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.