Friday, March 16, 2012

Rue Anemone - Thalictrum thalictroides

Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) is extremely rare in Florida, found only in the understory of woodlands in Gadsden and Leon counties.  Though it is listed as an endangered species here, it is only because it is at the extreme southern end of its geographic range. It occurs much more commonly to our north and its range extends to Maine and Ontario, and west from Minnesota to Texas.
In Florida, it occurs in limey, rich woodland soils in the understory of deciduous forests.  It is an ephemeral perennial wildflower, making its appearance in early spring, blooming early (March), and disappearing by mid-summer.
The foliage is typical of other members of this genus - and looks a bit like that of columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). In the rue anemones, however, the leaflets are shallowly lobed and quite rounded. There are 3 leaflets per leaf. Rue anemone is more diminutive than its other Florida relatives. Mature plants rarely stand taller than 12 inches and are often shorter. 
Flowering in Florida occurs in March and is finished before April arrives. The crystalline while flowers are held on thin stalks a few inches above the foliage. The 6-petaled blooms are in small clusters and are very attractive.
Though this plant is quite rare in Florida, it is being propagated by Dan Miller of Trillium Gardens, Tallahassee and he is using it quite effectively in his home landscape within the city limits there.  Rue anemone does not require limey soils in other parts of its range and it seems to be tolerant of a variety of growing conditions.  For it to prosper, however, its needs moist fertile soil and dappled shade.  If you wish to try it outside its north Florida range, I would recommend confining it to a large landscape pot where soil fertility & moisture, as well as sunlight/shade can be kept to its needs.

Trailing Phlox - Phlox nivalis

Trailing phlox (Phlox nivalis) is a low, sprawling perennial wildflower native to much of north Florida and with a disjunct record in Manatee County.  It occurs throughout the Southeast Coastalplain as well, and disjunct, rare, populations are reported in Texas and Michigan. 
Though fairly widespread in the northern half of Florida, its distribution is sporadic. It occurs in sunny, well-drained uplands; in old fields and sandhills. Here, it forms large mounds. Many runners emerge from the central portion of the plant and they grow in all directions, hugging the ground and rarely standing more than 6 inches above it.  The runners occassionally root as they touch moist soil.
The stems are clothed in evergreen, needle-like foliage. Each leaf is a shiny rich green in color and the edges have short stiff hairs. A well grown specimen makes a striking foliage plant in the garden - even when it is not in bloom.
The flowers are similar to those of other phlox.  They occur at the ends of the stems in small clusters and are often held upright; sometimes 6-8 inches above the ground.  Each is tubular with five petals flaring out from the central tube. Color is extremely variable, from deep pink to lighter shades and sometimes with "eyespots" near the opening of the tube.  Horticulturalists have taken advantage of this variability and there are named color forms available in the trade. Flowering occurs in the spring and may last through the summer.
Trailing phlox is offered by southern nurseries in states outside of Florida, but it has never been offered here for some reason.  It is a beautiful, hardy member of a most-beloved genus of garden plants, so its lack of availablility is a mystery to me.  I currently am growing it in my Pinellas County landscape, so if it prospers I hope to make it available to others in future years.
Use trailing phlox as a ground cover near the front of a mixed wildflower bed or as a mass planting in areas near walkways and trails.  Because it is evergreen, it remains attractive throughout the year as a foliage plant and because it is low, it does not overwhelm neighboring plants or small spaces.  Keep it trimmed if you need to confine it or let it sprawl and form masses that can reach several feet across.