Sunday, August 30, 2015

Grassleaf Barbara's Buttons - Marshallia graminifolia

Grassleaf Barbara's buttons (Marshallia graminifolia) is found throughout much of north and central Florida in moist pinelands, savannas, and the upper edges of open marshes. It is resident to the Southeast Coastal Plain and occurs from Texas to North Carolina as well. It can be distinguished from the other three native Barbara's buttons in Florida by its small linear leaves.
Grassleaf Barbara's buttons is a perennial that dies back to the ground over winter. It produces a whorl of basal leaves, 3-6 inches long in spring that are soft and spreading. From this, a solitary erect stalk arises that eventually stands 3-4 feet tall.
Flowering occurs in mid-summer to early fall. The round, button-shaped head, about 1 inch across, produces many light pink flowers that open from the bottom to the top over several weeks. All the blooms are disk flowers; there are no ray flowers along the outer edge. These pink tassels can occur in abundance in the right habitat and are quite showy. As these are in the Aster Family, they also attract the attention of pollinating insects.
For some reason, none of Florida's Barbara's button species are being propagated commercially by nurseries associated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, though M. tenuifolia is available from various native nurseries in the Southeast. There is some argument among taxonomists currently that would put this species as a variety, M. graminifolia var. cyanthera. If you purchase this variety or locate a Florida source, it requires moderately high light and moist soils - especially during the summer and early fall.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mock Pennyroyal - Hedeoma graveolens

Mock pennyroyal (Hedeoma graveolans) is endemic and found only in a seven-county area in and around Apalachicola National Forest in the central Florida Panhandle. It's narrow geographical range and very spotty distribution within it has led to it being listed as a state-endangered species. Within this range, it is most common in dry pinelands, mostly sandhills and xeric pine flatwoods.
Mock pennyroyal is in the mint family, but does not have the same strong fragrance of false pennyroyal (Piloblephis rigida) nor share the same growth habit.  It is a semi-woody evergreen sub-shrub with thin stems that creep just above the vegetation. It rarely seems to stand upright and is most often less than 20 inches tall, but with numerous stems arising from the main one. The branches and the leaves are noticeably "hairy."
The leaves are tiny and curled inward, 0.5 inches long (smaller near tips of stems), aromatic, opposite, oval, sessile, and with margins entire or slightly toothed. Though difficult to find this plant when not in bloom, it is distinctive because of these characters.
Flowering occurs in summer, May-September. The photographs above were taken 13 August and I thank my friend Eleanor Dietrich for taking me to this spot where she had previously taken her own photos. The tiny (0.5 inch long) deep pink blooms occur at the tips of the many stems and have a noticeable 3-lobed lower lip and a hood above. The "mouth" of the lower lip is deeply spotted. Like all mints, the flowers attract pollinating insects.
Mock pennyroyal is rather diminutive, but has a great many aesthetic qualities. Despite this, it is not being propagated by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, and I have never seen it offered during my 30 years in this state.  Look for it during the summer in sandy uplands when it is in bloom and simply admire it for its simple beauty. You'll have to look closely to see it, but the effort is worth it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Leconte's Thistle - Cirsium lecontei

Leconte's thistle (Cirsium lecontei) is somewhat similar in appearance to the more-widespread Nuttall's thistle (C. nuttallii), but differs in several features. For one, Leconte's thistle does not have leaves that ascend the flower stalk. It also is a bit shorter in stature and the flower stalk normally produces only a single flower instead of ending in a branched/multiple flower structure.  The two species barely overlap in geographic range in and around Leon and Wakulla Counties.  Leconte's thistle is found throughout the central and western Panhandle region of Florida. It also occurs in the Southeast Coastal Plain from North Carolina to Louisiana. It is considered "imperiled" in Georgia, "rare" in Louisiana, and of "special concern" in Mississippi.  In Florida, it is common in its rather limited range, in savannas, moist flatwoods, and the edges of open marsh systems.
Leconte's thistle is a perennial herb that dies back to its basal leaves in winter. The lower leaves are narrow - up to 12 inches long, but only about 1 inch wide. The young leaves are velvety in appearance with a dense matted covering of white hairs. The upper leaves are smaller than the basal ones, but are still long and narrow in appearance. Like other thistles, they are armed with stout spines along the leaf margins and stems.
Flowering occurs in mid-summer to early fall. The photos above were taken 13 August 2015 at the upper edge of a pitcher plant bog in Apalachicola National Forest. The leafless flower stalk reaches a mature height of 2-4 feet and the urn-shaped inflorescence is composed of light pink to pinkish purple flowers. These are quite attractive and, like all thistles, are especially favored by a wide variety of pollinating insects.
Thistles are generally considered a nuisance in the landscape because of their thorny nature and tendency to spread. As such, they tend not to be grown commercially and, in some states outside of Florida, it is even illegal to propagate them. Nevertheless, thistles have great value in a pollinator garden - managed by a gardener willing to contain them. Thistles are easily grown from seed collected in late fall and sown just below the soil surface. Leconte's thistle should not be grown outside its natural range and requires sun and moist soils to prosper.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tall Milkwort - Polygala cymosa

Tall milkwort (Polygala cymosa) occurs nearly statewide, except the lowest tiers of counties in Florida, in wet prairies, marshes, and other depressional wetlands.  It is an obligate wetland plant and, unlike others in this genus, does not persist in areas that are not consistently wet. This also is a species of the Southeast Coastal Plain and is reported from North Carolina to Louisiana.
Tall milkwort can be confused with short milkwort (P. ramosa) as both have canary yellow flowers arranged in a terminal cyme atop a single stem.  As its common name implies, however, tall milkwort is about 4 times as tall at maturity (about 3-4 feet) and the flower heads tend to be not quite as spread out as they are in P. ramosa. Both are annuals with alternate linear leaves and both produce a basal rosette of somewhat longer leaves that normally disappear as the flower stalk matures.
Flowering occurs in late spring to early summer. The plants photographed above, were in full bloom when I visited Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park on 24-25 April 2015.  The vivid heads of flowers mostly draw the attention of bees.
As an annual and an obligate wetland plant, this species is not an easy choice for the home landscape and it has not been grown commercially to the best of my knowledge. It would need consistently wet conditions to persist and about 6 inches of standing water during the warm summer months. Given the right conditions, however, it tends to produce large colonies that are strikingly attractive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Scalloped Milkwort - Polygala crenata

Scalloped milkwort (Polygala crenata) is found throughout the western Panhandle counties in Florida and in the Southeast Coastal Plain states from Georgia to Texas.  In this region it is found at the upper edges of marshes and open savannas, as well as along roadsides.
This species is an herbaceous perennial that forms many stems and has a somewhat "shrublike" appearance. It dies back to the ground in winter and reaches its 1-foot mature height by summer. The leaves are elliptical, opposite along the stem, deeply veined, and about an inch in length.
The flowers are produced in clusters in mid-summer atop each stem. Each is a rosy pink in color with a deep pink lower lip. As in many other milkworts, the two side petals are elongated and form "wings". Multiple flowers remain open at any one time and flowering occurs for several weeks.
I found very little reported on this species. It is not sold commercially, though an attractive wildflower and perennial in nature.

Hooker's milkwort - Polygala hookeri

Hooker's milkwort (Polygala hookeri) is one of 22 milkworts native to Florida. Like most, it occurs in marshes and wet pine savannas. The photos above were taken in a pitcher plant bog within the Apalachicola National Forest, Liberty County.  This species is confined to the central and western Panhandle counties of Florida, but also is reported from much of the Southeast Coastal Plain from North Carolina to Texas. It is an annual.
Hooker's milkwort is diminutive in stature and difficult to find when not in bloom. Mature plants rarely stand taller than about 12 inches and are virtually leafless except for some short linear leaves near the base of the flower stalk and scattered along the stem. Those along the main stem often occur in whorls.
Flowering occurs at the top of the stem in mid-summer. The photographs above were taken 13 August 2015. Each bloom is several millimeters across, composed of two light lavender "wing petals" beneath and attached to the stalk by a short petiole.  Where found, it often occurs in distinct clumps within the marsh grasses.
Hooker's milkwort is small, but attractive and distinct. Because of its annual nature, small size, and narrow habitat requirements, it will likely never be grown commercially. Look for it in summer and simply admire it for its uniqueness.

Stalked Wild Petunia - Ruellia pedunculata subsp. pinetorum

Stalked wild petunia (Ruellia pedunculata subsp. pinetorum) is a rare species in Florida, found only in Gadsden, Liberty, and Washington Counties in and around Apalachicola National Forest (ANF). It also has been reported in much of the Southeast Coastal Plain - from South Carolina to Texas. Throughout this region it is found in open moist pine savannas and along roadside ditches.  The plants photographed above were seen in the upper edges of a large pitcher plant bog in ANF, 13 August 2015.
Like its other close Florida cousins, stalked wild petunia is a perennial that dies back to the ground in winter.  It emerges in spring and assumes its mature height of 6-12 inches by summer.  It is not especially noticeable as a foliage plant.  The leaves are opposite each other along the stem, elliptical in shape, with a slightly wavy edge.
As its common (and Latin) name implies, the flowers occur on stalks at the leaf axils.  They are similar in color to the common R. caroliniensis, but are smaller and have an elongated floral tube.  Each flower is subtended by noticeable leafy bracts.  The flowers are mostly open in the morning hours, closing by afternoon. I did not notice pollinators using them, but suspect they are used by a great many - as in R. caroliniensis.
Very little has been written about this subspecies to date and it has been ignored in all of the Florida wildflower books I currently own.  It has not been propagated to date. Look carefully for it if you are in the region of ANF in the summer. It is an interesting member of a very interesting genus.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Whitestar - Ipomoea lacunosa

Whitestar (Ipomoea lacunosa) is one of 25 species in this commonly encountered genus. It is one of very few purely white-flowered species, however.  Native primarily to the Florida Panhandle, it also has been reported from counties in the Big Bend region and from West Palm and Miani-Dade Counties in extreme south Florida.  It also is resident to much of the eastern U.S, and in California.  In Florida, it is most commonly encountered in sun gaps within bottomland deciduous forests and the upper edges of swamps.
Like other members of the morning glory family, whitestar is a vine. This species is also an annual and it twines up and around the various plant species it occurs with. The stems are sparsely hairy and the 2-4 inch long leaves are attached to the stem with long petioles.  Leaf shape is variable, from heart-shaped to three-lobed.  The leaves alternate along the stems.
Flowering occurs in late spring to summer. The pure white flowers, 1-2 inches across, are funnel shaped and exhibit a noticeable star pattern inside the corolla.  Sometimes the flowers are tinged with pink as are the tips of the anthers. All  morning glories attract pollinators and whitestar is no exception.
For the most part, Florida's native morning glories are difficult to maintain in a formal landscape and few, except for the beach species, are propagated. Because whitestar is also an annual, it is even less likely to become commercially available.  Should you wish to try it, however, collect seed (legally) from the ripe seed capsules in late summer to early fall and sow no deeper than 1/4 inch.

Sheep or Hairy Wicky/Laurel - Kalmia hirsuta

I have not often posted woody species to this wildflower blog, but hairy wicky/sheep laurel (Kalmia hirsuta) seems more a wildflower than a shrub. For one, it's thin woody stems rarely stand taller than 1 foot above the ground and it is hardly noticeable in the understory until it blooms.
Hairy wicky is found throughout much of the Florida Panhandle and along the Eastern Seaboard north to Maine. Throughout this region, it colonizes open acidic habitats, especially ones that are moist to wet during the summer rainy season.  In these habitats, it spreads extensively by underground stems to form large colonies.
The small evergreen leaves tend to be oval in shape with a sharp point at the end. Both the leaves, stems, and flower buds are densely hairy.  They are alternate on the stems.
Flowering occurs in late spring to early summer.  The plants pictured above were found in Apalachicola National Forest in late May. Large numbers of buds are formed at the ends of its many stems. The flowers are variable in color, from deep pink to nearly white and are miniature versions of those found on the horticulturally popular mountain laurel (K. latifolia). Dark pink spots are found inside the cup-like corolla. The blooms are fragrant and very attractive to pollinating insects. The pollinated flowers form a dark hardened capsule.
Though hairy wicky is extremely beautiful when in bloom and would make an excellent ground cover in the right habitat conditions, it has never been propagated in Florida by anyone associated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries and a thorough search of the internet failed to find it available in other states as well. Seeds of this species seem to require heat stratification to germinate, but this has not limited production of other difficult species in the past. It is my hope that someone will take it on as their new horticultural project so that those of us interested in native plant landscaping can experiment with its use.

Crow Poison - Stenanthium densum

Crow poison (aka Osceola's Plume) (Stenanthium densum) is found throughout much of the northern two-thirds of Florida in moist open savannas and pinelands.  It also occurs throughout much of the Southeastern Coastal Plain - from Virginia to Texas. It is a monocot in the relatively small Melanthium family - the Death Camas.
Crow poison is a perennial forb that dies back to the ground each winter. In the spring, it first forms a whirl of long thin, needle-like leaves before sending a nearly leafless stem 3-5 feet above them. Often, large colonies of this plant are found growing together and flowering seems to be enhanced following fire.
Blooming occurs in spring. The plants photographed above were found in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in late April, but the vast majority of the plants found that day were several weeks past blooming.  The small white 5-petal flowers are attached at the top of the main stems by long stalks.  This gives them a "fluffy" plume-like appearance, especially when seen from a distance. Flowering occurs from the bottom of the stalk upwards and the older flowers tend to turn a rich rose-red as they age.  The flowers attract a wide variety of pollinators and pollinated blooms form a dark brownish capsule.
Crow poison is a member of a group of plants commonly known as the "death camas", and this species may be the most toxic of the group.  Though extremely showy when in bloom, the foliage contains high levels of several alkaloids that can kill grazing livestock.  The onion-like bulbs can also cause death if ingested.  As such, it should be planted or maintained with some caution if pets or grazing livestock are a concern. This otherwise beautiful species has never been propagated (to my knowledge) by any of the commercial nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries and I have never experimented with it in my own landscapes.  Should you have a chance to purchase it from a reputable nursery, it requires moist sunny conditions to prosper.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Croomia - Croomia pauciflora

Croomia (Croomia pauciflora) is an extremely rare herbaceous wildflower found only in two counties in and around Torreya State Park in Florida. It also is reported to occur in southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia. In this limited range, it is resident to rich, moist slope forests. In Florida, it is listed as a state endangered species. It is equally rare in Alabama and Georgia.
Croomia is easily overlooked in the forest floor flora, even when in bloom. It is a perennial forb that dies back to the ground in winter and makes an early appearance in spring.  The succulent stem can reach 1 foot tall at maturity, but is often shorter. The heart-shaped leaves arise near the top of the stem and appear whorled, though they actually alternate.  The leaves are about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide, with deep palmate veins running the length of the leaf.  In the forest floor community, this species can be mistaken for several species of greenbrier (Smilax spp.) or wild yam (Dioscorea spp.), but closer inspection easily corrects such misidentification.
Flowering occurs in early spring - late March to early April in most years.  The tiny greenish flowers are produced in small clusters at the base of the leaf blades.  Because of the leaf arrangement, these blooms are often concealed from easy view. Pollinated flowers form an egg-shaped capsule, about 1/8 inch long.
Croomia is the only member of this family (Stemonaceae) in North America, though 2 species have been found in Asia.  As such, it reflects our state's ancient floristic connection to the Orient.  Though not a subject of horticultural interest (and it should NEVER be collected), it is an extremely interesting member of our native flora. Look for it in early spring before the canopy completely closes if you are hiking in slope forest in Liberty or Gadsden Counties. It takes a keen eye to spot it and I am always excited when I do.

Cutleaf Evening Primrose - Oenothera laciniata

Evening primroses (Oenothera spp.) tend to have flowers that open in the late afternoon and close in the morning sun. As such, they are pollinated by moths. Cutleaf evening primrose (O. laciniata) is no exception to this. The photos above were taken on a cloudy/rainy day which kept them open a few hours longer than normal.  This is one of 16 species (11 native) recorded in Florida and is one of the most common, found statewide in a wide variety of upland settings. It also is reported from every state in the eastern half of the U.S. to the eastern Great Plains, and from California.
Cutleaf evening primrose is an herbaceous perennial with a rather weak stem, and it often trails just above the ground instead of being upright.  As such, it rarely stands taller than about 8 inches. The foliage is somewhat elliptical in shape; each leaf is about 2 inches long, slightly "hairy", and with noticeable teeth along the outer margin.
Flowering can occur in most months from spring through fall. The blooms are bright yellow when fully open and composed of four petals and four petal-like sepals (tepals).  As morning progresses, they begin to turn orange and the flowers close.  Pollinated flowers form a brown capsule containing many seeds.
Cutleaf evening primrose is commonly seen along roadsides and can produce quite a showy display if you happen along in the late afternoon or just after sunrise. Though showy, their blooming behavior does not lend itself to a lot of use in a home landscape - except perhaps in a "moon garden" setting. This species has not been offered commercially in Florida by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.