Sunday, June 30, 2013

Erect Dayflower - Commelina erecta

Erect dayflower (Commelina erecta) occurs throughout Florida and nearly all of the United States except the extreme Northeast and Far West.  This is a native species, common to a wide variety of dry upland sites. Most other native dayflowers are found in moister habitats and are not erect.
This is a perennial species, a close relative of the spiderworts and roselings, and shares the typical 3-petal flower shape. Dayflowers, as the common name suggests, have blooms that open for only one day, but produce a succession of flowers that keep plants in bloom for many weeks in the summer.  Another common name for this species is "white mouth dayflower", so named because the lower petal is white instead of blue. It also is greatly reduced in size.
Dayflowers have a somewhat complex pollination strategy, but the blooms attract many kinds of bees and other pollinators.  The seeds are produced in large numbers by late summer. The larger upper petals are a bright sky blue in color. This color is typical for this genus.
This is only 1 of 2 native dayflower species, but a great many nonnative species are common lawn weeds and residents of disturbed habitats.  All possess foliage that is somewhat elliptical, with the sessile leaves clasping the main stem. This species is the only one likely to be encountered in xeric conditions, full sun, and upright in nature.  Mature specimens bloom in mid to late summer. They typically reach a height of 18- 24 inches. 

Florida Scrub Roseling - Callisia ornata

Florida scrub roseling (Callisia ornata) (fka Cuthbertia ornata) is endemic to the scrub and sandhill habitats of the Florida peninsula, south to Collier County. Roselings are very close relatives of the spiderworts (Tradescantia spp.) and the dayflowers (Commelina spp.), both very common almost weedy genera, but roselings are diminutive in comparison and not likely to ever be encountered in your lawn. The four native species in Florida are somewhat difficult to tell apart at first glance. Florida scrub roseling is distinguished by its very thin, grasslike leaves all the way up the stem and the fact that its flower scape is held well above the nearest leaves.
Roselings are annuals. Large numbers of seed are produced the previous fall. The tiny, grasslike plants emerge in the spring and eventually they form a basal rosette of bright green leaves. Each rosette is about 2 inches across.
In Florida scrub roseling, the flower stalk eventually reaches a height of about 12 inches. The bright 3-petal pink flowers each open for one day, in succession for several weeks. These blooms are visited by a wide variety of pollinators and the ripened seed is scattered below the parent by late summer/early fall.  The flowers, above, were photographed in late June.
Roselings are not uncommon, but are difficult to distinguish when not in bloom.  Their attractive pink flowers should lend them the qualities sought for landscape purposes, but their annual nature makes them very difficult to keep in a typical mixed wildflower bed.  To persist, they need open, sandy soil and the ability to move about the bed. Since they aren't currently being propagated, it is best to simply admire their simple beauty as you hike Florida's most xeric habitats in mid-summer - a time too few of us get out to explore this amazing state of ours.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Godfrey's False Dragonhead - Physostegia godfreyi

Godfrey's false dragonhead (aka Godfrey's obedient plant) (Physostegia godfreyi) is a rare endemic, found only in the wet open savannas of the Apalacicola National Forest area - Wakulla County west to Walton County.  It is classified as a state threatened species, and it requires moist to wet soils and open sunny areas.
Like other members of this genus, it is an herbaceous perennial that develops networks of underground rhizomes. As these branch and divide, they put up multiple above-ground stems and these form extensive colonies.  Each stem arises in the spring, is quite thin and tends to blend in with the grasses and other graminoids it frequently occurs with.  The leaves of Godfrey's false dragonhead are very thin and alternate along the stem.  By early summer, they have reached a mature height of about 18 inches.
Flowering occurs in June and the weight of the blooms tends to bend the thin stalks over. As the common name implies, the individual flowers look a bit like those of snapdragons. The other common name for this genus, obedient plant, is derived from the curious trait of the blooms along the stem. If you push them 90 degrees from their existing angle on the stem, they will stay in their new position - making them "obedient." The flowers of Godfrey's obedient plant are a pale pink  with darker venation within the throat. Each is about 1/2 inch long.  Obedient plants are mostly pollinated by bees.
Though some obedient plants make excellent landscape specimens (we grow P. virginiana in our landscape), Godfrey's will never be a target for commercial production. Look for it if you are in the open wiregrass savannas and pitcher plant bogs of Apalachicola National Forest in June and early July - and then simply admire it for its rarity and simple beauty. This is one of many beautiful wildflowers found only in Florida.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chapman's milkwort - Polygala chapmanii

Chapman's milkwort (Polygala chapmanii) is one of 23 species of this widely variable genus in Florida. It has a very restricted distribution here, occurring only from the central Panhandle west.  In this region, it can be found in open wet savannas and flatwoods.  Outside of Florida, it is found from Georgia to Louisiana.
Polygalas generally are annuals. This species emerges in early spring and forms an erect stem that eventually reaches a height of 1-2 feet. It is very difficult to see, however, until the flowers open in early summer because it blends in perfectly with all the grasses, sedges, and other graminoids it occurs with.  The leaves are tiny, occur sparingly and solitary along the stem, and are filiform (grasslike) in shape.
The photographs above were taken in mid-June in Apalachicola National Forest, in an area that also included pitcher plants and Calopogon orchids..  The flowers are typical of the species, forming clustered racemes and blooming from the bottom up. Each bloom is a pale pink in color with bright yellow reproductive parts in the center. Plants in flower are pretty, but their relative small size makes them a bit less showy than many others in this genus.
Milkworts, as a genus, are not offered commercially for the home landscape. Because they are annuals, they need planting beds that allow them to reseed. I have not had success keeping any of the other more common species past one growing season, and I suspect Chapman's milkwort would be even more difficult because of its restricted habitat requirements.  Look for it during the early summer in open wet savannas, in areas where pitcher plants might be present, and admire it for its simple beauty.

Handsome Harry - Rhexia virginica

Handsome harry (Rhexia virginica) is one of ten species of meadow beauties resident to Florida. Common to moist flatwoods, and the margins of open savannas and other wetlands, it occurs across the northern tier of counties in Florida from the far west to the Jacksonville area.  This is a common species to our north, and occurs in every state east of the Mississippi River as well as the line of states immediately west of it.
Meadow beauties are perennial herbaceous plants that die back to the ground each winter, and handsome harry is no exception.  By late spring it reaches a mature height of several feet and initiates blooming.  The stems are squarish, somewhat like a mint, but these belong to the Melastoma family. They are also covered with bristly trichomes - "hairs".  The leaves of this species are opposite on the stem and somewhat variable in shape.  The plants photographed above have lanceolate leaves, but sometimes they are more ovate.  When they are linear, this species could be confused with the much rarer  panhandle meadowbeauty (R. salicifolia). The foliage of handsome harry, however, is held horizontal to the ground and the leaves are sessile and never twisted upright as they are in panhandle meadowbeauty. 
The flowers range in color from the pale form pictured above to a richer pink.  Like most other members of this genus, there are four broad petals and many long curved yellow anthers. These make the plant showy when in bloom. Pollination comes mostly from bees. Like all members of the genus, the pollinated flowers form a brown urn-shaped seed capsule that persists well after the petals have fallen. These seed capsules make identifying the genus easy throughout much of the year.
Rhexias are only occasionally offered for sale commercially.  They are undemanding, if their moisture requirements can be met.  Though somewhat forgiving of short droughty periods, it perfers extended periods during the growing season of ample moisture.  Handsome harry performs best in north Florida and other similar species should be tried further south here if you wish to add it to your landscape.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Open House at Hawthorn Hill - July 13, 2013

It's time to reduce our inventory and make space for the new seedlings I have coming up in flats..........  Nearly everything I have will be on sale, 1 day only - Saturday July 13.  Check out our landscape too!  Alexa and I would love to show you what we're up to. If you want to stop by, let us know and I'll send directions to our home in Seminole, Pinellas  I also will send a copy of my current availability list if you email me.

Silene regia - Royal catchfly - just a few left

We have plenty of butterfly plants - both larval and nectar species

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Queen's Delight - Stillingia sylvatica

Queen's delight (Stillingia sylvatica) is a common member of the euphorbia family, found statewide in Florida in upland sites such as sandhills, old fields and open woodlands.  It is found throughout the Southeastern Coastal Plain as well - from Texas north to Colorado and east to Virginia.  Throughout this range, it is often a common understory wildflower.
Queen's delight is a perennial, but generally loses its basal leaves in winter.  It re-emerges each spring and forms a rosette of leaves that can reach 12-18 inches across, though younger plants are not nearly as broad.  The leaves are elliptical, shiny, and a rich green in color.  Older plants can produce multiple stems, but younger ones have a single stem. Photos of both are shown above.
Flowering occurs in late spring and early summer.  As this is a euphorbia, the male and female flowers are produced on different parts of the stem.  The open male flowers lack petals and are formed on the top. The pollinated female flowers that are now ripening seed capsules are below in the above photographs.  Producing male and female flowers that open at different times ensures that another plant will pollinate it. 
Queen delight's odd common name is often ascribed to it's value in herbal medicine. One story tells that it was used to treat syphilis and that its value in doing so delighted the Queen as this disease was ravaging the Old World at this time.  Tinctures from the roots of Queen's delight have also been used  as a blood purifier, digestive aid, and immune enhancer.  The Creek nation is also said to have made extensive use of this herb for medicinal purposes.
Queen's delight is an interesting, but not exceptionally beautiful wildflower that has not been offered commercially by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It has only margnal value to nectaring wildlife, but the foliage is sometimes eaten by browsing animals such as rabbits and white-tailed deer. It would be relatively easy to propagate from seed if you wanted to try it. Wait for the capsules to turn dark, collect a few, and store them in a brown paper bag or other such container where they can dry. They will split when black and fully ripe, releasing the small seeds. Sow them just below the soil surface.