Saturday, October 31, 2015

Scrub Buckwheat - Eriogonum longifolium var. gnaphalifolium

Scrub buckwheat (Eriogonum longifolium var. gnaphalifolium) is a very rare endemic species, found only within the scrub and sandhill habitats of Florida's central ridges - from Ocala National Forest south to the end of the Lake Wales Ridge. It listed as threatened by both the state and federal government.
Scrub buckwheat is a perennial forb that generally maintains its linear basal leaves through the winter. These leaves are 6-8 inches long, deep green in color and slightly "hairy" on the upper surface. Like its close (and much more common) cousin wild buckwheat (E. tomentosum), the undersides of these leaves are densely silvery hairy. The third photo from the top shows this.
A central flower stalk is produced in the center of this basal rosette of leaves and it can appear almost anytime from early summer to fall. Flowering is sometimes stimulated by fire, but it is not necessary. The plant above is in my landscape and began blooming in late October - without fire. The flower stalks reach 2-3 feet tall prior to the flowers opening. It is multi-branched near the top. Each branch contains 10-20 small silvery white flowers  with a yellow center. The flower stalk, flower buds, and the undersides of the sepals are covered by silky silver "hairs".
Though rare in nature, scrub buckwheat is uncommonly offered by native nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It is not an especially showy addition to a scrub/sandhill wildflower garden, but it is interesting - especially if planted in small clusters. To date, our single plant has done well in sandy soil in nearly full sun that also has various Conradina's and other scrub plants around it. In the spring, before flowering, it can be confused with wild buckwheat as both have linear leaves arranged in a rosette, with silvery undersides. If you find scrub buckwheat, do not collect seed, but simply admire it for its uniqueness.

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