Sunday, October 8, 2023

Willowleaf aster - Sypmphyotrichum praealtum

Willowleaf aster (Symphyotrichum praelatum) is an herbaceous perennial wildflower native to only five counties in the Florida Panhandle, but common to nearly every state in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S.  Throughout this region, it is most common in open to partly shady savannas in moist soil, though it is adaptable to a variety of sites.  Willowleaf aster dies back to the ground in winter and reemerges again in spring; eventually reaching a mature height of 4-6 feet on stout stems. This species can spread aggressively to form dense colonies over time.  As its common name implies, it is characterized by its willow-like leaves that alternate along the stems.  Each leaf is 3-5 inches long and no more than 3/4's inches wide.

The numerous flowers are produced in early fall.  They are in various shades of lavender though white forms are sometimes produced.  Numerous thin ray petals surround a yellow central disc.  Like all asters, the blooms are especially attractive to pollinators and the plants serve as a host for the pearl crescent butterfly.  I am currently experimenting with this species here in west-central Florida.  As a landscape plant that suckers freely, it should form striking colonies that would create great interest in a large open pollinator garden.  I'm hoping to see that by next (2024) fall.  Willowleaf aster has never been propagated by native nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, but it is sold by native nurseries north of Florida.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Camphor daisy - Rayjacksonia phyllocephala

Camphor daisy (Rayjacksonia phyllocephala) occurs in coastal habitats in scattered locations along the west coast of Florida.  There are vouchered specimens from Santa Rosa County in the extreme western Panhandle, a cluster of counties in west-central Florida, and records from the Florida Keys.  In this range, it is most common on beach dunes, salt flats, and disturbed open uplands.  Part of the anomaly in its seemingly disjunct range in Florida might be based on the fact that it shares many similarities to the ubiquitous camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris).  Camphor daisy also occurs along the western Gulfcoast from Mississippi to the tip of Texas and northern Mexico.  In the more-tropical parts of its range it grows more like a perennial, but elsewhere it is considered to be an annual.

Like camphorweed, this wildflower produces a large number of yellow daisy-like flowers and smells strongly of camphor when the foliage is crushed,  The major distinguishing characters are the many bristly hairs along the stems and the toothed leaf margins.  Camphor daisy reaches a mature height of 2-4 feet and has a bushy aspect.  The 2-inch long leaves alternate along the stems and have very widely spaced shallow teeth along the margins.  They are somewhat linear in shape.

Flowering occurs throughout the year in the warmer parts of its range and from summer to late fall elsewhere.  The bright yellow daisy-like flowers are about 1-inch wide.  Like most, if not all, asters they attract the attention of a great many pollinators.

Camphor daisy has never been offered for sale commercially by any nursery in Florida affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, nor by any nursery that I'm aware of outside of Florida. It is easy to propagate from ripe seed, however.  Though a bit weedy in aspect, it would make a good addition to a coastal pollinator garden.

Mossier's False Boneset - Brickellia mosieri

Mosier's false boneset (Brickellia mosieri) is an herbaceous perennial wildflower endemic to a small area of pine rockland habitat in Miami-Dade County. It is listed as a state and federal endangered species. 

A relative of the much showier Flyr's nemesis (B. cordifolia), Mosier's false boneset is a thin-stemmed evergreen plant that stands 1-3 feet tall.  The stems are grooved and very finely pubescent.  The thin linear leaves alternate along these stems and are up to 1 inch long.  As the photo above shows, they typically droop downwards and have a distinctive twist.  

Flowering occurs year-round. The small whitish petals are mostly hidden by the cream-colored anthers that extrude from each flower head.  These are produced in succession along the stems as the plant grows upward.  As they ripen, the seeds (achenes) occur in the axils and are dispersed via the fluffy white pappuses attached to each.

Mosier's false boneset is a very rare plant and rare in cultivation as well.  I was given a few seeds (legal) by a friend and it has proven to be quite easy to propagate.  As such, I hope to be able to offer it to others in the future.  This is a connoisseur plant that is interesting, but not especially valuable as an extra addition to a pollinator garden. I do not know its sensitivity to freezing temperatures.