Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wildflower Wednesday ~ Chapman's Blazing Star

Chapman’s Blazing Star is one of 16 species of Liatris listed in the Florida Atlas of Vascular Plants. It has a patchy distribution throughout the state in scrub, sandhills and dunes 





The basal rosette appears in the early spring and flowers begin to appear in late August several weeks before other blazing stars start to flower.  By early October most of the flowers of this short-lived perennial have gone to seed and the leaves have withered and turned brown.





Liatris chapmanii is fairly easy to recognize because the flowers grow down stalk and are often interspersed with the upper leaves.  The stout flower stocks are usually about three feet tall.  Dense clusters of bright lavender flowers and buds cling tightly to the flower stalk. During its month of blazing glory, L. chapmanii is a magnet for butterflies and bees.






Chapman’s Blazing Star is only offered for sale by a few native plant nurseries, or at native plant sales.  To succeed in a wildflower planting, it must be in a very well drained, sunny location. 



Author/photo credit: Jean Evoy

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata) - a Titan among nectar plants for N.E. Florida Pollinators in September and October

When scheduling Butterfly Holiday trips to all parts of the world, I always leave open the months of September and October. During this time, the greatest diversity and number of butterflies and many other N.E. Florida pollinators are attracted to  flowering plants in the Genera: Carphephorus, Liatris, Dalea, Vaccinium, Dioda, Elephantopus, Bidens, Lachnanthes, and  others.


Southern Dogface on Liatris pauciflora


When conditions are right, in the dry pinelands and sand hill areas in Julington-Durbin Preserve, Ralph E Simmons and Jennings State Forests, acres of Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata) can be in bloom attracting multitudes of butterflies and other N.E. Florida pollinators.


Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


There are eight native Dalea species growing in Florida. Three are vouchered in N.E. Florida, D. carnea, D. carnea var. albida, and D. pinnata, with D. pinnata being the most common.


Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


Summer Farewell (D. pinnata) is a gangly 2-4 foot tall herbaceous perennial wildflower, with branching stems that are smooth and slightly woody. The white flowers are 8-9 mm in length, with 5 petals, and 5 stamens. Leaves are alternate; blades are once-divided, with 3-9 needle-like leaflets 5-8 mm long. Inflorescence is somewhat flattened with domed terminal heads having numerous leaf-like bracts.


Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


Summer Farewell, also called Whitetassles and Florida Prairieclover in other parts of the state, is the host plant for the Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia) butterfly.
Migrating butterflies such as the Monarch, Long- tailed Skipper, Cloudless Sulphur and Gulf Fritillary depend on the nectaring power this wildflower provides.


Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


Butterflies love to perch on the flower head continually stabbing their proboscus probing for nectar. Because of the weak stem structure swallowtail and other large butterflies need to constantly flap their wings to balance themselves for the nectaring opportunities this flower produces.


Monarch at Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


The thick clump-like nature of this wildflower also provides cover for pollinators to hide.
Summer farewell requires high levels of sunlight to bloom properly and good drainage; otherwise its taproot will rot.


Female Tiger Swallowtail Dark Phase at Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


The weather conditions this year in N.E. Florida have been highly favorable, providing acres of white flowers swaying in the breeze.


 
Eastern Black Swallowtail at Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


Now is the time to get out and enjoy what Mother Nature has to provide. You can spend hours lurking around, marveling at the number of pollinators this wildflower attracts. Wait for a sunny to partly cloudy day with little to no wind for easier photographic conditions, as this plant can sway back and forth even in a light breeze.

   
 
Gulf Fritillary at Summer Farewell (Dalea pinnata)


Make sure to tuck your pants into your socks, spray with insect repellent around the sock and waist areas, along with other parts of the body. Wear a hat, use high ankle and double tie the laces on your boots. Use a high SPF sunscreen. Be aware of uneven terrain, gopher tortoise burrows, ground debris, fire ants, along with plants and vines that have thorns.
Bringing along a pair of binoculars will greatly enhance your in the field experience. Be sure to take a shower and check for  ticks when you get back home.

Text and Photos by Bill Berthet, Ixia Chapter, FNPS


Resources used:
Atlas of Florida Plants
Wildflowers of Florida and the Southeast: David W. Hall and William J. Weber

Native Wildflowers and other Ground Covers for Florida Landscapes: Craig N. Huegel 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Join the Pawpaw Chapter of FNPS on an exploration of Longfleaf Pine Sandhill in the Ocala National Forest

All FNPS members are invited to join the Pawpaw chapter of FNPS, Saturday, October 14, 2017, for an all-day, driving/walking, field trip in the Ocala National Forest!  

Dr. Susan Carr will guide us, as we explore 1- 3 year old, fire-managed, longleaf pine sandhill areas near Salt Springs.

Dr. Susan Carr
  
Trip participants should wear field clothes, and bring their own lunch, as well as drinking water, insect repellent, and Florida-appropriate weather gear.  

Dr. Susan Carr and David Anderson

Participants should expect to travel over several miles of rough dusty forest roads. The reward of possibly spotting a fox squirrel, RCW nest trees, and of course, great understory of plant diversity in Fall bloom, makes it worth the effort! 



For more details, FNPS members should contact trip coordinator, Sonya Guidry:




Thursday, October 5, 2017

Why your Florida garden needs Yucca plants, and how to grow them

Yucca plants are evergreen plants with interesting, usually spiky, leaves that bloom into bunches of flowers. There are over 20 species of yucca and three are native to Florida. These are the Spanish Bayonet, Moundlily Yucca, and Adam's needle.

Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia) 
Photo credit: Shirley Denton

Growing yucca plants in Florida is a great way to encourage indigenous plants to thrive, while benefiting birds and pollinators. If you grow native Florida plants, they also require less TLC because they're in their natural environment. Here’s what you need to know about Yucca plants.

The three species of Yucca plant that are indigenous to Florida are beautiful ways to encourage a more creative and healthy garden. Here's how to identify them so you can choose the one that feels perfect for your garden and needs.

1. Spanish Bayonet (Spanish Dagger)
This evergreen plant is marked by sharp tips and two-foot leaves. It can reach up to 20 feet in height, so it's beautiful for spacious gardens. Its heavy, full top can be a great spot to create shade in the garden, too. Spanish Bayonet blooms in white and purple flowers, but it needs lots of sun and well-drained soil to thrive.

2. Moundlily Yucca (Yucca Gloriosa)
Naturally found in areas such as Northeast Florida, Moundlily Yucca has long, pointed that tend to turn downwards. In the hot months, they bloom into upright purple and white flowers. Moundlily prefers sunny areas, although it will tolerate semi-shade. Unlike the Spanish Bayonet, the Moundlily doesn't have extremely sharp leaves, which makes it a softer touch in the garden and safer for small children.

3. Adam's Needle (Yucca Filamentosa)
This trunkless yucca plant blooms in bell-shaped flowers on a central tall stem. Adam's Needle is a shorter yucca plant than the other varieties, and tends to grow no taller than three feet. It's extremely resistant to dry climates, so it's perfect for droughts and rocky gardens that don't require much maintenance. However, make sure you plant it in sunny areas as it worships the sun.

Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia) 
Photo credit: Shirley Denton

How To Grow Yucca Plants So They Thrive
Yucca plants are generally low-maintenance, so you don't have to do much to ensure that they're healthy and look beautiful. Whether you're an amateur or pro gardener, you can easily grow yucca plants. However, there are some issues you need to consider so that you avoid any potential problems. Here are important ones to note.

·            Be Careful When Transplanting Yucca Plants From Containers

If you’re transplanting your yucca plant from a container into the ground, you need to make sure the hole is at least several inches wider and deeper than its container. Make sure there's a layer of sand and pebbles at the bottom. This provides adequate drainage for the yucca plant as it needs well-drained soil.
·            Don’t Be Too Generous With Water

One of the mistakes to make when planting yucca is to overwater it. Yucca is a water-savvy succulent plant that should only be watered when the top third of its soil is dry to the touch. If the ground gets too wet, this can cause fungal diseases or rot. These plants need great drainage, so avoid rich or impenetrable soil.
·            Prevent Fungus With An Easy Tip

If your yucca plant gets fungus, you'll be able to identify it by its strange spotting or growths that are a different color from the plant’s leaves, such as white. You want to prevent fungal infections and you can do so in a natural way.

Baking soda is a natural deterrent to fungus because of its bicarbonate that kills it, so add one tablespoon of it to half a teaspoon of liquid soap and a gallon of water. Spray this mixture on the yucca plant weekly to protect it against fungus.

Choosing The Best Spot For Yucca Plants             
Yucca plants need lots of space, especially since a fully-grown plant can reach up to three feet in width. They also have roots that extend into the ground. Ensuring a good amount of space between yucca and other plants, as well as walkways or garden paths, is also a good idea since yucca plants with sharp leaves can be dangerous to small children.
Wherever you decide to plant your yucca, make it the star of the show. Yucca are attractive and eye-catching so ensure they take center stage, especially in the summer when they blossom. Since they're evergreen plants, they'll keep your garden looking beautiful all year round.

Creative Landscape Designs For Yucca Plants
If you're not sure how to design your garden for your yucca, consider a rocky landscape or a more tropical design. These are creative ideas that do justice to your interesting Yucca plant, while also helping you to combine it with other plants in the garden in a harmonious way.  

1.     A Rocky Landscape
You can create a stunning architectural landscape by combining yucca plants with other succulents, such as cacti, and using rocks as landscape design. If your yucca plant has soft leaves, use spiky cacti to create contrast. On the other hand, if you're using spiky yucca, the other succulents should be softer, perhaps with rounder leaves. Play with textures to create a beautiful urban and visually appealing design.

2.    A Tropical Design
However, yucca plants can also be used in a "tropical garden" design because of their bold greenery and pretty blossoms. The Spanish Bayonet with its full leaves and column-like shape that bursts into thick flowers is an example of a yucca plant that calls to mind island getaways. You can team it up with other plants that bear colorful flowers to add a burst of boldness to your garden design.

Yucca plants are striking and low-maintenance, while being perfect for the Florida climate. Add indigenous yucca plants to your garden to make it more unique, for all-year-round visual interest and natural beauty.

Author: Jackie Edwards, FNPS Suncoast Chapter

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Skyblue Lupine

Lupinus cumulicola
Text and photo by Roger L. Hammer 




From January to May each year the white sand scrub on the Lake Wales Ridge in Lake, Osceola, Polk, and Highlands Counties are adorned with the cheery blue flowers of the Florida endemic skyblue lupine (pronounced LOO-PIN). 

Some botanists consider it a synonym of Lupinus diffusus , but others argue that L. diffuses differs by its habitat, range, prostrate to decumbent stems, orbicular-reniform (kidney-shaped) standard, and a nearly straight beak on the pods. 

The stems of Lupinus cumulicola are usually erect with gray-green, silky pubescent, elliptic leaves that average 2”–3” long and about 1” wide. The pods have a curved beak.

Lupinus is taken from lupus, or “wolf,” and alludes to the curious belief that these plants consumed soil fertility, when, in fact, they improve the soil with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The species name cumulicola means “dweller on a heap or mound,” in this case, sand. It comes from the same root word for cumulus clouds that form billowing mounds in the sky. The seeds of some species were used in ancient Greece as a hallucinogen to psychoactively prepare people to commune with the dead.

The plant photographed was growing on a hill of white sand right alongside US27 in Polk County in mid-January 2015. When in flower, it’s hard to miss. Bees are the principal pollinator.


Roger is a member of the FNPS Dade Chapter and is currently working on a new Falcon Guide titled Complete Guide to Florida Wildflowers, due to be released in Spring 2018. His other wildflower guides include Florida Keys Wildflowers  (2004), Everglades Wildflowers (2nd edition, 2014), and Central Florida Wildflowers (2016).

Monday, August 14, 2017

Stimulate the Five Senses through Your Garden
Submitted by Jackie Edwards, Guest Blogger 

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden” (Robert Brault). 

Image courtesy of www.blogthecoast.com

Gardening provides many miraculous benefits for a child’s development including fine motor skills, math skills, responsibility, and science. Children that spend time outside are also happier as the landscape helps to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase attention. When combining gardening with the use of all senses, you can further increase the benefits.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Tennessee Leafcup

TENNESSEE LEAFCUP, Polymnia laevigata Beadle
Aster Family (Asteraceae)
Submitted by Roger Hammer

Polymnia laevigata,  photo by Roger Hammer

The lower leaves of this species reach 6"–12" long and 4"–6" wide and are deeply and raggedly cut with pointed lobes, reducing in size up the stem with few or no lobes. The 3'–6' stems are glabrous (smooth). The flower heads are about ½" wide, subtended by a whorl of leafy bracts, and with 3-toothed ray florets and male disk florets.