Thursday, November 12, 2009

Grassleaved goldenaster - Pityopsis graminifolia

Grassleaved goldenaster (Pityopsis graminifolia) is found statewide throughout Florida in a variety of upland settings.  Once placed in the same genus with its close relatives the "true" goldenasters (Chrysopsis spp.) as Heterotheca, members in Pityopsis have grass-like leaves with leaf veins that run parallel down the length of the leaf.  Those in Chrysopsis tend to have more rounded or elliptical leaves and the leaf veins are netted.
Grassleaf goldenaster has beautiful silvery leaves with scattered hairs along the flower stalk and on the leaves themselves.  Plants are largely deciduous and disappear for a short time each winter before emerging once again in the early spring.  For most of the spring and summer, the plants exist as a bundle of silvery grass-like leaves that may stand 12-18 inches tall.  In this state, they are quite attractive in the landscape.  A flower stalk begins to emerge by mid-summer and begins to elongate.  By flowering time, individual plants can be as tall as 3 feet, but most are no taller than 2 1/2 feet.
Grassleaf goldenaster blooms later than most Florida wildflowers.  Although blooms are sometimes seen in October (especially in north Florida), plants in central and south Florida bloom most profusely in November and into early December.  Individual flowers are about 1 inch across and a bright lemony yellow in color.  Many flowers may be open at any one time and the blooms are carried at the tips of the flower stalks.
I have found this species to be especially easy to grow in the home landscape.  It is extremely drought tolerant and quite forgiving of soil and mositure conditions.  Its one drawback is its tendency to sucker and slowly spread throughout the planting bed.  If allowed to do so, individual plants will fill in open spaces and form colonies - which most often makes them more attractive instead of less so.  Their size makes them good neighbors to all but the most diminutive species.  Plant this goldenaster in the mid-portion of a planting bed and allow them to wander everywhere except the very front.  Suckers can be easily pulled and repotted if you wish to move them to a new area or to share with friends and neighbors.

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