Monday, July 30, 2012

Sandspur/Trailing Ratany - Krameria lanceolata

This is NOT the sandspur in the grass family, though it does produce a spiny seed ball. Sandspur/Trailing ratany (Krameria lanceolata) is a member of the small Krameriaceae family, a family of 5 species mostly found in western states.  Our species occurs in most of the interior peninsula counties in the northern half of Florida and a few of the Panhandle ones. It is also found in Georgia - but skips a few states west before once again becoming present from Arkansas through Arizona and north to Colorado and Kansas.  It is not found north of this line, however.
Sandspur occurs in well-drained open habitats such as sandhills and open woodlands.  It rarely stands taller than about 6 inches, but acts almost like a vine with long thin branches that can extend for 2 feet from the deep woody taproot. The leaves are thin as well, and covered by silky "hairs". Sandspur is a perennial that dies back to the ground in winter.
Flowering occurs in late spring and summer.  The flowers have five showy rose-red sepals that could easily be mistaken for petals.  They are produced in good numbers.  The petals are small and tinged with green. The upper three petals are fused to form a hood. I do not have experience with this wildflower as a target for pollinators.
Though this species is quite attractive when in bloom, its growth habitat and its spiny seed pods do not make it a good choice for the typical home landscape.  Likely, it will always be a species to admire while hiking in the spring/summer and to avoid in fall when the seed pods are ripe.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hairy Leafcup/Bear's-foot - Smallanthus uvedalia (fka Polymnia uvedalia)

Hairy leafcup or Bear's-foot (Smallanthus uvedalia) has undergone several Latin name changes over the years. Until rather recently is was grouped with other species in the "leafcup" genus, Polymnia, and many references will have it listed under Polymnia uvedalia. As it stands now, however, it is the sole member of the genus Smallanthus. Hairy leafcup occurs widely throughout the northern half of Florida and the eastern half of the U.S. Throughout its range, it occurs in open woodlands, often in light gaps where it receives partial sun and soils that are not too droughty.
Hairy leafcup is a perennial forb that dies to the ground each winter.  After emerging in spring, it grows quickly and can reach a mature height of nearly 6 feet by late summer.  Its large tri-lobed leaves are opposite on the stems and look a bit like bear's paws - hence its other name.  It makes an attractive foliage plant.  The stout main stem is hollow and has a tendency to bend or break in severe weather.  Strong winds and lashing rains are not a common occurrence in the habitats it occurs in naturally, but are far more common in home gardens. Our plants often suffer some type of setback during the growing season, but they rapidly rebound, produce another main stem and find a way to bloom.  As such, they are very dependable.
Flowering occurs from late July through fall.  The large sunflower-type blooms are showy and attract a great diversity of pollinating insects.  Multiple flowers can occur at any one time at the tips of the main stem and the side branches near the top.
In landscape settings, hairy leafcup is fairly adaptable.  We have used it in our Pinellas County landscape for many years and have had it in bright sunny locations and locations with far more shade.  Our soils are far more droughty than those I find the plant in naturally and it persists and spreads unaggressively. Because of its height, we keep ours in the back of the garden and weed it out of places where it is too tall for its neighbors.
Hairy leafcup is only rarely offered from commercial sources in Florida.  My wife, Alexa, purchased ours years before we were married - which is fortunate as I have not run across it at retail or wholesale nurseries for several years and none list it through the growers list maintained by FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  If you wish to add it to your landscape, you may have to do some serious searching. If you find it, plant it in moderate to moist soils in partial sun if you want it to perform best.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Squarehead - Tetragonotheca helianthoides

Squarehead (Tetragonotheca helianthoides) occurs sporadically throughout the counties of the Florida Panhandle and south down the central peninsula to the latitude of Citrus and Lake Counties.  A small disjunct population also has been reported in Highlands County.  Throughout this range, it is found in sunny well-drained habitat types; especially sandhill and xeric flatwoods.  Squarehead is a species of the Southeastern Coastal Plain.  In addition to Florida, it is found from Mississippi and Tennessee, east to Virginia.
A deciduous perennial forb, squarehead dies to the ground each winter and emerges in early spring.  Its large, rough leaves are oval in shape, pointed, and with teeth along the margins.  They are opposite on the stem and clasp it. It forms multiple branches and individual stems can eventually reach about 3 feet tall. Plants may be at least 3 feet across.
Flowering occurs in late spring and early summer - making it one of the few truly early aster family species in our flora.  Individual flowers occur at the end of each stem.  The buds are large and enclosed by four sepals that give it a square shape and its common name.  The flowers are more than 1 inch across and rather showy.  Bright yellow ray petals surround a large central greenish yellow disc.  These attract a wide assortment of pollinating insects. Plants remain in bloom for many weeks.
Despite its many attractive features, squarehead is not commercially available from any nursery affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  We have been looking for a seed source for this wildflower for several years and recently were given seed by another plant collector friend who grows it in his Gainesville landscape.  If we are lucky, we will have some plants available by spring 2013.
Squarehead will tolerate partial shade, but performs best in mostly sunny locations with well-drained soils.  I have thought for a long time that this is one species deserving of greater landscape use. Hopefully, we are working toward that goal at Hawthorn Hill.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Netleaf Leather-Flower - Clematis reticulata

Florida is home to 7 species of native Clematis. Netleaf leather-flower (Clematis reticulata) is one of the few upland species, however, and found in a variety of well-drained sunny sites throughout the northern two-thirds of the state. This is primarily a southern species and also occurs from South Carolina, west to Oklahoma and Texas.
Netleaf leather-flower, in a way, is an upland version of swamp leather-flower (Clematis crispa) - a species I have written about previously.  Both are herbaceous perennials that die back to the ground in winter. Both have tendrils that they use to twine their way through adjacent vegetation, both have 3-parted compound leaves, and both species have bell-shaped flowers.  There are significant differences between the two species, however.
Habitat preferences are one of the most significant.  Netleaf leather-flower occurs in sunny uplands, sandhills and open woodlands. The above photos were taken in San Felasco Hammock in Alachua County. As its common name implies, netleaf leather-flower has deeply incised venation - much more so than swamp leather-flower. Finally, the flowers of neatleaf leather-flower are smaller and the lower petals are not curved backwards in the same way as swamp leather-flower.
Netleaf leather-flower is an interesting addition to an upland planting.  It can be used on a trellis or fence, or allowed to wind its way through neighboring foliage.  If used in the latter way, it should be planted near the front or near walkways so the small, but attractive flowers can be admired.  It is not currently offered commercially by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but I have found it several times from gardening enthusiasts and it can be found with a bit of searching.  We have recently been given some seed of this wildflower and may have some for sale eventually at Hawthorn Hill.  If interested, let us know.

Man-of-the-Earth - Ipomoea pandurata

Man-of-the-earth (Ipomoea pandurata) is one of a great many morning-glories native to Florida. Most are somewhat aggressive vining herbaceous wildflowers that wind their way through adjacent vegetation; sometimes earning them a reputation as "noxious" weeds.  This is one such species, despite its attractive flowers.  Man-of-the-earth is native throughout Florida and much of eastern North America.  In Michigan and New York, it is classisflied as a state-listed species, but in parts of the mid-South and Midwest it is prohibited to plant. Throughout its range, it occurs in well-drained upland sunny locations.
Man-of-the-earth is a perennial that dies to the ground in winter.  In spring, it emerges and its various stems may reach well more than 6 feet in length.  It uses its tendrils to anchor itself to nearby vegetation and can nearly cover it at times.  Its leaves are opposite on the stems and can be either oval in shape or lobed as the one photographed above.
Flowering occurs in summer and into the fall.  Like other members of this genus, the flowers last only one morning.  Man-of-the-earth has blooms that are white with a deep violet throat.  Each is about 2 1/2 inches across. They attract a wide variety of pollinators.
Most of Florida's morning-glories are difficult landscape species because of their aggressiveness and the difficulty in controlling them.  As such, this species has not been offered for sale commercially by FANN members and is unlikely to in the future.  However, it is easy to propagate from seed and could be grown on a stout fence or large trellis should you be interested.  It is not prohibited from planting in Florida.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pineland Butterfly Pea - Centrosema arenicola

Pineland butterfly pea (Centrosema arenicola) is one of 3 closely related species in this genus, two of which are difficult to distinguish from each other.  Pineland butterfly pea is the one most commonly encountered in well-drained upland sites. It is found in the north and central portions of penisular Florida, and because it is endemic to this region, it is one of many species unique to our state. Look for it in scrub and sandhill ecosystems. Because of its limited range, it is listed as a state endangered species.
Butterfly peas are vining herbaceous perennials.  They die back during the winter months and re-emerge in spring, eventually widing their way through adjacent vegetation and climbing upwards.  They do not have tendrils, but are very effective climbers nonetheless. 
Pineland butterfly pea, and its close cousin spurred butterfly pea (C. virginianum) have compound leaves composed of 3 leaflets. Each leaflet is elliptical/oval in shape. There are small differences in the flowers between these two species, but spurred butterfly pea is more common in less xeric habitats.
Blooming occurs in summer and into the fall.  The flowers are a light lavender with the typical fused petals seen in many pea-family species.  The lower lobe (these flowers are actually upside down) is a bit shorter and stouter in pineland butterfly pea than in spurred butterfly pea. Both species have a white nectar guide on the fused lower lip to guide pollinators to the nectar source deep inside the bloom.
Butterfly peas are not currently propagated by anyone I am aware of in FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It is not an easy species to maintain in a pot because its rambling habitat makes it want to go everywhere and they quickly become a tangled mess.  There are good reasons to grow it, however.  Butterfly peas are the larval food plant for the long-tailed skipper and their flowers are attractive to look at for months.  They are just not good subjects for a small garden.  If you find seed, they are easy to grow from it. Just be patient for it to germinate.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pitted Stripeseed - Piriqueta cistoides subsp. caroliniana

Pitted stripeseed (Piriqueta cistoides subsp. caroliniana) occurs nearly statewide in Florida and in states immediately to our north and to South Carolina, and in Puerto Rico. Throughout this region, it occurs in upland sunny locations with good drainage. In Florida, this includes sandhills and xeric flatwoods.
This is a weak-stemmed perennial that dies back to the ground in late fall and re-emerges in early spring.  Multiple stems arise from the main growing point and these tend to scramble a bit along the ground instead of being fully upright.  Each stem may extend 8-12 inches before turning upward to flower. The foliage is deep green, alternate along the stem and elliptical. Each leaf has a wavy margin and deeply inset veins.
Flowering occurs in summer at the tips of the many branches. Each flower is bright yellow and composed of 5 petals. They last for several days and are produced over time along the main stems. The flowers are not huge draws for pollinators, but they are visited by butterflies and bees.
I like the simplicity of this wildflower and we have kept it in our landscape at Hawthorn Hill for a number of years. We have found it to be easy to provide for, though a target for rabbit herbivory.  Regretably, it has not been offered for sale commercially and it would be difficult to find.  We have not grown it ourselves for sale at our nursery either, but could if there was interest.
Pitted stripeseed does best in open sunny locations, planted in small clusters or in scattered locations not too far apart from each other.  It gets lost in a mixed wildflower planting if located too far from the front of the besd or from a walking trail.

Roserush - Lygodesmia aphylla

Roserush (Lygodesmia aphylla) is a member of the aster family and found throughout much of Florida except the extreme western Panhandle and the lowest tier of south Florida counties. It is a near-Florida endemic; found outside the state only in Georgia.  Throughout its range, it occurs in well-drained upland habitats - often in areas with some disturbance.
Roserush is a perennial herbaceous wildflower that dies back to the ground in late fall. As its common name implies, it loses its basal leaves quite early in its annual growth cycle and spends much of the year as a single stalk with very reduced leaves along the stem. By early summer the single stalk may reach a mature height of 24-36 inches.
Flowering occurs atop the main stem in summer, sometimes into fall.  A single flower is produced at one time, but each stalk may produce more than one bloom by producing short side stems. These flowers are quite attractive, being lavender pink in color and nearly 1 inch across.  Like most asters, they attract a wide diversity of pollinating insects and last for several days.  Eventually, the flowers fade and go to seed.  The fluffy white seed heads send the seeds off in the breeze to germinate well away from the parent plants.
Roserush has never been commercially propagated by any nursery I am aware of associated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, and it is unlikely to be.  This wildflower is not much to look at when not in flower and it would be a tough sell to anyone other than someone already committed to purchasing it.  Despite this, we at Hawthorn Hill have grown roserush in the past by request and could again in the future.
This species looks best if planted in mass - no less than 5 plants in a cluster, and near the front half of a mixed wildflower planting.  Give it space and don't crowd it with other wildflowers or mulch it too heavily.  If provided with well-drained sandy soil and plenty of sun, roserush is not a difficult species to provide for.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Florida Scrub Skullcap - Scutellaria arenicola

Florida scrub skullcap (Scutellaria arenicola) is nearly endemic to well-drained sandy habitats in peninsular Florida and a few north Florida counties near Jacksonville, though it has been reported in parts of Georgia.  And, despite its common name, it may be more frequent in sandhills than in scrub or other other upland habitat types.
Skullcaps can sometimes be a bit difficult to tell apart from each other and this species can look somewhat like helmet skullcap (S. integrifolia) - a species that is widely sold in the trade.  These two species rarely grow side-by-side, however. Florida scrub skullcap is more confined to the most well-drained sandhills and scrubs. Look also at the leaves as they ascend the main stem.  Both species have deltoid lower leaves with teeth along the margins, but in S. integrifolia, these teeth tend to disappear on leaves further up the stem.  They remain on all the leaves of S. arenicola.
Florida scrub skullcap is a perennial forb that often overwinters as a basal rosette of arrow-shaped leaves. These leaves tend to become more linear in shape as they ascend the stem, but all leaves retain teeth along the margins and are pubescent on the upper surface. Plants quickly reach a mature height of about 8-12 inches by late June and then begin flowering at the end of the main stem.  Older plants produce multiple rosettes so they produce multiple flowering stalks. A well-grown, mature plant may have half a dozen flowering stalks. These flowers are present in late June into mid July.
Like others in this genus, the blooms are a lavender blue in color with a distinct helmet shape. The lower petal has a large white patch that serves as a nectar guide and the surfaceof the petals are "hairy." My friend and accomplished wildflower expert, Rufino Osorio, mentions in his plant blog that he has never seen this plant attract pollinators, but I expect it attracts the same types of bumble bees that my other native skullcaps lure.  I will soon find that out as we have recently added this to the list of species here at Hawthorn Hill.
Skullcaps are wonderful additions to mixed wildflower gardens, but they can spread more than desired both by seed and by underground rhizomes.  We regularly have to weed out our unwanted S. integrifolia and I suspect the same would be true for this species if its growing conditions are well met.  Rufino writes that Florida scrub skullcap tolerates a wide variety of soils and is surprisingly tolerant of high moisture for short periods if the soil is well-drained.
For some reason, this species has never been widely propagated and is not currently available from anyone associated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. This is regrettable as this species has showy blooms and is relatively easy to care for.  If we succeed with it here at Hawthorn Hill, we hope to be able to offer it to others in the near future.

Showy Milkwort - Asemeia violacea

Showy milkwort (Asemeia violacea; fka P. violacea and P. grandiflora) occurs statewide and in much of the Southeast, from the Carolinas to Louisiana.  It also occurs in some of the Caribbean Islands and into northern South America.  Throughout this range, it is resident to upland sites with well-drained low-organic soils.
Showy milkwort is a rather diminutive annual herbaceous plant, for despite its most-widely used common name, it rarely stands taller than 12 inches with thin stems, narrow elliptical leaves, and tiny flowers.  When not in bloom, plants are difficult to detect in the herbaceous understory, but its brightly colored flowers are quite noticeable as they dangle from the ends of the main stems.
Though flowering can occur in nearly any month in more tropical climates, it is most likely from early to late summer in central to north Florida.  Many flowers may be open along the main stems and they look a bit like Phalaenopsis (moth) orchids with their wide-spreading bright pink petal-like sepals and their cup-like lower lip.  The conspicuous yellow spot is actually on the upper petal. As the flowers get pollinated (mostly by small bees), they develop into small brown capsules that shed seed in late fall.
Showy milkwort has never been offered by nurseries affiliated with FANN- the Florida Association of  Native Nurseries (to the best of my memory) and would make a difficult landscape plant given its annual nature. If you find plants offered for sale or have access to seed that can be legally collected, try it in open sandy areas and do not mulch it. Because of its size, plant it near the front of a mixed wildflower bed.