Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Corkwood - Stillingia aquatica

Corkwood (Stillingia aquatica) is a semi-woody shrub found nearly statewide in Florida in shallow-water marshes and the edges of freshwater swamps.  It also is reported to occur in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. Unlike is close relative, Queen's delight (S. sylvatica), corkwood is an obligate wetland plant that is never found in habitats that are only seasonally wet. It also does not die back to the ground in the winter, though it loses its foliage.
Corkwood reaches a mature height of about 4 feet on thin woody stems. The bark is a dull rusty red in color. The foliage is mostly confined to the ends of the stems. This gives it a rather open aspect. The 6-12 inch-long leaves are narrow with a prominent mid-vein. The edges of the leaf margins have small, but conspicuous teeth and often are edged in red.
As a member of the Euphorbia family, the individual flowers are not especially showy.  For one, they lack petals completely. A few female flowers are clustered at the base of the 2-3 inch-long stalk while the numerous male flowers are spaced above. Flowering occurs over a protracted period from late spring to fall. The ripened seed capsules are three-parted and they "explode" when fully ripe - sending the seeds several feet away in random directions.
I have never seen corkwood offered for sale by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, though I have sowed seed here at Hawthorn Hill for sale in Spring 2018. It is a very interesting addition to an aquatic planting, but definitely not a showy one. Use it in the shallow-water margins of lake and marsh plantings. I would plant this in small clusters for maximum effect and mix it with showier wildflowers such as native canna (Canna flaccida) and iris (Iris spp.). Bees are attracted to the small greenish flowers

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