Sunday, February 4, 2024

White Screwstem - Bartonia verna

White screwstem (Bartonia verna) is an annual member of the Genian family found nearly statewide in Florida in the edges of open shallow sunny wetlands.  It has not been reported in Miami-Dade or Monroe Counties.  It is a plant of coastal counties throughout the Southeast Coastal Plain as well - from eastern Louisiana to North Carolina with one report from eastern Texas.  It is considered an obligate wetland species throughout this range. It is one of many plants first described by French naturalist Andre Michaux.

One must look closely to find this species and you are likely only to see it when it is in bloom.  The frail stem stands only 4-8 inches in height and is nearly leafless.  These stems are smooth and reddish in color. They are topped by delicate white flowers - often branching near the top, each with a single bloom at the end of the stem as can be seen in the photo above.  Each flower typically has four bright white petals surrounding a noticeable bright green ovary and four stamens.  As the Latin name suggests, the flowers are most commonly produced in spring, but can occur from November through May in Florida. It flowers are reported to attract bees and butterflies.

Because of its overall nature, white screwstem is not a good candidate for home landscapes and has not been propagated by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  It is simply a beautiful wildflower to be looked for if exploring wet flatwoods or the edges of marshes and bogs from winter to spring.

The above photo was taken by Steve Coleman and used by permission.

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