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

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