Friday, June 1, 2018

Southern Colicroot - Aletris bracteata

Southern colicroot (Aletris bracteata) is a state-endangered species reported only from Miami-Dade and Collier Counties in extreme south Florida. It also is reported from parts of the Bahamas. Throughout its limited range, it occurs in pine rockland habitat where the soils are intermittently wet and in sunny locations.  The plants photographed above were found in May 2018 in Everglades National Park.
South Florida ecologist, Roger Hammer, reports that it can bloom throughout the year, but I have very limited experience with this specie's ecology.  Like other members of the genus, it is a perennial herb with thin leaves that emerge as a whirl from a central growing point. Each wiry leaf is less than 1/4 inch wide and may be up to 4 inches long. As the Latin name implies, the flowers are subtended by small leafy bracts.  The stalk itself can be up to two feet tall and the white flowers arise on the upper 12-18 inches. They bloom from the bottom up. Each is about 1/4 inch long and "mealy" in appearance.
This is one of five colicroot species native to Florida and the one with the most-limited distribution. None of them are currently offered commercially by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  It is very unlikely that this one will ever be a serious candidate for the home landscape. If you hike any of the pine rocklands within its range, however, look for it and admire it for its distinctiveness.

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