Sunday, September 12, 2010

Baldwin's Spiny Pod - Matelea baldwyniana

Baldwin's spinypod (Matelea baldwyniana)  is another very rare member of this genus; found only in two counties in Florida in the central panhandle (Gadsden and Jackson).  It is a state-listed endangered species.  Baldwin's spiny pod, like the Carolina spiny pod which I have also described, occurs in deciduous bluff forests where it receives sunlight in the early spring and filtered light the rest of the growing season.  It is a deciduous, weak-stemmed herbaceous vine and it rambles over and through the nearby vegetation.
The heart-shaped leaves are opposite on the stem and about an inch across and a bit longer than wide.  Flowering occurs in the spring.  The white, five-petal star-shaped flowers are produced in clusters in the leaf axils.  The pollinated flowers develop into spiny elongated fruit.
Like other members of the milkweed family, this species produces a milky sap and serves as a larval food source for milkweed butterflies.  But, because it is a forest species and occurs in the shady understory, it gets very limited use by monarchs and queens. 
The Mateleas are very interesting plants, but not likely to warrant attention from home gardeners and/or butterfly gardening enthusiasts.  As such, I am not aware of any ever being offered for sale by commercial sources.  This species is simply something to be admired and looked for when hiking in the spring in the types of habitats it may occur in.

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