Friday, April 21, 2017

Flower Friday: Swamp tickseed

Swamp tickseed (Coreopsis nudata)


Click on terms for botanical definitions.

Photo by Vince Lamb
Swamp tickseed is a short-lived perennial with charming pink and yellow blooms. The flower is comprised of vivid purplish-pink ray florets that can be up to 1” long and are notched. They surround a compact center of bright yellow disk florets. Leaves are linear and more abundant at the base of the stem, becoming smaller and fewer as they ascend it. Stems are slender, glabrous and may be branched. The fruit is an elliptic-shaped achene.

Swamp tickseed occurs naturally in wet prairies, bogs, seepage slopes, wet flatwoods and roadside ditches. It blooms in spring (typically April and May) and is attractive to bees, although butterflies and other pollinators are known to visit them. Birds eat its seeds.

One of 14 species of Coreopsis native to Florida, Swamp tickseed is the only one that is pink. It is often confused with the non-native Cosmos bipinnatus.

The genus Coreopsis comes from the Greek koris, or “bug,” and opsis, or “appearance,” and refers to the shape of the seed (as does the common name “tickseed”). The species name nudata means “nude” or “without leaf.”

Family: Asteraceae (Aster, daisy or composite family)

Native range: Panhandle, several counties in the northern peninsula

To see where natural populations of Swamp tickseed have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.

Hardiness: Zone 8

Soil: Wet sand, loam or muck

Exposure: Full to partial sun

Growth habit: 3–5’ tall

Propagation: Seed

Garden tips: Swamp tickseed is easy to grow from seed. It requires consistent soil moisture to persist.

Swamp tickseed plants are occasionally available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit www.plantrealflorida.org to find a nursery in your area.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Flower Friday: Parsley haw

Parsley haw (Crataegus marshallii)
Click on terms for botanical definitions.

Photo by Chris M. Morris (Creative Commons: CC BY 2.0)
Parsley haw is a deciduous flowering shrub or small tree. Its many showy flowers have five white to pinkish petals and conspicuous red anthers. Leaves are triangular with deeply incised lobes and toothed margins. They are alternately arranged. Fruits are bright red, apple-like berries. The plant is often multi-trunked with scaly grayish bark. Branches are usually thorny.

Parsley haw occurs naturally in moist wooded slopes, floodplains and riverine forests. Its flowers, which bloom in the spring, are an important source of nectar for a variety of pollinators. The plant is a larval food source for many butterfly and moth species, and provides food and shelter for birds and small mammals.

The genus Crataegus comes from the Greek word kratus or “strong” (referring to the wood) and akakia or akis, which means “thorn.” The common name “parsley haw” refers to the resemblance of the leaves to those of the herb parsley.

Photo by Suzanne Caldwell (Creative Commons: CC BY-NC 2.0)
Rosaceae (Rose family)
Native range: Panhandle, north and west-central peninsula
To see where natural populations of parsley haw have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zone 8a-9b
Soil: Moist sand or loamy soil
Exposure: Full sun to full shade
Growth habit: up to 20’ tall
Propagation: Seed, cuttings, grafting
Garden tips: Parsley haw makes a great addition to a home landscape provided it has consistent soil moisture. Its leaves, flowers and fruits are colorful and attractive, and its bark provides winter interest.

Parsley haw plants are often available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit www.plantrealflorida.org to find a nursery in your area.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Flower Friday: Southeastern sneezeweed

Southeastern sneezeweed (Helenium pinnatifidum)
Click on terms for botanical definitions.

Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
Don’t let the name fool you — sneezeweed does not refer to the biological reaction one might have to smelling it. Rather, it is a reference to the plant’s historic use. Native Americans were known to dry and grind into a powder certain species of Helenium and use it as snuff.

Southeastern sneezeweed is an herbaceous perennial with delightful sunny blooms. Flowers are solitary and comprised of a broad and dense cluster of yellow disk florets surrounded by many bright yellow ray florets, each with three lobes or notches. Flowers are 2–3 inches in diameter. Stems are erect, unbranched and may be pubescent or glabrous. They arise from a basal rosette of leaves that may have entire or slightly toothed margins. Stem leaves are sessile, alternately arranged and become reduced as they ascend the stem. Seeds are borne in brown, hairy achenes.

Flowers typically bloom in spring, but may bloom year-round. They occur naturally in wet flatwoods and roadside ditches, and along marsh and swamp edges throughout Florida.

Family: Asteraceae (Aster, composite or daisy family)
Native range: Nearly throughout
To see where natural populations of Southeastern sneezeweed have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zones 8a-10b
Soil: Moist to wet soils
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 1–3’ tall
Propagation: Seed, division
Garden tips: Southeastern sneezeweed is a wetland plant that will only thrive in moist soil. It is not drought tolerant. When planted en masse, it puts on a dazzling spring display.

Southeastern sneezeweed plants are occasionally available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit www.plantrealflorida.org to find a nursery in your area.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

FDOT includes pollinators in Wildflower Policy update

By Dixie Tate

It may be just five words, but they could mean a world of difference to wildflowers and, perhaps more importantly, to the critters depending upon them. Those words, “for the benefit of pollinators,” were recently added to the Florida Department of Transportation’s Wildflower Program.
Brickellia cordifolia on U.S. 98 in Wakulla County. Photo/Jeff Norcini

In part, the program’s purpose statement now reads, “To develop and implement integrated vegetation management practices on roadsides and other transportation right of way, including reduced mowing, for the benefit of pollinators, while developing and maintaining safe, cost effective and efficient transportation corridors and systems.”

And what’s good for the bees, butterflies and birds that draw life from roadsides bursting with color is good for the humans traveling those roads. It’s not only because they are visually appealing, but also because the blossoms provide a feast for bees that are ultimately responsible for every third bite of food on our tables.
Wildflower resolution map
Three cities and 33 counties have adopted wildflower resolutions.

As State Transportation Landscape Architect Jeff Caster explains it, when Congress passed a transportation bill a little over a year ago expanding federal dollars for the nation’s transportation system, embedded within was the Highways BEE Act. Though the amendment to the bill, sponsored by Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, didn’t require it, it did encourage states to up their wildflower game, specifically calling out Monarchs and milkweed.

“And you can use federal dollars to do this,” Caster says, “which is a really big deal. Apparently, both sides of the aisle are beginning to see the urgency of the matter.”

Thus began the effort to add some teeth to what had been something of a “paper tiger that held nobody accountable for anything.” That’s how a program with the rather broad aim of “increasing visibility and enjoyment of wildflowers” has begun to morph into a program that packs a more powerful punch.

Adding the pollinator piece to the state’s Wildflower Program is “very, very significant because, before, it was for enjoyment,” Caster says. “Now it has a more serious purpose, more useful, and is perceived as more valuable.”

For Caster, this new dimension also means he will no longer be the sole person at FDOT “who has anything to do with the Wildflower Program as part of their job responsibilities.” Effective July 1, Caster says, “We’ll make it important to all eight district secretaries.” Added to their performance evaluations will be five goals relating to the maintenance and preservation of naturally occurring wildflower areas. Roadside management guidance also will be incorporated into manuals.

“Nature’s doing it,” Caster says about wildflowers that occur naturally on roadsides. “We just need to keep the mowers off of them.” That is another significant change reflected in FDOT’s management strategy. In the past, Caster explains, “We’d buy as much wildflower seed as we could buy. The seed would come up; we’d mow it down; and the next year, we’d start all over again.”

Thanks in large part to the success of the Florida Wildflower Foundation’s effort to persuade counties to adopt wildflower resolutions, Caster says that the move has been away from “simply buying wildflower seed to conserving natural areas where wildflowers grow naturally.”

It was something of an “aha!” moment: “Wow, this can really save us some money, because really all you have to do is mow less often.” When there’s “not a penny budgeted for wildflowers at FDOT,” Caster says, that’s an important realization.

The only thing that’s needed to conserve and preserve roadside wildflowers “is the willpower to do it,” Caster says. It will, however, require due diligence on the part of all those involved — from the mowers whose job it is to maintain safe roadsides to wildflower experts and enthusiasts.

The importance of “biological corridors” is stressed in a February 2015 report to FDOT, “Evaluating the Importance of Roadside Habitat for Native Insect Pollinators.” In it, lead investigator Dr. Jaret Daniels noted, “Roadsides offer many potential resources for pollinators. They can support a wide variety of flower-rich forage habitat for access to pollen and nectar; and unlike agricultural landscapes, remain unplowed, therefore providing potential nesting sites for ground nesting bees. 

These same areas can offer food and cover for other beneficial insect predators and parasitoids, colorful butterflies and moths, and other wildlife, including songbirds.”

At the end of the day, Caster says, “Our roads are the most visible and most visited landscape in Florida,” so a heightened sense of awareness will work to the benefit of all.

For your FDOT district wildflower coordinator’s contact information, visit www.flawildflowers.org/resolution.php.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Know your native pollinators: Polyester bees
by Jonnie Dietz, Florida Museum of Natural History, and
Claudia Larsen

"Know your native pollinators" is a series of articles that will help you identify and appreciate Florida's varied pollinators, including bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, birds and bats.

Colletids are one of the smaller bee families in Florida, but are diverse in size and appearance. They’re named for the unique cellophane-like substance that many females secrete to line the walls of their nest cells. 

Colletes titusensis. Photo courtesy of
USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory

Insecta : Hymenoptera : Colletidae

Bees in the Colletidae family are short-tongued, so they typically gather nectar from shallow flowers such as those in the Asteraceae (daisy or aster), Apiaceae (carrot or parsley), and Fabaceae (pea or legume) family. While many are generalists, some are specialists and only forage from one family or genus of plants.

Other plants on which Colletidae have been spotted foraging:
  • Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
  • Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)
  • Florida swamp privet (Forestiera segregata)
  • Camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris)
  • Baccharises (Baccharis spp.)
  • Pepperweed (Lepidium spp.)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
  • Fleabane (Erigeron spp.)

This family gets its common name, polyester bees (or plasterer bees), from the cellophane- or silk-like substance that they secrete. Using their tongues, females coat this substance on the walls of their nest cells. Not only is it waterproof, but it protects against potential contaminants such as fungi.

Florida is home to three genera of Colletidae — Colletes, Hylaeus and Caupolicana — and five endemic species. Each genus is distinctly different and easy to distinguish, but individual species can be difficult to identify, even at the microscopic level. Most are slender with triangular or heart-shaped faces, and short tongues (glossa) that are split at the tip.

Colletes titusensis. Photo courtesy of
USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory
Colletes (subfamily Colletinae)
Number of Florida species: 15
Number of endemic species: 2 (Colletes titusensis and C. longifacies)

Colletes are small to medium in size (0.3 to 0.6 inches long) and quite hairy in comparison to similar sized bees. Many have pale bands of light colored hair on their abdomen and eyes angled outward, creating the appearance of a heart shaped face.

Most Colletes are active in either spring or fall, but usually not during summer. They forage on a variety of flowering shrubs and trees, preferring woody species over herbaceous.

Colletes usually construct their nests in open areas with little vegetation, and some species nest in great aggregations. Females collect pollen, water and nectar as provision for each egg, and deposit it in the nest cell as a syrupy mass (rather than a hard pollen ball like most bees). Eggs are deposited on the cell wall near the goopy provision.

DID YOU KNOW? The genus name Collettes comes from a Greek word meaning "one who glues."
Hylaeus floridanus. Photo courtesy of
USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory

(subfamily Hylaeniae)

Number of Florida species: 10
Number of endemic species: 3 (Hylaeus graenicheri, H. flammipes, and H. volusiensis)

Unique among the bees, Hylaeus are small (about 0.2 to 0.3 inches), nearly hairless and often confused for wasps. They are mostly black with white or yellow markings on their face, thorax and legs. As such, they are also known as yellow-faced or yellow-masked bees. Females lack the scopa, or pollen-collecting hairs, characteristic of most female bees. Instead, they eat pollen and nectar and carry it back to their nest in a “honey stomach” where it’s regurgitated as provisions for their eggs.

Hylaeus mainly fly in spring, however some species may emerge in late summer or early fall. Although they have short tongues, their small size allows them to access nectar from larger flowers.

Females construct their nests in premade holes (e.g. hollow stems, nail holes, natural holes in rock) and line the cells with a cellophane-like substance similar to that of the Colletes. Hylaeus are found in a wide variety of Florida habitats, including sandhill sites, wetlands, and wet flatwoods.

DID YOU KNOW? The genus name Hylaeus comes from a Greek word meaning "of the woods" and refers to this genus of bees' preference for nesting in woody material.

Caupolicana electa. Photo courtesy of
USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory
Caupolicana (subfamily Diphaglossinae Vachal)
Number of Florida species: 1 (Caupolicana electa Cresson – considered locally extinct)

Fast flying and relatively large (about 1 inch long), these bees are crepuscular, flying at twilight and just before dawn, rather than during the day. They have a strong preference for flowers in the Fabaceae (pea or legume) and Lamiaceae (mint) family, but are often observed nectar-robbing even before flowers have fully opened.

Only one species, Caupolicana electa Cresson, has been documented in Florida’s Miami Dade County. Although this population is now considered extinct, this Caupolicana species still occurs in sandhill regions of other southeastern states.


  1. The Bees of Florida. John B. Pascarella, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Sciences, Professor of Biological Sciences, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas. http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/HallG/Melitto/Intro.htm  
  2. Michener, Charles D. The Bees of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U Press, 2010. Print.
  3. “Florida's Native Bees." Jaime Pawelek. http://www.floridasnativebees.com/plasterer-bees.html
  4. Mitchell, Theodore B. Bees of the Eastern United States, Volume 2. Raleigh, NC: Published by the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station with Support from the National Science Foundation, 1962. Print.
  5. Wilson, Joseph S., and Olivia Messinger Carril. The bees in your backyard: a guide to North America's bees. Princeton: Princeton U Press, 2016. Print.
  6. The Xerces Society. Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2011. Print.