Friday, July 21, 2017

Flower Friday: Butterfly orchid

Butterfly orchid (Encyclia tampensis

Photo by Mary Keim
Click on terms for botanical definitions. 

Butterfly orchid is a slow-growing, epiphytic perennial occurring naturally in mesic hammocks, hardwood swamps and mangrove forests. It is most commonly found growing on live oaks, but also occurs on bald cypress, mangroves and pond apples. Its diminutive yet showy flowers appear in late spring and summer; their honey-like fragrance attracts a variety of bees, which are the plant’s primary pollinators. 

The flower is comprised of five greenish-brown tepals that surround a white lip with a purple blotch. The plant’s linear- to lanceolate-shaped leaves are evergreen and can grow up to 12 inches long. The fruit is a capsule that is filled with many tiny seeds. Once the capsule opens, the seeds are wind-dispersed. 

Linear to lanceolate leaves
Photo by Mary Keim
The genus, Encyclia, is from the Greek enkykleoma, meaning “to encircle.” The species epiphet, tampensis, refers to the city of Tampa, where Encyclia tampensis was first discovered. The common name comes from flower’s resemblance to a butterfly. 

Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid family)

Native range: Central and southern peninsula into the Keys

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

Hardiness: Zones 8-11

Soil: None — this plant is epiphytic and grows on tree trunks and branches in conditions with high humidity and low nutrients.

Exposure: Full sun to light shade

Propagation: Seed, division

Note: Although butterfly orchids are grown by enthusiasts, they are considered commercially exploited in Florida and may not be harvested or sold without a permit.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Flower Friday: Sweetscent

Photo by Mary Keim
Sweetscent (Pluchea odorata)  

Click on terms for botanical definitions. 

Known by many names such as Camphorweed, Stinkweed, Salt marsh fleabane, Sourbush and Cattle-tongue, Sweetscent is a short-lived perennial wildflower that occurs naturally in freshwater and salt marshes, swamps and coastal hammocks throughout Florida. It typically blooms summer through fall. Its sweet-smelling leaves and flowers are very attractive to butterflies. Bees love this plant, too. 

Sweetscent’s somewhat showy inflorescence is a dense, flat-topped cyme of rosy pink blooms. Individual flowers lack ray florets. Leaves are ovate to lanceolate with toothed margins and rough surfaces. They are alternately arranged. The fruit is an inconspicuous achene tipped with a pappus

A medicinal tea made from Sweetscent leaves is widely consumed in the Caribbean. The tea has stimulant, diuretic and antispasmodic properties. 

Pluchea odorata seedhead by Mary Keim
Asteraceae (Aster, composite or daisy family) 

Native range: Nearly throughout 
To see where natural populations of Sweetscent have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zones 8-11 
Soil: Moist to wet, moderately well-drained to periodically inundated sandy, calcareous or organic soils 
Exposure: Full sun 
Growth habit: up to 4’ tall 
Propagation: Seed 
Garden tips: Sweetscent is rarely cultivated, but it is easy to propagate from seed. It can grow in nutrient poor soil and is moderately salt tolerant, but not drought tolerant. It can be weedy and is best used in a naturalistic landscape or habitat restoration.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Flower Friday: Swamp rosemallow

Photo by Ray Mathews, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Swamp rosemallow (Hibiscus grandiflorus)

Click on terms for botanical definitions.

Swamp rosemallow is a deciduous perennial wildflower with showy pink blooms. Its solitary flowers are large and somewhat nodding; they have 5 whitish-pink to rose-colored petals and red centers. Leaves are deltoid to heart-shaped, have toothed margins and are alternately arranged. They are grayish-green in color and velvety, giving the foliage a silvery tone. Stems and bracts are pubescent, as are the capsules (fruits).

Swamp rosemallow blooms from summer into early fall. It occurs naturally in marshes and swamps, in wet ruderal areas, and along edges of lakes, ponds and rivers. It is often seen in large masses in open marsh areas.

Photo by Joseph Marcus,
Lady BirdJohnson Wildflower Center

Family: Malvaceae (Mallow family)
Native range: Nearly throughout Florida

To see where natural populations of swamp rosemallow have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zone 8a-11
Soil: Moist to inundated sand or muck
: Full sun
Growth habit: 6–10’ tall

Garden tips: Due to its size, swamp rosemallow is best suited for broad, expansive landscapes, but can also serve as a beautiful centerpiece in a mixed container planting. It may be propagated by seed.  

Swamp rosemallow seeds are available from the Florida Wildflower Cooperative. Plants are available at nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit plantrealflorida.org to find a native nursery in your area.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Summer in the wildflower garden — some like it hot!

By Claudia Larsen

Although summer’s heat keeps many of us inside, it’s a busy time for wildflowers. Thousands of butterflies, bees, wasps and other insects visit flowers to obtain nectar. It’s also the changing of the guard, when lovely delicate spring bloomers such as coralbean, Coreopsis and skullcap are replaced by sturdier heat-loving species.

Don’t forget to collect seeds from early-blooming wildflowers. These can be refrigerated in plastic bags and saved for fall planting. Or, simply sow them directly in other areas of your garden where they’ll naturally acclimate to temperature and rain patterns. Common wildflowers that seed in the summer include Coreopsis, false petunia, Stoke's aster, phlox, blanketflower, beach sunflower and Salvia.

Photo by Claudia Larsen.

Seeds develop and mature in an interesting variety of structures. Milkweed flower clusters form long cylindrical green pods (right). These contain brown seeds attached to a feathery white papas that carry them on the breeze. This amazing adaptation is similar to the winged seeds of maple trees. I have also seen these soft white pieces entwined in bird nests — very comfy for the babies.

Now is also a good time to root cuttings of wildflowers with sturdy stems. Make 4- to 6- inch cuttings that have three nodes (where leaves attach). Remove leaves on the lower third of the stem and place the stems in a pot of wet dirt. Keep cuttings in shade and mist daily until rooted. Roots should form in three to six weeks. Be sure roots are large enough to support the plant before moving it into the garden. Plants that root easily include those in the mint family, such as dotted horsemint, salvias and blue curls, as well as wild petunia, wild ageratum and twinflower.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Flower Friday: Giant ironweed

Photo by Mary Keim
Giant ironweed (Vernonia gigantea

Click on terms for botanical definitions. 

Giant ironweed is a robust, perennial wildflower found naturally in floodplains, wet to mesic pine flatwoods and ruderal areas, and along forest margins and stream banks. Flowering occurs in summer and fall, with peak blooming in July. It attracts many pollinators, particularly butterflies. 

Unlike most members of the Aster family, the giant ironweed flower lacks ray florets. Its disc florets are tubular and may be lavender, magenta or deep purple. Extending from within each disc floret tube is a bifurcated and curled style. The flowers are about 1 inch in diameter and are born in loose terminal panicles. At the base of each flower are bracts that vary in color from dark green to purplish-green to brown. Basal leaves are coarse, oval-shaped and appear in early spring. Stem leaves are narrowly ovate to elliptic and can grow up to 8 inches long. Both have serrated margins. Stems may be glabrous or finely pubescent. Seeds are tiny achenes with tufts of bristles that catch the wind and aid in dispersal. 

The common name, ironweed, may refer to the toughness of the stem of this and other Vernonia species. 

Family: Asteraceae (Aster, composite or daisy family) 
Native range: Panhandle and peninsula south to Martin and Lee counties 
To see where natural populations of giant ironweed have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu
Hardiness: Zones 7-10 
Soil: Moist to moderately dry, well-drained sandy and loamy soils 
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade 
Growth habit: 3-5’ tall 
Propagation: Division, seed 
Garden tips: Giant ironweed is very adaptable in the landscape, although it is not drought-tolerant. It is an excellent addition to a butterfly garden or mixed wildflower garden; due to its height, it is best located in the back of the planting. This plant can sucker and may require weeding to contain it. It is deciduous and will die back in the winter. 

Giant ironweed plants are occasionally available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit www.plantrealflorida.org to find a nursery in your area. Seeds are available from the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative.