Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Small's Jointweed - Polygonella myriophylla

Many of Florida's native buckwheats are best adapted to our driest, most well-drained soils. Small's jointweed (Polygonella myriophylla) is definitely one of those.  This endemic buckwheat is extremely rare, found only in four counties within the Lake Wales Ridge in central Florida. It is a state and federally listed endangered species and found only in scrub that is relatively open and sunny.  It disappears quickly when neighboring trees and shrubs get too thick and recolonizes after a fire when these woody plants are set back.
Also known as "sandlace", Smalls' jointweed is an evergreen woody plant that grows prostrate to the ground; its lacey red-cedar-like foliage giving the plant great grace.  The tips of the stems root where they come into regular contact with the sand and this complex system of roots helps ensure that the plant withstands periods of excessive drought.
Flowering can occur in nearly any month, but is most abundant in late summer and fall.  Small heads of white flowers appear at the ends of the stems and remain open for several weeks.  The flowers attract a wide variety of pollinators.
Small's jointweed is relatively easy to maintain in the landscape if given plenty of sun and excellent drainage.  As a groundcover in a scrub garden, it is striking and works well with many herbaceous wildflowers if not grown in crowded conditions.  Regrettably, it is only rarely available and I know of no one currently propagating it for landscape use. So, at present, we can only admire it in those few public scrub areas protected from development. 

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