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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wildflower Profile: Narrowleaf Silkgrass


Pityopsis graminifolia

By Steven W. Woodmansee, FNPS President

Figure 1. Capitulum and infructescenses.
Photo credit: Joseph Allan Tauscher
Narrowleaf silkgrass is a showy perennial wildflower, a native throughout all of Florida, and a must for any wildflower connoisseur. It is found in mesic (intermediate between wet and dry) to xeric (dry) pineland and prairie habitats. As a result, it tolerates drought fairly well once established. It is a member of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae), and is a great attractor for pollinators. Its stalkless ray and disc flowers are clustered tightly together to form a capitulum, which is commonly referred to as a "head" (Fig. 1). Upon maturity, plants are generally less than 18 inches in height, and produce 20-30 blooming heads on several branches.
Figure 2. Hairy, grass-like leaves
Narrowleaf silkgrass is herbaceous (non-woody), and has attractive, often "grass-like" leaves , which emerge in the spring. Its silvery-green appearance is attributable to the whitish, silky hair covers the plant's stems and leaves (Fig. 2). Gorgeous yellow flower heads, ranging from 1-2 cm in diameter, begin opening mid to late fall and generally last 3-4 weeks. Seeds possess fluffy awns (hairs) which are wind-dispersed, similar to dandelions (Fig. 1). When flowering has finished, plants may appear to have died; in actuality, they are beginning their winter dormancy, and will reemerge in the spring. Plants do best in full sun, and may be utilized in butterfly (pollinator) gardens, pineland habitats, or showy wildflower displays. As with most wildflowers, if you hope to encourage seed germination and recruitment of this lovely species, consider forgoing the use of mulch when planting.


Image Sources
Figure 1.
Figure 2.

7 comments:

  1. It's always good to get some details on a yellow composite (The old family name was Compositae)--there are so many of them and are sometimes difficult to tell apart without a book in your hands. This is how they earned the moniker DYC, darn yellow composite. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Ginny. Agreed - the number yellow composites in Florida can make identifying one an event in and of itself. It's always great to have our president's two cents on a plant to look out for :)

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  2. Steve, thanks for reminding people of this beauty. Silkgrass offers multiple benefits: cheery flowers, pollinator use, and also, its stalk-form provides a nice contrast in shape. I loved it in my Florida garden!

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    1. Hey Sue - your Florida garden family misses you (and your blog contributions). Glad to hear of another person who has successfully grown this species!

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  3. BTW, I likely should have mentioned that silkgrass is one of the best native wildflowers to use as cut flowers in a vase with water. They last a nice long time before wilting.

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    1. Thanks for the tip! It's always nice to have plants that can be enjoyed in a vase indoors as well as in the landscape.

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