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

Friday, June 2, 2017

Seeing Old Friends for the Very First Time

Submitted by Devon Higginbotham, Indigo Travel Company

Purple Wakerobin, Trillium erectum, Blue Ridge Mountains
I remember visiting the Appalachians for the first time.  It was 1971 and with my new driver’s license firmly in hand, I accepted an invite from my older sister and her girlfriend, Francie, to go camping in Vogel State Park in north Georgia.