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Friday, December 2, 2016

Flower Friday: Indianpipe

"Nodding" indianpipe flowers. Photo by Liz West.
Indianpipe (Monotropa uniflora)
Click on terms for botanical definitions.

Also known as ghost plant or death plant, indianpipe is an interesting and inconspicuous herbaceous perennial wildflower. Unlike most plants, it is non-photosynthetic and does not contain chlorophyll. As a result, all parts of this plant are white and translucent, although at times during its life, it may have a pinkish hue and bear purple to black flecks. Its five-petaled flower is born pendulous or nodding, but becomes perpendicular to the stem as the anthers and stigma mature. Its fruit is a capsule. The flower becomes erect once the capsule is fully mature and seeds are ready to disperse. Leaves are sessile, white and scale-like. Stems may be solitary or appear in clusters. The entire plant turns black when it dies.

Mature flowers.
Photo by David Nolan.
Indianpipe is often mistaken for a fungus because of its growth habit and lack of color. It is actually a myco-heterotrophic species, which means it gets its food by parasitizing underground fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees. The fungus is also necessary for indianpipe seeds to germinate. The plant occurs naturally in mixed temperate hardwood forests and scrub, particularly where the ground is covered in leaf litter and lichens. It typically blooms in November.

According to the Native American Ethnobotany Database, indianpipe has had many medicinal uses, including treatment of epilepsy and convulsions in children, eye sores, toothaches and pain due to colds.

The species epithet, uniflora, indicates that each stem bears a single flower.

Family: Ericaceae (Heath or heather family, which also includes blueberries, huckleberries, staggerbushes and azaleas)
Native range: Nearly throughout Florida
Click here to see where indianpipe occurs naturally.
Soil: Dry to moderately dry soils
Exposure: Full sun to heavy (but not full) shade  
Growth habit: >10" tall
Note: This plant is not commercially propagated. Seek it out in its natural habitat.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Make a match for natural Florida and double your impact doing it

Dear Friend of Florida's wildflowers,

All over Florida, roadsides are turning into stretches of wildflowers that feed our bees, butterflies and birds. This beautiful transformation is just one example of how your support is helping to change
Photo/Doreen Damm
attitudes and boost actions that protect Florida’s native wildflowers in cities and counties, and on private land.  Just look at what your contributions have helped accomplish in a few short years:

•    Thirty-three of Florida’s 67 counties have pledged to preserve naturally occurring wildflowers along roadsides.
•    150,000 copies of two 24-page “10 Easy Wildflowers” publications have been distributed throughout Florida.
•    More native milkweed is feeding Monarch caterpillars, thanks to a project that is collecting seeds and propagating plants.
•    140 pages of lessons that teach Florida’s third- and fourth-graders about our wildflowers and wild creatures are now available to teachers.

Still, there is much more to do. With your help, we can keep connecting the dots, ensuring that both children and adults throughout Florida understand the importance of our state’s wildflowers and their link to our health and well-being.
Imagine one day being able to travel anywhere in the state and see vast stretches of wildflowers blooming. Or visiting any state park or botanical garden in Florida to find an educational wildflower landscape alive with wildlife. Imagine children, the next stewards of our fragile environment, armed with knowledge about Florida’s native ecosystems, ready to make decisions that will protect and preserve them. While the Florida Wildflower Foundation is up for the challenge of creating these changes, we can’t do it without you.

One of our generous donors has pledged to match each dollar we raise for wildflowers by year’s end, up to $9,000. That means the contribution you make today will be doubled! Please consider making a tax-deductible gift of $50, $100 or even $500 to the Foundation, the only non-profit organization in Florida explicitly devoted to preserving our vital native wildflowers. 

Today make a contribution today via credit card through PayPal, visit www.FlaWildflowers.org/donate.php or call 407-622-1606. Or, mail your check to the Florida Wildflower Foundation, 225 S. Swoope Ave., Suite 110, Maitland, FL 32751.

With gratitude for your generous support of Florida wildflowers and wild places,

Lisa Roberts
Executive Director 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Flower Friday: Fragrant ladies'-tresses are one of Florida's few aquatic orchids.

Fragrant ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes odorata)
Click on terms for botanical definitions.

Photo by Mary Keim
Fragrant ladies’-tresses is a semi-aquatic to aquatic perennial native orchid.  Its flowers are small, white and very fragrant with a vanilla-like scent. They are arranged in a spiral around a terminal spike. Upper tepals may be fused and form a hood-like structure over a lower lip. Like most orchids, the flowers are resupinate, which means their position turns upside down as they development. Its leaves are basal and narrowly lanceolate. Roots are fleshy and can appear tuberous. Seeds are tiny and born in capsules.

Fragrant ladies’-tresses occurs naturally in swamps, wet pinelands and seepage slopes and blooms fall through early winter. It is one of the few orchids that can be considered aquatic.

The genus Spiranthes comes from the Greek speira or “coil” and anthos or “flower.” It refers to the spiral arrangement of the inflorescence. The species epithet odorata comes from the Latin for “fragrant” or “perfumed”— literally translated as “with an odor.”

Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid family)
Native range: Throughout most of Florida
Click here to see where fragrant ladies’ tresses occurs naturally.
Hardiness: Zones 8-11
Soil:  Seasonally wet to moist, well-drained sandy, organic or calcareous soils
Exposure:  Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 6-10” tall
Propagation: Seed
Garden tips: Fragrant ladies’ tresses is not widely cultivated, however, if you can find it, it is the perfect addition to a bog garden. Plants can tolerate shallow standing water. They are not drought- or salt-tolerant. They can spread via underground runners.

Fragrant ladies’ tresses are rarely available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Growers may list availability at www.plantrealflorida.org.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Flower Friday: Rice button aster adorns Florida's sandhills and flatwoods

Rice button aster (Symphyotrichum dumosum

Click on terms for botanical definitions. 

Photo by Mary Keim
Also known as bushy aster, rice button aster is a perennial herbaceous wildflower. Like other Symphyotrichum species, it is a profuse bloomer. Its flowers are small (3/8- to 3/4-inch in diameter) and borne in terminal panicles. Ray florets vary in color from white to pink to lavender. Disk florets are yellow to reddish and may fade as the flower ages. Bracts are smooth and whitish. Leaves are linear, sessile and alternately arranged. Stems are slim and branched. 

Rice button aster occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods and hammocks. It blooms primarily in September through December, although it has been known to bloom throughout the year. Rice button aster attracts many pollinators, particularly butterflies and native bees. It is the larval host plant for the pearl crescent butterfly. 

Family: Asteraceae (Aster, daisy or composite family)
Native range: Throughout Florida 
Click here to see where rice button aster occurs naturally. 
Hardiness: Zones 8a-11 
Soil: Moderately moist to dry sandy acidic soils 
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade 
Growth habit: 2-3+' tall 
Propagation: Seed 
Garden tips: Rice button aster is easy to propagate and adaptable to a variety of growing conditions, making it an ideal plant for the home landscape. It does best in mixed wildflower plantings. Rice button aster spreads by suckering and may require some thinning to keep it under control. 

Plants are often available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a nursery in your area.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Flower Friday: Nothing says fall in Florida like hairyawn muhly grass!

Hairyawn muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Click on terms for botanical definitions.
Photo by Bill Randolph

Hairyawn muhly is a robust, perennial, clump-forming grass that puts on a stunning fall display. Its flowers are pink to purplish-red and are born in conspicuous but delicate inflorescences. They are tiny but profuse. Leaf blades are flat and become narrow toward the tip. Stems are thin and glabrous. The fruit is a tiny caryopsis.

Hairyawn muhly occurs naturally in coastal grasslands, hammocks and strands, beach dunes, sandhills, and pine flatwoods.

The genus name Muhlenbergia honors German-American amateur botanist Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815).

Inflorescence close up. Photo by Mary Keim
: Poaceae (Grass family)
Native range: Nearly throughout
Click here to see where hairyawn muhly occurs naturally.
Hardiness: Zone 8a-11
Soil: Moist to dry, mildly acidic, sandy soil
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 1-4’+ tall, equally wide
Propagation: Seed
Garden tips: Hairyawn muhly is an excellent plant for most Florida landscapes. Its foliage is attractive all year, and its fall display of color is nothing short of spectacular. En masse, it produces a purplish-pink haze. It works well in mass and border plantings and also as a specimen plant. It is hardy, drought-tolerant and mildly salt-tolerant. It self-seeds and can maintain its population for many years. Hairyawn muhly’s clumping habit provides excellent cover for wildlife.

Plants are available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit www.plantrealflorida.org to find a nursery in your area. Seeds are often available from the Florida Wildflower Growers Cooperative.