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.

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