Thursday, December 26, 2019

Gopherweed - Baptsia lanceolata



Gopherweed (Baptisia lanceolata) is a pretty poor name for such a beautiful wildflower. Baptisias as a whole are wonderful wildflowers and various species come in a variety of colors. Gopherweed is one of the yellow-flowered species. This species is found in a scattered geographic range that includes counties throughout north and central Florida. It also is recorded in states just north of us - Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. Like most species in this genus, it occurs in well-drained uplands in full sun.  It is a perennial that dies back to the ground during the winter months.
Gopherweed reaches a mature height of about 3 feet. Its thick stem supports a wide crown of herbaceous branches that may spread out to 2-3 feet in width. Like most legumes, it has compound leaves in threes. As its Latin name suggests, each of the three leaflets are lanceolate in shape; about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide.
Flowering occurs in late spring. The canary yellow flowers are typical for many in the pea family - a prominent lower lip below two smaller wings. They are about 3/4 inch long and pollinated mostly by bumblebees.  Many Baptisias are important larval host plants. This plant is no exception and serves the needs of the orange and clouded sulfur, frosted elfin, eastern tailed blue, and two species of broad-winged skippers - the hoary edge and wild indigo duskywing. Because of this, gopherweed (and most other species in this genus) are important members of a native-plant butterfly garden.
Some species in this genus are occasionally propagated by native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but I have not seen this one offered. Baptisias are not difficult to propagate from ripe seed collected as the dry seed capsules start to dehisce. Scratching the seed coat tends to speed up germination. They are fussy, however, about growing conditions. If you wish to add this plant, make sure that you can provide the sunny well-drained sandy soil that it requires.

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