Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Havana Skullcap - Scutellaria havanensis




Havana skullcap (Scutellaria havanensis) is found naturally in Florida only in Miami-Dade County and is listed as a state endangered species.  It is not a Florida endemic, however.  As its Latin name suggests, it occurs elsewhere, in the Caribbean, on such islands as Cuba, the Bahamas, and Puerto Rico.  In its natural range, it is found in well-drained pine rocklands. The plants above were photographed at the Naples Botanical Garden on March 8.
I do not have any cultural experience with this wildflower and what I know comes largely from the writings of South Florida's renowned ecologist, Roger Hammer, and from the observations I was able to make while touring the Gardens.  Havana skullcap is a distinctive member of this popular and widely dispersed genus, and it would be difficult to confuse it with other Florida skullcaps.  As a tropical, this perennial remains green and blooms throughout the year. The exceedingly slender stems are covered with tiny hairs that are visible on close inspection. Each stem stands no more than 12 inches tall and the ovate leaves have entire margins (no teeth) and are about 1/2 inch long.  The plants sucker, as do other members of this genus, and eventually established plants form mats.
Blooming can occur in every month if winter temperatures remain above freezing.  They have the typical skullcap shape, but are a deeper blue than many and make quite an attractive statement in the landscape.  Skullcaps are most typically pollinated by bees, but I did not observe pollinators around these plants at the time of my visit.
Havana skullcap seems to possess all the attributes that should make it an excellent candidate for a sunny wildflower garden in areas of Florida that do not regularly freeze, ,and it has recently been added to the list of native plants offered for sale by nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Association of Florida Native Nurseries.  Use it in sunny to mostly sunny areas in well-drained soil near the front of the bed and the edge of trails and walkways. 

2 comments:

  1. I would need to check my files but I believe I purchased this from Silent Natives in Homestead, Florida several years ago. It is still where I planted it and I have one in a pot. I believe other native plant people in South Florida are growing it. I did not realize it was hard to find, I will try to propagate it. I can bring you a plant next time I’m in Pinellas County.

    I personally don’t find it as pretty as some of the other skullcaps, but maybe mine isn’t in an ideal location.

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  2. Thanks, Ryan
    On further checking, I see that it has recently been listed in the FANN Plant Finder and now seems available to S FL gardeners. Though I would agree that its flowers are not quite as showy as other species I am familiar with in this genus, it is always good to have wildflowers that naturally occur in extreme south Florida in the trade. In my opinion, too few of them are currently in the trade..

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