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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Flower Friday: Fall is the perfect time of year to see Feay's palafox blooming in Florida's scrub.

Feay's palafox (Palafoxia feayi)

Feay's palafox is a very unique wildflower, endemic only to Florida's central and southern peninsula. Although it is a member of the Aster family, it bears few visual similarities. It is more woody than herbaceous; its blooms are without the petal-like ray flowers; and its disc flowers are tubular. They are white to pinkish in color. Most noticeable are the dark purple- to maroon-colored stigmas and the curved, white styles that extend from the ends of each disc flower. At the base of each flower are bracts that vary in color from green to purple. Leaves are oppositely arranged, oval-shaped toward the base, and get smaller and more linear toward the top of the plant. The leaf surface is rough to the touch.

Feay's palafox occurs naturally in sandhills, scrubby flatwoods, and scrub. It is attractive to a variety of butterflies and bees.

Family: Asteraceae
Hardiness: Central and South Florida (Zones 9-11)
Soil: Well-drained, sandy soils
Exposure: Full sun to minimal shade
Growth habit: 4–6+ feet tall
Garden tips: Feay's palafox is not suited for the small garden. Its tendency to grow tall and lanky makes it best suited for larger plantings with other tall-growing genera such as Silphium, Liatris, and Andropogon. It is easily propagated from seed, although seed is not readily available.

Feay's palafox is sometimes available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area.

To see where Feay's palafox occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=1272.

Photos by Stacey Matrazzo

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!