Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Florida Feathershank - Schoenocaulon dubium

Florida feathershank (Schoenocaulon dubium) is a member of the Melanthium family and an easy wildflower to overlook when not in bloom. It also is endemic to peninsular Florida from Gilchrist and Alachua Counties in the north, south to Highlands, Palm Beach and Martin Counties. These photos were taken with my cell phone (sorry for the quality) in sandhill habitat in Hernando County. Throughout this range, it is found in the well-drained sandy soils of sandhill and scrub.
Florida feathershank is an evergreen perennial. It forms a basal rosette of very narrow elongated leaves that are noticeably channeled. Each is nearly 12 inches long and no more than 1/8 inch wide. Flowering occurs in late spring through mid-summer. The bluish green flower stalk rises up out of the basal leaves and reaches a mature height of 2-2 1/2 feet. The tiny flowers are produced along the upper portion of this stalk. The flowers lack petals. The yellowish stamens protrude from the sepals and give the appearance of the flowers being yellow.  It is this tall, thin flower stalk that makes this species noticeable among all of the other plants it's associated with.
Florida feathershank is an interesting plant with very limited use in a native plant landscape. I have never seen it offered for sale by any of Florida's native plant nurseries and it is unlikely to be offered in the future. Its diminutive size and lack of a striking flower stalk make this a true connoisseur's wildflower. Look for it in Late-May through July and admire it simply for its uniqueness.

 Basal leaves (the linear ones) among other understory plants

Friday, May 1, 2020

Yellow/Trumpet-leaved Pitcher Plant - Sarracenia flava

Yellow pitcher plant is one of the most widely distributed members of this amazing genus in Florida. Relatively common to low, boggy acidic savannas of the Florida Panhandle, it also is vouchered for Alachua, Baker and Hamilton Counties in the north-central peninsula.  It extends its natural range into the two states that border us and then occurs up the Southeastern Coastal Plain into New jersey, where it is rare. Throughout its range it is considered an obligate wetland plant.
Yellow pitcher plant is a robust deciduous species. The tall pitchers and the basal foliage die back to the ground each fall and reappear in early spring. The basal leaves are largely unnoticed in the savanna foliage, but the large modified leaf that comprises the pitcher grows quickly and reaches a mature height of 2-2 1/2 feet. As the above photos show, it is not uncommon to find individuals in populations that are distinctly red - growing with those that are pure yellow. These photos were taken in Apalachicola National Forest, near the town of Sumatra.
Flowers are similar in shape to others in this genus. They are in full bloom by early June and last a short time before maturing as a seed capsule.

Developing Seed Capsule
Pitcher plants, in general, fascinated a great many people and lead sometimes to a desire to poach plants for a home landscape. This, of course, should never be done. Pitcher plants are difficult for most gardeners as they require very specific soil and moisture conditions to thrive. If you can provide this unique bog situation, there are nurseries that propagate hybrids that seem more vigorous and less demanding than the species. Occasionally, a reputable nursery offers this and a few other species for sale also. If you are tempted, make sure that their plants are legally grown. In my mind, this species and its relatives are best admired in the wild.