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.
A Pine can have lightning scars that run down the trunk. Why doesn't an Oak?
by Cecilia Catron, Tarflower Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society
(reprinted with permission from the August 2016 issue of Tarpaper)
When days are hot, as they have
been for the past month, it seems like a sensible idea to lie in or around
the pool all day, like a motionless alligator. Curds of bright, white
thunderheads rise higher and higher, expanded by the increasing heat.
Gradually air pushed from the east and west coasts meets in the middle of
the peninsula. By mid-afternoon it becomes charged by the collision of
the fronts and summer lightning is created, with or without a storm.
Have you ever noticed a stripe spiraling down the
trunk of a pine tree where lightning has stripped the outer bark off? You
may have also noticed there is no such stripe on the trunk of an oak tree.
Oaks and Pines, both dominant here in central Florida, have different
lightning survival strategies. Most pine species have long, straight
trunks. They are relatively fast-growing with soft wood. Oak trunks on the
other hand are often twisted and full of knots. They grow more slowly (except Laurel Oak, Quercus laurifolia) and the wood is very
hard, dense, and heavy.
Lightning is attracted to the tallest
tree, regardless what species it is. Energy is conducted down the
trunk of a typical pine with little to stop it since the cells are
constructed in long, continuous rows. Knotty oaks on the other hand
do not have such unobstructed cellular highways. When a knot is struck it
may explode, but a lightning bolt's energy is spent before it can progress
down the trunk, limiting damage. Good planning, oaks. Also a case for
organisms that create knots on oaks - part of the ecological give and take.
New pines grow relatively quickly to replace trees that are destroyed,
which is also a viable strategy.
Be that as it may, never take shelter under any tree to escape a storm.
Especially here in Lightning Alley nature can put on an awesome show, but
it's important to remember that a tree may be a target.
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 …