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Friday, October 17, 2014

Time to plant seeds for Florida's future

Establishing a wildflower garden from seed is easier than you'd think, and now is the time to get started. We've made it easy for you with these resources:

•    Visit the Florida Wildflower Foundation YouTube channel to watch a two-part video on Florida's wildflowers and establishing a small garden from seed.
•    Learn which wildflowers are right for your location and soil and about the many benefits of growing Florida native wildflowers.
•    Download a step-by-step handout on the process of preparing a bed and planting your seeds.
•    Purchase native ecotype seeds (right) through the Florida Wildflower Foundation web store or our partners at the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative. If you're in Central Florida, come see us on Saturday at Backyard Biodiversity Day at Winter Park's Mead Botanical Garden - we'll have a variety of seed packets for sale there.
•    Once your garden is established, apply for recognition through the Wildflowers, Naturally! program.

Remember, you can beautify your corner of the world with native wildflowers while making a difference to Florida's natural future!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Flower Friday: One look and you'll see why this flower is called bluecurls.

Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
Forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum)
Forked bluecurls is an herbaceous to woody annual that bears dainty yet distinctive bluish-purple blooms. Flowers are two-lipped; the lower lip is white with purplish spots and tips. Stamens are long, purple and obviously curled. Leaves are narrowly elliptical and oppositely arranged. Stems are pubescent.

Flowers are short-lived, opening only in the morning, but individual plants may produce thousands of flowers throughout a season. It also has a particularly long flowering season, typically beginning in late summer and lasting through late fall, although flowering can continue into winter and sometimes even spring, depending on conditions. It tends to flower heaviest as the weather starts to get cooler. Forked bluecurls occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods, and open hammocks, as well as in disturbed areas throughout Florida.

Forked bluecurls is attractive to many pollinators, but especially to bees.

Family: Lamiaceae (Mint family)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 7-11)
Soil: Well-drained, sandy soils
Exposure: Full sun to minimal shade
Growth habit: 1–3 feet tall, 1–2 feet wide
Garden tips: Forked bluecurls is an ideal addition to a home landscape. It can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. It is a prolific self-seeder and spreads quickly, so it may require thinning to keep in check.

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

To see where forked bluecurls occurs naturally, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3638.
Photo by Eleanor Dietrich

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Flower Friday: Corn snakeroot is no ordinary wildflower!

Photos by Stacey Matrazzo
Corn snakeroot (Eryngium aquaticum)

Corn snakeroot blooms vary in color from a pale whitish-blue to a rich lavender or cornflower blue. Flower heads are about 1/2" to 1" in diameter, globular and are surrounded by spiny bracts. They are borne near the tops of multi-branched, erect stems. Leaves are sessile, linear and alternately arranged. Leaf margins are entire or may be finely toothed.

Corn snakeroot typically flowers summer through late fall. A variety of pollinators are attracted to its flowers. Corn snakeroot occurs naturally in sunny marshes and swamps, along pond edges and in ditches. Its natural range is in the panhandle and in North and Central Florida.

The common name snakeroot (also known as rattlesnakemaster, both of which are used to describe the Eryngium genus) may have come from its use in Native American culture as a remedy for snakebite.

Family: Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae) (Carrot and Parsley family)
Hardiness: North and Central Florida (Zones 7-9)
Soil: Moist to wet, acidic soils
Exposure: Full sun to moderate shade
Growth habit: 3-5 feet tall
Garden tips: In a home landscape setting, corn snakeroot may require a little more care than other wildflowers. It does not tolerate drought, so soil moisture must be maintained. As well, it is not a very prolific reseeder, so plants may need to be replaced periodically. Despite its maintenance needs, it is an interesting and beautiful addition to a mixed wildflower garden.

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

For more on this and other Eryngiums, see "Interesting Eryngiums" by Claudia Larsen in the Summer 2014 edition of the Florida Wildflower Foundation newsletter.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Flower Friday: Ever wonder how frostweed got its name?

Photo by Mary Keim
Frostweed (Verbesina virginica)

Frostweed is a robust, herbaceous perennial wildflower that bears clusters of white ray flowers and white disk flowers with noticeably contrasting purplish-black anthers. Its leaves are dark green with rough surfaces and toothed margins and are oppositely arranged. Its stem is distinctive in that it has wing-like flanges running along its length (see photo below).

Frostweed typically flowers late summer through fall. It occurs naturally along moist forest and hammock edges throughout the state. It is attractive to many bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

The name "frostweed" comes from the plant's unique habit of exuding water from its stems during times of frost. The water freezes and produces interestingly shaped ice "sculptures" (see photo below). Other common names are white crownbeard, iceplant, iceweed, Virginia crownbeard, and Indian tobacco, referring to how Native Americans smoked its dried leaves like tobacco.

Family: Asteraceae (Aster family)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 8-11)
Soil: Well-drained to moist sand, clay or loam
Exposure: Full sun to moderate shade
Growth habit: 4-6+ feet tall
Garden tips: Frostweed is not for every landscape and is best in a naturalized setting. Although it is versatile in its soil and light requirements, planting frostweed in dryer soils and with exposure to more sun will help keep the plants smaller and more compact and will encourage more blooms. Otherwise, plants may have a tendency to grow tall and appear weedy when grown in wetter conditions. Removal of spent seed heads and annual pruning are also recommended. Frostweed is best propagated by seeds, although plants can be divided when dormant (winter).

Frostweed seeds are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative. For more information on incorporating frostweed and other wildflowers into your garden, check out A Gardener's Guide to Florida's Native Plants by Rufino Osorio, available for purchase on the Florida Wildflower Foundation website.

To see where frostweed occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3454.
Ice "sculpture" on frostweed.
Photo courtesy of Jim Conrad

"Winged" stem of frostweed.
Photo courtesy of Jim Conrad
Check out BackyardNature.net and Wildflower.org for more photos of frostweed's amazing ice sculptures!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Flower Friday: Add a little luster to your landscape with Pityopsis

Photo by Eleanor Dietrich
Narrowleaf silkgrass (Pityopsis graminifolia)
Also known as silver-leaved aster, grass-leaved goldenaster, and silky golden-aster, narrowleaf silkgrass is a robust perennial wildflower. Its compound blooms consist of brilliant yellow ray and disc flowers. Leaves are long, thin and appressed with soft, silvery hairs. Its unique foliage can be both silky and metallic in appearance. When not in bloom, this plant remains attractive and often appears grasslike.

Narrowleaf silkgrass flowers in late summer through early winter. It occurs naturally in sandhill, flatwoods and scrub habitats throughout the state.

Family: Asteraceae (Aster family)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 8-11)
Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil
Exposure: Full sun to moderate shade
Growth habit: 1-3+ feet tall
Garden tips: Narrowleaf silkgrass blooms later than many Florida native wildflowers. It is easy to establish and maintain in a garden setting. 

If grouped with other plants, it will typically contain itself; however, if planted alone in an open setting, an individual plant may slowly sucker and fill in the space. That said, narrowleaf silkgrass can be quite attractive en masse! 
Although it does not readily reseed itself, fresh seeds will germinate easily. Plants should be cut back after they have bloomed.

Learn more about Pityopsis and other easy-to-grow wildflowers in "10 Easy Wildflowers: Your Guide for Florida Native Wildflowers for Landscapes," a special insert in the Fall 2014 "Guide for Real Florida Gardeners," published by the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.
Pityopsis graminifolia in landscape
Photo by Sarah Kiefer

Narrowleaf silkgrass 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 in your area.

To see where narrowleaf silkgrass  occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=524.