Thursday, December 26, 2019

Dollarleaf - Rhynchosia reniformis

Dollarleaf (Rhynchosia reniformis) seems aptly named as its leaves are decidedly round and shaped somewhat like a silver dollar. This genus is also known as the "snoutbeans" which also is aptly named as the flowers have a decided "beak" (the Greek definition of the word Rhynchosia).  This species occurs in dry upland sites throughout much of north and central Florida. It also occurs throughout much of the Southeast Coastal Plan - from Texas in the west to Tennessee and North Carolina in the east.
These are perennial legumes that die back to the ground in winter. This species emerges in spring and forms a somewhat sprawling low-to-the-ground herbaceous plant that rarely stands taller than 6 inches. Because of this, it can be overlooked when not in bloom. Dollarleaf responds quickly to fire and prefers the open habitat that fire maintains.  The leaves are somewhat fuzzy and not compound like many other legumes.
The flowers are formed on short stems at the leaf axils and are arranged in a circular "head."  Single bright yellow flowers are generally produced one at a time within this arrangement. Each is small - about 1/2 inch long. Like many legumes, the flowers are of special interest to bees - especially bumblebees. Flowers can be produced in most months when temperatures don't fall below freezing.
Dollarleaf (and other Rhynchosias) are host plants for several skippers that use a wide variety of legumes - in particular the long-tailed and dorantes skipper.
Legumes are important nitrogen fixers and, because of that, they improve soil nutrition. They also serve as butterfly host plats and nectar sources for bees. Dollarleaf and other Rhychosias, however, have not been commercially propagated in Florida by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It is unlikely that this will change as other legumes are more "showy" and serve some of the same services as this genus. Look for this species in sandhills and open dry flatwoods.

Gopherweed - Baptsia lanceolata

Gopherweed (Baptisia lanceolata) is a pretty poor name for such a beautiful wildflower. Baptisias as a whole are wonderful wildflowers and various species come in a variety of colors. Gopherweed is one of the yellow-flowered species. This species is found in a scattered geographic range that includes counties throughout north and central Florida. It also is recorded in states just north of us - Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. Like most species in this genus, it occurs in well-drained uplands in full sun.  It is a perennial that dies back to the ground during the winter months.
Gopherweed reaches a mature height of about 3 feet. Its thick stem supports a wide crown of herbaceous branches that may spread out to 2-3 feet in width. Like most legumes, it has compound leaves in threes. As its Latin name suggests, each of the three leaflets are lanceolate in shape; about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide.
Flowering occurs in late spring. The canary yellow flowers are typical for many in the pea family - a prominent lower lip below two smaller wings. They are about 3/4 inch long and pollinated mostly by bumblebees.  Many Baptisias are important larval host plants. This plant is no exception and serves the needs of the orange and clouded sulfur, frosted elfin, eastern tailed blue, and two species of broad-winged skippers - the hoary edge and wild indigo duskywing. Because of this, gopherweed (and most other species in this genus) are important members of a native-plant butterfly garden.
Some species in this genus are occasionally propagated by native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but I have not seen this one offered. Baptisias are not difficult to propagate from ripe seed collected as the dry seed capsules start to dehisce. Scratching the seed coat tends to speed up germination. They are fussy, however, about growing conditions. If you wish to add this plant, make sure that you can provide the sunny well-drained sandy soil that it requires.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Common Yellow Woodsorrel - Oxalis corniculata

Often viewed as a lawn weed, common yellow woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata) is also a native Florida wildflower and has its merits. If it wasn't so common it just might be appreciated more. Native throughout Florida in nearly every mesic upland habitat, It also is vouchered across the US and has been introduced in every southern Province of Canada, except Alberta - and I'm betting it occurs there too.
Common yellow woodsorrel is a perennial herb that dies back to the ground in cold climates, but stays evergreen here where I reside in south-central Florida. It is a creeping ground cover that sends plantlets off of its stoloniferous stems that slowly spread outwards in all directions from the main plant. Each mature plant is diminutive, standing no more than 2 inches tall and about 6 inches across. Over time, however, each cluster of plants can occupy areas several feet across.
Woodsorrels have clover-like leaves, but they are not in the same family. While clovers are legumes, woodsorrels are in the Oxalidaceae - the oxalises.  As such, their leaves are high in oxalic acid and this makes them sour to the taste. They are sometimes used as a salad green, but too much consumption of oxalic acid can lead to health issues. 
Flowering can occur year-round in southern latitudes and from spring through late fall where regular freezes occur.  The tiny 5-petaled bright yellow flowers are attractive. The inner throat is sometimes lined with red streaks near the base of the petals. They are pollinated mostly by small bees.
Taxonomists find this species a bit confusing and some would split this species into several different ones. I do not believe that I've lived in any yard since moving to Florida 33 years ago that did not already have common yellow woodsorrel in it. There seems little reason to propagate it commercially.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Tievine - Ipomoea cordatotriloba

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Tievine (Ipomoea cordatotriloba) is one of the most ubiquitous native morning glories in Florida. Vouchered from virtually every county in the state, it occurs in a wide variety of upland habitats; especially those that have been disturbed. These photos were taken this past (2019) fall in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in Okeechobee County and constituted a new species on the Park's plant list. Tievine also is recorded throughout the Southeast Coastal Plain states from Texas to the west and North Carolina to the east.
This species has extremely variable leaf shapes. Some, like photographed above, are decidedly arrow-shaped, but others are heart-shaped with a good deal of variability within any single plant. Like all members of this genus in Florida, it remains evergreen in warm areas and deciduous in areas that routinely freeze. It also is a sprawling vine that twines itself through adjacent vegetation. As such. it extends itself for great distances in all directions from the main stem.
Flowering can occur during most months while it is actively growing. The flowers are showy, a rich pink in color with a deeper pink throat, and about 3-4 inches across. These are pollinated by a variety of insects.
Tievine, like other members of this genus, is an attractive native plant, but difficult to contain in a landscape. For this reason, few of our native species are routinely offered for sale by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It could be grown effectively on a fence or garden structure, but it would still require some regular pruning to keep it in the desired location. It would be easy to propagate from seed collected from ripe seed capsules.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Shrubby Primrosewillow - Ludwigia suffructicosa

 Shubby primrosewillow (Ludwigia suffruticosa) is a bit of an outlier among this genus with its pale yellow petals that do not lie "flat" in their open state. It also is not very "shrubby.".  This is a native herbaceous plant found nearly statewide in Florida in wet prairies and flatwoods as well as the upper edges of open marshes. This plant was photographed in early October at kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in south-central Florida. It also has been vouchered in Georgia, Alabama and the two Carolinas. 
Very little seems to have been written about this species and it is not included in most regional wildflower books. Despite its common name, it is herbaceous and rarely stands more than 2-3 feet tall. The leaves are very linear and clasp the stem. Each leaf is about 1/2-3/4 inch long.
Flowering occurs from spring through fall. Each bloom is no more than 1/4 wide. The flowers are somewhat rose-shaped, but comprised of 4 pale yellow to cream white petals. I suspect that they are mostly bee pollinated as others in this genus are. The weevils in the above photo were not pollinating the blooms.
Shrubby primrosewillow is an interesting, but not particularly attractive species. It has never, to my knowledge, been offered for sale commercially. I suspect it would be easy to propagate from the ripe seed once the capsules have matured. If you choose to try it in a landscape, make sure you are adding it to a very moist site.

Mexican Primrosewillow - Ludwigia octovalvis

Mexican primrosewillow (Ludwigia octovalvis), despite its common name, is native to every county in Florida and throughout the Southeast Coastal Plain states from Texas to North Carolina. Throughout its range, it occurs in seasonally wet open habitats such as lake edges, roadside ditches, and marshes. This is a large genus and contains nearly 30 native species as well as the very aggressive nonnative - Peruvian primrosewillow (L. peruviana). All are wetland species.
Mexican primrosewillow is not nearly as robust as its Peruvian cousin. This perennial herbaceous plant may reach 3-4 feet tall by late fall before it dies back to the ground. The foliage is elliptical and willow-like. Each leaf is about 12 inches long with decided veins. They alternate along the stem.
Flowering occurs from late spring to fall. The flowers are typical of the genus - 4 bright yellow petals with stout green sepals immediately below it, standing well above the ovary. The petals are about 3/4 inch long with a decided notch at the apex. The ripe ovary forms a distinctive seed capsule, indicative of all members of this genus. In this species, there are 8 carpals or "valves", giving it its Latin name.  The sepals remain at the top of these capsules.
Primrose willows are common throughout Florida in wet to moist habitats. They are pollinated primarily by bees and are useful components to wetland plantings. Despite this, few, if any, are routinely propagated. They are easy from seed, however. If you plant them, they are very likely to spread into suitable habitat.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Arrowleaved Duck Potato - Sagittaria latifolia



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Arrowleaved duck potato (Sagittaria latifolia) goes by a great many common names, including broadleaf arrowhead and common arrowhead. It is easily told from its close cousin, duck potato (S. lancifolia) by the noticeable difference in their foliage. While the latter has decidedly lance-shaped leaves, arrowhead duck potato has broad leaves that look like arrowheads. Arrowhead duck potato occurs in most Florida counties in wetland edges - the same habitats as duck potato, and it has a much larger natural range across North America. It is reported from all of the Lower 48 states as well as the first (southern) tier of Canadian provinces.
This is an herbaceous perennial that holds its leaves through winter in most Florida counties, but dies back to the ground (mud) north of here during the winter. Growth arises from a stout underground tuber (the "duck potato") and new plants spread from this over time - eventually forming large masses at the edges of ponds and other open sunny wetlands. Each leaf is 8-12 inches across (sometimes broader) and stands several feet tall.
The flower stalk emerges from the center of each basal rosette of leaves and the flowers open from early summer until frost. The stalks do not tend to stand as tall as they do on duck potato and the flowers are not quite as large. They are pollinated similarly, however - butterflies and bees.
Although arrowleaved duck potato is widely distributed, I see it less frequently in the field than S. lancifolia, and I rarely see it purposely added to wetland plantings the way duck potato is.  I have never quite understood why as I've added it to the edge of ponds and other wetlands here in central Florida for a number of years and it has done extremely well. Regardless, it is available in the native nursery trade.  Use it at the shallow edges of ponds and other seasonably flooded wet areas.

Duck Potato - Sagittaria lancifolia

Flower Close-up


Ripening seed capsules
Duck potato (Sagittaria lancifolia) is one of Florida's most common wetland herbaceous plant and found statewide in open wetlands, marshes, pond edges and wet open prairies. It also is commonly planted in wetland mitigation sites and in the littoral zones of created ponds. This is the case, because this is a very adaptable plant as long as its added to soils that are moist in the dry months and wet in the summer. During the extreme, it can tolerate water as deep as 2 feet for a month or two, but prefers 12-18 inches. Duck potato is also common in states to our north - it is reported throughout the Southeast Coastal Plain from Texas in the west to Maryland in the east.
Duck potato is a perennial forb that generally holds its basal leaves through the winter as long as temperatures are not too cold. It arises from a stout underground tuber, that is a food source for a few of the diving ducks. Over time, this plant spreads outward from these tubers and forms colonies. Stout lance-shaped leaves stand well above the waterline and can reach heights of 3 feet or more.
Flowering occurs during most months. The 4-5 foot tall stalks arise from the center of the basal leaves and multiple buds branch of this main stem. As in all members of this genus, the flowers are characterized by 3 broad white petals that surround a yellow center. They are pollinated by wetland butterflies, especially some of the grass skippers, and by bees. The flowers are followed by round seed capsules that are covered by small "warts."  These eventually split into 3 sections and the seeds inside are dispersed.
This is a native species widely propagated by the native plant industry. Along with pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), it is likely the most commonly planted wetland plant in Florida. As such, it makes an easy to grow addition to a lake edge planting or around an artificial pond. It will not thrive for long, however, if you can't keep it wet enough.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Grassleaf Arrowhead - Sagittaria graminifolia

Grassleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria graminifolia) is a rather diminutive member of the "duck potato" genus - one that includes several very robust species commonly planted in wetland mitigation sites. As you can see in these photos, this species could easily go unnoticed when not in bloom. Despite its small stature, however, it is a common occurrence in the wet edges of ponds and marsh systems throughout Florida. It also is widespread throughout much of the eastern two-thirds of North America.
Grassleaf arrowhead is evergreen and tends to keep its basal rosette of leaves through the winter in areas without hard freezes. This "fan" of slender grasslike leaves rarely stands taller than 18 inches and is often no more than 12. 
Flowering occurs most often during the summer and early fall, though it can occur earlier depending on winter temperatures. The flower stalk emerges from the center of the basal leaves and reaches a mature height of about 12 inches. The flowers are small - less than 1 inch across - but identical in color and structure to other members of the genus. They are mostly pollinated by bees.
Although a common component of moist to wet habitat types, it is almost never included in wildflower field guides. That space is given to the more robust & showier members of the genus. I also have never seen it grown commercially by any of the Florida native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  Its small size, however, seems to make it an excellent candidate for small wetland/bog/rain gardens where there is no real room for its larger cousins. Perhaps, it will be grown someday for those specialized settings. Until then, look for it and simply admire it for its subtle elegance. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Small Butterwort - Pinguicula pumila

 Aptly named, small butterwort (Pinguicula pumila) is a very diminutive member of this semi-carnivorous plant genus. Occurring essentially statewide, it is found in nearly saturated acidic soils and supplements its diet by capturing small invertebrates on the sticky hairs found on its leaf surfaces. These leaves are slightly rolled up, elliptical in shape and only about 1 inch long. They are evergreen and slightly yellow green in color as they hug the ground surface. The distinctive foliage of all members of this genus make them relatively easy to identify even when the plant is not in bloom. Small butterwort, however, is so small that it is easily overlooked at those times.
Flowering occurs in almost every month in frost-free areas of Florida. This plant, photographed above in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, was blooming in early October. The single blooms are held on 6-8 inch stalks and are about 1/4 inch wide. The color of the flowers is variable. While this one is a very pale lavender, they can be white to a much richer purple. They are pollinated mostly by small bees.
While many of our native butterworts are state-listed species, this is not as it is common in the right habitats. Where it occurs, it is also very common to find other carnivorous plants in association with it - especially sundews (Drosera spp.) and other butterworts. None of these are commonly available in the nursery trade and would be specialty plants for seasoned gardeners who can give them the very specific growing conditions they require. Look for them in wet acidic flatwoods, prairies and marsh edges and admire them if you are lucky enough to encounter them. 

A very poor photo of the basal leaves

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wavyleaf aster - Symphyotrichum undulatum

Wavyleaf aster (Symphyotrichum undulatum) is one of 27 species in this genus native to Florida. It is vouchered from most counties in north and central Florida, south to a line at the southern border of Polk and Hillsborough Counties. I suspect it might be present in a great many other counties in this region, but I think it largely goes unnoticed. There are no photos, for example, on the ISB website directed by the University of South Florida and it is not included in any of the many Florida wildflower books I own - and I have a great many of them. This is a widely distributed wildflower elsewhere in North America, being recorded in nearly every state east of the Mississippi River and in Quebec and Ontario north of the U.S. border.
I have only recently acquired this species for my landscape and therefore have very little firsthand experience with it. The photo above was taken of my plant that still resides in a pot. I hope to collect seed from it and use it in various locations around my landscape. Until then, I mostly have information from other sources, in other states. The reliable site maintained by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (LBJWC) states that it occurs in dry woods, thickets, and clearings. Its common name comes from its clasping somewhat heart-shaped lower leaves that have a wavy margin. A stiff flower stalk emerges from these basal leaves by summer and eventually stands several feet tall.
Like many asters in this genus, it blooms in the fall and it produces a great many flowers. Each is about 1/2 inch across. My potted plant began flowering in very late October and it is still in bloom now, mid-November. My plant has light lavender ray petals that surround a yellow disk, but the LBJWC states that the flower color is variable and that the ray petals can vary from nearly white to a rich lavender.
Asters of this genus serve as the larval host for pearl crescent butterflies and they are remarkable magnets for pollinating insects of all types. I hope to be able to add this seemingly versatile aster to my landscape and my nursery by next spring. If you live outside of Florida, I suspect that there are native plant nurseries that offer it or its seeds. We are a bit behind here in propagating Symphyotrichum asters commercially.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Hartwrightia - Hartwrightia floridana

Flowers close-up
Flower stalk
Hartwrightia (Hartwrightia floridana) is a state-threatened species found throughout various counties in north and central Florida, in the central counties and not along either coast. It also is reported in Georgia where it is vouchered from 4 counties in the extreme southeastern corner adjacent to Florida. This is the only species in this genus and a member of the Asteraceae. Throughout its limited range, it is quite specific in its habitat requirements. It occurs in wet open habitats - flatwoods, prairies, and seepage slopes - most often in areas also dominated by cutthroat grass (Coleataenia abscissa). 
Hartwrighia emerges in early spring and forms a wide-spreading rosette of basal leaves. These leaves are 6-10 inches long, oval, with noticeable veins. I have posted a photograph below. A flower stem rises from these leaves and eventually reaches 3-4 feet by its fall blooming time. One unique feature of this plant is that its leaves, flower stem and flower buds are covered by noticeably sticky glands.

Basal leaves in fall
Flowering occurs on the tall flower stalks in October and into very early November. They occur in small umbels, each containing several dozen individual tubular flowers. The arrangement is quite similar to that of vanilla plant (Carphephorus odoratissimus), but Hartwrightia is a delicate pink in color and quite distinct.
I have not seen pollinators using this species, but suspect it attracts the same types as other aster relatives. It also has never been offered for sale by any of the native plant nurseries I am familiar with. This would be an interesting and beautiful species in the right type of landscape and perhaps it will someday be offered. Although I have not grown it myself, I suspect it would require high levels of sunlight and reliably moist soil.

Habitat in Polk County, Florida

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Low Rattlebox - Crotalaria maritima

Low rattlebox (Crotalaria maritima) is often considered to be a variant of the common rabbitbells (C. rotundifolia), but it is distinctive and considered a separate species by other taxonomists. Its very distinctive foliage leads me to agree with those that keep these two as separate species. Because of the confusion regarding its status, it is difficult to pinpoint its exact range in Florida and elsewhere. It seems to occur sporadically throughout Florida and there are records from 2 counties in extreme southern Alabama adjacent to Florida.
While the flowers of both species are indistinguishable, it has a different growth form and foliage. While rabbitbells has distinctly rounded leaves, the leaves of low rattlebox are linear, Each leaf is about an inch long and opposite on the stems. This perennial ground cover produces multiple stems that range about 12- 18 inches from the main stem.  They reach only about 6 inches above the ground.
The bright yellow flowers are produced at the ends of these stems and tend to open in the afternoon for a day. They are visited by bees. Pollinated flowers produce a rounded "pea" that turns black in color before splitting open to scatter the seeds. These are a favored food of seed-eating birds such as doves and quail. 
Although this species is most-often lumped together with rabbitbells, look for it in well-drained sunny habitats. This specimen was photographed in a sandhill understory in the Ocala National Forest in Polk County.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Spiked Hoarypea - Tephrosis spicata

Spiked hoarypeas (Tephrosia spicata) is a species with somewhat confused attributes as its flower buds are red, its flowers start out white when they first open in the morning and turn bright red by afternoon. Therefore, it is a difficult plant to ID simply from its flowers and/or from wildflower books with photographs that don't show this metamorphosis.
This is a species of open, well-drained habitats throughout the state, except for the Florida Keys. It also is reported from the entire Southeastern Coastal Plain from Louisiana up to Maryland on the East Coast. These photographs were taken in sandhill habitat within Ocala National Forest.
Spiked hoarypea is a perennial ground cover that emerges in the spring and sends its long thin stems in multiple directions across the ground.  Like other hoarypeas, the stems, leaves and even the flowers are covered in soft hairs.  Each of its compound leaves are composed of 5-15 oval leaflets and reach a length of almost 1 inch. 
As stated above, the flowers are white when they first open in the morning and turn bright red by afternoon. Each bloom is open for a day and they generally occur as pairs on the leaf stem.  Like most members of the legume family, the upper petal is broad and partially covers the fused petals of the lower lip. Each bloom at about 1/2 inch long. Blooming can occur from late spring until mid-fall. Bees are especially interested as pollinators, but it also is used as a host plant by the northern cloudywing skipper.  The seeds, like all legumes, are excellent food for birds such as quail and doves.
For the most part, members of this genus are not propagated by members of the Florida Association of Native Plant Nurseries (FANN) and their somewhat diminutive size and less-than-overwhelming floral display make them a group with limited appeal to the general landscaping public. Their usefulness in a wildlife garden, however, should make then more widely offered. This is not one of the hoarypeas that is currently being propagated at Hawthorn Hill.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Florida Sunflower - Helianthus floridanus

The genus Helianthus is aptly named as Helios was the God of the Sun in ancient Greek culture. There are 16 native species of sunflowers in Florida. Many of them are quite similar in appearance and difficult for the novice to distinguish from each other. Florida sunflower (H. floridanus) is one of those in my opinion. This sunflower shares some of the same characteristics as the common narrow-leaved sunflower (H. angustifolius), but has foliage that differs substantially.
Florida sunflower is a wetland perennial, though it can be found in moist habitats as well. It has been vouchered from Northeast Florida, from the Jacksonville area south to Osceola County. It has not been reported from this region west of the central counties. It also occurs in a four-state region north of us - Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas. There also are records from Louisiana. 
Florida sunflower is a large robust species that may reach 5-6 feet in height by its late-summer blooming season. It has distinctive wide leathery basal leaves that emerge in early spring. Each is about 6-8 inches long and several inches wide. They are deep green in color and glossy in appearance. Multiple branched stems arise from these leaves. Like most sunflowers, it spreads to form colonies that can become extensive over time.
Flowering occurs in late summer and early fall. The showy yellow ray petals surround a disk of yellow disk flowers. The petals are similar to those of narrow-leaved sunflower, but a bit narrower. They attract a wide variety of pollinators.
Florida sunflower grows best in sunny moist habitats. As a landscape plant it needs a lot of room as it spreads by underground rhizomes and its large size tends to overwhelm less-robust species. I have used it quite successfully in central Florida in plantings at the edge of lakes and wetlands, however. This species is only occasionally offered for sale by native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries and it may take some sleuthing to locate plants for sale. I do not intend to add it to the species I offer here at Hawthorn Hill, but I could change my mind if I felt that there was a demand.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Earred Tickseed - Coreopsis auriculata

Flower while the plant was still in the pot
Foliage of the above, planted in my landscape

Native, or not?  Earred tickseed (Coreopsis auriculata) is not listed on the ISBN site, Florida Plant Atlas, maintained by the University of South Florida, but others list it as such. It was recorded in Florida from one site near a powerline pole in extreme north Florida, but subsequent trips to that site in recent years have failed to rediscover it. Chances are it was "managed" by the utility company out of existence. I have chosen to label it as a Florida native that seems to have been extirpated. This species is rather common to our north, however, being recorded throughout the Southeast Coastal Plain from Louisiana to the Virginias. In these areas, it is found most often in moist open habitats.
I was fortunate in locating this species from a native plant nursery in north Florida and the photos above are from this plant. To date, it has prospered and spread in my new landscape - in full sun and in the moistest part of my new wildflower planting here in west-central Florida.
Earred tickseed is a beautiful, but rather diminutive species. As its Latin and common names suggest, the foliage is distinctively "earred". Each leaf is deep green and glossy, about 2 inches in length, and often lobed near the petiole with two smaller lobes off of the main one. Mature plants rarely stand taller than about 6 inches when not in bloom. In my landscape, it is an evergreen perennial. Plants form side stems and, over time, it becomes a clump that can extend over a foot in width.
Blooming occurs over a several week period in late spring. The flowers are large considering the size of the plant. Each deeply yellow flower head is several inches across and is very glossy. As with most composites, the flowers attract a wide diversity of pollinators.
I hope that this species makes it into the native plant trade here in Florida and that the plant I purchased was not just a lucky break. I also hope to collect seed from my plant next spring and make it available from Hawthorn Hill. Stayed tuned if you are interested - or search for it from native plant nurseries in Georgia or Alabama.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Smooth Blue Aster - Symphyotrichum laeve

There are nearly 30 species of Symphyotrichum asters native to Florida. Some are widespread, but a good many are species with extremely limited natural ranges here - species more common north of us and  ones that have snuck over our border in just a few locations. Smooth blue aster (S. laeve) is one of those. It is vouchered only from Jackson County, west of Tallahassee along the Georgia border. It is widespread north of us, however, and occurs in most states east of the Mississippi River. 
As its common name suggests, this species has smooth leaves and stems - without trichomes (hairs) of any kind. It is a perennial that dies back to the ground each winter and emerges early in spring, eventually reaching a mature height of about 3 feet.  The distinctive leaves are sessile to the stem, wrapping around it in a heart-shaped pattern. The leaves are alternate along the stem, about 1/2 inch wide and 2-3 inches long - becoming smaller as they go up the stems.
Many aster flowers are light blue with yellow disk flowers and this is no exception. These are especially attractive however. The photo above does not do them justice and I hope to get better ones as this plant matures. Each composite flower head is about 1/2 - 3/4 inch wide. A great many of them are produced in late summer to fall at the top of each stem.
This is a species of well-drained open habitats. Over the past few years, I have made a concerted effort to add Symphyotrichum asters to my home landscape and to what I can offer at Hawthorn Hill. All are exceptional at attracting pollinators and I find them to be equally attractive to my eye as well.  Historically, very few of these asters has been cultivated by native nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Currently, I have about a dozen species here in my landscape at Hawthorn Hill and I was very excited to find this one for sale recently at The Native Nurseries of Tallahassee. It is reportedly being grown at Superior Trees, Inc. in Lee Florida. It is my hope that I will get seed from this plant and that I can offer it as well next year.
As an update, I now have a great many specimens available for sale at the Plant Shop at the USF Botanical Gardens.

New York Ironweed - Vernonia novaboracensis

Every ironweed (Vernonia spp.) in Florida, except Blodgett's (V. blodgettii) could aptly be called "giant" ironweed based on their growth form, but since that common name was given to just one of them, we've had to call the others by other common names. Just be assured that all of them are "giant" in terms off their mature height at flowering.
There are six species of ironweeds considered to be native to Florida, though one (Stemless ironweed, V. acaulis) has been recorded as an extreme outlier (Polk County) from the main population in the mountains of North Carolina and seems a bit suspicious as a Florida native. New York ironweed (V. novaboracensis) is restricted to 10 counties in extreme north Florida. It is much more common to our north, however, and extends up the Eastern Seaboard to New York and Delaware. As mentioned above, this is a tall perennial species that can reach mature heights of more than 6 feet by late summer. Like other members of this species also, it suckers outward from the main stem over time and forms clumps of multiple stems. New York ironweed prefers moist sunny locations and is most often encountered at the upper edges of marshes and other wetlands.
The wide oval leaves are alternate along the stems. They are toothed along the leaf margins and somewhat pubescent, but not as much as in V. gigantea. The two species can be easily distinguished from each other when compared to each other side by side, but it is more difficult otherwise. One significant difference lies in the flowers. While V. gigantea produces a great many flowers atop its stems, New York ironweed produces fewer and they tend to be more deeply purple in color. Flowering occurs in late summer and fall. As with other members of the genus, they are excellent at attracting pollinating insects - especially bees and butterflies.
Despite the widespread propagation and availability of other native ironweeds in Florida, this species is only very rarely offered. I purchased this one from The Native Nurseries of Tallahassee where it was grown from seed collected by one of the nursery owners. I hope that this continues to be offered and I hope to get seed from my plant to make it available next year from Hawthorn Hill. It is reported that it requires cold stratification and that it often has low germination rates. It also is reported that it will tolerate most landscape conditions except for highly droughty soils, once established. If you can, however, give it a bit of extra moisture.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Dixie Ticktrefoil - Desmodium tortuosum

Ticktrefoils (Desmodium spp.) are a weedy bunch that produce loments (seeds produced in a "string") as seen in the third photo from the top. Each seed in these clusters is covered by hairs that stick to clothing and fur, causing the ripe seeds to break away from the cluster and be carried away from the parent plant. Of the 24 species vouchered from Florida, four are considered to be non-natives and of the remaining 20, Dixie ticktrefoil (D. tortuosum) is considered by some to be native and by others as not. This species was first recorded in Florida in Leon County in 1823, but has since been found nearly statewide in disturbed upland sites. It also occurs to our north, in the Southeast, from Texas to North Carolina. I photographed this one near a parking lot/trailhead in Goethe State Forest, Citrus County.
While some ticktrefoils are relatively prostrate, this species becomes rather tall and winnowy. In Florida, it is an annual and it reaches a mature height of about 3-4 feet by early summer. Like all members of the genus, the leaves are compound with three leaflets. They are oval shaped and the petioles are slightly hairy. Each leaflet is oval in shape with the top one decidedly so. They are about 1 inch wide.
Flowering can occur during most months until late fall. The flowers on this species are produced in pairs along the stem. Each is a typical legume flower, with a keeled lower lip and a broad fan-shaped upper petal marked by a noticeable yellow splotch outlined in a deeper pink. They, like all members of the genus, are pollinated mostly by bees that push their way into the center of the flower to reach the pollen and nectar.
Tick trefoils can be considered a nuisance in a wildflower landscape as the seeds stick to everything. They also are beneficial as they serve as the host plant for three species of skippers - long-tailed, Dorantes and silver-spotted. Left alone, in a fallow field, they can be valuable additions to a butterfly/pollinator garden, but I would not recommend them in landscapes that need to be tended.