze, but it always causes me to stop and stare.  Found statewide at the upper edges of marshes and forested wetlands and in open moist pinelands and savannas, it makes its appearance each year in late spring (March-April) when its flower stalk emerges from a small cluster of basal leaves.  Until then, it can go largely unnoticed in the understory vegetation.
The solitary flower stalk with its single bloom reaches a maximum height of 2-3 feet.  The flower itself is what sets this species apart.  Three-lobed ray petals and the broad central disc combine to create a flower several inches across.  The bright yellow color of each creates a beautiful show when this wildflower is encountered in mass.  Few flowers of this type occur in the spring so they stand out in the mostly green understory.
This is a wetland wildflower that requires moist soil to prosper.  I have never pushed its drought tolerance very far, but suspect it would tolerate a moderate amount as long as it is kept wet during the typical summer rainy season.  Southeastern sneezeweed is not offered by any nursery associated with AFNN - the Association of Florida Native Nurseries, at this time and would be difficult to find for the home landscape.  We do not propagate it at Hawthorn Hill either.  Hopefully, someone will take this plant on sometime in the future as its beauty seems to warrant it and it would add a lot to an overall wetland planting.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Carolina catchfly - Silene caroliniana

Carolina catchfly (Silene caroliniana) is extremely rare in Florida, having only been recently described for Okaloosa County in the central panhandle.  It is more abundant to our north and is present in much of the eastern third of the US, north to Vermont and west to Missouri.  It is listed as endangered in Florida. Throughout its range it is found in semi-shaded moist, but well-drained sites.
Carolina catchfly is a perennial.  In Florida, it tends to keep its rosette of basal leaves through the winter.  Active growth is reinitiated in spring, but the plants always remain short; generally no taller than 6 inches.  Mature plants may be about 8 inches across.  The foliage is dense and attractive. Individual leaves are about 1 inch long and linear.
Blooming occurs in early spring.  The plant photographed above is in my Pinellas County landscape and produced its first flower in early March.   The flowers are typical for the genus; composed of 5 petals and fused to form a tube at the base.  Each petal is a deep pink in color and slightly notched. Catchflies are pollinated by butterflies and various long-tongued bees. A mature, well-grown specimen may have several dozen flowers (or more) open at any one time and over a period of several weeks. This makes a breath-taking display of color.
I have only limited experience growing this plant in my landscape.  It has done extremely well simply grown in a landscape pot in much the same way I have grown other members of this genus.  I would expect it to be difficult in a landscape setting unless its restricted growing requirements could be met - moist, but well-drained soil and partial sun.  Carolina catchfly is currently being propagated commercially by Dan Miller of Trillium Gardens,  If you are interested in trying this beautiful and rare wildlflower in your garden, contact Dan at .