Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Indian Plantain - Arnoglossum floridanum
Indian plantain (Arnoglossum floridanum) is endemic to Florida and found in sandy upland habitats in the peninsula from our northern border south to Sarasota and St Lucie Counties. While most members of this genus are wetland plants, Indian plantain requires deep sands and ample sunlight to prosper.
Indian plantain is not our showiest wildflower, but I love its foliage and overall aspect. In most winters, it loses its broad, almost succulent basal leaves and retires below ground. They emerge early and quickly form a basal rosette that is quite attractive. Each leaf is nearly round and thick, with teeth along the outer edges.
A central flower stalk is produced in late spring and reaches a mature height of 2-3 feet by late April. A broad flat umbel of flower buds are produced at this time; each bud oval in shape and noticeably keeled (winged). The first time I saw this plant in the wild, I thought these buds were the unripened seed capsules as they do not look like typical flower buds in the aster family. By early May, these buds open and the rayless tubular flowers emerge. Each is greenish white with a bit of maroon coloring in the reproductive parts. Strange, but not showy, they attract pollinators just the same.
Indian plantain has never been offered for sale commercially by any of the nurseries associated by FANN (fka AFNN), the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, and is unlikely to be added anytime soon. I love this wildflower just the same and have grown it in my Pinellas County landscape for several years. It makes an interesting addition to a mixed wildflower planting in well drained upland soils. Use it near the back half of the planting bed and combine it with other medium to tall sandhill species such as blazing star, Silphium spp., Carphephorus spp., and various asters. It is exceptionally drought tolerant and easy to maintain.
Each year, I grow a few extra of this one at Hawthorn Hill. If you are interested, let me know and I'll start a few more.