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Friday, February 27, 2015

Flower Friday: It's invasive species awareness week! Consider this native Ruellia instead of the invasive Mexican petunia

February 22–28 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week.
Photo by Jim Haley
Wild petunia
(Ruellia caroliniensis)


Wild petunia is a low-growing, erect perennial wildflower. Its 5-petaled blooms appear in clusters, are tubular in shape, and range in color from purple to lavender to pale pinkish-white. Flowers only remain open for a day, but plants to have a high yield and a long blooming period. Wild petunia leaves are ovate to elliptic, and are oppositely arranged. The leaves and stems are covered with fine hairs.

Wild petunia typically blooms in late spring through late summer/early fall. It occurs naturally in mesic hammocks, flatwoods and sandhills, and along roadsides and in disturbed sites. It is the host plant for the white peacock and common buckeye butterflies, but attracts a variety of pollinators.

Although the common name is petunia, the flowers in the Ruellia genus are not true petunias, which are members of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family.
 
Family: Acanthaceae (Acanthus family)
Native range: statewide, from Central Panhandle to the Keys
Hardiness: Zones 8a-11
Soil: Dry, sandy soils to moist soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 6–18”
Garden tips: Wild petunia is easy to grow and is incredibly adaptable to a variety of conditions. It self seeds and is easily propagated by seed and cuttings. It makes a lovely groundcover, particularly when mixed with other low-growing flowers.

CAUTION:  Many big box garden centers sell the highly invasive Mexican petunia (Ruellia simplex). This species is a FLEPPC-listed Category I invasive species, which means it has escaped cultivation and is known to alter native plant communities by displacing native species. (See fleppc.org for more information and to see a list of Category I and II species). Mexican petunia spreads quickly and does not respond well to herbicides. 

You can help control the spread of this invasive species by not planting it in your landscape and instead planting the native Ruellia species.

Wild petunia is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit plantrealflorida.org/ to find a native nursery on your area.

To see where wild petunia occurs naturally, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=812.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Flower Friday: Oakleaf fleabane brings more signs of an early spring!

Oakleaf fleabane flower (Photo by Stacey Matrazzo)
Oakleaf fleabane (Erigeron quercifolius)

Also known as Southern fleabane and daisy fleabane, oakleaf fleabane is a delicate, short-lived perennial wildflower. Its small blooms (about 1/4–1/2 inch in diameter) consist of many thin, white to pinkish-purplish ray florets surrounding a broad, dense cluster of yellow disc florets. Its leaves are mostly basal and are lobed, resembling the leaf shape of some oak species (hence the common name "oakleaf fleabane," and the scientific name quercifolius, which is Latin for "oak-like foliage"; Quercus is a genus of oaks). The leaves and stems are covered in tiny, fine hairs.

Oakleaf fleabane's hairy stem and leaf (Photo by Stacey Matrazzo)
Oakleaf fleabane typically flowers in spring and summer. It occurs naturally in sandhills and moist hammocks as well as in disturbed sites and along roadsides. A variety of pollinators are attracted to its blooms.

 
Family: Asteraceae (Daisy family)
Native range: statewide, from Central Panhandle to the Keys
Hardiness: Zones 8a-11
Soil: Dry, sandy soils to slightly moist soils
Exposure: Full sun to moderate shade
Growth habit: 12–24"
Garden tips: Oakleaf fleabane is best utilized in a meadow or naturalistic setting. It is easily propagated by seed. It does have a tendency to get weedy if left to its own devices.

Oakleaf fleabane is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.

To see where oakleaf fleabane occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=1019.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Try these "alter-natives" to common invasive species


February 22–28 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

Florida is uniquely varied in its climate and growing conditions, allowing for a huge variety of plants to thrive. But some of the plants that are common to our home landscapes are actually invasive species, many of which are now widespread in Florida's natural areas. Removing these species from your landscape and replacing them with native alternatives can help prevent the spread of invasive species and will provide suitable food and cover for native wildlife. 

There are many native plant alternatives to common invasive exotic landscape plants. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) has a wonderful resource for South Florida, Explore your AlterNatives. For Central Florida, Lake County has produced Greener Choices, Alternatives to Invasive Exotic Plants. And the UF/IFAS Extension has created guides for North, Central and South Florida.

 Here are just a few of the commonly sold exotic invasive species, along with recommended "AlterNatives":

 Groundcover   
Wedelia (Wedelia trilobita, syn. Sphagneticola trilobata) CAT II INVASIVE
alternative: Dune sunflower (Helianthus debilis) (Click here to find a nursery in your area that sells dune sunflower.) 
Lantana (Lantana camara) CAT I INVASIVE 
alternative: Beach verbena (Glandularia maritima) (Click here to find a nursery in your area that sells beach verbena.)

Helianthus debilis -- an excellent
"alter-native" to Wedelia
Glandularia maritima (photo by Walter Taylor,
Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants)
 Low shrubs 
Coral ardisia (Ardisia crenata) CAT I INVASIVE
alternative: Marlberry (Ardisia escallonioides) (Click here to find a nursery in your area that sells marlberry.)
alternative: Wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) (Click here to find a nursery in your area that sells wild coffee.)

Ardisia escallonioides
(photo by Homer Edward Price)
Psychotria nervosa
(photo by Stacey Matrazzo)
 Flowering vines 
Chines wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) CAT II INVASIVE 
alternative: American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) (Click here to find a nursery in your area that sells American wisteria.) 
Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) CAT I INVASIVE 
alternative: Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) (Click here to find a nursery in your area that sells coral honeysuckle).  
Wisteria frutescens (Photo by Shirley Denton,
Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants
)
Lonicera sempervirens (Photo by Terry Zinn)

  Grasses  
Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) CAT II INVASIVE 
alternative: Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) (Click here to find a nursery in your area that sells muhly grass.)
Muhlenbergia capillaris (Photo by Bill Randolph)


Remember to choose native plants that are best suited for your region and growing conditions. Visit www.flawildflowers.org/planting.php for resources to help you select the right plant for your landscape.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Flower Friday: Gaze into Florida's beautiful greeneyes.

Florida greeneyes. Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
Florida greeneyes (Berlandiera subacaulis)
 
Florida greeneyes is a perennial herbaceous wildflower. Its bright blooms consist of vibrant yellow ray florets, and greenish-yellow, tubular disc florets, sitting in a cup of bright green bracts. Its dark green, basal leaves are ovately shaped with scalloped margins when young; as they mature, they become more deeply lobed. Its stem is hairy. Seeds develop in the bracts and mature into a distinctive, plate-like seed head.



Florida greeneyes typically flowers in spring. It occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods, and mixed upland forests, as well as along dry roadsides and in ruderal areas. 


Florida greeneyes is endemic to Florida. It attracts a variety of pollinators.
 

The species is named for the 19th century French botanist Jean-Louis Berlandier, who collected botanicals in Mexico and Texas.

Two stages of Florida greeneyes' distinctive seedhead.
Family: Asteraceae (Daisy family)

Native range: Eastern Panhandle, north and central peninsula, Lee and Monroe counties

Hardiness: Zones 8b-10

Soil: Dry to well-drained sandy soils

Exposure: Full sun to minimal shade

Growth habit: 1–2 feet tall

Garden tips: Once established, Florida greeneyes can form large clumps and produce copious blooms, making for a beautiful spring display. It is easily propagated by seed and root division, is low maintenance and drought tolerant. 



Florida greeneyes seeds are available from the Florida Wildflower Cooperative
Plants are often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.

To see where Florida greeneyes occurs naturally, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=17.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Flower Friday: Spring comes early with Walter's viburnum

Photo by Alan Cressler, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Walter's viburnum (Viburnum obovatum)

Walter's viburnum is an evergreen* woody shrub to small tree that produces profuse clusters of dainty white flowers. Its leaves are small (about 1" in length), spatulate in shape, and oppositely arranged. They are dark green and leathery and may have either entire or slightly toothed margins.

Walter's viburnum typically flowers in spring. It occurs naturally in hydric hammocks, riverine forests, floodplain swamps and bottomland forests. Pollinators are attracted to its showy flower clusters, while birds and other wildlife feast on its abundant summer and fall fruit production and use its dense foliage for nesting and cover. 



Walter's viburnum leaves. Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
This species was previously placed in the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family.

Family: Adoxaceae (Moschatel family)
Native range: Panhandle, North and South-central peninsula
Hardiness: Zones 7-10a
Soil: Moist to wet, fertile soils
Exposure: Full sun to full shade
Growth habit: varies, up to 12+ feet tall
Garden tips: Walter's viburnum makes a great hedgerow, or border/screening plant and can be pruned to a preferred shape and height. It is fast-growing, extremely adaptable to a broad range of conditions, and hurricane wind resistant. It is best propagated by cuttings; seeds require scarification before planting and may not germinate for several years, although specimens are known to self-seed. It is also known to spread by suckering.

*Walter's viburnum may experience a brief deciduous period in North Florida and/or in colder winter temperatures.

Walter's viburnum is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.

To see where Walter's viburnum occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3202.