Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Citizens to the Rescue!

Members of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) have sure been busy this hurricane season – rescuing Florida native plant communities – some from the hurricanes but mostly from the bulldozers! From the Panhandle to south Florida, FNPS and our partners have been racing to rescue native plants, and plant communities.

As of October 23rd, we have rescued 1,000s of plants in the Panhandle, countless rare Tillandsias in south Florida, and in central Florida more than 3,200 plants from a rare Sandhill parcel with many more collection days still ahead of us. 

Words cannot adequately express how grateful we are for the outpouring of financial and volunteer support from our members, concerned citizens, and our conservation partners. 

There are so many to thank and not enough room for here for everyone’s name, but let’s start: our 81 generous financial donors, our 100+ volunteers, and our partners from Oakland Nature Preserve, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Koreshan State Historic Site, Green Isle Gardens Nursery, Florida State Parks, Lake County Water Authority, St. Johns River Water Management District, and Lake County Parks and Trails.

Thank you all for supporting our mission in action and helping to conserve our native plant communities for future generations! 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1,000’s of endangered plants were rescued in the Panhandle from a roadside trail development.  

Among the species rescued were Ruellia noctiflora (Nightflowering Wild Petunia), and Asclepias lanceolata (Fewflower Milkweed).

The Koreshan State Historic Site, located just north of Hurricane Irma’s peninsular Florida landfall, took quite a hit. Many trees, covered in endangered Tillandsias (Air Plants) were toppled.  

As soon as they could, volunteers from the Coccoloba Chapter joined park staff to rescue endangered Tillandsias from the downed trees.

Before being rescued from their Sandhill home, seeds were collected from the endangered Bonamia grandiflora (Florida Bonamia) plants.  

Other endangered plants seen in this photo are Polygala lewtonii (Lewton’s Polygala), 
and Stylisma abdita (Showy Dawnflower)

All plants and seeds will be used for nearby restoration projects on public lands.

Chris Matson, a biologist with District 3 of Florida State Parks, is shown driving a UTV to move the rescued plants to the trailers for transport off property.

From left to right: Mark Kateli, Will Kluzowski, Jackie Rolly, and Cecie Catron, 
removing plants from the Sandhill rescue site in Lake County.

Green Isle Gardens owner Marc Godts is shown moving plants into shaded enclosures at Green Isle Gardens to offer them protection from intense summer sun, and heat.  

After recovering for a few months from the stress of removal, all plants will be planted at nearby public lands as part of their Sandhill restoration projects.

Author/photos: FNPS Conservation Committee

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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Atlantic Pigeonwings

Pea Family (Fabaceae)
Submitted by Roger Hammer, Dade Chapter

The upper leaves of this vining species have 3 ovate to ovate-lanceolate leaflets that reach up to 2½" long and ¾" wide. The violet or pink flowers reach 2" long. A similar, related, endemic species (Clitoria fragrans) has narrower leaflets, sweetly fragrant flowers, and is known only from the Lake Wales Ridge in Lake, Orange, Polk, and Highlands Counties.

Friday, July 21, 2017

In Touch: Teaching children to value and respect the wilderness and the creatures that live there.

Submitted by by Steve Franklin, Guest blogger

I feel certain that, like me, most of you can recall more than one occasion when you didn’t explain your thoughts about a subject as well as know you can. I’m currently experiencing one of those moments.

On the day before Earth Day, a few other volunteers and I conducted an educational field trip event for the first graders from Lake Alfred Elementary School. My portion of the program involved taking them for a short hike on one of the trails at Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve, which is located in the City of Lake Alfred.

Throughout the hike, I was discussing map reading, hiking safety, trail etiquette, and what it means to be a good steward of the land. However, I’m not certain that I did a good enough job of explaining the importance of being thoughtful and considerate of others when we’re out to enjoy the clean, wholesome fun that nature-related activities provide. Did I instill in them a new appreciation of nature and a concern for its survival, which will encourage them to value and protect it well into the future? With this article I’m tossing the ball into your court in hopes that you’ll make up for my shortcomings by enthusiastically discussing these topics with your children or grandchildren.

When I think of trail safety, I’m thinking about the wellbeing of both hikers and all of the other mortal beings who occupy the wildlands that we visit. It’s not just about people traveling on foot from point A to point B without getting hurt. It’s also about respecting the homeland of the wild creatures that live in our forests, scrub habitats, rivers, lakes, marshes, and swamps. It’s about developing a love of Nature that beckons us to return to her over and over again. We should be there to enjoy and appreciate the benefits that large trees provide---cool air and the sound of hymns being hummed as the wind circulates among their leaves.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday’s Wildflower: Seaside Gentian

Seaside Gentian: Eustoma exultatum
Submitted by Beryn Harty, Miami-Dade Chapter, resident of the lower Florida Keys

Seaside Gentian, photo by Beryn Harty

The beautiful Seaside Gentian, Eustoma exultatum, is a herbaceous wildflower found in brackish to fresh wet coastal areas, and inland in wet prairies. The stunning flowers are usually a shade of light to medium purple with a dark purple center, but some flowers appear almost white with dark purple centers.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Southern Beeblossom

Southern Beeblossom, Onenothera simulans

Submitted by Jean Evoy, a 30-year veteran of FNPS. She has been active in several chapters including Miami-Dade, Serenoa, and Mangrove.

Southern Bee Blossom flower, photo by Jean Evoy

Southern Beeblossom is a common wildflower of roadsides, fields, dunes and open woods in Florida.  It used to be called Gaura angustifolia, but a few years ago the evening primrose family underwent extensive revisions and G. angustifolia, was renamed Oenothera simulans along with several other species of that were included in the genus Gaura.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wednesday’s Wildflower: Drumheads

Polygala cruciata, Drumheads
Text, photos and poetry by Donna Bollenbach. Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society


Some native flowers are greatly admired, but have yet to make it into our gardens. One is the showy Drumhead, Polygala cruciata. With a few exceptions, Drumheads are found throughout Florida. Like many members of the Polygalaceae or Milkwort family, they like moist, open habitats and are found in moist prairies, the edges of marshes, and wet  pinelands.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Methods to Remember: Concrete Steps for Teaching Conservation to Kids

Submitted by Jackie Edwards, Guest Blogger

image: pixnio.com

Now more than ever, environmental conservation is a hot button issue. Despite the fact that it may feel like an individual contribution to cleaning up the environment is insignificant, enough individuals can effectively become a collective. This means that our kids have also got to be taught how to conserve their environment and care for their local plantlife. For kids it may be difficult to understand environmental conservation and why it is so important, but with these simple steps you can make it fun, simple and engaging while they're interacting with your garden or the local flora.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Tickseed, Coreopsis spp.

Tickseed, Coreopsis spp.
Submitted by Carol Mahler, Serenoa Chapter of Florida Native Plant Society

Coreopsis, photo by Carol Mahler
Although the orange blossom, Citra sinensis, was named our state flower in 1909, the legislature designated the genus Coreopsis as our state wildflower in 1991. According to the Netstate, the story began in 1963 as the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) finished a project near Tallahassee that required sod. The sod field had previously been a pasture planted in red clover—a winter forage for cattle. When the clover blossomed in the new grass, people complimented FDOT for their “highway beautification.” That praise inspired FDOT to plant native wildflowers along Florida’s highways.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Withlacoochee Noddingcap

Triphora craigheadii Luer
Orchid Family (Orchidaceae)

Submitted by Roger Hammer, Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society

The fragile, succulent stem of this native orchid averages 1"–2" tall with 1–4 broadly ovate, 3/8" leaves that are dark green above and purple below. 

Flowers are about 3/16" wide and last only 2 hours in the morning. Plants often produce 2 buds that open a week apart. What this means is that you need to be standing in front of plants in bud during June and July at about 10:00 o’clock in the morning and, if you’re lucky, a flower will open. A clue to a bud opening is it stands straight up the day before if opens. Otherwise the buds are nodding. If you miss it, you’ll have one more chance the following week. If you miss that chance, then you’ll have to wait another year.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Coastal Groundcherry

Coastal Groundcherry, Physalis augustifolia
submitted by Carol Tebay, Longleaf Pine Chapter

I spent my first winter on the Intercoastal Waterway at Big Lagoon in Escambia County getting to know some of the plants in this scrub dune habitat.  I spotted one plant I couldn't identify. Then, in April, while searching the internet to identify some tracks I’d found in the sand, I came across a list of plants that beach mice depend on for food.  I’d recently spotted one of them, the Coastal Groundcherry, Physalis angustifolia (narrow-leaved).  In this harsh, coastal environment, where I tower over many mature runner oaks, Coastal Groundcherry hugs the ground. Just the right height for a tiny beach mouse.

The Groundcherry is a member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family. Photo by Carol Tebay
According to the Atlas of Florida Plants, there are ten native species of Physalis growing in Florida.   While Coastal Groundcherry seems to prefer Gulf Coast counties, at least one species of Physalis can be found in most Florida counties.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Short Plants in Sun: Natives for Urban Gardens

Submitted by Richard Brownscombe

Reprinted with permission from the April newsletter of the Broward County Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society 

Plants under a foot high are very useful in the urban garden. You can avoid mulch if there are enough small plants to outcompete the weeds. Short native species may be the most interesting in a landscape because they are underutilized and seldom seen. All of the species below prefer full sun and are native to Broward County. Let's jump right into looking at a few species for drier soils and then a few more for average-moisture soils.

Sun/Drier Soils

We have identified four species for places in your landscape of Sun and Drier Soils. Sun means at least 6 hours including the hot midday sun. All drought-tolerant plants need water, but have evolved ways to retain it or roots to reach for it. Generally, well-drained sandy soils are suitable for these scrub species. Give them deep watering until the roots take hold. Wilting leaves or more subtle signs may help you see when they need water.

Coastalplain golden aster, photo by Shirley Denton
Coastalplain golden aster
Chrysopsis scabrella

The tallest of these short species is Coastalplain golden aster, Chrysopsis scabrella, at 12 to 18", but it may fall over. If so, go with this behavior and establish a mat of several plants. They begin growth as rosettes of wooly leaves and in the fall send up spikes with showy crowns of yellow flowers. Craig Huegel, author and one of Florida's most experienced native landscapers, says that they are easy to grow. Since they don't bloom year-round you may want to establish them with other scrub natives that also like open sand in full sun. This species is occasionally available from native nurseries. You may need
to hunt for it or request it.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Buttonbush

Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis

Submitted by Jean Evoy, a 30-year veteran of FNPS. She has been active in several chapters including Miami-Dade, Serenoa, and Mangrove.

Dorantes skipper on buttonbush by Jean Evoy
Every spring I anxiously await the first sign of buttonbush blossoms.  Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, thrives in swamps, sloughs, marshes and along the edges of ponds and lakes  throughout most of North American and the West Indies. Even though the flower heads don’t look anything like modern buttons, their pincushion-like structures make buttonbush an interesting and attractive addition to our Florida landscape.

Buttonbush by Jean Evoy
Buttonbush is an understory shrub, or small tree with arching branches. It has attractive reddish-brown bark and opposite or whorled leaves.  The intriguing globular inflorescences contain numerous bisexual, sessile, white flowers. The fragrant flowers are 4-lobed, with 4 united sepals, 4 stamens and a single pistil. The styles extend beyond the flowers.  The entire inflorescences is about 3-4 centimeters in diameter.

In his book, Florida Ethnobotany, FNPS member Dan Austin noted that buttonbush was used by indigenous people to treat a variety of problems like dysentery, headaches, stomachaches, rheumatism and toothaches.  However, by the late 1800s the plant had fallen out of favor, as people began to realize that some of the side effects were worse than the problem being treated.  Later chemical assessments revealed that buttonbush contains toxic glucosides, volatile oils and tannins.

Dahana moth on buttonbush by Jean Evoy
The fragrant buttonbush flowers attract bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, and flower beetles. Flower beetles and bees collect both pollen and nectar. During many years, buttonbush flowers are regarded as major butterfly attractors.  With the extreme drought conditions this spring, the attraction of buttonbush flowers has been diminished, or perhaps fewer butterflies have been around.  However, I still stop to look whenever I see a buttonbush in full bloom; often I am pleasantly surprised.

Other links:
USF Plant Atlas: Cephalanthus occidentalis
FNPS Native Plants for Your Area: Buttonbush
IRC: Common Buttonbush