Saturday, March 5, 2011

Carolina catchfly - Silene caroliniana

Carolina catchfly (Silene caroliniana) is extremely rare in Florida, having only been recently described for Okaloosa County in the central panhandle.  It is more abundant to our north and is present in much of the eastern third of the US, north to Vermont and west to Missouri.  It is listed as endangered in Florida. Throughout its range it is found in semi-shaded moist, but well-drained sites.
Carolina catchfly is a perennial.  In Florida, it tends to keep its rosette of basal leaves through the winter.  Active growth is reinitiated in spring, but the plants always remain short; generally no taller than 6 inches.  Mature plants may be about 8 inches across.  The foliage is dense and attractive. Individual leaves are about 1 inch long and linear.
Blooming occurs in early spring.  The plant photographed above is in my Pinellas County landscape and produced its first flower in early March.   The flowers are typical for the genus; composed of 5 petals and fused to form a tube at the base.  Each petal is a deep pink in color and slightly notched. Catchflies are pollinated by butterflies and various long-tongued bees. A mature, well-grown specimen may have several dozen flowers (or more) open at any one time and over a period of several weeks. This makes a breath-taking display of color.
I have only limited experience growing this plant in my landscape.  It has done extremely well simply grown in a landscape pot in much the same way I have grown other members of this genus.  I would expect it to be difficult in a landscape setting unless its restricted growing requirements could be met - moist, but well-drained soil and partial sun.  Carolina catchfly is currently being propagated commercially by Dan Miller of Trillium Gardens,  If you are interested in trying this beautiful and rare wildlflower in your garden, contact Dan at . 

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