Monday, April 20, 2015

Hairyjoint Meadowparsnip - Thaspium barbinode

Hairyjoint meadowparsnip (Thaspium barbinode) is one of two meadowparsnips found in Florida; both are rare in the state.  While purple meadowparsnip (T. trifoliatum) has been reported in 5 counties in the central panhandle (in and around Torreya State Park), T. barbinode has only been documented in Jackson County in Florida.  It is not a rare plant, however, as it occurs throughout much of eastern North America, north to Ontario, Canada.  It is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae) and it exhibits the foliage and umbelliferous flower heads distinctive to this family.
Hairyjoint meadowparsnip is a perennial that dies back to the ground in fall and reemerges in early spring.  It is an upland species, most commonly present in woodland slopes in our region of the US where it gets some protection from the summer sun.  It will not fare well, however, in deep shade. Further north, it occurs in rich prairie soils in high sun. Very little has been written about it in the Deep South, but my Florida plants do not reach the size of those in the Midwest Prairie States.  In places like Illinois and Missouri, the basal leaves may reach 12 inches long and the plants stand 4-5 feet tall when flowering.  The three plants I have in my landscape are only about half that size and likely represent the stature of those in Jackson County - though I have not seen this plant in the wild in Florida. The foliage is more than once compound (decompound), while T. trifoliatum is simply trifoliate.  Where the petiole attaches to the stem, noticeable hairs are evident at this "joint" - hence its common name.  Each leaflet is sharply toothed.
Flowering occurs in early spring. Those in our landscape begin flowering in March on 3-foot-tall stalks.  The tiny yellow flowers are arranged in circular clusters (umbels) and they attract a wide variety of small bees and other pollinators.  Small, reddish brown seeds follow about 3 weeks later.
Native carrot family species are in great demand by butterfly gardeners as larval food for the Eastern black swallowtail. Many of our native wildflowers in this family are either wetland plants and difficult to keep in a landscape, or (like most Eryngiums) not used.  This is a good exception. Though I have not yet had caterpillars on our plants, it is reported to be used in other states and I suspect it is here too. This species has just recently come into cultivation (like its cousin, golden alexander, Zizia aurea) by Trillium Gardens in Tallahassee.  Our plants have done well in our Pinellas County landscape for several years without much attention so I suspect it can be used in most of north and central Florida as long as its growing requirements are met.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Mexican Pricklypoppy - Argemone mexicana

Mexican pricklypoppy (Argemone mexicana) is an annual found primarily in disturbed sites throughout peninsular Florida.  It is also found in scattered locations throughout the Panhandle, and is documented in most states in the eastern 2/3rd's of the US.  It also has been introduced into Ontario and Alberta Provinces in Canada.
Mexican pricklypoppy might be considered an unwanted weed were it not for its beautiful flowers.  It behaves quite similarly to the true thistles in the genus Cirsium.  Plants develop from the copious seed in late winter/early spring.  A deep taproot is quickly developed as is a basal rosette of extremely spiny leaves.  Each of these leaves is about 6-8 inches long and deeply lobed.
Growth upwards begins in earnest by early spring.  Plants eventually stand 2-3 feet tall. In central Florida, full growth is achieved by mid-March and flowering commences. The bright canary-yellow blooms are several inches across and are similar in appearance to its well-known cousins, the true poppies.  Mexican pricklypoppy flowers are of great interest to pollinators.
This is a difficult plant to keep in cultivation as it spreads quickly in agreeable sites and its thorniness makes it a challenge to weed.  As it is an annual, it requires open soil around it to reseed effectively. Nonetheless, it and its white-flowered relative (A. albiflora) can make good additions to a pollinator garden if you are willing to do some thinning each year.  Plant it in open sandy and sunny areas, somewhere in the back half of the planting bed and not near a walkway or trail.  I have not seen this species offered in cultivation by members of FANN, the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, so gather some seed along roadsides or disturbed fields if you are determined to use it.