Sunday, February 20, 2011

Large-flowered Marsh-pink - Sabatia grandiflora

There are a dozen native marsh-pinks (Sabatia spp.) in Florida.  One of the most striking is large-flowered marsh-pink (S. grandiflora). This beautiful wildflower is found only in Florida and in one county of southeastern Alabama - making it a near endemic.  In Florida, however, it occurs nearly statewide in open moist-soil habitats such as the edges of marshes and in wet prairies and flatwoods.
Marsh-pinks are annuals and members of the gentian family. They emerge as seedlings in early spring and quickly attain their mature stature by summer.  Large-flowered marsh-pink, like most species in this genus, produces very little foliage at the base of the plant.  Its flower stalk, accompanied by a few linear leaves, eventually reaches a height of about 2 feet.  The flowers are produced at the top of the main stem and on numerous side stems also near the top.  They remain open for several days and occur for weeks during the summer months.  In large-flowered marsh-pink, these blooms are often a deep pink in color, but can be pale pink and even white.  At the base of the 5-petaled flowers, is a star-like pattern in bright yellow, outlined in red.  The green ovary with its twisted yellow stigma and style are also distinctive. The flowers attract pollinators: notice the small crab spider in the above photo on the lower lefthand petal awaiting one.
Because it is an annual and requires moist to wet soil, large-flowered marsh-pink is not an easy planty to maintain in a garden setting.  I am not aware of any nurseries affiliated with AFNN - the Association of Florida Native Nurseries, that has ever offered this or its relatives for sale commercially.  It is easy to grow, however, from the copious seed produced inside the center ovary of the flowers. Just don't attempt to add it to your landscape unless you can meet its growing requirements - moist soil and plenty of sunshine.  For the vast majority of us, just seeing these beautiful wildflowers in the wild is sufficient reward. 

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