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.

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