Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pineland Daisy - Chaptalia tomentosa

Pineland daisy (Chaptalia tomentosa) is also sometimes called "sunbonnet", but I have not yet found a reference to explain why. The Latin name is a reference to the wooliness of both the leaves and stems.  Pineland daisy occurs throughout all of Florida, except the extreme southern tip, and in much of the Southeastern Coastal Plain from Texas to North Carolina. It is one of only two members of this genus in Florida.  The other, C. albicans, is a state threatened species found only in Miami-Dade County.
Pineland daisy is one of the state's most unique asters and can be confused with almost nothing else once you get to know it.  For most of the year, it exists as a rosette of elongated basal leaves.  Each leaf is 4-6 inches long and deep green on the surface.  The lower surface is covered by a dense mat of white wooly felt.  Over time, individual plants produce mats of multiple plants and small colonies become evident.
Unlike most asters, pineland daisy blooms in the spring.  Multiple flower stalks arise from the center of the basal leaves and each stands 6-8 inches tall.  Oftentimes, the buds are pinkish in color and the undersides of the petals may be that color also.  Normally, the ray and disk flowers are pure white. These extrude from the partially closed bud. The disk flowers themselves having a shape unlike any aster.
Pineland daisy is a wetland plant and it occurs at the edge of freshwater marshes and savannas as well as in wet pine flatwoods.  I have tried to grow this plant many times in my Pinellas landscape, but it does not adapt well to average soil mositure and it has always faded when times become droughty.  For that reason, it has been my experience that it can only be kept in soils that remain moist.  It also prefers filtered sun or some protection from full sun.
This is an interesting and beautiful wildflower and I look for it each spring if I am hiking anywhere in Florida where the trails become moist.  It is not grown commercially in Florida and is unlikely to be in the future.  It has sometimes been offered by out of state sources, but I would be hesistant to try those unless they came from an adjacent state.  This seems to me to simply be a species we should admire in the wild and appreciate when we find it.

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