Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Yellow Jessamine

I could not think of a better native wildflower to feature in February than Yellow Jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens . After reading Roger Hammer's sinister portrayal of this "pretty and evil” native, your appreciation for its lovely flower and fragrance will be restored by the poem “Yellow Jessamine” written by Constance Fenimore Woolson in 1874. Thank you to Peg Urban, who brought this poem to my attention when she remembered it from a past issue of the Palmetto.   

Gelsemium sempervirens (L.) W.T. Aiton
Gelsemium Family (Gelsemiaceae)
text and photos by Roger Hammer, Dade Chapter

Carolina Jessamine, by Roger Hammer, Dade Chapter

This twining vine has stems to 20' long with light green, lanceolate leaves from 1"–3" long and ½"–¾" wide. The fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers are about 1½" long and are typically present from January into April. Look for it in deciduous forests south throughout northern and central Florida to Charlotte, Highlands, and Palm Beach Counties. It can climb high into tree canopies and oftentimes the way to find it is to look for flowers on the forest floor. Also, look for it growing on fencerows along roadsides adjacent to its natural habitat.
Gelsemium is a latinized version of gelsomino, the Italian name for jasmine (Oleaceae), created in 1789 by French botanist Antoine Laurent de Jussieu (1748–1836), best known for being the first to publish a natural classification of flowering plants. The genus name reflects the sweet, jasmine-like perfume produced by the flowers of this species. The name sempervirens means “evergreen” or “living forever,” even though it loses its leaves in cold temperate regions. Carolus Linnaeus (1707–1778) first described this species as Bignonia sempervirens in 1753 from plants collected in Virginia in 1696, but was later relegated to the genus Gelsemium in 1811 by English botanist William Townsend Aiton (1766–1849).
There are only 3 members of this genus and 2 occur in Florida (the third species, Gelsemium elegans, is native to Asia). Gelsemium rankinii flowers are similar but are not aromatic, and it occurs mostly in the Florida panhandle (also Hamilton and Nassau Counties). This family was separated from the Bignoniaceae by the absence of stipules and latex, plus the heterostylous flowers and superior ovaries. 

Members of this genus are HIGHLY TOXIC and a single flower may be fatal if ingested. The toxin acts much like strychnine by blocking muscle activity, and symptoms are similar to tetanus. The flower nectar is also toxic to bees and honey derived from the flowers has been implicated in human deaths. Medicinal uses are ill-advised but it has been used to treat measles, muscular rheumatism, tonsilitis, and headaches. In Asia, Gelsemium elegans has been used to commit murder and suicide.

Carolina jessamine is sometimes cultivated and can be pruned into a shrub. Be careful not to get the sap on your skin because it can cause a blistering rash on sensitive people. Its global range extends from Virginia to Texas south through Mexico into Central America. It is pretty and pretty evil at the same time.


Yellow Jessamine and Bee, photo by Peg Urban

Yellow Jessamine 

by Constance Fenimore Woolson(March 5, 1840 – January 24, 1894)

In tangled wreaths, in clustered gleaming stars,
In floating, curling sprays,
The golden flower comes shining through the woods
These February days;
Forth go all hearts, all hands, from out the town,
To bring her gayly in,
This wild, sweet Princess of far Florida –
The yellow jessamine.

The live–oaks smile to see her lovely face
Peep from the thickets; shy,
She hides behind the leaves her golden buds
Till, bolder grown, on high
She curls a tendril, throws a spray, then flings
Herself aloft in glee,
And, bursting into thousand blossoms, swings
In wreaths from tree to tree.

The dwarf–palmetto on his knees adores
This Princess of the air;
The lone pine–barren broods afar and sighs,
“Ah! come, lest I despair;”
The myrtle–thickets and ill–tempered thorns
Quiver and thrill within,
As through their leaves they feel the dainty touch
Of yellow jessamine.

The garden–roses wonder as they see
The wreaths of golden bloom,
Brought in from the far woods with eager haste
To deck the poorest room,
The rich man’s house, alike; the loaded hands
Give sprays to all they meet,
Till, gay with flowers, the people come and go,
And all the air is sweet.

The Southern land, well weary of its green
Which may not fall nor fade,
Bestirs itself to greet the lovely flower
With leaves of fresher shade;
The pine has tassels, and the orange–trees
Their fragrant work begin:
The spring has come – has come to Florida,
With yellow jessamine.

Constance Fenimore Woolson

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Golden Club

Golden Club, Orontium aquaticum L.

Text and Photos by Donna Bollenbach, Suncoast Chapter

Golden Club, Alderman Ford Preserve, Hillsborough County
photo by Donna Bollenbach

Golden Club is an aquatic plant that grows from stout rhizomes in shallow streams, ponds and swamps throughout most of Florida, and much of the eastern United States, and on the coastal plains
The Waxy leaves repel water.
Photo by Donna Bollenbach
of Southeast Texas.  Typical of plants in the family Araceae, its tiny flowers are closely arranged around a fleshy stem, forming a yellow spadix, thus the common name “Golden Club.” It’s other common name “Never Wet”, refers to its large velvety bluish green leaves with a waxy coating that repels water
.  Its Latin generic name derives from a plant that grows in the Orontes River of Syria.

Golden Club is a member of the arum family, and related to Jack-in-the pulpit, skunk cabbage and the garden calla lily. It is the only arum species that does not have a spathe (hood formed from a leaf.) The flower of the Golden Club starts out green, turns yellow during pollination, then back to green during fruit formation. The seeds are dispersed by floating in the water.  

The large leaves and underwater roots provide shelter
 for small fish and frogs. Photo by Donna Bollenbach

Like many members of the Arum family, all parts of the plant are toxic, although there is evidence that Native Americans once ate the seeds and rhizomes.  The leaves and roots provide shelter for tiny fish, frogs and other aquatic wildlife.   

Family Name: Araceae
Genus/Species: Orontium aquaticum L.
Common Name(s): Golden Club, Never Wet
Native Range: Native to Florida, Eastern US and Coastal Plains
Bloom Season: Late Winter through early Spring
Hardiness zone: 5-11
Soil Type: Acidic, loamy soil, requires moving water
Preferred Sun: Prefers Part Shade
Propagation: Root Division, Seeds
Commercially available: Yes

Other Links: 
FNPS: Golden Club
USF Plant Atlas: Orontium aquaticum L. 

Donna Bollenbach is a member of the Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society in Hillsborough County Florida, and editor of the FNPS blog.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Wednesday Wildflowers: Sundial and Skyblue Lupines

Today's Wednesday's Wildflower features two species of Lupine, the Skyblue Lupine, submitted by Roger Hammer, and the Sundial Lupine, submitted by Bill Berthet

Skyblue Lupine, Lupinus cumulicola                                                        

Text and photo by Roger Hammer, Dade Chapter

Skyblue Lupine, by Roger 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).


Sundial Lupine, Lupinus perennis

Text and photos by Bill Berthet, Ixia Chapter

Sundial Lupine, 04-22-2016 Nassau Co, Bill Berthet

Every spring, I look forward to the emergence of the wildflower Sundial Lupine, Lupinus perennis gracilis, in Nassau and Clay Counties. I look for eggs, larvae, and adult Frosted Elfin, Callophrys irus arsace, butterflies that only use this lupine as a host plant and sometimes nectar source.

The egg and larvae of the Frosted Elfin on Sundial Lupine, Bill Berthet

Lupinus is from the latin word Lupus meaning “wolf” alluding to the belief that these plants robbed the soil. This is opposite of the truth, since Lupine actually helps to increase soil nitrogen.

Newly emerging Sundial Lupine 02-02-2017 Nassau Co.,
 Bill Berthet
Sundial Lupine is a perennial herb up to 2-ft. tall. Stems are slender, erect, or spreading. Alternating compound leaves are palmate in shape. Seven to 11 leaflets arise from the same point. Flowers are in terminal racemes. Calyces are two-lipped. 

Flowers are pea-shaped, bluish purple, rarely pink or white. Fruit is a hairy pod seed head that bursts open at maturity scattering the poisonous seeds. Native Americans drank a leaf tea made from this Lupine for nausea and internal hemorrhaging.

Bill Berthet is an avid butterfly and pollinator enthusiast, and has been landscaping his yard in Mandarin, Florida, with mostly native plants, bushes, vines, and trees to attract our N.E. Florida pollinators and birds for the past 15 years. 

Read more about the imperiled  Frosted Elfin and its  lupine relationship in a previous blog by Bill here


Monday, February 6, 2017

Pawpaw Chapter gives awards to budding environmental scientists...

Submitted by Don Spence and Sonya Guidry, Pawpaw Chapter of FNPS

Once again the Pawpaw Chapter sponsored a special award at the annual Tomoka Regional Science and Engineering Fair, held at Spruce Creek High School on Jan. 28. Pawpaw’s judges were Don Spence, Danny Young and Sonya Guidry.

Emma Schlageter, 1st Place Winner. Photo by Sonya Guidry

The PawPaw Chapter selected Emma Schlageter as first-place winner. Ms. Schlageter’s project reported on the biodiversity of salt marsh restoration in the Halifax River basin.

The first-place winner received a certificate, a wildflower guide by Dr. Walter Taylor, $60.00, and a student membership.

Isabel Kraby, honorable mention. Photo by Sonya Guidry.

An honorable mention was awarded to Isabel Kraby.  Ms. Kraby examined leaf pigments of plants commonly found in Florida.

Our honorable mention winner received a certificate and a student membership.  

Both young women are middle school students. 

Emma Schlageter is no stranger to estuary restoration, it runs in the family, as her proud father illustrates in these family photos:

This is a photo of my Emma and I during our first restoration project at Gamble Rogers. She was only 3 years old.

 After that, there were many more opportunities to for Emma to learn about the enviroment while playing with her sister and dad in the mud.

This is a photo of Emma last October collecting data for her science fair project at North Peninsula State Park. She is 13 years old now.

Congratulations to both winners!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Bahama Senna

Senna mexicana var. chapmanii
Submitted by Beryn Harty, Miami-Dade Chapter, resident of the lower Florida Keys

Photo by Beryn Harty in a refuge area of Lower Florida Keys

Bahama Senna is a small shrub, or sprawling groundcover with showy yellow flowers that bloom year-round in its natural, southern range. The bright yellow, five petal flowers, about the size of a US quarter, bloom the heaviest in the fall and winter. 

Photo by Beryn Harty in a refuge area of Lower Florida Keys

Bahama Senna is the host plant for Cloudless Sulphur, Orange Barred Sulphur, and Sleepy Orange Butterflies. Its preferred habitat is pine rocklands and rockland hammock edges in moist, well-drained limestone soils, typically in full sun to light shade.   

While listed as threatened in the state of Florida, it is easy to find and grow, stocked by many native nurseries, and can be grown from seed.  

Family Name: Fabaceae
Genus/Species: Senna mexicana var. chapmanii
Common Name(s): Bahama Senna, Chapman's wild sensitive plant, Mexican Senna. 
Native Range: South Florida and the West Indies (Cuba, Bahamas)
Seed pod,
photo by Beryn Harty

Hardiness zone: 11
Soil Type: Moist, well-drained limestone soils
Preferred Sun: full sun to light shade
Height at maturity: 2-4 feet
Propagation: (seed, seedling) Can be grown from seed

Other Links: 
FNPS: Bahama Senna
IRC Natives For Your Neighborhood: Bahama Senna
USF Plant Atlas: Senna mexicana var. chapmanii

Beryn Harty is a member of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and lives in the lower Florida Keys.