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

Add caption
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



Add caption
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.