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Friday, April 17, 2015

Flower Friday: Fetterbush is unfettered when it comes to blooms!

Fetterbush blooms (Photo by Stacey Matrazzo)
Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida)

Fetterbush (also known as shiny lyonia) is an erect woody evergreen shrub that produces a plethora of small, fragrant blooms. Flowers are urn- or bell-shaped, vary in color from whitish-pink to pink to red, and held by 5 light green sepals. Leaves are small, oval to elliptic in shape, with a shiny green upper surface and a conspicuous midrib and margin. They are alternately arranged and are often spotted. Fruits are brown ovoid- to urn-shaped capsules that appear in summer.

Fetterbush flowers late winter through spring. It occurs naturally in pine and scrubby flatwoods, scrub, dry hammocks, dry prairies, and along swamp and cypress pond margins.


Pictured above left: Leaves showing spots and conspicuous midribs and margins.
Above right: Fetterbush capsule. (Photos by Stacey Matrazzo)
Family: Ericaceae (Heath family)
Native range: Nearly throughout Florida (vouchered in all counties except Suwanee and Monroe)

Hardiness: Zones 7-10
Soil: Well-drained, acidic soil
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 3–10 feet tall with 2-4 foot spread
Garden tips: Fetterbush spreads by underground stems and forms colonies. It requires little care and is easy to maintain once established. It makes a nice hedge plant and also works well in naturalistic landscapes.

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

To see where fetterbush occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3646.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Flower Friday: Breathe in the sweet scent of the American white waterlily!

Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
American white waterlily (Nymphaea odorata)

American white waterlily (also known as fragrant waterlily) is a floating aquatic plant that produces a large, solitary, fragrant flower with numerous white, lanceolate petals and yellow centers. Leaves are large and orbicular with a clefted base. They are dark green and shiny. Fruits are leathery, globose capsules with numerous small gray to orange seeds. The plant is rooted in the submerged soil.

American white waterlily flowers spring through fall. It is tolerant of varied climates, but is typically dormant during cool weather. It occurs naturally in swamps, marshes, slow-moving streams and shallow lakes, ponds and ditches.

Nymphaea odorata bloom among many leaves
(Photo by Stacey Matrazzo)
The seeds, flowers and leaves of the American white waterlily are edible to humans. Leaves and unopened flowers can be boiled, while the seeds can be ground into flour. The flowers are also attractive to butterflies, but they are pollinated primarily by beetles (see Beetle Pollination Syndrome for a full explanation).

Family: Nymphaeaceae (Waterlily family)
Native range: Nearly throughout Florida
Hardiness: Zones 7-10
Soil: Roots require fully saturated soils
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: Leaves grow up to 18" wide and lay flat on the surface of water; flowers may be 2–6" wide
Garden tips: American white waterlily can be propagated by seed and from pieces of underwater stems. It can be a beautiful addition to a water garden or small pond, but its growth can be difficult to limit.

To see where American white waterlily occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=2277.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Flower Friday: With spring rains come beautiful rain lilies!

Rain lily bloom. (Photo by Lisa Roberts)
Rain lily (Zephyranthes atamasca)

Rain lily is a short-lived perennial wildflower. Its showy, solitary flowers are white (although sometimes tinged with pink), and have bright yellow stamens and 6 distinct lobes that unite at the base to form a funnel. They are borne on leafless stalks.  Leaves are basal, and linear or grasslike in shape. They arise in clumps.

As the common name suggests, rain lilies typically bloom after a rain shower. Flowering can occur in late winter through early summer, but their tendency to bloom around Easter has earned them another common name — Easter lily.

Rain lilies in bloom along SR267 in Leon County.
(Photo by Eleanor Dietrich)
Rain lilies occur naturally in slope forests, moist flatwoods, river swamps and floodplains, shaded limestone outcrops, along roadsides and in ruderal areas. It is a threatened species in Florida.

Family: Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis family)
Native range: Panhandle, north and central peninsula
Hardiness: Zones 7-10
Soil: Rich, acidic to slightly alkaline soils
Exposure: Full sun to full shade
Growth habit: 6-18 inches tall with 1-2 foot spread
Garden tips: Although rain lilies prefer moist soils, they do not do well in soils that are constantly saturated. They can, however, withstand sustained drought. They are a very hardy species and are a great replacement for the many non-native lilies that are commonly sold in big box garden centers. They make for a nice mass planting, and also work well in lawns as they can be mowed. Rain lilies can be propagated by seed or division of bulbs.

Caution: All parts of this plant are poisonous if eaten.

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

To see where rain lily occurs naturally, visit

Monday, March 30, 2015

Volunteer finds inspiration in native flowers

Boing, bottom left, with other volunteers.
When Lisa Boing, Master Gardener, Florida Botanical Gardens board member and Florida Wildflower Foundation member, responded to questions about the completion of a demonstration garden planting at the Pinellas County Extension in Largo, the portrait that emerged was one of a dedicated volunteer. We are happy to share her story here: 

My involvement in the Native Area at the Pinellas County Extension/Florida Botanical Garden started in 2013 when I received my certification as a Master Gardener.  I discovered my passion for native plants when I started gardening with a great group of like-minded volunteers on Wednesdays in the Native Area.

On a weekly basis, three to seven of us greet visitors, giving them a short history of natives and the Florida Wildflower Foundation grant, pull invasive plants, weed overzealous natives, and try to find a balance between a natural, native look and a manicured garden.  We all feel maintenance of this highly educational collection started by Dr. Craig Huegel is very important to the continuing efforts of your organization, as well as the Florida Native Plant Society.

After the wildflowers from your Foundation’s grant were planted, my first project was to be sure there was uniform signage throughout the Native Area. This could not have been done without the help of the Florida Botanical Garden Foundation Board, their sign-making machine and a whole lot of research on my part — a great education in itself! The Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society also helped out,  along with Dr. Huegel’s continuing support and mentoring.

A week doesn’t go by that I don’t go into the Pinellas County Extension to see Horticulturalists Andy Wilson and Bob Albanese. They are invaluable in identifying unknown plants, strange insects or some new weed.  Needless to say, the Native volunteers are just as enthusiastic about what I have learned from them.  We have added several signs of volunteer wildflowers that have blown in.

In addition to the signage, we continue to add different educational tools. We recently added a "bunny-proof” aster garden and wetland bog to the area to showcase many of Florida’s wildflowers.

We thank you for your generosity in helping us with our mission and passion of all things native so others can discover the beauty and “sense of place” called Florida -- “Land of Flowers.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

Flower Friday: Did you know prairie iris is Florida's most widespread iris?

Iris hexagona (Photo by Jeff Norcini)
Prairie iris (Iris hexagona)

Prairie iris (also known as Dixie iris) is a rhizomatous perennial wildflower. Its showy flowers have 3 petals and 3 sepals. Each petal is bluish to deep purple, narrow and mostly ascending. Sepals are larger than petals (measuring up to 5 inches long), spatulate, downward-arching, and have a yellow to whitish "signal" or crest along their midribs.* They are more recognizable and thus often mistaken for the petals. Leaves are bright green, sword-like and erect, standing up to 3 feet tall and overlapping at their base. Its seed is a 6-angled capsule (hence the scientific name hexagona).

Iris hexagona with different coloring (Photo by Stacey Matrazzo)
Prairie iris blooms in spring. It occurs naturally in swamps, wet prairies and marshes, and along the edges of rivers and ditches. 

Family: Iridaceae (Iris family)
Native range: Central and eastern Panhandle, north and central peninsula
Hardiness: Zones 8a-9b
Soil: Rich, moist to wet soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 3+ feet
Garden tips: Prairie iris is an excellent plant for water features, lake edges and retention ponds. Spring flowers don't last long, but their beauty makes the plant well worth adding to moist garden or landscape. It can be propagated by division and seed.

Mass planting of Iris hexagona (Photo by Stacey Matrazzo)
Prairie iris is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit plantrealflorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.

To see where prairie iris occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.

*Coloring can vary greatly among specimens.