Sunday, September 3, 2023

Pink Bogbutton - Sclerolepis uniflora


Pink bogbutton (Sclerolepis uniflora) is an aquatic plant native to most of the U.S Atlantic Seaboard. In Florida, its recorded distribution is mostly on the west coast south to Pasco County. It is the only member of its genus and can often go unnoticed because of its growth habits.  It is most likely to occur in freshwater ponds and innundated wetlands where it lives underwater, producing long stems and flaccid elongated leaves.  Under these conditions, it does not flower.  The erect stems, needle-like leaves and bright pink blooms only occur in years/times when the water recedes and exposes the now-muddy soil to the sun.  

Pink bogbutton is a perennial and it forms extensive vegetative mats in the shallow-water habitats it frequents.  There is little information on its habits as a submerged plant, but its striking aspect in its emergent form easily draws attention to it.  The emergent stems may reach 2 feet tall at maturity in early summer.  The tiny, simple, linear leaves are arranged in whorls up the stems.  As its Latin name implies, a solitary flower bud is formed at the tip of each stem. 

Flowering occurs in summer and fall, largely dependent on water conditions.  The individual flower heads are comprised of a great many spidery pink rayless blooms.  In many ways, they closely resemble those of Flyr's nemesis (Brickellia cordifolia).  I suspect, that like Flyr's nemesis, it is eagerly sought out by a variety of invertebrate pollinators, but I've found no information on this in the literature.

This unique and interesting plant is sometimes available from native plant nurseries outside of Florida. It has never been offered, to the best of my knowledge, by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.

The above photos were posted on the Facebook site of the Florida Native Plant Society without reference to the photographer and have been shared elsewhere without reference as well.  I am using them here under the assumption that they are shareable.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Scareweed - Baptisia simplicifolia

The truly awful common name, scareweed, does no justice to this wonderful endemic member of the wild indigo genus.  Baptisia lanceolata has a very restricted range - vouchered only in a five-county area of the central Panhandle in open upland pinelands.  It is listed as a state-threatened species, but is reported to be relatively common in the right habitats within Apalachicola National Forest and nearby Tate's Hell - two of Florida's true natural treasures.

Like other Baptisias, scareweed is a perennial forb that dies back to the ground in winter.  It reemerges much later in spring than most other wildflowers; often as late as May when other members of this genus are in full bloom.  It quickly reaches its mature height of about three feet by early summer.  Unlike most legumes, the leaves are compound but appear as a single leaflet and these alternate up the stems.  This character distinguishes it from all other Baptisias in Florida which clearly have three leaflets per leaf.

Flowering occurs in mid-summer and into September.  The small (about 1/2 inch long) yellow flowers occur at the ends of the stems in distinctive racemes.  These are of greatest interest to bees - their primary pollinator.  Small, dark seed capsules ripen by fall.  

The common name "scareweed" may result from the fact that the upper portions of this plant break off at the ground after it dies in late fall and act like "tumbleweeds" - blowing across the landscape in the wind.  Although it is a narrow/restricted endemic species, it is sometimes offered as a landscape plant by native nurseries, though I am not aware of it being commercially propagated by those affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  While there might be other Baptisias that are showier and more commonly sold, this species is likely used as a host plant for various legume-feeding butterfly and moth caterpillars and would make a valuable addition to landscapes devoted to them if its growing requirements are met.

These photos were taken by my friend, Lily Byrd, and used by permission.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Whiteleaf Leather-flower - Clematis glaucophylla

The genus Clematis has given us a great many beautiful landscape plants from regions around the world.  Many of the species and their cultivars that were used in my gardens of the Upper Midwest have large showy blooms. That's not really the case with Florida's six native species, but they have a charm of their own.  I've written about most of these previously in this blog. Today, I'm writing about one I haven't yet featured - whiteleaf leather-flower - C. glaucophylla.  

Whiteleaf leather-flower is yet another vining herbaceous perennial that produces upside-down tulip-shaped blooms.  My oldest granddaughter, Caroline, thinks that they look like fairy hats....... This species has a fairly restricted distribution in Florida; it is found in a 6-county region of the central Panhandle and has been reported also in Levy County.  It also has a fairly restricted range outside of Florida, having been vouchered in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi - with a disjunct population in Oklahoma.  Throughout this range, it seems to prefer the rich moist soils in the semi-shaded conditions found in habitats such as streambanks.

Like others in this genus, the herbaceous stems die back to the ground each winter and reemerge again in spring. Each of the many stems can reach a mature length of 15 feet and it sprawls up and over everything in its path.  If it wasn't for its spectacular flowers, it could be considered a nuisance - and adding it to a landscape should be well considered beforehand.  The leaves are wider than long and have 3 distinct lobes.  As the common name suggests, the undersides of this foliage has a whitish blush, but the leaves are, in fact, glabrous.  They are positioned opposite each other along the stems. 

Flowering occurs in late spring to very early summer.  Buds are produced in the leaf axils all along the stem.  Each turns downward as it matures and begins to turn a rich lavender-pink in color.  The inner side of each flower is white - as shown in the above photos. Clematis flowers are favorites of bees (especially bumblebees) and butterflies. As such they are an excellent addition to a pollinator garden. They simply need a trellis to climb on and relatively moist soil.  Although beautiful, native Clematis are only rarely propagated by nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  I have not seen this species offered at any time.  I have grown other species of vining Clematis successfully from cuttings and from seed - though ripe seed may take 3-4 months to germinate.

The lower photo was taken by Charlotte Glen.

Missouri Ironweed - Vernonia missurica

Florida is home to six distinct species of ironweeds (Vernonia spp.)  - all of them relatively robust with rich purple flowers.  All of this makes distinguishing them from each other a bit problematic.  What's most useful is a close look at the foliage, the overall growth form, and the habitat it occurs in.  

Missouri ironweed (V. missurica), despite its common name, is a Florida native though restricted to five counties in the far western Panhandle and in two others in the central portion of that region.  It also is reported in the central swath of states in the U.S. - from directly north of Florida (Georgia and Alabama), east to Texas and then north to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Michigan.  Throughout this region, it is most often found in sunny open habitats with extra moisture; though it is not considered to require wetland soils. 

Vernonia missurica is best distinguished from other ironweeds by the usually greater number of disk florets per flower head and by the hairy stems and leaf undersides. This is an upright perennial that typically grows 3-5 feet tall on stiff, leafy stems which branch at the top. Narrow, lance-shaped to narrow-ovate leaves (to 7 inches long) have serrate margins.The leaves alternate along the stems.

Flowering occurs in summer to early fall.  The individual blooms lack ray petals (which is true for all ironweeds) and occur near the tops of the main stem and in corymbose cymes arising from the upper leaf axils.  Each "head" is composed of fluffy deep purple disc flowers.  These are exceedingly attractive to butterflies and bees - a trait of all ironweeds.

I've been growing this wonderful species here at Hawthorn Hill in south Pasco County for several years and find that it's an easy species to maintain.  The seed germinates readily without cold stratification and it has adapted well to my created wetland conditions - growing in pretty much the same conditions as New York ironweed (V. novaboracensis).  If you wish to add this species to your landscape, you likely will have to purchase it from sources outside of Florida.  I do not know of anyone (other than myself) in Florida that has ever propagated it and my original seed source did not come from a Florida population.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Florida skullcap - Scutellaria floridana

Florida skullcap (Scutellaria floridana) is an exceedingly rare plant, endemic to Florida and only vouchered from Bay, Franklin, Gulf, and Liberty Counties in the central Gulf Coast side of the Panhandle.  It is listed as a federally threatened species.

There is limited information available for this species and I've had no personal experience myself. The above wonderful photos were taken by Floyd Griffith and used with permission. Florida skullcap is a perennial species that dies back to the ground in winter; reemerging again in early spring.  It occurs in moist, fire-dependent plant communities that include moist flatwoods, wet prairies and savannas.  It is reported that flowering does not occur in areas where fire is absent for more than 3 years.  This fire dependency may account for some of its rarity.

Plants reach a mature height of 12-15 inches by late spring to summer.  As for most mints, the stems are square. The short linear leaves occur as whorls along the main stem(s). Each is often tipped in red.  Flowers are typical in structure to the genus - the upper petals form a "helmet" above the broad lower lip.  Flowers occur up the top of each stem and emege from the axils of the upper leaves. They are produced from May to June. Each is a rich purple in color with a white patch on the inside of the lower lip and covered by soft white "hairs".  

Limited research reports that they are primarily pollinated by megachilid bees. Although skullcaps in general are wonderful additions to a wildflower planting in a home landscape, this is not one of those species. It's restricted habitat requirements make it unsuitable for most locations. Therefore, it is one of those wonderful wildflowers, restricted solely to our state, that should simply be admired for what it is.

Gulf Coast Barbara's Buttons - Marshallia angustifolia


While some taxonomists include this species with Marshallia graminifolia, others separate Marshallia angustifolia from it as a distinct species.  They are very similar, but there are distinct differences as described below per Weakley's Flora:

 Lower stem leaves (and basal leaves) spreading, oblanceolate or spatulate, with rounded or obtuse apices, relatively thin in texture, the 2 lateral nerves (parallel to the midnerve) often obscure; caudex lacking fibrous remnants of the previous year's leaves; phyllaries thin, linear-subulate, abruptly narrowing to the next series; [e. GA southward and westward; disjunct in Eastern Highland Rim of TN]
Lower stem leaves (and basal leaves) erect, narrowly lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, with attenuate or long-acuminate apices, relatively thick in texture, the 2-4 lateral nerves (parallel to the midnerve) prominent; caudex with fibrous remnants of the previous year's leaves (if not burned off); phyllaries thick, ovate-attenuate, gradually narrowing to the next series; [NC, SC, and extreme e. GA]

These photos, taken by Floyd Griffith and used with permission show the lower stem leaves as spreading instead of erect.

While grassleaf Barbara's buttons is vouchered from much of central peninsular Florida, Gulf Coast Barbara's buttons is confined to the northern third of the state.  It also is reported from Georgia west to Louisiana along the southern Gulf Coast.  

Like its close relative, it is a perennial species most commonly found in open moist habitats such as pine savannas and seepage bogs.  It dies back to the ground in winter and reemerges in early spring.  As the above photos show, the leaves are simple with entire margins (no teeth) and they alternate along the stem.  A single stem arises from the basal leaves and reaches a mature height by summer of 1-2 feet.  

A single flower head is produced at the tip of this main stem.  Ray petals are absent and the disc flowers that form the head are pink and quite showy.  Like other asters, the flowers open from the outer perimeter and proceed to the interior over several weeks. Most flowering in Florida occurs during the summer months. The flowers attract a wide variety of pollinators.

Though all members of this genus share a great many qualities that would make them desirable in a moist setting in a home landscape, none are grown (to the best of my knowledge) by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  Hopefully, that will be corrected someday in the future.  I have never had ripe achenes to attempt it myself, but I suspect it would not be difficult from seed.

Swamp Milkwort - Polygala appendiculata

As its name implies, swamp milkwort (Polygala appendiculata) is a wetland species, vouchered in Florida only in seven counties in the extreme northern part of the state.  It also is reported in Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and Texas as well as Mexico, the West Indies, and portions of Central and South America.  This is most definitely not a plant suited for below-freezing temperatures.  Throughout its extensive range, it occurs in savannas, pastures, bogs, open wet pine woods, and pond margins.

Like other members of this genus, it is considered to be an annual.  Slender stems emerge in the early spring and reach a mature height of about 18 inches.  The narrow linear leaves are appressed on the stems and alternate along it.  Flowering occurs at the tips of these stems in late spring to early summer.  The blooms are often a pinkish lavender (as they appear in these photos), but can be white or a deeper purple.  Each of these flowers are tiny - no more then 1/4-inch long, but they atttract the attention of small bees and other pollinators.  Small brownish seed capsules result from pollination.

Swamp milkwort is one of 22 species of milkworts native to Florida. Because they are annuals and habitat specific, even the showier members are not often offered for sale by native plant nurseries.  That is especially true for this species.  Despite that, it is an interesting species and should be looked for in various wetland habitats during its blooming season.

These photos were taken by Steve Coleman and used by permission.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Georgia Milkwort - Polygala leptostachys

Georgia milkwort (Polygala leptostachys) is an annual member of a large genus of wildflowers native to Florida.  Despite its common name, it is far more widespread in Florida than it is in Georgia - or the rest of the Southeast for that matter.  It has been vouchered in many of the counties in north Florida and its range extends down the west coast to Pasco County.  It is sporadically reported from the extreme southern counties of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.  Throughout its range, it occurs in well-drained soils and open habitats such as sandhills and disturbed roadsides.

Georgia milkwort is easily overlooked due to its small stature and tiny flowers.  The thin stem can reach a maximum height of about 12 inches at maturity. It is unbranched along most of that height until near the top where it forms 2-3 flowering stems.  The leaves are 1/2-1 inch long and linear; arranged in whorls along the stem.

Flowering occurs in early to mid-summer.  Clusters of greenish white flowers are produced at the tips of the stems.  Each inflorescence is only about 1 inch long and composed of more than a dozen blooms that are less than 0.1 inch long.  As in other members of the milkwort genus, they are composed of 2 winged sepals and 3 smaller side ones as well 3 petals of which one is "keeled" and bearing a fringed crest.  All of this is difficult to distinguish without a good hand or macro lens due to their small size. The flowers bloom from the bottom of the inflorescence up.

Milkworts are primarily pollinated by bees, but I have no reports of this wildflower's significance to pollinators. Its small size and its status as an annual make it very unlikely to be propagated by native plant nurseries. It is an interesting species, however, and should be looked for in the right habitat conditions during its summer blooming period. It may be more widespread than it has been reported.

The photos above were taken by my friend and wonderful nature photographer, Floyd Griffith, and used by permission.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Halberd-leaved Hibiscus - Hibiscus laevis

Halberd-leaved hibiscus (Hibiscus laevis) is yet another perennial native Florida hisbicus species common to wet soils. This one is rather uncommon here; native to only 10 counties in the Florida Panhandle.  It is extremely widespread elsewhere, however, and occurs throughout the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. and in Ontario as well. As would be expected, it dies back to the ground each winter and reemerges in spring.  

Like most of our native hibiscus, halberd-leaved hibiscus eventually attains a mature height of about 6 feet in early summer.  It has a straight stout main stem  and numerous small side branches.  The leaves alternate on the stem and are distinctive in shape - as evidenced by the last photo above.  As the common name signifies, they are halberd-shaped -  a two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 13th-16th centuries. The halberd consists of a specially shaped axe blade not too different than the blade of these leaves.

The flowers are produced at the axils of the leaves beginning near the top of the stem. Multiple blooms are produced singly or a few at a time during the early to late summer as the plant reaches its final height.  They remain open only for a day.  Flower color can be quite variable; from white (very similar to H. moscheutos) to a deep rosy pink (not unlike H. grandiflorus) but always with a bright crimson-colored center.  The flowers above are between those two extremes. Each flower is about 3 inches across.

Halberd-leaved hibiscus, like other members of this genus, attract the attention of a wide variety of pollinators. Hibiscus as a genus are hosts for several moths, including the Io.  Although many of our native hibiscus are widely propagated and sold by native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, this species has been ignored to date. Hopefully, this will change and this beautiful species will become more available to native plant gardeners.  I have been growing this now for 2 years at Hawthorn Hill and hope to continue its propagation through the years to come.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Fringed loosestrife - Lysimachia ciliata

Fringed loosestrife (Lysimachia ciliata) is a perennial wildflower native to only Jackson, Gadsden, and Liberty Counties in the central Panhandle region of Florida, but it is common throughout much of the U.S. except California and Nevada in the far Southwest.  Throughout its vast range in our nation, it occurs in seasonally wet soils along stream banks and similar habitats with rich organic soils and in shady to partially sunny areas.

This species dies back to the ground in early winter and reemerges in early spring.  Eventually, it reaches a mature height of nearly 3 feet.  It produces an upright thin stalk that is unbranched or slightly branched. The leaves are simple and lanceolate, and they occur opposite each other.  As its name implies, the leaf stems are covered with simple hairs.  

Flowering occurs in early summer (May, June).  The bright yellow blooms are about 1 inch across and are produced in open clusters atop the main stem.  They are especially attractive to bees.  Pollinated flowers form rounded seed capsules

This showy wildflower would make a nice addition to a moist area in the understory of a deciduous woodland or partly sunny wetland edge.  It has never, to my knowledge, been sold commercially by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but it is available by many native nurseries north of us.  How these seeds/plants would fare in Florida is unknown.

These photos were taken by my friend, Floyd Griffith and used by permission.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Long-leaved Summer Bluet - Houstonia longifolia


Long-leaved summer bluet (Houstonia longifolia) is a rather rare herbaceous perennial wildflower vouchered only from Walton, Washington, and Jackson Counties in the central Florida Panhandle, but widespread to our north; occurring in nearly every state in the eastern half of the nation.  Throughout, it is most often found in open sunny to partly sunny well-drained habitats.  

This species dies back to the ground in winter and reappears in spring. By early summer it reaches its mature height of 10-12 inches. Pairs of opposite narrowly linear 1-inch long leaves occur along the stem.  Some use this feature to distinguish a separate species, H. tenuifolia, from H. longifolia.  I have chosen to lump the two together as many taxonomists do although there are some differences. Flowering occurs in early summer atop the branched stems. These flowers occur in cymes, are about 1/4-inch wide and composed of 4 fused light lavender to white petals.  These occur on noticeable stalks in H. tenuifolia, but on much shorter ones on H. longifolia.  Once pollinated, small capsules are formed. This species is easily propagated by seed sown shortly after ripening.

Long-leaved summer bluet is a close relative of the commonly encountered innocence (H. procumbens) and shares some of those "demure" characteristics. Its small flowers are pollinated by small bees and other small invertebrates, but it is not grown commercially by nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It is occasionally offered for sale by northern native plant nurseries, but it is not the form native to Florida and the south and is unlikely to prosper here.

The above photos were taken by my friend, Floyd Griffith, and used by permission.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Narrowlweaf Vervain - Verbena simplex


Narrowleaf vervain (Verbena simplex) is a rare plant in Florida, having only been vouchered from Jackson County in the northcentral Panhandle.  It occurs throughout much of the eastern half of the US, however, and is common throughout.  Throughout its range, it is most often found in full sun, dry-mesic to dry conditions, and gravelly to sandy soil. 

This herbaceous perennial dies back to the ground in the winter and reemerges again in spring, eventually reaching a mature height of about 2 feet on a slender erect stem.  It often branches near the base, while above it is unbranched or sparingly branched. The stems are glabrous or short-pubescent; pairs of opposite leaves occur at intervals along these stems. The narrow leaves are 1¼–4" long and less than ½" across; they are narrowly oblanceolate or narrowly elliptic in shape and smooth to coarsely toothed along their margins. There are more teeth toward the tips of the leaves than at their bases. The leaves taper gradually into petiole-like bases. Their upper surfaces are pale to medium green and glabrous or sparsely short-pubescent.

Flowering occurs in late spring to summer at the ends of the stems in spike-like racemes.  There is only one raceme per stem. Only a few flowers bloom at the same time, beginning at the bottom and ending at the top of each raceme. Individual flowers are up to ¼" across, consisting of a lavender to nearly white corolla with 5 spreading lobes, a short tubular calyx with 5 teeth, 4 inserted stamens, and a pistil with a single style. At the base of each flower, there is a lanceolate leafy bract that is about the same length or a little shorter than the calyx. The blooming period occurs for about 2 months. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by nutlets (4 per flower). These nutlets are oblongloid, somewhat flattened, and about 1/8" long.

All vervains are of interest to pollinators, especially bees.  It is the host for the verbena moth.  There are 7 native verbenas in Florida and 5 that are not.  None are currently in propagation by members of FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  

These photos were taken by my friend, Floyd Griffith, and used by permission.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Hairy Skullcap - Scutellaria elliptica -


Hairy skullcap (Scutellaria elliptica) is one of 13 native members of this very widespread genus.  This species has a limited distribution in Florida - occurring only in 11 north Florida  counties, but occurs widely north of us throughout much of the Midwest and from east Texas to Delaware and Pennsylvania across the Coastal Plain.  Throughout its range, this perennial mint is found in partly shady woodland understories in a variety of soil types, often near streams, but never in poorly drained conditions. 

It dies back to the ground in winter and reemerges again in early spring. It reaches its mature height of 2.5 feet by late spring and the flowers appear by early summer.  They are typical for the genus. The purple and blue flowers bloom from May to July in a 4-inch long raceme. Individual flowers are up to 3/4 inches long and 2-lipped with the upper one hooded and the lower one having white blotches. The calyx has long, spreading glandular hairs.

Hairy skullcap gets its common name from its distinctive foliage. The green leaves are 1.5-3 inches long and 3/4 to 1.5 inches wide. Margins are crenate to serrate, the shape is lanceolate-oblong to oval, the base is rounded to broadly wedge-shaped (cuneate) and the tip is blunt. The underside of the leaf is paler with hairs. The upper surface is dotted with glands. These are quite visible in the photos above.

Skullcaps are hosts for several species of moths and they are of special interest to bees that can squeeze into the hooded blooms. Despite the fact that this genus contains a great many ornamental and easy to grow wildflowers, only a few of Florida's native species are currently available commercially. Hairy skullcap is not one of them.  It is rarely offered by native nurseries outside of Florida.

These photos were taken by my friend, Floyd Griffith, and used by permission.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Hairyjoint Meadow Parsnip - Thaspium barbinode - Update

Hairyjoint meadow parsnip (Thaspium barbinode) is a rare-in-Florida member of the carrot family, vouchered only from Jackson County in the north-central Panhandle with several other possible records elsewhere from Walton and Duval counties - all in extreme north Florida.  It is common to our north, however, and is recorded throughout most of the eastern half of the U.S.  Throughout its range, it is found in moist forested areas, and along streams and ponds and occasionally prairies in full sun to partial shade although shade may impact its growth and number of blooms. It is a perennial that dies back to the ground in winter and reemerges in spring.  

This is a robust wildflower that will eventually reach a mature height of 4-6 feet.  The stems and stem branches have noticeably stiff hairs which give it its common name, but these are not easily seen unless looked at close-up. Like many other members of the carrot family (Apiaceae), it has compound leaves.  They alternate along the stem, but are most abundant near the base,  Each is toothed, 1-2 inches across and up to 1 inch wide.  Leaves ascending the main stem become smaller, and all are minutely "hairy" - especially along the veins and edges.

Flowering occurs in spring.  The umbels of bright yellow flowers in clusters of 10-20 flowers each, are 1-2 inches wide. The tiny individual flowers are all stalked and comprised of five petals that fold inwards. Pollinated flowers form brown oblong seeds by late summer that often remain attached to the stems even as the stems die and fall to the ground.  These can be collected and sown.

I have not cultivated this species previously,  The above photos were taken of plants I purchased from a native plant nursery north of Florida.  It is reported that hairyjoint meadow parsnip is tolerant of a wide variety of soils and growing conditions though it prefers moist (not wet) soil and at least half-day sun.  As a member of the Apiaceae, it is a host for the eastern black swallowtail.  It also attracts a variety of pollinators to its flowers.