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Friday, July 31, 2015

Flower Friday: Pollinators are passionate for purple pickerelweed

Photo by R. W. Smith,
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

Pickerelweed is a long-lived, perennial wetland wildflower. Its conspicuous blooms are born in erect, showy spikes. Flowers are tubular with deep purplish-blue petals that often bear yellow and white markings. Leaves are dark green and alternately arranged. Their shape is sagittate (arrow-shaped), with a long, tapering blade and a cordate (heart-shaped) base, hence the species name, cordata. Flower spikes extend above all but one leaf, which grows just below and behind the spike. Seeds are inconspicuous, and are edible to humans and wildlife. Ducks are known to eat the entire plant.

Pickerelweed typically blooms in spring through summer and occurs naturally in open, aquatic habitats such as pond, lake or river edges, marshes and swamps. It is pollinated primarily by bees, but is visited by many butterflies and other insects. 

Photo by Alan Cressler, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
: Pontederiaceae
Native range: Nearly throughout Florida
Hardiness: Zones 7–10
Soil: Inundated to saturated soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 2–4 feet
Propagation: seed, division
Garden tips: Pickerelweed is great for water gardens as well as pond edges and drainage swales, where it can also help with soil stabilization. It flowers best if grown in full sun. It is fast-growing and spreads easily on its own by underground rhizomes, forming large colonies if not maintained.

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

To see where pickerelweed occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3688.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Flower Friday: Replace turf with lovely powderpuff

Photo by Lisa Roberts
Powderpuff (Mimosa strigillosa)

Powderpuff (also known as sunshine mimosa) is a prostrate, mat-forming perennial wildflower. Its showy pink to lavender "powderpuff" blooms are globose and have many small flowers. Its leaves are bluish-green and featherlike in appearance. They are twice compound, having 15± pairs of linear leaflets. Its stems are woody to herbaceous.

Powderpuff typically blooms in spring through summer and occurs naturally in open, disturbed areas and along roadsides. It is pollinated
mainly by bees, although it is the host plant for the little sulphur butterfly. 
Polk County roadside adorned with Mimosa strigillosa.
Photo by Steve Woosley

Family: Fabaceae (Legume family)
Native range: Nearly throughout peninsular Florida
Hardiness: Zones 8–10
Soil: Sandy, moist to well-drained soils
Exposure: Full sun to minimal shade
Growth habit: 6–9" tall
Garden tips: Powderpuff is a great groundcover replacement as it is low-growing, spreads readily and tolerates being mowed. It is adaptable to both dry and moist sites. It can be propagated by seed and division.

Powderpuff 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 powderpuff occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=2162.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Flower Friday: Summer's star wildflower is Hibiscus grandiflorus.

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

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
Native range: Nearly throughout Florida
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.

To see where swamp rosemallow occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Flower Friday: Woodland pinkroot is simply stunning

Photo by John Moran
Woodland pinkroot (Spigelia marilandica)

Woodland pinkroot is a showy perennial wildflower. Its flowers are tubular, about 2 inches long and erect. Its petals are scarlet red on the outside and bright yellow on the inside. Its wide leaves are oval in shape, sessile (attached directly to the stem), and oppositely arranged. Its seeds are contained in dehiscent capsules that, when ripe, will pop open and propel the seeds well beyond the mother plant.

Woodland pinkroot blooms in late spring through summer and sometimes into fall. It occurs naturally in upland hardwood forests, slope forests and bluffs, and is pollinated by hummingbirds as well as other insects.

There are approximately 60 species of Spigelia that occur from the southern US south to Argentina. Only four species are native to Florida, and two are endangered: gentian pinkroot (S. gentianoides), which has pink flowers, and Florida pinkroot (S. loganioides), which has white flowers. The latter is endemic to only five counties in Central Florida. Woodland pinkroot (S. marilandica) occurs naturally in Florida in only seven counties.

Family: Loganiaceae*
Native range: Central and eastern panhandle, Santa Rosa County
Hardiness: Zone 7-8
Soil: Rich, well-drained soil
Exposure: Partial shade
Growth habit: 2–3+’ tall
Garden tips: Woodland pinkroot's blooming season can be extended by removing the spent flowers. It  is adapted to the growing conditions of northern Florida and tends not to do well in southern climes. It can be propagated by root division or seed (although seed is not easy to come by). Plants are occasionally available occasionally available at nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit http://plantrealflorida.org/ to find a native nursery in your area.

Caution: Although Spigelia roots were once made into a tea to help expel intestinal worms, all Spigelia species are poisonous and may cause serious if not fatal sickness if consumed.

To see where woodland pinkroot occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.

*Many genera that were once classified under the Loganiaceae family have been moved to other families. And some classification schemes have further divided the remaining genera into four families, placing Spigelia in the Strychnaceae (strychnine) family.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Flower Friday: Yellow milkwort is endemic, yet common throughout Florida's peninsula.

Photo by John Moran
Yellow milkwort (Polygala rugelii)

Also known as Rugel's milkwort, yellow milkwort is an annual herbaceous wildflower endemic to the Florida peninsula. Its showy flowers are bright yellow and borne in compact, thimble-shaped clusters. They are solitary and have large, lateral sepals. Leaves are alternately arranged and have smooth margins. Upper leaves are small and lanceolate in shape; lower leaves are large, obovate to spatulate, and appear as a rosette.

Yellow milkwort blooms primarily in summer and fall, but it has throughout most of the year. It occurs naturally in wet pine flatwoods. 

The name Polygala comes from the Greek polys, which means “many or much,” and gala, which means “milk.” It is so-named because it was once believed that the presence of Polygala species in cow fields would result in higher milk production. The species name, rugelii, refers to the British-born botanist and physician, Ferdinand Rugel (1806-1879), who collected and named many plants throughout the southeastern US.

Family: Polygalaceae (Milkwort family)
Native range: Peninsular Florida (endemic)
Growth habit: 1–3' tall
Garden tips: You’ll have to visit a natural area to see this little jewel as it is not commercially available in plant or seed form.

To see where yellow milkwort occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.