Friday, August 7, 2015

Flower Friday: No need to rush -- this sedge blooms all year!

Photo by Bruce Leander,
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Starrush whitetop (Rhynchospora colorata)

Starrush whitetop is a unique and long-lived perennial sedge. It is known (and named) for its striking bracts that are often mistaken for a daisy-like flower. The bracts are white with green tips, giving the appearance of having been spray-painted. The inflorescence is actually a dense cluster of small spikes, each bearing many tiny flowers. Leaf blades arise from the base of the plant and are long and tapering. Like most sedges, starrush whitetop stems are triangular. But unlike most sedges and other grass-like species, which are wind-pollinated, starrush whitetop is pollinated by insects that are attracted to the showy bracts.

Starrush whitetop occurs naturally in wet flatwoods, wet prairies, swales and roadside ditches.

The genus name comes from the Greek rhynchos (beak) and spora (seed) and refers to the plant's beaked fruit or achene. 

Photo by Ray Mathews, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
: Cyperaceae
Native range: Nearly throughout Florida; less frequent in Panhandle
Hardiness: Zones 8–10
Soil: Moist to inundated sand, loam or muck
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 1–2 feet
Propagation: seed, division
Garden tips: Starrush whitetop can make an interesting groundcover in moist landscapes and also works well in water gardens. It can spread if allowed.

Starrush whitetop is sometimes available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit http://plantrealflorida.org/plants/detail/rhynchospora-colorata to find a native nursery on your area.

To see where starrush whitetop occurs naturally, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=726.

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