Sunday, June 6, 2010

False Vervain - Stylodon carneum

False vervain (Stylodon carneum) is actually a member of the verbena (vervain) family, but it differs from the true vervains in a few small details.  This is a relatively common wildflower of well-drained uplands throughout much of north and central Florida.  It also is found throughout much of the Coastal Plain - from Texas east and north to Virginia.
This is a deciduous species which appears in early spring and grows quickly to a mature height of about 3 feet.  The leaves are very similar in appearance to those of other vervains, somewhat triangular near the base with shallow teeth and becoming more linear near the top of the flower stalk. 
The stems are square in cross section (like a mint) and they and the flower buds (sepals) are noticeably hairy.  Up to five stiff and wandlike flower stems arise from the basal leaves and the flowers open between late April and July.  They are soft pink in color, held perpendicular to the stem, and are of great interest to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. 
Although many members of the verbena family have made their way into the commercial nursery trade because of their blooms and value to the butterfly garden, false vervain has been ignored.  To my knowledge it has never been offered by any of our native plant nurseries and it does not seem to be available from other sources in states near us.  I suspect it is relatively easy to grow - as other members of this family are, and perhaps someday it may be offered.  Until then, look for it in the open understory of sandhills and xeric flatwoods and be content that it is another interesting member of our flora.

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