I.M.B.Y. (In My Backyard)

Sea Oats; photo by Shirley Denton
by Eric Powell
introduction by Laurie Sheldon

Eric Powell has taken on the ambitious task of assembling a monthly newsletter for his chapter, Sea Oats in St. Johns County. In addition to including information about upcoming meetings, field trips, and local events, Eric catalogues the specimens that are concurrently blooming in his own landscape while working on the publication. The following is an excerpt from Sea Oats' most recent circular.

Garden Update

Every month, I prepare a list of all the plants I have in bloom at the time I put the newsletter together. At least three people have confessed that they actually read it; for the life of me, I have no idea why. Although I readily admit to being a plantaholic, I swear I have not bought, been gifted, or stolen one single plant this month!  Must be a record!  Regardless, it seems that all it takes for my list to grow longer is some time spent staring at the ground. And man, has it ever grown!

I thought about keeping track of this stuff in spreadsheet format. I studied Latin briefly long ago, so I'm not intimidated by the botanical names, but it didn't really help me with deciphering words like "nephrolepidaceae," for instance, which occurs nowhere in the average beginning Latin reader. After many trips back and forth into the yard, many many searches on the internet, a few IDs at meetings, my catalogue finally started to take shape. Ultimately, I decided to include the non-natives (so I don't forget which they are), the shrubs that were already here, the fruit trees I put in, the ornamentals that I was pressured (forced, kicking and screaming!) into. I also tried to find out what all of my weeds are really called (I had given most of those some choice names of my own, but they weren't appropriate for a written list). Many were not native (keep pulling), many were (hurray, can stop pulling those!). When I got down to brass tacks, excluding most of the bazillion types of grasses that made up the original "lawn" a year ago, I came up with 130 different species (plus 5 extra cultivars). Drop the non-natives and it's 99 native plant species in 87 genera  (that's "genus-es", for the uninitiated). Have no fear, I'll hunt down that hundredth native plant tomorrow. For the time being it's still unmanageable in my crowded little head.

Celtis laevigata (hackberry)
Clearly, I need a life. Here's an idea -- a little family time!  Great!  So I looked up all the families for my 99 native plants. That will be a little more manageable, right?  How many families can there be? Ten, twelve?  I'll be able to say, "I have some oaks, some some viburnums, some asters". Well, first, "oaks" aren't a family. Yet. Let me tell you, the modern family ain't what it used to be. Turns out, my hackberry trees used to be Ulmaceae (elm family), then briefly changed to Celtaceae (hackberry family). Now they appear to be Cannabaceae (cannabis family). Now put that in your pipe and smoke it!  In the end, picking a family from the ever exciting and changing world of plant nomenclature made my 99 species and 87 genera sooo much more manageable:  50. Ugh.

The most prolific families (with at least four species represented) are/were:
Lantana involucrata with zebra longwing
  • Asteraceae (asters): 18, including coreopsis, liatris, blanket flower, sunflowers and ironweed.
  • Ericaceae (heaths): 5, including lyonia, sparkleberry and flame azalea.
  • Fabaceae (legumes): 5, including redbud, coral bean, and cassia.
  • Lamiaceae (mints), 5, including horsemint, tropical salvia, florida betony, and blue curls.
  • Poaceae (grasses): 4, including sea oats (chapter requirement) and bluestem. And sand burs (I didn't say they're all good, just native).
  • Verbenaceae (verbenas): 4, including beautyberry, turkey tangle and button sage (aka white lantana).

I also figured out why the very cool looking "oleander wasp moth" caterpillars, which I had read only eat oleander leaves, were eating the mandevilla last winter: both dogbane family (and both non-native plants, so chow down, oleander wasp moths!)

Liatris gracilis, Asteraceae
I almost forgot...

Blooming in September:

Newly flowering, reblooming, or missed last month:
Florida betony (Stachys floridana), Gayfeather (Liatris gracilis, L. spicata), Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), Simpson's stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans).

Senna ligustrina, Fabaceae

Still going:
Beach Primrose (Oenothera drummondii), Beggarticks (Bidens alba), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia pulchella), Buttonsage (Lantana involucrata), Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis), Christmas Berry (Lycium carolinianum), Coreopsis (C. laevigata, C. leavenworthii), Dollarweed (Hydrocotyle bonariensis?), Drummond's Phlox (Phlox drummondii), Dune Sunflower (Helianthus debilis), Firebush (Hamelia patens), Groundcherry (Physalis walteri?), Lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata), Narrowleaf ironweed (Vernonia angustifolia), Pink purslane (Portulaca pilosa), Privet cassia (Senna ligustrina), Rosinweed (Silphium asteriscus), Scarlet rosemallow (Hibiscus coccineus), Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis), Spotted horsemint (Monarda punctata), Summer poinsettia (Poinsettia cyathophora), Sunshine Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa), Tampa Verbena (Glandularia tampensis), Tropical Salvia (Salvia coccinea), Turkey tangle (Phyla nodiflora), Twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia), Varnish leaf (Dodonea viscosa), Walter's viburnum (Viburnum obovatum - two dwarf cultivars).

The most popular plant here - hands down - has been the Monarda punctata (dotted horsemint). Wow! I can't even try to guess the number of species/genera/families of insects that were partying down on this guy!  Bugs in every size, shape, color and buzz!  And, no... I'm not doing a spreadsheet.

Monarda punctata - the most popular guy in town!

 All photos by Eric Powell unless otherwise noted.


Boy oh boy can I identify with you! You have a great list of plants there, and some beautiful photos.
Anonymous said…
Wow, that's a newsletter FULL of info.!! LOVE it! And native or not...thumbs down for spurs! lol
Thank you! I'll be sure to relay the message to Eric.

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