Sunday, June 28, 2015

Scrub Balm - Dicerandra frutescens

Scrub balm is one of seven perennial Dicerandra species native to Florida.  A seventh species (D. linearifolia) is an annual. All are short-lived evergreen woody mints confined to small regional patches of yellow-sand scrub and all are extremely rare endemics, listed as federal endangered species. Scrub balm is found in extreme southern Highlands County in and near Archbold Biological Station, south of Lake Placid.
Dicerandra species all have distinctively fragrant minty foliage. Scrub balm is no exception. Its thick, glossy linear leaves are also similar to other species in this genus.  Mature plants are upright on thin woody stems that stand about 1 foot high.  Each plant forms a mound as wide as it is tall.
Flowering occurs in late summer to early fall, though some sporadic blooming can occur earlier. The plants photographed above had a few open flowers when these pictures were taken in late June. The flower shape is typical of the genus - the lower petals are fused to form a broad lip and upper fused petals curl back to form a sort-of-hood and expose the long reproductive organs.  Unlike Christman's mint (D. christmanii), the anthers are purplish to white instead of yellow. The white to pinkish petals are deeply spotted in red dots.
The genus Dicerandra is one of the most unique in Florida and showcases the state's unique geological history consisting of periods of sea level rises and falls.  Most have been protected through land acquisition and land management programs, and scrub balm has populations within the well-managed acreage of Archbold Biological Station south of Lake Placid.  They do not, however, make good additions to home landscapes as they hybridize readily with other members of this genus and they are extremely short lived.  Protecting each of Florida's unique species will come with educated land acquisition and management.  They have always been rare. They are endangered now only because of the rapid and excessive development of the state's most well-drained sandy areas.

Fragrant pigeonwings - Clitoria fragrans

Fragrant pigeonwings (Clitoria fragrans) is a rare endemic, found only in a four-county region along the Lake Wales Ridge (and adjacent ridges) in central Florida. It is federally listed as an endangered species and occurs only in excessively well-drained scrub sands. Pigeonwings and butterfly peas (Centrosema spp.) have flowers that are similar to each other, but have very different growth forms. While butterfly peas are herbaceous vines, pigeonwings are upright herbs. Fragrant pigeonwings can be distinguished from its native close cousin Atlantic pigeonwings (C. mariana) by its much wider leaves.  While those pictured above are oval, the leaves of C. mariana are linear.
Fragrant pigeonwings is a perennial that dies back to the ground in winter.  It emerges early in spring and reaches a mature height of about 12 inches.  New foliage and the slender geniculate stems are reddish in color. Like most other members of the bean family, it has compound leaves. In this family, each is composed of three leaflets.
Flowering occurs in early summer - June and July.  The large showy blooms are produced along the stems for several weeks. The five petals are a light lavender in color with darker purplish lines and a white throat.  As its Latin name suggests, the inner three petals are folded into a keel that is flanked by two outer wings - giving it the appearance of a clitoris - at least to the male-dominated taxonomic world... Pollinated flowers give rise to 1 1/2 - 2 inch beans in early fall. It is not uncommon for Clitoria to produce a second set of flower buds later in the summer that never open and self pollinate - cleistogamous buds.
Fragrant pigeonwings is one of many legumes used by the long-tailed skipper as a host plant. As such, it would make an interesting addition to a butterfly garden in scrub sand. Its small size and the fact that it does not ramble throughout adjacent vegetation, makes it a well-behaved neighbor in a mixed planting, and its attractive flowers and foliage add color and interest. It has never been propagated, however, for that purpose and its classification as a federally listed endangered species makes collecting it or its seed illegal.  Hopefully, it will someday be offered commercially for gardeners lucky enough to have scrub sand in their landscape.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rattlesnake Master - Eryngium yuccifolium

Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) occurs throughout Florida in moist pinelands, prairies, and savannas.  Though it is not considered a wetland plant in most texts, it does not persist in areas that remain too dry - especially during the summer months. Besides Florida. it is rather common to much of the eastern U.S. where it occurs most frequently in prairies and open glades.
Rattlesnake master is an herbaceous perennial that keeps its basal leaves through the winter in south Florida, but dies to the ground elsewhere.  These upright linear, grass-like leaves are up to 2 feet long, have a succulent appearance and are armed with evenly spaced soft spines - hence its Latin name.  Its common name comes from its use by native Americans in treating rattlesnake bites, but its efficacy in using its roots for this purpose is very poor.
While the foliage can be difficult to see in spring, the upright flower heads that are produced in summer are distinctive.  These can reach 3-5 feet tall and become multiply branched at the top of the stem.  Like other Eryngiums, they occur in spiny heads, each subtended by stiff bracts. The tiny white flowers are imbedded in these heads.  They attract a wide variety of pollinators.
Eryngiums are members of the carrot family, and include a few species that are used by the Eastern black swallowtail as larval food. Rattlesnake master, however, is not one of these and is useful in the butterfly garden only as a nectar source. We have grown this species in our Pinellas County landscape for many years, but it has struggled to adapt to our sometimes droughty soils.  It is often sold commercially by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but it is best used in open moist conditions where it will receive ample sunlight and water. If you can supply these conditions, it makes a showy addition to the landscape when planted in mass.

Beach Clustervine - Jacquemontia reclinata

Beach clustervine (Jacquemontia reclinata) is found in various coastal strands in four counties in extreme south Florida.  It is endemic to this region and classified as both a state and federal endangered species. The photographs above were taken in a Palm Beach County coastal scrub of plants introduced as part of a restoration effort.
Beach clustervine is a member of the morning glory family and shares many of those attributes.  Its herbaceous twining stems ramble across the open sand and intertwine with the stems of other vegetation.  Mature plants may spread many feet across.  It is evergreen and perennial in nature.  The elliptical, nearly succulent leaves alternate on the stem.  They are 1/2-3/4 inch in width and have a distinct pointed tip.
Flowering can occur all year. The plants above were blooming in mid-May. Like other members of this genus, the somewhat tubular blooms are composed of five petals. These are bright white, sometimes with a pink blush, and about 3/4 inch across.  They are attractive in appearance and draw the attention of various pollinators as well.
Though extremely rare in nature, beach clustervine is sold commercially by several nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  This is an attractive plant for beach dune projects or in landscapes with well-drained sandy soil. It is cold sensitive, however, and should not be used outside its native range.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Pride Of Big Pine - Strumpfia maritima

Pride of Big Pine (Strumfia maritima) is a perennial evergreen woody shrub, native to the lower Florida Keys as well as much of the Caribbean, parts of southern Mexico, and Venezuela. As its name implies, it was first described from Big Pine Key, and it is a coastal species found on berms and in pine rocklands.  It is a state-listed endangered species.
Pride of Big Pine can eventually reach a mature height of 6 feet, though it is often considerably shorter and salt pruned.  The linear, somewhat succulent leaves are 1/2-1 inch long and whorled along the stems. The foliage is confined mostly to the ends of the stiff branches.  These features make it an especially interesting foliage plant.
Blooming can occur throughout the year.  Racemes of small pinkish to pure white flowers form at the ends of the branches. Each bloom is composed of five petals and they surround the bright yellow reproductive structures in the center.  Pollinated flowers form spherical bright white fruit, about 1/4 inch in diameter.  The flowers are mostly bee pollinated and the fruit has some value to birds and other wildlife.
Pride of Big Pine makes an exceptionally attractive landscape plant in locations where it will not receive freezing temperatures.  Give it plenty of sun and average soil conditions. Though rare in Florida, it is grown commercially by several native nurseries in extreme South Florida.  Do not attempt it in locations unprotected from temperatures below freezing.

Florida Shrub Thoroughwort - Koanophyllon villosum

Florida shrub thoroughwort (Koanophyllon villosum) was previously included with the larger genus of herbaceous thoroughworts (Eupatorium spp.) common to Florida and the rest of North America, but has since been placed in this single-species genus. Unlike its close cousins, it is a semi-woody evergreen shrub that can reach 6 feet in height.  In Florida, it is a state-listed endangered species and native only to a few pine rocklands and hammock edges in Miami-Dade County.  It also occurs in the Caribbean.   The plant above was photographed at Mounts Botanical Garden in Palm Beach County in mid-May.
Florida shrub thoroughwort has oval leaves that are often lime-green in color, opposite each other along the reddish stems and with a slight covering of whitish hairs. The edges of the leaves are slightly toothed as well.  Flowering can occur in nearly any month, but is most frequent in autumn. A second bloom is common in the spring.  Small heads of white flowers, typical of other thoroughworts, develop on the ends of the branches. Like other members of the aster family, they attract the interest of pollinators - especially bees and butterflies. The flowers, though not especially showy, are also slightly fragrant.
Evergreen, woody asters are not common in Florida but can be used to great effect in the landscape if placed near the back edge of the planting bed. This species performs best if given ample sun and reasonably well-drained soil.  Though rare in nature, it is sometimes propagated by commercial nurseries and can be found with some sleuthing.  It is easily propagated from seed. I do not have any experience with it in my own landscape, but suspect it is only slightly tolerant of freezing temperatures.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Florida Coastal Indigo - Indigofera miniata var. floridana

Florida coastal indigo is a native perennial vining herbaceous plant with an unusual distribution. In Florida, it is found in the Florida Keys and in extreme southeastern counties of the peninsula, but it also occurs just south of Jacksonville along the northeastern coast and in Levy and Alachua Counties. This species also has been reported from Georgia and Alabama as well as most Gulf Coast states to the west, all the way to Texas.  Its range also extends throughout much of Central and South America. Its preferred habitat is coastal sandy soils - both scrub and dunes.
As it's name implies, this tends to be a procumbent species. It is a perennial herb (1-2 feet tall) that spreads out across the ground - growing as a clump that may reach several feet across. The stems and leaflets are covered with silvery hairs and the leaflets normally number from 5-7 per leaf.  Blooming can occur in every month. The carmine red blooms are quite attractive with a broad standard that can measure nearly 1/4 inch long. The flowers are mostly bee pollinated.
Indigos are so named because they have been used as dye plants throughout the world. They also are in the bean family and are used as larval plants for several species of native butterflies, in particular the ceraunus blue and Zarucco duskywing.  Florida coastal indigo is not difficult to maintain in the landscape and makes an attractive and useful ground cover.  Despite its usefulness/attractiveness, however, it is not currently offered for sale by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.

Spanish Lady - Opuntia triacanthos

Spanish lady (Opuntia triacanthos) (syn. O. abjecta) is a state-endangered species restricted in Florida to the Florida Keys.  It also is found throughout the Caribbean.  This is a mostly prostrate cactus with round pads that measure 2-3 inches across.  Specimens tend to grow outward over time and can spread several feet across, but less than 1 foot tall. As the name implies, they are often armed with stout spines, 3 per cluster.
Spanish lady produces attractive lemon-yellow flowers in late spring to mid-summer.  The photos above were taken in mid-May in a landscape in Palm Beach County.  Pollinated flowers give rise to rounded, 1-inch red/purplish fruit about 45 days later.  As in all Opuntia cactus, they are edible, but care should be taken to remove all the tiny hair-like spines beforehand.
Spanish lady is a relatively easy cactus to keep in a landscape, but care should be given to its placement.  Another common name for this cactus, Keys Jumping Cactus, refers to the ease by which the pads break off and stick to hands, legs and arms that come in contact with them.  This species should never be used near walkways or other areas where accidental contact is likely. Spanish lady is not generally propagated by nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries and it may be very difficult to find in the trade. As an endangered species, it is illegal (and wrong) to collect any part of it from specimens in the wild.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Small Woodland Sunflower - Helianthus microcephalus

Small woodland sunflower (Helianthus microcephalus) is uncommon in Florida, found only in six counties in the central panhandle, but is rather wide ranging elsewhere in eastern North America. As its name implies it is most common in upland woodland edges - not in deep shade, but in sunny patches and edges of wooded areas.
This perennial herbaceous species dies back to the ground in winter and reemerges in spring.  It quickly attains a mature height of 4-6 feet by early summer and the flower stalks form at the top of these stems.  Like many native sunflowers, the basal leaves are nearly absent once it starts growing upward. The leaves along the stem are linear and opposite each other Each leaf is lance-shaped, with a few teeth along the margin and rough to the touch.  One key characteristic to distinguish it from other somewhat similar species is its very short petiole - the stem that connects the leaf blade to the main stem.
Flowering occurs in summer.  The plant above was photographed in mid-June.  This also helps distinguish it from species that bloom in late summer to fall.  Numerous flowers are produced atop the main stems, but they are only about 1-1.5 inches across. The central disc is especially small compared to our other native sunflowers and is a good diagnostic for telling it apart from other sunflowers. These bright yellow blooms are excellent for attracting pollinators and the small seeds have value for some songbirds - as with all sunflowers.
Small woodland sunflower seems to have attracted little attention among most commercial growers, but it has recently been added to the plant list of Trillium Gardens in Tallahassee. Because of its stature, small wood sunflower makes a nice accent in a border and a good long distance feature in a larger landscape. Small wood sunflower grows in full sun to filtered shade in moist to dry soils. It tends to form a mass or clump and spreads easily throughout the garden by runners and seed.  I am excited to have it being offered and we have added it to our landscape at Hawthorn Hill with the idea of evaluating it here, outside its natural range.  We do not intend to propagate it, however, and will leave that to Dan and Vanessa at Trillium Gardens.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Philadelphia Fleabane - Erigeron philadelphicus

Philadelphia fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus) is yet another member of this genus native to Florida. It is restricted to 10 counties in the northern areas of the state, mostly in the central panhandle in and around Apalachicola National Forest, but is also is resident to nearly every state and province in North America outside of Mexico.  It occurs in a variety of open and disturbed sites of average to moist soil.
Philadelphia fleabane is mostly a biennial, sometimes a very short-lived perennial.  Its lower leaves (not pictured here) are somewhat heart shaped, but the leaves along the stem are thin and linear.  The stem is covered by rather long stiff hairs and this is one of the best clues to its identification in the field. Growth is rapid in the spring and mature plants can exceed 4 feet in height.  These, photographed in moist pine flatwoods habitat in the Apalachicola National Forest, stood well above the saw palmettos in late May.
Flowering occurs in May and early June in open panicles.  Each bloom is typical of the genus - white ray petals encircling a yellow disk, but the ray petals are numerous and quite short.  Sometimes, they are infused with pink.
All fleabanes were supposedly used at one time to ward off fleas. Philadelphia fleabane has a long association with humans as an herbal medicine.  The Cherokee and other Native American tribes used Philadelphia fleabane for a variety of medicinal purposes including epilepsy. A poultice was made from the plant to treat headaches. The roots were either made into tea or chewed to treat colds and coughs. The smoke from incense made from the plant was inhaled to treat head colds. A snuff was made and sniffed also for head colds. It was mixed with other herbs to also treat headaches and inflammation of the nose and throat. The tea was used to break fevers. The plant was boiled and mixed with tallow to make a balm that could be spread upon sores on the skin. It was used for as an eye medicine to treat “dimness of sight.” It was used as an astringent, a diuretic, and as an aid for kidneys or the gout. The Cherokee and Houma tribes boiled the roots to make a drink for “menstruation troubles” and to induce miscarriages (to treat “suppressed menstruation”). It was also used to treat hemorrhages and for spitting of blood. The Catawba used a drink from the plant to treat heart trouble.
As a garden subject, this is not as showy as some and can be a bit weedy in nature. All fleabanes are good nectar sources for small pollinators, but Philadelphia fleabane has not been offered by native plant nurseries associated with FANN  - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  For those of you that may want to add it to a wildflower garden, it could be easily grown by seed collected in mid to late summer.

Prairie Fleabane - Erigeron strigosus

Florida is home to seven species of native fleabanes. For most of us, their identification is difficult. Some of the clues needed are in the shape of the leaves, the timing of their blooming, and the number and shape of the white ray petals that encircle the central yellow disk.
Prairie fleabane (Erigeron strigosus) is common to the northern two-thirds of Florida in open habitats, including disturbed edges of roadways.  It also is found throughout all of North America south of the most-northern tier of Canadian provinces and a few arid states in the US Southwest.  As such, it is an extremely adaptable species.
Prairie fleabane blooms in late spring and early summer. Various sources list it as everything from an annual, biennial and perennial, but it acts more as an annual here in Florida.  Growth is rapid in spring and mature plants can reach 3 feet tall by May.  This species is characterized by linear basal leaves several inches in length.  The lower stems have small stiff hairs that are only really noticeable with a hand lens or by touching the stem lightly.  Another characteristic helpful in making the identification is that the linear leaves tend to be absent about halfway up the flower stalk.
The flowers are typical of the genus - white ray petals and a yellow central disk. Each bloom is about 1/2 inch across and there are a great many thin ray petals along the outside - more than 50 typically and, thus, more than most other species in this genus.
Prairie fleabane is one of the most attractive members of this species for use in a wildflower garden and it is sometimes offered by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  All members of the daisy family are valuable for pollinators and fleabanes mostly serve as nectar sources for small bees and small butterflies such as hairstreaks and skippers.  Because it acts mostly like an annual, it will need some bare ground to reseed - or light mulch.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Scrubland Goldenaster - Chrysopsis subulata

Scrubland goldenaster (Chrysopsis subulata) is yet another endemic species within this distinctly Florida genus.  Out of 11 species native to Florida, six are endemic.  Though it's name would suggest otherwise, scrubland goldenaster is most common to well-drained uplands - especially xeric flatwoods and sandhills, but not scrub.  These photos were taken in early June in a sandhill area of  Brooker Creek Preserve, Pinellas County, near its intersection with Hillsborough and Pasco Counties.  Its range in Florida includes most of the north and central peninsular counties.
Like other members of this genus, the basal leaves are densely hairy and seem silvery in color because of them.  In many species, the resulting upright stems and leaves that develop later are shiny - the "hairs" are lost, but in scrubland goldenaster the hairs remain obvious on the leaves and elongating stems, though not as densely silvery as in Florida goldenaster (C. floridana).
Scrubland goldenaster is a perennial that dies back to the ground in winter, but often retains its basal leaves.  These are narrow and somewhat spatulate in shape.  The main stem grows rapidly in the spring and reaches a mature height of about 3 feet by early summer.  The thin, twisting leaves alternate along the stems and remain conspicuously hairy.
The flower buds form at the top of the stem and form an open irregular multi-stemmed panicle by June in most parts of its range.  This early bloom time is another feature that separates it from other goldenasters.  Like other members of this genus, the ray petals and central disk are golden yellow.  In this species, the ray petals are very narrow and sometimes twisted in appearance.
Goldenasters, like other members of the aster family, are excellent pollinator flowers.  Though maybe not as showy as some other, more commonly planted genera, they sometimes are offered commercially to the home gardener.  Scrubland goldenaster has not been one of those to this date, but we hope to add it at Hawthorn Hill in 2016.  Its tolerance of a variety of growing conditions should make it a relatively easy species to maintain in a typical landscape situation and its growth habit should allow it to mix well with other species. If you are interested in this species, ask us next spring.

Coastalplain Dawnflower - Stylisma patens

Coastalplain dawnflower (Stylisma patens) is common to upland habitats throughout the northern 2/3's of Florida and also occurs throughout the Southeast Coastal Plain from Louisiana to North Carolina.  Like other members of this genus (except S. aquatica), this is a thin-stemmed vine that creeps across the ground in all directions from the main stem and bears snow-white flowers.  All four of our native white-flowered upland species are most easily separated by the size and shape of their leaves.  Coastalplain dawnflower is no exception.  Unlike the others, its leaves are extremely narrow. These are members of the morning glory family and the solitary 3/4-1 inch blooms open in the morning and start to fade by afternoon.  They are pure white and remain open for only one day.  During that time, they draw the attention of a great many pollinators - especially the small bees and wasps.
Dawnflowers are not especially showy, but the sprawling mass of crystalline white flowers can be quite attractive during the late spring and early summer months. They also are not likely to attract much attention from home gardeners as their sprawling habit requires that they be given a lot of space. I am not aware that any of our native species have ever been offered for sale by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  Despite that, I always appreciate their presence while I am hiking in Florida's uplands. Look for them.