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.