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Friday, July 25, 2014

Flower Friday: Railroad vine lays beautiful tracks along Florida's beaches

Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
Railroad vine (Ipomoea pes-caprae subsp. brasiliensis)

Also known as beach morning glory, bayhops, or goat’s foot, railroad vine is a fast-growing, evergreen, perennial commonly found on beach dunes. Flowers are large, funnel-shaped and purple to purplish-pink in color. Its large nectaries and showy flowers attract bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps and ants. Leaves are succulent and rounded, with a notched tip resembling a cloven hoof, hence its species name, “pes caprae,” which means “goat’s foot” in Latin. Leaves and stems contain a white sap that may help protect it from pests. It has also been used to treat jellyfish stings.

As with other morning glory species, railroad vine flowers open in the morning and last only one day, however, the plant is a prolific bloomer.

Railroad vine occurs naturally in most of the coastal peninsular counties, and in a few coastal panhandle counties. It is a pioneer species and is often used in beach restoration and stabilization.

Family: Convolvulaceae (Morning glory family)
Hardiness: Zones 8-11
Soil: Does best in dry, nutrient-poor, sandy soils, but can also tolerate moist or calcareous soils
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 6-16 inches in height; vine length typically varies from 10 to 20 feet, but can extend as long as 100 feet
Garden tips: Railroad vine can be easily propagated from cuttings as well as seeds, but it can be difficult to cultivate in a typical landscape. It does best on beach dunes. It is highly tolerant of salt, heat, and wind.

Railroad vine plants are sometimes available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area.

To see where railroad vine occurs naturally, visit http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=590.

--Stacey Matrazzo

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Flower Friday: American lotus offers extraordinary summer blooms

American lotus (Nelumbo lutea)

American lotus is an aquatic emergent perennial with large, solitary flowers that are pale yellow in color and are very fragrant. It has one of the largest blooms of any flowering plant in America. Its leaves are large and round with undulating margins, and are often elevated out of the water. The lotus’ unique seed pod emerges as an inverted cone-like structure from the center of the bloom. As the pod develops, it turns from pale yellow to dark brown and resembles a shower head (see photo, right). The seeds are eaten by water fowl. Young seeds, as well as roots, shoots and blossoms are edible to humans.

American lotus occurs naturally in still to slow moving freshwater habitats such as along lake and pond edges, and in freshwater marshes.

Plants in the Nelumbo genus (of which there are only two worldwide) were once considered members of the Nymphaeaceae (waterlily) family in the order Nymphaeales, but molecular studies recently concluded that Nelumbo species actually belong in the Proteales order, along with such plants as the American sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis).

Family: Nelumbonaceae (Lotus family)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 7-11)
Soil: Wet (submerged), acidic soil
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 2-5 feet tall

Garden tips: American lotus is a fast-growing plant that can be propagated by division as well as by seeds. For more information on growing American lotus, see the American lotus publication from UF/IFAS Extension.
Amerlican lotus seeds are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative (http://www.floridawildflowers.com/products/Nelumbo-lutea-%252d-American%C2%A0Lotus.html).
To see where American lotus occurs naturally, visit http://www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=2954.

-- Stacey Matrazzo

Friday, July 11, 2014

Flower Friday: Bring on the butterflies -- with butterly milkweed!

Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Butterfly milkweed is a perennial that produces large, showy clusters of bright orange to reddish flowers. Petals are distinctly downturned. Stems are rough to hairy, and leaves are narrowly lanceolate, and oppositely arranged. Asclepias tuberosa is an exception to the Asclepias genus in that its stem does not contain the milky substance that distinguishes the rest of the genus and gives it the common name “milkweed.” 

Butterfly milkweed flowers from spring through fall. It occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods, and other sandy uplands as well as along sunny roadsides. It is the larval food plant of monarch and queen butterflies. It also attracts hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators.

Butterfly milkweed is sometimes referred to as pleurisy root because Native Americans chewed the root of the plant to treat pleurisy. Today, it is commercially available as an extract and as a dried root powder.

Family: Apocynaceae (Dogbane family)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 7-10)
Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 1-3 feet tall, with 1-2 foot spread
Garden tips: Butterfly milkweed is an excellent addition to butterfly gardens as well as any dry, hot landscape. It is easily propagated by seeds, division and root cuttings.

Butterfly milkweed seeds are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers 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 butterfly milkweed occurs naturally, visit http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3627.

--Stacey Matrazzo

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Flower Friday: Partridge pea will entice bees and butterflies to your garden.

Photo by Jaret Daniels
Partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata)

Partridge pea is an herbaceous to woody annual that produces ornate, yellow flowers with reddish spots at the base of each petal. Leaves are pinnately-compound with many small yellow-green leaflets that fold up when touched. Nectar is produced at the base of the leaf in tiny, reddish-orange glands.

Partridge pea flowers in the summer to late fall, and year-round in southern Florida. It occurs naturally in scrub, sandhill, flatwoods, beach dunes and disturbed areas.

Partridge pea attracts mostly bees and butterflies, although ants are also attracted to the nectar glands. It is the host plant to several species of butterfly, including the gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) and cloudless sulfur (Phoebis sennae). The seeds are consumed by birds and other wildlife.

Family: Fabaceae (Legume Family)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 7-10)
Soil: Very dry, sandy to loamy well-drained soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade; fairly salt-tolerant
Growth habit: variable, up to 4 feet tall, with 2-4 foot spread
Garden tips: Partridge pea is a prolific self-seeder and is easily propagated by seed. Collect seed pods in the fall once they have turned brown and are falling from the plant. It is an excellent plant to use in disturbed areas as it tends to establish quickly. Partridge pea is also a nitrogen-fixer, so it may improve and enrich soils, allowing for the introduction of more demanding plants into your landscape.

Partridge pea seeds are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers 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 partridge pea occurs naturally, visit http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3026.

--Stacey Matrazzo

Friday, June 27, 2014

Flower Friday: Tarflower is blooming now in Florida's scrub and pine flatwoods.

Tarflower blooming at the
Flowing Waters Preserve in Lake County.
Photo submitted by Patricia Burgos.
Tarflower (Bejaria racemosa)

Tarflower is a woody evergreen shrub that produces fragrant and showy white to pinkish flowers. Its leaves are arranged alternately and are ovate or elliptical in shape. The undersides of the leaves are often whitish. Its seed is a dark, almost black capsule.

The plant gets its common name from its sticky flowers that attract and then trap bees, flies and other insects.

Tarflower occurs naturally in scrub, pine flatwoods and scrubby flatwoods. It is found in most of peninsular Florida, but its native range does not extend into the panhandle.

Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 8-11)
Soil: Dry, sandy soils
Exposure: Full sun to minimal shade
Growth habit: 4-8 feet tall, with 2-6 foot spread
Garden tips: Tarflower is great for use in naturalistic landscapes. It can be propagated by seeds and cuttings, and is sometimes available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.

To see where tarflower occurs naturally, visit http://www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=2335

--Stacey Matrazzo