Thursday, June 11, 2020
Garberia - Garberia heterophylla
Garberia is a perennial evergreen shrub, endemic to the north and central portion of peninsular Florida. In this limited range, it occurs only in the well-drained sandy soils of scrub and sandhill communities. For this reason, it is listed as a state threatened species.
Garberia has a very irregular growth form. Its somewhat brittle branches bend and twist off of the main trunk and sometimes sprawl a bit across the soil surface as they do. Mature specimens eventually reach a mature height of 4-5 feet and a width of several feet more. The foliage is gray-green in color. Each leaf is oval in shape and about 1 inch in length. The leaves run up the stems for most of their length. They are somewhat aromatic and thickened, but not succulent.
Closely aligned to the blazing stars (Liatris spp.), it shares many of that genus' flowering traits. Masses of fragrant pink blooms emerge to cover the tops of this shrub in mid-fall, though it is not uncommon to see a few blooms out of its typical season. The flowers persist well for several weeks, eventually forming clusters of "fuzzy" achenes very similar to those of blazing stars. A blooming garberia is a pollinator magnet, attracting a wide variety of bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Garberia is easy to grow from seed and matures quickly, but it is not an easy plant for a typical home landscape. It is very sensitive to root rot if kept in soil that does not drain quickly. Plants that are doing well can die overnight following periods of heavy rain - especially during the typically wet months of a Florida summer. It needs to be planted in sharp sand elevated above the mean high groundwater table. If you have such an area, it makes a spectacular landscape plant. Thankfully, it is propagated by several nurseries associated with FANN -- the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.