Monday, November 11, 2013

Fragrant Button Snakeroot - Eryngium aromaticum

Fragrant button snakeroot (Eryngium aromaticum) is a low-growing, somewhat sprawling perennial herb native to well-drained upland habitats throughout peninsular Florida and a few Panhandle counties, as well as parts of Georgia and Alabama.  It is a rather diminutive member of this carrot family genus and for a good part of the year it takes a good eye to spot it.  It can be quite common, however, in the open sunny habitats it favors.
Fragrant button snakeroot rarely stands taller than 6 inches. For much of the year, it occurs as a basal rosette of slightly spiny deeply dissected leaves.  Over time, multiple rosettes form above the carrot-like tap root.  The stems elongate over the spring and summer and can extend several feet in multiple directions.  Flowers are produced in fall.  Multiple, spiny flower heads occur at the ends of each stem. Tiny cornflower blue flowers surround the heads. They attract extremely tiny pollinating insects and eventually form brown "balls" of spiny seeds.
Though snakeroots are members of the carrot family, most are not used as larval food by the Eastern black swallowtail butterfly. Fragrant button snakeroot is one of the exceptions - making it an excellent choice for the butterfly garden. 
Regrettably, this useful wildflower is not currently offered by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. We have collected seed this year, however, and have hopes of offering it for sale at Hawthorn Hill in Spring 2014.  It needs good drainage, full sun and a bit of space to prosper in the home landscape.  Let me know if you are interested in giving it a try.

Camphorweed - Heterotheca subaxillaris

Camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris) is a common roadside plant throughout Florida and much of middle and southern North America.  As an annual it thrives in disturbed open habitats and can be found in a wide variety of sites.
Camphorweed emerges in the spring and rather quickly forms a basal rosette of arrow-shaped leaves that are slightly rough to the touch. The foliage is also aromatic when bruised, hence its common name.  Once the basal leaves are formed, it sends up a flower stalk that can reach three feet tall.  Multiple heads, approximately 1/2 inch across, are produced at the tops of the stems.  The heads are a rich yellow in color with a slightly deeper yellow in the center. Blooming can occur during any month, but is most common in summer and fall.  As this species is an aster, the blooms attract a wide variety of pollinating insects - especially bees and butterflies. 
Camphorweed is not unattractive, but a bit weedy in nature.  It has value in a butterfly garden, but needs to reseed to persist.  To my knowledge, it has never been offered for sale commercially by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but it would be easy to propagate from seed - collected when the seed heads are "fuzzy" as they are in the photos above.  Sow this seed no deeper than 1/4 inch and give it a bit of time to germinate.  DO not mulch it heavily if you wish to have it reseed.