Saturday, August 10, 2019

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.

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