Friday, December 21, 2012

Seminole False Foxglove - Agalinis filifolia

Seminole false foxglove (Agalinis filifolia) `is one of sixteen closely related species in Florida.  I find them difficult to distinguish from each other, but the type of habitat you locate them in helps to narrow down the possibilties a bit.  This one occurs in well-drained sandy uplands - sandhills, coastal scrub, and xeric woodlands.  Seminole false foxglove is found statewide in appropriate habitats, but is a near endemic as its only other occurrences are to states immediately adjacent to us - Georgia and Alabama.
False foxgloves are members of the Broomrape Family; as such they are root parasites to varying degrees on their neighbors.  They also are annuals.  Seminole false foxglove emerges in the spring and reaches its mature size by late summer.  Many stems arise from an underground rhizome; each is partially erect and stands about 3 feet above ground.  A mature plant spreads in all directions and may reach a circumference of 6 or more feet.  Each stem is thin and clothed in small, needlelike leaves.  Therefore, it does not shade out its neighbors, though it drapes many of them.
Blooming occurs in fall. The flowers resemble true foxgloves in shape, but they are a deep pink in color with darker spots inside the corolla.  In this species, the outer petals have a conspicuous fringe - tiny "hairs" that make them look a bit shaggy. The blooms attract a wide variety of pollinators. Pictured above is a green metallic bee (Halictid Family). False foxgloves also serve as a larval food for comon buckeye butterfly caterpillars - pictured below.
Though Seminole false foxglove is an adaptable plant to normal landscape conditions, has beauty in its blooms, and value in the butterfly garden, they have (as a genus) never been offered for sale by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  Their annual nature makes them a difficult group to maintain in a landscape and their sprawling habit reduces the aesthetics of the plant - until they bloom.  This species, and its relatives, are best admired in the wild in fall. And, when you encounter one, look for buckeye butterflies.  They are almost always nearby.

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