Sunday, June 19, 2011
Highlands Scrub St. John's-wort - Hypericum cumulicola
Highlands scrub St. John's-wort (Hypericum cumulicola) is a state and federally listed endangered species confined to a few scrubs in Highlands and Polk counties along the Lake Wales Ridge. It is also one of our most unique St. John's-worts.
In some respects, this species shares characteristics with pineweed (H. gentianoides). Both species are annuals or short-lived perennials and both have few basal leaves, a main stem that produces a large number of brushy side stems, and small scale-like leaves. In Highlands scrub St. John's-wort, however, the main stem tends to be taller (up to about 28 inches) and the side branches tend to arise nearer the top of the plant instead of near the base of the stem.
Another main difference lies in the flowers. Though both species have five lemon yellow petals, those of Highlands scrub St. John's-wort are arranged as in a pinwheel. These flowers are most common in late spring and early summer.
This extremely rare plant is strictly protected and occurs in only a few of the Lake Wales Ridge scrubs currently protected in preserves. As with other Florida scrub endemics, this species is an obvious example of what makes Florida's flora so unique and deserving of attention.