Saturday, May 26, 2018

Man-in-the-Ground - Ipomoea microdactyla


Man-in-the-ground (Ipomoea microdactyla) is one of the most striking of our native morning glories and one of the rarest. It is currently only known from pine rockland habitats in Miami-Dade County and is listed as a state endangered species. It also occurs on Puerto Rico.

Man-in-the-ground is so named (and the Latin name implies it also) because the large tuberous root has small finger-like projections.  Like all members of this genus, it is a sprawling vine that ranges many feet out from the central core. The ovate leaves can be entire or palmately lobed. Each is 3-4 inches in length.  What separates this species most obviously from our other nearly 2 dozen species is the rich carmine-pink color of the blooms. The deeply tubular flowers are about 1 1/2 inches wide and many buds are produced along the stems and can be open at any one time. Flowers are possible during most months from spring to early winter. They are visited by a variety of pollinating insects.

Despite its showiness, this species is not generally cultivated by any of the nurseries associated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. It is sometimes available from other south Florida hobbiests. If you find a specimen from someone (collected legally, of course), give it lots of room to ramble, full sun, and average soil. I do not know if it requires soils with high pH, but that is the habitat is occurs naturally in.


Flaxleaf False Foxglove - Agalinus linifolia


The genus Agalinus contains 17 native species and can be a very difficult genus to identify individual species. One way to narrow down the possibilities is to use habitat first - does it occur in wet to dry soils, and in what part of the state is it located.  Flaxleaf false foxglove (Agalinus linifolia) is one of several species found in seasonally wet habitats such as wet prairies and open marshes and it is found nearly statewide in such conditions. It also is found across the Southeastern Coastal Plains from Louisiana to Maryland and Delaware. 

As the common and scientific names suggest, it is characterized by having very narrow leaves (similar in appearance to flax) that may be 1-2 inches long.  These are appressed against the stem and not especially noticeable at first glance. Multiple stems arise from the base and are sparsely branched.  They can reach 3 feet in height, depending on the density of the adjacent vegetation.
False foxgloves get this name from the general similarity of their flowers to real foxgloves - genus Digitalis. All members of this genus are pink in color and most have darker purple spots inside the throat.  Flaxleaf false foxglove is no exception, but its flowers are large for the genus - up to 1 inch across, and the petals are noticeably "hairy" along the edges. Blooming is most common from summer to late fall. They are pollinated mostly by bumblebees and other large bees.

False foxgloves are semi-parasitic on the roots of other plants. As such, they are not easy candidates for home landscapes and are not currently being propagated by any of the nurseries associated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. There has always been a demand, however, as this genus is the larval host plant for buckeye butterflies. If you wish to try your hand at this species, look for the dry seed capsules in fall to early winter and scatter them directly into a moist-to-wet mixed/established wildflower meadow. If you are successful, you should notice seedlings the following spring.

Purple Bladderwort - Utricularia purpurea



Bladderworts are semi-carnivorous plants that use their tiny bladder-like "traps" at the ends of their threadlike stems to capture small aquatic animals such as insects and nematodes to supplement their diet. These traps are exceedingly responsive to touch and close quickly to snare their prey.  Purple bladderwort (Utricularia purpurea) is an aquatic species found statewide in shallow freshwater habitats such as pond and marsh edges. It has a wide distribution in North America and is found in most states and provinces east of the Mississippi River north to Quebec, Newfoundland, and Labrador.
Purple bladderwort is actually just one of three bladderworts with lavender flowers. Florida purple bladderwort (U. amethystina) is confined to a few counties in Collier and Lee Counties in extreme southwest Florida while lavender bladderwort (U. resupinata) , also found statewide, is distinguished by an upcurving lower lip.  The plants photographed here were observed in shallow water at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park.
Purple bladderwort spreads across the open water by forming a network of below-water stems. The light purple flowers can occur throughout the growing season. They stand several inches above the water and are about 1/2 inch in length.  The lower lip is accented with a broad yellow and white splotch and a deeper purple splotch is evident on the upper petal.
Though bladderworts are interesting plants, they don't lend themselves to nursery propagation. None of the 14 native species are currently offered by nurseries affiliated with the Florida Association of Native Nurseries (FANN) and I am not aware of them ever offering any of these plants. Look for it in shallow water habitats, but you'll have to look closely as its small size sometimes makes difficult to see.

Pineland Jacquemontia - Jacquemontia curtissii


The genus Jacquemontia commemorates French botanist and explorer Victor Jacquemont and includes 5 species native to Florida. All of these, except J. tamnifolia are restricted to extreme south Florida and are listed either as state Threatened or Endangered species. Pineland jacquemontia (J. curtissii) is one of these and is only reported from 5 counties at the tip of the peninsula in calcareous open pinelands and prairies. The plants photographed above were found in pine rockland habitat in Everglades National Park in late May.

Although a few members of this genus are routinely offered for sale by members of the Florida Association of Native Plant Nurseries (FANN), this one is not - regrettably. The 3/4-inch diameter white flowers are exceedingly attractive and are of interest to various pollinators. These blooms can occur year round. Like other members of this genus, it grows as an evergreen twining vine that rambles through the adjacent vegetation. Each stem will extend several feet from the main growing point. The leaves are elliptical in shape, alternate along the stem, and are 1/2-1 inch in length.

Pineland clustervine could be relatively easily grown in a home landscape given a bit of extra moisture and full sun to mostly sunny conditions. It would be an attractive plant if grown on a trellis or allowed to ramble through a mixed wildflower planting.  Until someone propagates it, however, it is best simply admired if encountered along a nature trail. As a state-protected species, it is not legal to collect seed or cuttings.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Corkwood - Stillingia aquatica


Corkwood (Stillingia aquatica) is a semi-woody shrub found nearly statewide in Florida in shallow-water marshes and the edges of freshwater swamps.  It also is reported to occur in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina. Unlike is close relative, Queen's delight (S. sylvatica), corkwood is an obligate wetland plant that is never found in habitats that are only seasonally wet. It also does not die back to the ground in the winter, though it loses its foliage.
Corkwood reaches a mature height of about 4 feet on thin woody stems. The bark is a dull rusty red in color. The foliage is mostly confined to the ends of the stems. This gives it a rather open aspect. The 6-12 inch-long leaves are narrow with a prominent mid-vein. The edges of the leaf margins have small, but conspicuous teeth and often are edged in red.
As a member of the Euphorbia family, the individual flowers are not especially showy.  For one, they lack petals completely. A few female flowers are clustered at the base of the 2-3 inch-long stalk while the numerous male flowers are spaced above. Flowering occurs over a protracted period from late spring to fall. The ripened seed capsules are three-parted and they "explode" when fully ripe - sending the seeds several feet away in random directions.
I have never seen corkwood offered for sale by any of the nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries, though I have sowed seed here at Hawthorn Hill for sale in Spring 2018. It is a very interesting addition to an aquatic planting, but definitely not a showy one. Use it in the shallow-water margins of lake and marsh plantings. I would plant this in small clusters for maximum effect and mix it with showier wildflowers such as native canna (Canna flaccida) and iris (Iris spp.). Bees are attracted to the small greenish flowers

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Yellow passionvine - Passiflora lutea



Yellow passionvine (Passiflora lutea) is native to the Florida panhandle and a very few counties in the upper peninsula. It also is found throughout the South and Midwest from Texas and Nebraska to Maryland and Pennsylvania on the East Coast. Throughout this extended range, it is most often encountered in the understory of deciduous woodlands in moist to mesic conditions.
In many respects, yellow passionvine occupies the same role (niche) as winged maypop (P. suberosa) does in the rest of Florida. It can go largely unnoticed in the landscape when butterflies are not fluttering about it. The leaves are three-lobed, but much wider than long and often with silvery markings along the leaf veins - best seen in the top photo. Flowering occurs in late spring and summer, and as the name suggests, the blooms are a pale yellow in color. Each flower is small and can go unnoticed. Deep-purple fruit follow about a month later.
Yellow passionvine is the preferred host plant for zebra heliconian butterflies in north Florida for much the same reasons as winged maypop fills this role further south. Gulf fritillary butterflies will use it also if the plant extends itself into a sunny location.
This passionvine is only rarely offered for sale by nurseries affiliated with the Florida Association of Native Nurseries (FANN), but it is sometimes offered by native nurseries to our immediate north. I have not had success with this species in my Pinellas County landscape and do not recommend it for locations outside its natural range.  If you decide to grow it, plant it in a rich woodland soil, in dappled light. Over time, it will spread by underground stems and by bird-planted fruit.

Winged maypop - Passiflora suberosa


Winged maypop (Passiflora suberosa) is found throughout peninsular Florida in a wide variety of habitats. Though not a showy wildflower (and therefore sometimes overlooked), its presence is often detected by the flurry of butterfly activity around it.  Winged maypop is equally at home in mostly sunny openings as well as mostly shaded woodlands and it is widely distributed by birds into all of these locations as they feed on its small purple fruit. 
Named for the corky "wings" along its mature stems (visible in the top photo), winged maypop works its way up and around nearby vegetation - extending a dozen or more feet away from its base. Like other passionvines, it has tendrils that aid its ability to climb securely. The small glossy leaves are variable in shape, but always three-lobed with a deep vein running the length of each.
Flowering occurs from late spring through fall. The tiny pale flowers are typical for the genus, but can go largely unnoticed because of their size. They are pollinated by bees and fertilized flowers form round deep-purple fruit that ripen about a month later. They are about 1/4-1/3 inch long. As mentioned above, they are widely fed on by songbirds and the seed are, therefore, widely scattered as well.
This wildflower would largely be considered an afterthought among wildflower gardeners if not for the fact that it is essential in a butterfly garden. Because it does well in dappled sun, this is the best host plant for the zebra heliconion (aka zebra longwing) in much of Florida. As zebras typically shun sunny areas to lay their eggs, most other passionvines are rarely used by them. The exception is yellow passionvine (P. lutea) which fills this role in the Florida panhandle counties. Winged maypop does well in sunny locations too, and in this setting it serves as a host for the caterpillars of Gulf fritillary and julia butterflies.
Winged maypop is likely to already be in your landscape - or to show up someday unannounced, but it is widely propagated by native plant nurseries if you wish to add it yourself.  I think it does best in average soil where it gets partial sun. If you can introduce it to a location where it can grow in both shady and sunny directions, it will maximize its value as a larval food plant.