Monday, June 20, 2011
Early St. John's-wort - Hypericum nudiflorum
Early St. John's-wort (Hypericum nudiflorum) is a wetland species that occurs in riverine floodplains and swamps in the central Panhandle region of Florida and in much of the Southeastern Coastal Plain. It is a deciduous woody shrub and it can reach heights of nearly 6 feet at maturity.
Overall, this is an erect shrub, with a leafless main stem that is cinnamon in color and with decidedly flaky bark. Many branches arise from the main stem, but the aspect tends to be narrow and irregular instead of rounded. The opposite leaves are elliptical, nearly 1 inch long and yellowish green in color.
The Latin name comes from the fact that the flowers seem "naked" atop the stems because the sepals are small and recurved. The common name is also related to flowering. Early St. John's-wort tends to bloom in early May, about a month before most other species. The rich yellow flowers occur at the ends of each branch in clusters. Each bloom has five petals.
We have just begun experimenting with this species at Hawthorn Hill. Our plants came from a mail order nursery near Florida and at this time I am not sure how well they will fare in west-central Florida. There are no Florida nurseries, to my knowledge, that have ever propagated this species.
Because of its size and deciduous nature, it would seem to be best suited to the edges of ponds and other wetlands. I have no experience evaluating its drought hardiness, but in our landscape it seems to perform best in partial shade.