Saturday, March 26, 2016

Carolina Cranesbill/Wild Geranium (Geranium carolinianum)

Wild geranium (Geranium carolinianum) is a native weedy wildflower found throughout the state and all of the U.S. and lower tier of Canadian provinces. This wild relative of our common horticultural geraniums is a relatively short-lived annual that makes its appearance in spring and is generally gone by mid-summer.  It is common to most upland sites, especially disturbed sites and urban landscapes.
Wild geranium has the distinctive deeply lobed foliage of its showier cousins, The stems are somewhat prostrate, hairy, and rarely stand taller than 1.5 feet tall.
Flowering occurs mostly in late winter until summer. The pinkish 5-petal flowers occur at the ends of the growing stems and are only about 1/4 inch in diameter.  The flowers are pollinated mostly by small bees and quickly form beaked fruits that reach about 1/2 inch in length. The shape of these fruits is what gives this plant its other common name - cranesbill.
Wild geranium is generally considered a weed and is not propagated purposely. It's showier cousin, spotted geranium (G. maculatum)  has been reported in Florida only in Gadsden County and is listed as a state-endangered species.

Canadian Toadflax - Linaria canadensis

Canadian toadflax (Linaria canadensis) is a slender biennial common to all of Florida and to virtually all of the U.S. and Canada except the arid western plains and desert states.  This member of the snapdragon family is noticeable along roadsides and open fields  in average to upland sites and can form a light lavender carpet that covers hundreds of acres in rural pasturelands during the spring in Florida.
The leaves of Canadian toadflax are narrowly linear in shape and less than 1-inch in length. The stems reach 1-2 feet tall during the spring blooming season.  Individual plants are exceptionally thin with very short side branches.
Unlike bay lobelia (L. feayanna), the flowers are composed of 4 petals, not 5, and they are evenly spaced and distinctly rounded in shape. The petals are a light lavender with a broad white patch in the middle.  Overall, the flowers are quite small - rarely more than 1/4 inch across/wide.
Following its 1-month blooming season, Canadian toadflax quickly goes to seed and dies.
Its diminutive size and biennial nature make this species an unlikely candidate for use in landscapes. In mass, however, it makes a stunning display from afar. Look for it in spring and admire it for that quality.

Bay Lobelia - Lobelia feayana

This diminutive member of the Lobelia genus, bay lobelia (L. feayana) is common throughout much of Florida, yet endemic to the state. It is a common roadside plant, most often occurring in ditches and depressions in large masses that paint the medians and road shoulders a rich lavender in spring and early summer.  This is a plant indicative of moist soils.
Bay lobelia is a perennial that spreads by underground stems. The basal leaves (not pictured here) are 1/4-1/2 inch long and often difficult to find as this plant twines around and through other ground covers in areas frequently mowed. Even when not subjected to mowing, bay lobelia rarely stands taller than about 12-18 inches.
Like all members of this genus, the flowers are composed of five petals, the two on the top are thin and upright while the three lower petals form a broader lip. A distinct white patch is present in the middle, near the reproductive parts. Lobelias are mostly bee pollinated.
Though commonly encountered, bay lobelia is not currently propagated by nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Its small size limits its appeal as a landscape plant and its need for soil moisture limits the type of site it would prosper in.  This plant is sometimes confused with another common roadside plant with light lavender flowers - Canadian toadflax (Linaria canadensis), though the two are quite distinct on closer examination.