Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Honeycombhead - Balduina angustifolia
Honeycombhead (Balduina angustifolia) is common statewide in upland habitats; mostly scrub, sandhill, and coastal dunes. This is a plant of the Deep South and is restricted to Florida and the states closest to us - Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Honeycombhead is a biennial. It spends its first year as a rather nondescript set of linear basal leaves (often with reddish stems) and only begins its rapid upward growth during its second spring. By late spring to summer, this main stem may reach 4-5 feet in height, with numerous side branches near the top. The lower leaves normally slough off while the upper ones remain green and linear in shape. At this stage, it is not an especially showy wildflower.
Flowering occurs any time from summer to late fall, but tends to peak in late summer. This is when this species shines. Large numbers of 2-inch-diameter canary yellow flowers are produced across the crown of each stem. Both the ray and disc flowers are yellow and even when the ray petals wilt, the disc remains yellow for weeks more. Like other members of the aster family, the flowers are very attractive to butterflies, bees, and other pollinators.
As the central disc flowers ripen following pollination they form a rather flat grayish and somewhat spiny "button" that looks a bit like a honeycomb. This disc of ripe seeds can remain intact for months atop the dead stems and keeps the seed from landing earthward until conditions are more favorable for germination in late winter/early spring.
As this wildflower is a biennial, it is not easy to maintain in a typical home landscape setting. I have had plants reseed in my garden, but it is not reliable except in locations that are open and sunny with plenty of bare sand. Therefore, it is easiest to collect the ripe seed and sow it in potting soil; transferring the seedlings to your garden in spring. Honeycombhead also is not the best species for small spaces. Because of its height and rather untidy appearance when not in bloom, it looks its best in expansive plantings, scattered in small groupings near the back or in the middle.
Honeycombhead is sometimes grown commercially and can be located with a bit of diligence. We grow it in our landscape at Hawthorn Hill from time to time, but do not have serious plans to propagate it. If you are interested, however, let me know and we might change our mind.