Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Flaxleaf False Foxglove - Agalinus linifolia

Flaxleaf false foxglove (Agalinus linifolia) is found statewide in moist to wet prairies, savannas, wet pinelands and the upper edges of marshes.  Unlike most members of the genus, it is a perennial. Though this can be a confusing genus in terms of differentiating the 17 native species, this one can be identified by its clasping linear leaves, its habitat, and the fact that only a few showy flowers are produced near the top of the stem.
Flaxleaf false foxglove dies back to the ground in winter. The solitary, normally unbranched stem eventually stands 2-4 feet tall by fall.  The linear opposite leaves are appressed along the stem, somewhat thickened, and 1-2 inches long.  Flowering occurs in the fall.  The showy pink to deep rose-colored blooms are similar to those of other species in the genus - lightly spotted in the back of the throat, the edges of the petals hairy, and tubular.  The flowers are of interest to pollinating insects, especially bumblebees.  Up to 20 flowers may be produced over the blooming season, but most plants produce less than half this number.  False foxgloves are often root parasites, but flaxleaf false foxglove does not seem to be.  This genus is also a larval host for the common buckeye butterfly.
None of the false foxgloves are currently being propagated by nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  The semi-parasitic nature of some, and their growth habit as annuals makes most difficult to maintain in a wildflower garden.  Flaxleaf false foxglove, however, does not share those characteristics and would seem to be a good candidate for future propagation - especially for butterfly gardeners interested in providing for buckeyes.  Until such time, however, look for this species in the fall and admire it for its simple beauty.