Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Common Fanpetals - Sida ulmifolia

Common fanpetals (Sida ulmifolia) is a common lawn weed in a genus of common lawn weeds. While a few of these are not native, this one is. It is found throughout Florida in open disturbed sites. Although the taxonomy is somewhat questionable, this species is known only from Florida and parts of the Caribbean.
This is a perennial semi-woody wildflower that will reach several feet in height if not mowed regularly like it often is within a lawn setting. It is multiple branched with oval noticeably toothed leaves.
Although S. acuta has often been applied to Florida material, Krapovickas (2003) restricted the use of S. acuta to plants with a glabrous to ciliate calyx and (5-)6(-7) mericarps. Sida ulmifolia is then applied to plants with a stellate-pubescent calyx and 7-12 mericarps, which applies to the specimens common in Florida.
What makes this species most significant as one of our wildflower flora is that it serves as the host to several butterflies - the three checkered skipper species, as well as the gray and mallow scrub-hairstreak.  Because of this, common fanpetals deserves a place in a landscape where butterflies are desired. If left alone, it will reseed and spread, however, so I leave it alone in out-of-the-way corners of my more-designed native plant landscape and weed it elsewhere. Common fanpetals is forgiving of just about every typical landscape setting except extreme and prolonged inundation. Give it sun and typical soils. It will bloom in nearly every frost-free month. The creamy pale yellow flowers are attractive and of interest to a variety of bees and other pollinators.

Checkered skipper nectaring on Sida ulmifolia

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for encouraging the use of sida as a garden flower! I feel guilty for what I have eradicated thus far, (b/c Roger Hammer told me it could get "quite weedy") in my mother's yard as I am repairing the landscape in the yard of our childhood home that she has been renting out. But there's plenty more scattered throughout the yard, & I now intend to transplant it--maybe as a sidewalk border, or a corner feature. I love to see the butterflies & other pollinators that enjoy it!
    Also, I live in a former turpentine harvest forest, & we have many wild life that pass through our yard regularly, & I was just reading on the UF Agricultural website that it is a higher protein food, particularly helpful to white tailed deer, so I'm bringing some home to add to my yard too!


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