The purpose of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) is to promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. This blog presents ideas and information to further the cause of Florida's native plants and ecosystems.
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An Appreciation of Scarlet Hibiscus
Hibiscus coccineus is native to Florida's wet places throughout the state. It's a tall herbaceous perennial and dies back to the ground in late fall after its leaves turn a gorgeous pale yellow and fall off. I have purchased several specimens at native plant gatherings and garden fests. They've all done well at the edge of our good-sized pond and have come back larger and with more stalks each year.
When I was doing garden fests this spring to sell my book, I'd look for yet another scarlet hibiscus to buy to decorate my vendor's table. Without exception, people stopped to ask about it. Most of the questions sounded something like this, "Is that a legal plant there little darlin'? People wondered about its leaf shape, which resembles marijuana leaves. I always had my Gil Nelson book, "Florida's Best Native Landscape Plants" available with a bookmark in this hibiscus page with its magnificent red flowers, there's no mistaking it for that other weed. I even bought a white variety at the St. Augustine show.
Most folks are more aware of the tropical hibiscus (H. rosa-sinensis) that is widely sold in big box stores and is often planted by landscape contractors. I had several that came with the house, and while they have died back to the ground during some winters, this year's particularly cold weather, killed three of them, but the biggest one has finally started to grow back and is now (at the end of July) about a foot tall. I doubt whether it will flower at all this year. Yes, the flowers are beautiful, but this photo was shot in the middle of December. It had made no preparation for winter, like the grasshopper in the old Aesop's fable of the grasshopper and the ant. The native hibiscus plants are like the ant because they prepare for winter by losing their leaves and cutting off nutrients to the stems that die back to the ground as the days grow short.
Yet another reason to add more natives to your landscape--they know what to do as the seasons change from hot to cold or wet to dry.
Other Names: Dwarf Mulberry, Beautybush, Filigree, French Mulberry, Beautyberry
Introduction: Purple berries clinging around stems with bright green foliage make Callicarpa americana stand out from late summer to winter. It is easy to see how beautyberry got its common name. Don’t let its looks fool you though; Callicarpa is more than just eye candy. Callicarpa americana is useful medicinally and as food for wildlife and people. American Beautyberry is not fussy about location, soil or light requirements. This tough plant is an American Beauty in every sense of the word. Its name comes from Greek: Kalli, means beautiful; Karpos means fruit.
Historic Medicinal Uses:
Native Americans had many uses for beautberry, both internally and externally. According to Taylor (1940), Native Americans used beautyberry externally as a steam and topical application. All parts of the pla…
Australian pines seem to be everywhere in the coastal regions in the bottom half of Florida. Their name is deceiving because, while they are native to Australia, they aren't pines or even conifers. They are flowering trees with separate male and female flowers, and what look like needles are really green twiglets with close-set circles of tiny leaves that drop at the first sign of a drought. In the photo to the right, the light-colored lines are where leaves where once attached. Most of the photosynthesis takes place in the twiglets.
There are three species of Australian pine (Casuarina spp) that have been imported into Florida for various purposes. They were widely planted to soak up the "swamps" in Florida, stabilize canals, and hold beaches. Unfortunately for Florida's ecosystems, the "pines" accomplished all this and more--like seeding prolifically, growing five feet or more per year, producing dense shade, and emitting an herbicide that kills most a…
These perky natives have numerous and endearing charms. Authors and growers disagree about the proper Latin name, but they are in complete agreement that more people should use more coonties in their landscapes.
What's to like?
Coonties are spritely and graceful in their form, tough as the dickens, bright green all year, and host plant for the beautiful blue atala
hairstreak butterfly. In fact, coonties are the only larval food for atalas. You can use them as specimen or accent plants, mass them together for ground cover, or use them in a line as a border. And to top that off, they have an interesting sex life. A subject we hardly ever get to talk about around here. More on that later. See more in Roger Hammer's 1995 Palmetto article, The Coontie and the Atala Hairstreak.
Slow growers, coonties are more expensive to buy than some other natives by relative size, but don't let that put you off. They are well worth the investment. They can be planted in full sun or fairly …