Saturday, October 31, 2009

Apalachicola rosemary - Conradina glabra

Apalachicola rosemary (Conradina glabra) is a member of another wonderful small genus of perennial evergreen woody mints; the Conradinas. All of them are apapted to excessively drained deep sandy soils and full sun and most are exceedingly localized in distribution and quite rare.

Apalachicola rosemary is the rarest and most localized of the group. It is a Florida endemic (only found in Florida and nowhere else in the world) and occurs in only two small populations located in two Panhandle counties. Because of this, it is listed as an Endangered species by the federal government and as Threatened by the state.

The "false" rosemaries are not closely related to the rosemary commonly used as a table herb, but they have silimilar-looking leaves. These short, needle-like leaves are quite fragrant and produce a wonderful minty aroma when bruised or crushed. Apalachicola rosemary had deep green shiny leaves that have a whitish pubescence on the underside.

These are extremely handsome plants even when not in bloom. Mature specimens rarely stand taller than 18 inches, but may have a spread of more than 2 feet. The rounded plants with their deeply green needle-like leaves make an outstanding addition to the landscape.

Flowering occurs mostly in the spring and early summer, but a few blooms can be expected any time after that into the fall. The flowers are rather showy. They are very pale lavender to almost blue, two-lipped and spotted on the lower lip. The blooms, like most mints, are especially attractive to bees, but butterflies may visit them on occasion.

Apalachicola rosemary is not currently available in the nursery trade in Florida, though it has been offered at times in the past. I have found it to be fairly easy to grow, even in Pinellas County, if care is given to its ecological needs; deep well-drained sands and plenty of sunlight. The Florida rosemaries seem to be longer lived in nature than the calamints (Calamintha spp.), but they are by no means "perennial". If you can find this species, give it a try if and only if you can give it the conditions it needs. Otherwise, be content to appreciate it in the wild.

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