Sunday, November 1, 2009

Coastalplain balm - Dicerandra linearifolia










Coastalplain balm (Dicerandra linearifolia) is a relatively abundant herbaceous member of this mostly woody genus, found throughout the western Florida Panhandle in the deep sandy soils of scrub and sandhill ecosystems. It is also found scattered in southern Georgia and in extreme southern Alabama. As such, it also makes this species the most widely distributed of Florida's Dicerandras. Two varieties of this wonderful mint are described. The one pictured above, D. linearifolia var. robustior, tends to be deeper pink in color and the anthers are brown or rose-brown. It is rarer than the other variety, D. linearifolia var. linearifolia. Both varieties are annuals.
All Dicerandra species occur only in yellow sand scrubs or sandhills and they are extremely finicky about growing conditions. They require this absolutely perfect drainage to prosper and they need full to mostly sunny locations.
As an annual, coastalplain balm also requires open sands for its seeds to land and germinate each year on a reliable basis. Flowering occurs between October and early November and often lasts for a month or more. During this time, the plants are spectacular and may have a hundred or more blooms open at one time. The flowers are mostly bee pollinated, though butterflies may occasionally visit them. Each flower eventually produces a small brown seed capsule that contains many tiny dark seeds. The seeds normally germinate in late winter and the plants then grow rapidly to reach maturity 6 months later.
Coastalplain balm has bright green linear leaves that are highly aromatic. Walking through an area of this plant is something not to be missed if you have any sense of smell at all. Individual plants rarely stand more than 12 inches tall and they are profusely branched.
Dicerandras are not currently available from any of the native plant nurseries listed by the Association of Florida Native Nurseries and this is certainly true for coastalplain balm. Although this species, and the others in this genus are beautiful plants, they are difficult to keep within a home garden setting and are not likely to be offered to gardeners any time in the foreseeable future.



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