Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hairy Dawnflower - Stylisma villosa



Hairy dawnflower (Stylisma villosa) belongs to a small genus of white-flowered morning glories that creep along the ground.  This particular one produces numerous wiry stems with elliptical/oval leaves, densely covered with white "hairs".  Hence the Latin and common names.  Hairy dawnflower occurs in well-drained scrubs and sandhills in many counties throughout Florida. It is also found in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia. 
All dawnflowers are perennial vines that die back to the ground in winter.  Hairy dawnflower emerges in spring and produces large numbers of stems that hug the ground and wander many feet in all directions.  The stems are grayish in color and look a bit like dead sticks.  The leaves alternate on the stem and are generally held upright - at right angles to the ground.  In this way, they reduce water loss from transpiration during the heat of the day.  This is important as this species occurs in harsh open sandy areas.  The leaves are about 1/2 inch long and covered in white "hairs."
Flowering occurs over a protracted period from spring to summer.  Like other morning glories, each bloom is open only during one morning.  They are about 1/4 inch across and crystalline white in color. The petals are "hairy" as well as the leaves.
Hairy dawnflower is easy to miss in the understory of scrubs and sandhills when it is not in bloom because of its small size, but can be quite striking when encountered in the morning in places where there is a lot of open sand.  Its rambling habit makes it extremely difficult to maintain in any kind of traditional landscape and it has not been offered commercially by any of the nurseries affilliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  It is easy to grow from seed, however, collected from the ripe seed capsules produced in large numbers along the stems.  If you wish to add it to a scrub or sandhill area, make sure you have room and give it good drainage and plenty of sun.

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