Thursday, August 22, 2019

Carolina Goldenrod - Solidago arguta var. caroliniensis


Flower Close Up

Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) are often difficult for the average wildflower enthusiast to identify to species. Their bright golden flowers are dead giveaways to bring you to the genus level, but after that it can get confusing. This could be the case for this one, Carolina goldenrod (S. arguta var. caroliniensis) without a close look at its foliage and the arrangement of its flowers during its summer bloom time.
Lower leaf
Two years ago, I was fortunate to purchase a couple of specimens from Marc Godts at Green Isles Nursery in the Groveland area of central Florida and these photos come from the plants I added to my wildflower garden. This species has been vouchered in most Florida counties in the northern third of the state. This variety also is widespread throughout the states of the Southeast - from Missouri and Louisiana to Maryland south along the Atlantic coast. Other varieties of this species occur as far west as Texas, through much of the Midwest and throughout the Eastern Seaboard, including populations in Quebec. Yet, despite its extensive range, very little seems to have been written about it. It is not mentioned in any of the Florida wildflower books that I own, for example.
It is reported that it occurs mostly in areas of woodland openings, such as outcrops or clearings. In my landscape, it has not been fussy about growing conditions. I have them planted in average, Florida sandy soil in full sun. It is a perennial, like other members of this genus, and dies back to the ground in winter. In spring, it forms a basal rosette of rather large oval leaves that are slightly toothed. These tend to die back, however, as the flower stalks extend in early summer. Eventually, the plants reach about 3 feet in height. The leaves and the stems are slightly "hairy" and the upper leaves along the stems become smaller and more elliptical. The ones in these photographs are about 1 inch in length. Often, the stems are somewhat reddish as well.
Flowering occurs in mid-summer, before most of the other goldenrods bloom in my landscape. A great many open panicles form at the top of the main stem and small heads of about 20 flowers occur along each side stem. This aspect, as shown in these photos above, is diagnostic for any of Florida's native goldenrods that I've encountered - or grown. The flowers are a more-lemon yellow color than most others as well.
Like other members of this genus, the blooms are especially attractive to pollinating insects. It is a wonder to me that more species are not routinely available from native nurseries here in Florida and I feel fortunate that Marc chose to propagate a few that year. Many goldenrods make poor additions to a mixed wildflower garden because they sucker extensively and I have been looking for and propagating/growing as many as I can find in order to"weed out" those aggressive species. So far, Carolina goldenrod has played well with its neighbors in my landscape. It is easy to propagate from seed and I hope to add it to the plants I offer next spring at Hawthorn Hill.

Lower Stem

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Peninsula Axilflower - Mecardonia acuminata

Peninsula axilflower (Mecardonia acuminata) is a very common wildflower in the understory of moist open habitats throughout Florida. The photos above reflect the subspecies P. acuminata subsp. peninsularis, which is a Florida endemic and found throughout much of central and south Florida. Other subspecies are found in Florida as well. Subspecies M. acuminata subsp. microphylla is a rare form vouchered only from Washington and Calhoun Counties in north Florida while subspecies M. acuminata subsp. acuminata is widespread in north-central and north Florida. The differences lie in the leaf shape and that is reflected in their various subspecies names. The species also is widespread throughout much of the eastern U.S.; its range extending from Texas to the west, north to Illinois, and east to Maryland.
This diminutive ground cover is easily overlooked by the casual hiker. It rarely stands more than 6 inches tall and grows mostly prostrate across the ground.  As such, it sends up multiple stems with dark green elliptical leaves. The subspecies photographed above, has noticeable teeth on the leaf margins. Each is about 1 inch long.  Peninsula axilflower is a perennial.
Flowering occurs from late spring to late fall.  The small tubular white flowers are produced near the tips of each stem and are horizontal to the plane of the ground below. Distinct purple lines are noticeable along the outside of the petals.  The flowers are about 1/2 inch in length.They seem to be of most interest to bees.
Peninsula axilflower, is almost ubiquitous to the edges of wet habitats in Florida, but it has never been propagated, to my knowledge, for wetland restoration projects by any of the native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Perhaps it is simply not showy enough or too diminutive to warrant that kind of attention, but I always enjoy seeing it when hiking in its preferred habitats.

Pineland Catchfly - Polanisia tenuifolia

Pineland catchfly (Polanisia tenuifolia) is a common plant of central Florida sandhills and scrub, though it is found also throughout these types of upland habitats in much of north and central peninsular Florida and has been reported in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. It is an annual, emerging from the seedbank in early spring and maturing quickly to flowering age by late spring to late summer. 
This is a very slender plant (it's other common name, slender clammyweed, reflects this) that reaches about three feet in height. Very narrow, 3-parted leaves line the stem. They are about 1-2 inches long. The stems branch frequently and the white flowers are produced at the ends of each. Each flower is about 1/2 inch wide. The two upper petals are quite noticeable while the lower three are reduced in size. They seem to be mostly pollinated by bees.
The common name of "catchfly" is due to the fact that small insects can be trapped in the somewhat viscid secretions of the stems and leaves. It is not considered insectivorous, however, in the true sense. The purpose of this trait is not well documented and may be similar to tarflower (Bejaria racemosa) where it seems to protect the plant from small sap-sucking insects that would otherwise damage the flowers.
Pineland catchfly is an interesting species that is easily overlooked when not in bloom, but its growth habitat does not lend itself well to most landscape applications. I have never seen it offered for sale by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries or by other native nurseries in other states where it occurs. It is simply a plant to admire when hiking during the early summer in well-drained upland habitats.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Fall Open House - New Location in Pasco County

Wildflowers in my new landscape
Black-eyed Susan seedlings
The new nursery in my backyard
Most of you likely know that I moved last October from my former home in Seminole to a rental home in Holiday - just north of Tarpon Springs in south Pasco County. Here, I've been working diligently to set up my new landscape and nursery. Things are coming together rather well so far and I'll be ready to host my first Open House on Sunday October 13 from 9 am - 1 pm. I hope to have about 40 species of seedling wildflowers for sale at this time, as well as a few woody plants. As the date gets a bit closer, I will post a species list.
Mark your calendars if you're interested in seeing my new developing landscape and in purchasing a few hard-to-find wildflowers for your own.

You also can follow the progress of my landscape by following my new blog -

 My new address is:
1648 Paragon Pl, Holiday 34690

Pineland Croton - Croton linearis


Flowers close up

Pineland croton (Croton linearis) is a small semi-woody shrub confined in Florida to the most-southern counties along the east coast of the state - from St. Lucie south to Miami-Dade. In this region, it occurs most frequently in pinelands. Pineland croton also occurs in the Bahamas and Greater Antilles.
Mature plants form a somewhat woody stem that can reach six feet tall, though often several feet shorter. The main stem is thin and remains flexible. It becomes a multi-stemmed plant. The leaves are alternate along the stem and decidedly elliptical. Each leaf is one inch long, sometimes as long as two inches. The underside of each leaf is covered by silvery hairs.
Flowering can occur in any month. Like other crotons, the male and female flowers are morphologically different, but on the same plant. The male flowers (the ones mostly pictured above) have longer petals and noticeable sepals below while the female flowers are smaller and without noticeable sepals. These attract small bees for the most part. Pineland croton serves as the host plant for two of South Florida's most unique butterflies - the Florida leafwing and Bartram's hairstreak. As such, it makes a very valuable addition to a butterfly garden within the geographic ranges of these two butterflies.
Pineland croton does not seem to be especially fussy in regards to its growing conditions. Although native to high pH soils. it has done very well in my landscape built on a former acidic pineland soil. It is sporadically offered for sale by native plant nurseries in extreme south Florida, but may be difficult to find without some sleuthing.  Mine came from a friend who propagated a few from plants in his yard. I do not intend to propagate seedlings from this plant in the future at Hawthorn Hill.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Large-flowered Meadow Pink - Sabatia grandiflora

Meadow pinks (Sabatia spp.) are also called rosegentians - the problem with common names. Regardless, they comprise a large genus of native wildflowers native to wet and moist-soil habitats. Large-flowered meadow pink (S. grandiflora) is common throughout Florida at the upper edges of marshes and in moist flatwoods and prairies. It also is found in Georgia.
These are annuals. New seedlings emerge in the early spring and grow rapidly. Blooming occurs by summer and generally lasts well into fall before going to seed. As its names indicate, this species tends to be taller than most other members of this genus and the rich pink petals are often bit larger. They are generally a bit wider than 1 1/2 inches. Many members of this genus are somewhat similar in size and flower color, however, and this makes identification difficult for many in the field. To correctly identify this species, look for the upper leaves. In this species, they are thick, wrinkled and wider than the stem. The flowers are primarily pollinated by bees.
Meadow pinks make a stunning addition to many moist-soil habitats in Florida. It is nearly impossible not to encounter at least one species while in the field from summer through fall, but they are not often propagated because of the annual lifestyle. Seeds are produced in rounded capsules by fall to early winter. These can be scattered in wet meadow restoration projects and, once established, they should reseed and maintain themselves over time.

Cuban Meadowbeauty - Rhexia cubensis

Stem with Decidedly Prickles
Despite its common name Cuban meadowbeauty (Rhexia cubensis) has a rather extended range in Florida. It has been reported from nearly every county in Florida and also occurs from Louisiana to North Carolina region of the Southeastern Coastal Plain. It also occurs in parts of the Caribbean, and as its name suggests, the type specimen was first collected in Cuba.
Meadowbeauties are mostly perennials with flowers in various shades of pinks - sometimes white (there also is a yellow one in north Florida). Their urn-shaped seed capsules are the dead giveaway in getting them to genus. Getting the pink ones to species, however, requires a close look at various details of the stems and buds. Cuban meadowbeauty is often a much deeper shade of pink than the other seven mostly pink species. Each bloom is larger than most too - about 2 inches across. What is most distinctive, however, as the still hairs that occur up the stem, along the leaf margins, and on the urn-shaped ovary below the petals. These hairs are stiff and very noticeable to the touch.
This is a species of moist soils - flatwoods and prairies. It can occur in average moisture soils, but it thrives only in situations where it gets wet during the summer rainy season.
Like other members of this genus, the summer flowers have 4 large petals and an inner center of extended yellow anthers. In Cuban meadowbeauty, these anthers are greatly extended. Meadowbeauties seem of special interest to bumblebees, but other pollinating bees visit them.
This genus, though showy, is rarely propagated by nurseries not specially devoted to wetland restoration. I have found them to be difficult in mixed wildflower settings, though they spread easily in naturalized wildflower meadows that maintain adequate soil moisture. Look for this species throughout the state, but don't rely simply on the color of the petals to distinguish it. Look at (and feel) stem for the bristly hairs.

Bahama Aster - Symphyotrichum bahamense

For some reason, Bahama aster (Symphyotrichum bahamense) gets left out of Florida wildflower books. Admittedly, it is not as showy as most in this diverse genus, but it has a special charm of its own in my opinion. It also is one of the most widespread members of this genus of perennial wildflowers in Florida and, thus, often encountered in the field. It is reported throughout peninsular Florida, from the Big Bend all the way to extreme south Florida. It also has been reported in Georgia and Louisiana, though its range in those two states is restricted. It is classified as an obligate wetland plant - a species that only occurs in wet soil habitats. Therefore, it also is a bit problematic adding it to a "normal" wildflower garden.
Bahama aster is a winnowy species. The narrow basal leaves emerge in spring and a tall thin flower stalk emerges shortly after. The leaves along this stalk are much reduced in size. At maturity, the stalk stands about 3 feet tall. The small white flowers are present by mid-summer. They have a light lavender blush to them and surround a center of yellow disk flowers. Each bloom measures about 1/2-3/4 inch across.  Like all members of the aster family, they are of interest to pollinating insects.
I have never seen Bahama aster offered for sale by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries and, although I currently propagate a large number of Symphyotrichum asters at Hawthorn Hill, I do not have plans to propagate this one at this time either. That could change if there was a demand for it, but its use seems mostly limited to wetland restoration plantings where pollinators are a special interest. Look for it from summer into early fall in open wet habitats - and along wetland ditches. If you are on the lookout for it, I'm betting you will find it.

Ovate-leaved Indian Plantain - Arnoglossum ovatum

Arnoglossum is situ - Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
Flower head close-up

Basal leaves

Seed heads
Ovate-leaved Indian plantain (Arnoglossum ovatum) is one of six native species in this genus. Three are quite rare and found only in a few north Florida counties. One is an endemic and found only in well-drained sandy habitats throughout much of the peninsula. All five of the other six are wetland species and ovate-leaved Indian plantain is the only wetland species found throughout much of the state. It also occurs throughout much of the Southeast Coastal Plain - from Texas east to North Carolina. It is a variable species throughout its range and some taxonomists split it into two species - separated by the shape of the basal leaves. As the common name suggests, the more-common form has very decided oval-shaped leaves. This form, photographed at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, has elliptical basal leaves. For the sake of conformity, I've used the more-common taxonomy.
Like all members of this genus, it is a perennial that often maintains its basal leaves through the winter. In more-northern parts of its range, it loses these too. The basal leaves are large and succulent. They are 10 inches long with no teeth on the leaf margins. Early in the spring each plant sends up its single flower stalk. These continue to grow upwards through the summer, eventually reaching a height of 4-5 feet on average. Each stalk is multi-branched. The flowers are white with pink markings near the apex of the decidedly tubular flowers. Though not especially showy, a mature specimen makes a handsome statement in the landscape. They also are of interest to a diversity of pollinating insects - butterflies and bees mostly. Flowering occurs in late summer. I photographed these in early August and the lower photos about 6 weeks later.
Ovate-leaved Indian plantain is a plant of wet flatwoods and prairies. In these habitats, it experiences inundated soils during the rainy season, but average-moisture soils at other times. Therefore, it must cope with a variety of conditions during the normal year. I have always admired members of this genus and have grown the upland species (A. floridanum) for a number of years in my home landscapes here in west-central Florida. I have recently added this one to my created wetland, but have little experience yet growing it in cultivation. I have put it in a wetland I've created and so far, it is doing well. I have also added it to the plants I'm currently growing at my hobby nursery - Hawthorn Hill. If all goes well, I will have it available to others in the years ahead.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Coral Hoary Pea - Tephrosia angustissima var. corallicola

Tephrosia angustissima var. corallicola in a pot at my home

Seed pods and seeds - These are quite small
Coral hoary pea (Tephrosia angustissima var. corallicola) is a very rare variety of a very rare plant in Florida. It is found naturally only in extreme south Florida - Collier and Miami-Dade Counties in sunny open pinelands. According to my friend, Roger Hammer, it has been reported from Hillsborough County as well, but nativity of that record seems suspect to me. This is a relatively easy plant to grow and these may be escaped from cultivation though it is rarely propagated by anyone associated with the native plant nursery group - FANN.
Coral hoary pea is a low-growing perennial that rarely stands more than 6 inches tall, but spreads for several feet once established. Like other members of this genus, it has compound leaves that are coated with silky "hairs".  Each compound leaf is about 2 inches long and individual leaflets are mostly less than 1/2 inch.
Blooming occurs from spring through fall. Each pink bloom opens in the afternoon and lasts one day. They are about 1/4 inch long and are pollinated by small bees. Pollinated flowers develop quickly into thin "beans" that are about 1 inch long and quite slender in shape. Like most "beans and peas", the pods turn brown and then split with a decided twist that throws the ripe seed away from the parent plant. The force of this twist-and-release action can send a seed dozens of feet away.
Coral hoary pea is quite rare in nature and is listed as a state-endangered species. It is not endemic, however, as it also is reported to occur in Cuba. Despite its rarity, it is a very easy species to grow and propagate. A friend of mine won this plant at a charity plant auction for me over a year ago and I have so far kept it in its pot. It responds well to life in these conditions, has good drought tolerance and flowers profusely. I have been collecting these seeds and growing them here at Hawthorn Hill where I hope to add it to my routine propagation list.
Members of the pea family are rarely grown by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but they should be considered more. Many serve as host plants for butterflies. It's close cousin, Florida hoary pea (T. florida) is known as a host plant for the northern duskywing skipper, for example,  and though this butterfly does not extend into extreme south Florida, it is reasonable to assume it might use coral hoary pea also in my area of the state. I will be watching closely.

Rabbitbells - Crotalaria rotundifolia

Rabbitbells (Crotalaria rotundifolia)

With a developing seedpod
There are a great many rattleboxes (Crotalaria spp.), but only three are native to Florida and these are not the showiest of the group. The nearly 1-dozen others are weedy and often invasive and they give our more-diminutive native species reasons to be overlooked by wildflower enthusiasts. Two of the three are quite rare and confined to narrow ranges in Florida. Rabbitbells (C. rotundifolia), however, occurs statewide and is frequently encountered, though often overlooked. It is an adaptable species, and occurs in a wide variety of upland habitats with reasonably well-drained soil. It is a plant of the Southeastern Coastal Plain and occurs from Louisiana and Arkansas east to Maryland and all the states along the Atlantic south.
This is a diminutive species, rarely growing taller than 6-8 inches, but spreading outwards from the main stem for more than a foot on well-established specimens. As its common name suggests, the leaves are more rounded than in other Florida species, but they are not round. They are decidedly oval in shape with slightly hairy stems. Flowering can occur nearly year round in frost-free areas. It is a perennial and emerges in the spring in areas that freeze.
Rabbitbells, like others in this genus, has bright yellow flowers with a keeled lower lip. The blooms open in the early afternoon and are present for just one day. This makes the plant especially easy to overlook if you are out in the morning. Each day, more flowers open so it is in bloom for most months. The flowers are small - generally about 1/4 inch long. They are pollinated by bees. Flowers very quickly mature into 3/4-1 inch long pods. These turn black when fully ripe and disperse a great number of tiny seeds.
Rabbitbells is a useful wildflower in a butterfly garden as it serves as a host plant for the Ceraunus blue butterfly and likely the long-tailed skipper. It is easy to grow and its low stature allows it to fit in with taller and showier species. I have recently added rabbitbells to my home landscape and have started to propagate it at Hawthorn Hill.

A ripe seedpod.