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.
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Wednesday's Wildflower: Common Blue Violet
COMMON BLUE VIOLET, Viola sororia Willd.
Submitted by Roger Hammer
Viola sororia, photo by Roger Hammer
The nearly orbicular,
toothed leaves of this common species form a rosette measuring up to 3"
across. The flowers reach ¾" wide and range from pale to rich blue (rarely
white). It is not stoloniferous like many other members of the genus but may
form dense colonies, especially along moist trails that bisect its habitat. It
principally blooms from January through July in mesic forests throughout
mainland Florida but plants may be found flowering throughout the year. In
cultivation, it will spread from seed in pots and wherever there is moist, bare
soil in shady situations. The seeds of many violets are explosively dehiscent
and can be flung several feet away from the parent plant.
Viola is the classical Latin name for a violet and
the name sororia means “sisterly,” alluding to its similarity
to other violets. It is the state wildflower of Wisconsin, Rhode Island,
Illinois, and New Jersey. Hover flies seek nectar from the flowers and are
It was once called
“lesbian flower” because, in the early 1900s, lesbians would offer flowers of
this species to women they were wooing. This was called “sapphic desire”
because the Greek poet Sappho (ca. 630–570 BC), who lived on the island of
Lesbos (now Lesvos, and the source of the word “lesbian”) in the northeastern
Aegean Sea, wrote a love poem about her lesbian partner wearing a garland of
violet flowers, and violets still today remain a symbol for lesbian women.
Sappho was a poetic genius who often mentioned Aphrodite, the goddess of love,
in her poems, and would become the most acclaimed woman of ancient Greek
history. After her death, Sappho was branded by the Christian church as a
“whore” and her poetry was described as deviant works due to her “unnatural”
love for other women. And all this became intertwined in the history of this
simple violet flower, native to Florida.
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).
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 …