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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Flower Friday: Butterflies flutter for blue porterweed

Photo by Eleanor Dietrich
Blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis)   

Blue porterweed is a low-growing and sprawling evergreen shrub. Its leaves are dark green, oval- to lance-shaped with serrated margins and are oppositely arranged. Its diminutive purplish-blue flowers are borne on long spikes. Flowers open for only one day and won’t open on very cloudy days.

Blue porterweed typically flowers in the summer, but may flower year-round in South Florida. It is an excellent addition to a butterfly garden. It is the host plant of the tropical buckeye and is a nectar source for many butterfly species including the clouded skipper, gulf fritillary, red admiral and julia.

Stachytarpheta is from the Greek stachys (spike) and tarphys (thick or dense).

Family: Verbenaceae
Hardiness: Central and South Florida (Zones 9–11)
Soil: Well-drained sand, clay or loamy soil
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 1–3 feet tall with a 2-3+ foot spread
Garden tips: Blue porterweed is easily propagated by cuttings and will also self-seed. It also drought-tolerant and does well in poor soil.

Note: The non-native Stachytarpheta cayennensis is often mistaken for the native Stachytarpheta jamaicensis as both have the distinctive purplish-blue flowers. S. cayennensis, however, is a Category II FLEPPC listed invasive species and should not be planted. The native species is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area.

To see where blue porterweed occurs naturally, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=703.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Flower Friday: Purple coneflower is rare summer stunner!

Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea

The striking bloom of the purple coneflower consists of a compact center of disc flowers that range in color from green to yellow-orange to brown, surrounded by long lavender to purple ray flowers. They form on erect stems that emerge from a basal rosette of arrow- to lance-shaped leaves. The leaves are dark green with toothed margins and a rough surface.

The nectar of purple coneflower attracts a variety of butterflies, bees and even hummingbirds, while its seeds are eaten by birds and other wildlife.


Purple coneflower is an endangered Florida native wildflower, found naturally growing only in Gadsen County.

Family: Asteraceae (Aster family)
Hardiness: North, Central and parts of South Florida (Zones 7–10)
Soil: Well-drained sand, clay or loamy soil
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 2–3+ feet tall with a 2-3 foot spread
Garden tips: Purple coneflower is easily propagated by seeds or division and does well in almost any garden setting. It is drought-tolerant and doesn’t require a lot in the way of maintenance. 

Note: When buying purple coneflower, be sure you are buying Florida stock. Big box stores typically obtain their plants from out-of-state stock, and those plants don’t do as well here as plants grown from Florida stock. It is best to purchase seeds or plants from a local grower. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area.

To see where purple coneflower occurs naturally, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3804.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Flower Friday: Attract a plethora of pollinators with spotted beebalm.

Photo by Stacey Matrazzo
Spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata)
 

Spotted beebalm (also known as dotted horsemint) is a robust, aromatic wildflower known to attract a huge variety of pollinating insects, including bees, wasps and butterflies. Its flowers are inconspicuous, hairy, and whitish-yellow with purplish spots. They are surrounded by showy, leaf-like bracts that vary in color from pink to lavender or purple, often with yellowish-green tips and undersides. Flowers are arranged in whorls. Leaves are hairy with toothed margins and are oppositely arranged. As with other members of the mint family, its stem is square.

Spotted beebalm is high in thymol, which has antimicrobial, antifungal and antiseptic properties and has been used historically to treat ringworm and hookworm infections.

Family: Lamiaceae (Mint family)
Hardiness: North, Central and parts of South Florida (Zones 8–10A)
Soil: Dry to slightly moist but well-drained soil
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 1–3+ feet tall
Garden tips: Spotted beebalm has a long bloom time and be a nice addition to a home landscape, but it can quickly outcompete other wildflowers if not maintained. It is easily propagated by seed and cutting. 


Scarlet rosemallow is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area. Seeds are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative.  


To see where spotted beebalm occurs naturally, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3478.

-- Stacey Matrazzo

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Flower Friday: Scarlet rosemallow is a dazzling summertime jewel.

Photo: Stacey Matrazzo
Scarlet rosemallow (Hibiscus coccineus)

Scarlet rosemallow (also known as scarlet hibiscus) is an herbaceous to semi-woody perennial wildflower that is common along wetland and stream edges, and in swamps and other wet, open sites. In late spring and throughout summer, it produces large, crimson blooms that remain open for only one day. Scarlet rosemallow is a profuse bloomer, however, and will typically produce many flowers throughout the summer. Its leaves are alternately arranged, palmate and deeply lobed.

Scarlet rosemallow, like other plants with deep, red flowers, is very attractive to hummingbirds.

Family: Malvaceae (Mallow family)
Hardiness: Zones 8-11
Soil: Prefers moist to wet, rich soils but can be acclimated to well-drained soils with enough moisture
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 3-7 or more feet in height; 2-5 feet in spread
Garden tips: Scarlet rosemallow is a great addition to any moist or wet landscape or in areas that receive plenty of moisture. It is easily propagated by seeds and cuttings, and has no known pests. It will die back in the winter and should be pruned or mowed to the ground in the fall as it goes dormant.

Scarlet rosemallow is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area. Seeds are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative.

To see where scarlet rosemallow occurs naturally, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3189.


-- Stacey Matrazzo

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