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:Spanish Needle
Spanish Needle, Bidens Alba
Submitted by Donna Bollenbach, Suncoast Chapter
Biden's alba, all photos by Donna Bollenbach
Nothing attracts more butterflies and
bees than a simple white flower called Bidens
alba. Also called Romerillo, Beggar’s Tick, Spanish Needle or Monkey’s Lice,
this Florida native wildflower is the
third most reliable source of nectar for pollinators in our state. There would
be many starving bees and butterflies if not for the Bidens family of flowers. More
so, Bidens alba and its sister plant,
Bidens pilosa, are both edible and have
medicinal value. Yet, many gardeners have a love/hate relationship the
plant, and some even consider it a pesky weed. Why?
The word Bidens means two-toothed, which describes the needle-like seeds that flowers in this family produce in enormous amounts. If you walk through a patch of Bidens that have gone to seed you come out looking and feeling that you were attacked by an army of little black needles, and good luck getting them out of your clothes. The “hitchhiker” seeds are easily spread by people, animals, wind and water, so it grows everywhere and anywhere, and once established, it is hard to get rid of.
But, if you love bees and butterflies, you need
to learn to love Bidens Alba. While
not a neat and tidy plant, it is can be very showy at its peak. The pretty
white and yellow daisy-like flowers bloom throughout spring, summer and fall in
Florida. It becomes quite weedy as it
ages, but if allowed to grow in a sunny area along a fence line, or in the back
of your garden and out of the way of any
foot traffic, it will pose less of
a problem for you when it goes to seed. What small discomfort you may feel by
the prickly seeds in your shoes and socks, you will be rewarded tenfold by the
colorful pollinators that you will attract to your yard.
most Florida climates it Bidens alba blooms nearly year round. They like sun, but will tolerate some shade. They are also very drought tolerant. The plants may die after the
first frost, but will come back quickly when the weather turns warm.A single plant can produce 3000-6000 seeds,
so if you don’t want them to spread you need to pull up or mow the plants before they
go to seed, or, you can eat them…The fresh or dried leaves of Bidens alba are edible. Peggy Sias Lantz, author of Florida’s Guide to Edible Wild Plants, recommends that you pick the youngest leaves and sprouts and “cook them in a few changes of water to get rid of the bitterness.” She also writes that if used sparingly, the leaves and flowers can also be tossed into a raw salad.
Bidens alba: Weed or wildflower?
It is all in the eyes of the beholder, and the butterflies.
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 …