Thursday, September 27, 2012

Plant Profile: Pignut Hickory, Carya glabra

By Travis Ballard

This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Biology students at Jacksonville University.

Figure 1. Yellow-green leaflets on the compound
leaf of C. glabra. Photo by Shirley Denton
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Juglandales
Family: Juglandaceae
Genus: Carya
Specific epithet: glabra

Carya glabra, pignut hickory, is a hardwood tree found along the eastern coast of North America. Pignut hickory is one of seven Carya species found in Florida, where it is common in both the central and northern portions of the state. At typically 60' in height and half that in width, this tree's oval-shaped canopy and sturdy branches provide the foundation for a terrific shade tree. It grows in mesic to dry hammocks, where it is often associated with oaks (Quercus spp.).

The leaves on a pignut hickory tree are odd-pinnately compound (usually with 5 or 7 leaflets) and deciduous (Figure 1). It is sexually monecious, so each tree produces both male and female flowers; in Florida, this happens around March. The male flowers are arranged in hanging catkins and the female flowers are formed in clusters at the tips of the branches; neither is particularly showy.

The pignut hickory fruit is a green, round to egg-shaped drupe which encloses a nut. One needn't worry about squirrels or other mammals placing undue weight on a sapling to harvest its rather bitter fruit, however - these trees may be 20-40 years old before bearing. C. glabra's fruit is easy to distinguish from that of Carya aquatica, the native water hickory, because of its smooth surface (Figure 3).

Figure 2 (left). Smooth fruit of C. glabra. Figure 3 (right). Ridged fruit of C. aquatica.
Photos by Shirley Denton.
Carya glabra is used to make handles for tools, cabinets, and hardwood floors. These trees have also been used to construct wheels because their wood is dense, malleable, and shock-resistant.

Figure 4. Open fruit reveals a pig's snout.
Fun Facts
Early settlers named the fruits of this tree "Pignuts" because their hard, bitter nature made them not worth harvesting to eat... hogs, however, were rather fond of them. Abundant in wooded areas, and high in crude fat and protein content, the animals foraged on pignuts and quickly bulked up, which made their sale at the market all the more profitable. Oddly enough, when a pignut is split in half, it looks somewhat like a pig's snout (Figure 4).

Interested in growing your own? Consider purchasing from a member of the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Be advised that this tree can live for over 100 years, so choose wisely when deciding where to plant it.


Image Sources
Figure 1.
Figure 2.
Figure 3.
Figure 4.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Plant Profile: Simpson’s applecactus, Harrisia simpsonii

By Shelby Truesdell and Jodi Coia

Figure 1. Simpson’s applecactus.
Photo credit: Keith Bradley.
This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Plant Taxonomy students at Jacksonville University.

Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Tracheophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cacataceae
Genus: Harrisia
Specific epithet: simpsonii  

Common Name: Simpson’s applecactus
Botanical Name: Harrisia simpsonii

Figure 2. Fruit of Simpson’s applecactus.
Photo credit: Greg Masoner.
Harrisia simpsonii is an endangered cactus that is endemic to Florida.  The cactus is found in Florida’s southernmost counties: Miami-Dade, Monroe Mainland, and the Monroe Keys. Simpson’s applecactus grows well in coastal hammocks and does best in soil pH of 6.1, to 7.8. The cactus can tolerate some amount of salt and brackish water because of its location near the coast and is tolerant of drought conditions.

Its fragrant white flowers and prickly fruit are both easy ways to identify the species (Figs. 1 and 2). The flower is white when it opens and appears pinkish on the outside when it closes. The narrow petals can be 5-8 inches long. Simpson’s applecactus gets its name from its fruit that is known as the prickly apple. The red fruit can be 2 inches wide with wooly spines covering its flesh (Fig. 2).

The flower is known as “Queen of the Night” because it only opens in the evening, closing up by dawn. During the night, moths, bats, and other insects are drawn to its sweet fragrance and are responsible for pollinating its flowers.

Judd Et Al. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach. Third ed. Sunderland, Mass.: Sinauer Associates, 2008. Pg  242. Print.

Image Sources

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Plant Profile: Taxus floridana, Florida Yew

La’Ena Schmick and Elizabeth Ramirez

This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Botany students at Jacksonville University.

Figure 1. Taxus floridana, Florida Yew
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Coniferophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Taxales
Family: Taxaceae
Genus: Taxus
Specific epithet: floridana

Taxus floridana, or Florida Yew, is a member of the Coniferophyta family and one of two species in the family Taxaceae recorded in Florida. It is an endemic and endangered species found only on the Apalachicola River between Chattahoochee and Bristol in Gadsden and Liberty County. Torreya taxifolia, another endangered species in the same family, is also found in the same counties as T. floridana, in addition to Jackson County.

Figure 2. Linear leaves surround this seed,
itself enclosed in a red aril.
This evergreen shrub or small tree can be recognized by its spreading, horizontal branches and soft and linear leaves (Fig. 1). Taxus floridana is usually less than 15 ft. tall with the tallest Florida yew recorded at 25 ft. tall! Female plants produce seeds enclosed in red, fleshy aril (Fig. 2) around October each year.

It is drought-tolerant and grows well in acidic soils and shady conditions. Although it is endangered, you can still purchase and grow a plant for your yard. A word of caution, however - the leaves and seeds are toxic!

Fun Facts
  • Yew bark contains a high concentration of taxol, a compound used to fight both breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Scientists at F.S.U. developed the first method for synthesizing taxol in the laboratory, whereby saving the tree from potential over-harvesting.
  • Yew wood is rather springy, and was historically used in the construction of bows.

  • "Welcome to Floridata." Welcome to Floridata. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.
  • "Explore Plants." Native Plant Information Network. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.
  • Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2008. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants ( [S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa.

Image sources
Posted by Laurie Sheldon

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Volunteers Help Plant 4,500 Native Plants at Bok Tower Gardens

Guest blog by Martin Corbin, Bok Tower Communications Director

With 4,500 holes to dig...
Bok Tower Gardens is one of Florida’s oldest attractions and a perfect daytrip for those looking for outdoor fun. Behind acres of landscaped gardens, a 20-room historic mansion, and Singing Tower carillon bells, lies a deep-seated commitment to conservation. Founder Edward Bok’s motto to, “make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it,” is the organization's guiding principle. Preservation of the lands adjacent to the Gardens figures prominently on our priority list. Visitors don’t often see the extent of the effort put into these projects, but can certainly appreciate the end product on our entrance road - a meandering drive through citrus groves and other undeveloped natural areas.

One of our largest preservation endeavors started in 2007 when we acquired 156 acres of fallow citrus lands with funds from the Florida Communities Trust. We are currently restoring its native sandhill habitat by removing exotic plant species and planting longleaf pines and wiregrass in their place.

...and countless bales of pine straw to spread...
In the most recent phase of this project, community volunteers assisted with the installation 4,500 native ground cover plants and pine straw mulch on a 34-acre parcel over a period of six days. The natives species planted included Florida native wildflowers like gayfeather (Liatris laevigata), Chapman’s goldenrod (Solidago odora var. chapmanii) and twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia) among others. Now that the plants are in the ground, the site will be maintained with occasional watering and weed removal. In the coming months, an announcement will be made as we open a new trail through the area for visitors to enjoy. 

...we could not have done it without the fabulous volunteers from our community.
“Without the support of these dedicated volunteers, it would be difficult to complete such a large task,” said Katrina Noland, the land steward at Bok Tower Gardens who led the restoration project. “Not only were these volunteers able to make a lasting impact on the environment, they also received a firsthand education and experienced the nature of this threatened ecosystem.”

Edward Bok would be proud.
Participants ranged from individuals and families to Boy Scout troops and the Ridge Rangers, a group focused on the restoration and support of the Lake Wales Ridge ecosystem. We hope that future projects at the Gardens will be as successful at engaging a wide range of community volunteers who are enthusiastic about being involved in land restoration.

Upcoming volunteer opportunities include a workday in conjunction with National Public Lands Day in late September and a December project in which we'll be planting 2,800 longleaf pine saplings. Those interested in participating are encouraged to visit where details will be posted in the coming months.

Edited and posted by Laurie Sheldon

Image Sources:
Digging holes:
Mulching with pine straw:
Edward Bok:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Plant Profile: Purple Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata

By Kalli Unthank and Hanna Feik

This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Biology students at Jacksonville University.

Figure 1. Corona of banded filaments on
P. incarnata
. Photo credit: Asit K. Ghosh.
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Violales
Family: Passifloraceae
Genus: Passiflora
Specific epithet: incarnata

The striking Passiflora incarnata (also called purple passionflower and maypop) is one of six native Passiflora species in Florida. Purple passionflower is a liana (a woody vine) that is found throughout the state, often in open and disturbed areas. This fast-growing vine is listed as an invasive elsewhere in the US because it spreads easily, growing from suckers at the roots.

Figure 2. Fritillary caterpillar noshing on
P. incarnata. Photo credit: Capital Gal
The fragrant flower is a vibrant purple with ten tepals, although some experts distinguish the sepals from the petals (Figure 1). Passionflowers have a unique structure called a corona, made of banded white and light-purple strands that serve as a nectar guide for pollinators such as butterflies and bees (Figure 1).

Passionflower is a host for gulf fritallary and zebra longwing butterfly larvae, which can often be seen gobbling up the vine's palmately lobed leaves (Figure 2). The fruit is an egg-sized yellow-green berry that is delicious to humans and animals alike (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Passionflower fruit.
Photo credit: Asit K. Ghosh.
- Fruit can be pulped to make a thirst-quenching drink.
- Leaves can be infused in tea to treat insomnia and soothe ruffled nerves or ground into a poultice to treat cuts and bruises.
- Roots have even been used to treat earaches!

Want to grow your own? Find a vendor near you on the Florida Association of Native Nurseries website.

-Judd, WS, Campbell, SC, Kellogg, EA, Stevens, PF, and Donoghue, ML. 2008. Plant systematics: A phylogenetic approach. Sinauer Associates, Inc. Massachusetts, USA.  
-Wunderlin, RP and Hansen, BF. 1998. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Arbor Day Foundation & Florida

Arbor Day Foundation website presents important educational material.
The Arbor Day Foundation has played a big part to help people, cities and towns plant more trees since 1865 when J. Sterling Morton started this foundation.

In Florida alone there are 165 Tree Cities. We've discussed this organization in these previous posts: Florida's Arbor Day: Third Friday in January and our followup post on our members' favorite trees: Your Favorite Trees.  So yes, The Arbor Day Foundation has done a lot to increase awareness of the importance of trees even in urban and suburban environments and presents a lot of good educational material.


With their membership packages, they make it almost irresistable to acquire trees from their Nebraska-based nursery. Where I live in northern Florida, the 10 free trees offered are 3 redbuds, 4 dogwoods and 3 goldenraintrees, plus I could qualify for 2 crape myrtles.

Arbor Day Foundation offers
 I have a problem with this membership offer for several reasons:

While the redbuds and dogwoods are native to north Florida, will stock from Nebraska-grown populations adjust well to Florida's short winters, soil that does not freeze, or the wet and dry seasons? (Florida has 5 wet months and 7 dry months and in some years it can be really dry.)
∙ The goldenraintree is not native to Florida. they don't specify which species this is, but Koelreuteria elegans.ssp formosana, is on the number II invasive list for central and south Florida. To their credit, they don't offer this as one of the free trees for central or south Florida, but still, it's potentially invasive here, too.
∙ The non-native crape myrtles are so over-planted here, it would be so much more useful to plant a native tree instead, just to add some diversity to our urban/suburban canopy. Plus most other trees are not hat-racked into ugly stubs on an annual basis. See my post: I don't love crape myrtles, but... 
Bald cypress, sabal palms, and lives oaks grow well in their native habitats, and those
habitats will be different throughout their range.

∙ For central or southern Florida zipcodes, the offer is either 10 bald cypress trees, 10 live oaks, or 5 crape myrtles. But the more southern parts of the state will be that much further removed from the Nebraska climate.

If you wish to join the Arbor Day Foundation to support their good projects...

My advice to Floridians, is to skip any of their tree offers and plant trees grown from local stock. The Florida Association of Native Nurseries has made it easy for you to find specific native plants or a member nursery close to you.

Arbor Day Celebration

The national Arbor Day is the last Friday in April, but Florida celebrates it at a more reasonable tree planting date, the third Friday in January. (Some other states have adjusted their dates as well.)

So by all means support Arbor Day: plant more trees on your property, in your neighborhood, or volunteer for an off-site restoration area. Trees provide so many benefits.

Before you plant, know what your tree needs for soil type, space for the canapy and room for the roots. Plan ahead for its mature size so pruning can be minimized and also plant compatible understory trees and shrubs to form a pleasant grove that may mimic what might have grown there before the invasion of the most invasive species--us.

Ginny Stibolt

Not sure about the best way to plant trees or how much to water them? See my article: Trees and Shrubs: the Bones of Your Landscape