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