Sunday, August 29, 2010

Flyr's Nemesis - Brickellia cordifolia

I have previously posted a blog on this species, but wanted to update it with some better close-up photos and some more first-hand knowledge of its propagation...

Flyr's nemesis (Brickellia cordifolia) is a state-listed endangered species found in a handful of upland sandy locations in the central panhandle and in Alachua County outside of Gainesville.  It also occurs in a few locations in Georgia and Alabama.  How it got its common name is a mystery I have not yet solved, but its Latin species name comes from its heart-shaped leaves.  The leaves are opposite on the stems and toothed.
Flyr's nemesis is a semi-woody, perennial member of the aster family that dies back to the ground each winter and re-emerges again in the spring.  It produces many stems at the ground level and eventually reaches a mature height of up to 5 feet.  A well-grown plant resembles a young beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) somewhat and the stems sometimes arch over in much the same manner.  But, nothing really resembles this plant by late August to early September when it blooms.
Flyr's nemesis produces a great many heads of soft pink flowers in small clusters atop each stem.  There are no ray flowers, as in many of the asters - only disc flowers with extremely elongated styles that give each flower head a distinctive spidery appearance.  Flowering occurs for 3 weeks or more and the blooms are especially attractive to butterflies. 
Despite its natural rarity, Flyr's nemesis is not difficult to grow or propagate.  It requires well-drained sandy soils, but tolerates partial shade as well as sunnier locations.  Give individual specimens plenty of room and plant them near the back edge of a mixed wildflower garden.  This interesting and beautiful wildflower has recently been offered by a north Florida native plant nursery and we can only hope that this grower keeps it in propagation.  Currently, we are evaluating it in our gardens at Hawthorn Hill - well south of its natural range, and we hope to find that its use can be extended at least to central Florida in home landscapes.  If we succeed, we will have seedlings available next summer.  Check back with us if you wish.


  1. Wow! They look really little sea anemones on a stem. Very irresistable little puffs. Interesting that they're endangered, too! I learned something new today!

  2. Craig, the common name was, I believe, given by Dan Ward in his book on Florida endangered plants (Ward, D. B. (Ed.). (1979). Volume 5. Plants. Gainesville: Univ. Presses of Florida). If I remember the story correctly, Flyr was a student of the genus but died unexpectedly young. You would have to contact Dan W. to get the rest of the story.

  3. What a great plant; thanks for introducing it to us. I am glad you have this so I can buy some. One question: will this keep coming up if other plants are covering the ground? I ask because I'm stymied by how to have these wildflowers (tall part of the year + gone part of the year) in my yard without having a big bald spot over winter. So I was hoping that Flyr’s nemesis, giant ironweed, florida paintbrush, etc. could keep coming up through some low, airy, evergreen native plant – maybe a phlox – ?

  4. This IS a great plant. It will die back to the ground, though and leave a bare spot. That does not mean it can't be planted with others that don't. But, while it is winter, there will be no leaves in its location. I do not mind having some bare soil - it is good for burrowing bees, dusting birds, etc. Personally, I think we - as gardeners - get too stuck on "lushness" and not as easily sold on openness. Sometimes, for short time periods, having a bit of space looks just fine with me.

  5. very exciting that it can tolerate part shade - i am anxious to get your new book when it comes out + learn more about what plants can be happy in my part-shade yard. So glad to have the blog in the meantime.

  6. I purchased this wonderful plant several years a go from some friends in Georgia. I currently grow it in the Piedmont region of SC in clay based soil and it does wonderfully. Butterflies seem to love it most especially. I plan to try to propagate or purchase more for my sunny gardens in the near future.

    1. I just purchased 3 plants, and I'm thrilled that you have found success with other than sandy soil!

  7. I’m in the Panhandle and purchased some last year. I wasn’t sure if they’d make it due to the extreme cold we had last winter, but the roots lived on and at least some seeds they dropped survived as well because they’re growing in some new places this year. They lived up to their 5-ft height before the winds and rain made them stoop. I’m not sure whether to stake them in the future, try to plant something in front of them for support, or just let them do their thing. They still seem happy and blooms are beginning to open. I love them!

  8. I purchased 4 plants at a Georgia Native Sale. I planted behind my home in clay soil. All four thrived, not very large through, but did produce flower and seed. Plan to stratify and plant the seeds.


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