Monday, November 11, 2013

Camphorweed - Heterotheca subaxillaris

Camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris) is a common roadside plant throughout Florida and much of middle and southern North America.  As an annual it thrives in disturbed open habitats and can be found in a wide variety of sites.
Camphorweed emerges in the spring and rather quickly forms a basal rosette of arrow-shaped leaves that are slightly rough to the touch. The foliage is also aromatic when bruised, hence its common name.  Once the basal leaves are formed, it sends up a flower stalk that can reach three feet tall.  Multiple heads, approximately 1/2 inch across, are produced at the tops of the stems.  The heads are a rich yellow in color with a slightly deeper yellow in the center. Blooming can occur during any month, but is most common in summer and fall.  As this species is an aster, the blooms attract a wide variety of pollinating insects - especially bees and butterflies. 
Camphorweed is not unattractive, but a bit weedy in nature.  It has value in a butterfly garden, but needs to reseed to persist.  To my knowledge, it has never been offered for sale commercially by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but it would be easy to propagate from seed - collected when the seed heads are "fuzzy" as they are in the photos above.  Sow this seed no deeper than 1/4 inch and give it a bit of time to germinate.  DO not mulch it heavily if you wish to have it reseed.

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