Saturday, July 31, 2010

Helianthus annuus – Common Sunflower

Helianthus annuus - common sunflower

Established in my backyard from seed dispersed by birds from a neighbor's bird feeder.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Thelesperma burridgeanum – Burridge's Green-Thread

Thelesperma burridgeanum

Burridge's green-thread is an extremely showy and easily grown, but short-lived, annual. It occurs as a native plant in only nine counties in southern Texas, where it favors well-drained, sandy soil.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Clematis glaucophylla

Clematis glaucophylla

Clematis glaucophylla is one of the most beautiful vines native to the United States. The clear liquid dripping from some of the flowers is not water. It is nectar and it serves to lure hummingbirds, which are this plant's principal pollinator.

Note: this image is sized to serve as a desktop wallpaper on 1280 x 1024 monitors.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Borrichia frutescens – Bushy Seaside Ox-Eye

Borrichia frutescens - Bushy Seaside Ox-Eye

Bushy seaside ox-eye (Borrichia frutescens) grows along the saline coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico in estuaries, lagoons, marshes, mangrove swamps, and tidal flats. It readily spreads by way of underground rhizomes and can build up large colonies that are important in stabilizing the soil in its natural habitats.

Although usually occurring in saline situations in nature, it readily adapts to average garden conditions so long as it is grown in a sunny spot. Once established, it is remarkably tolerant of adversity, including moderate drought. In addition to its ornamental and landscape qualities, it is also useful for attracting butterflies and other insects to the garden.


Distribution Map for Borrichia frutescens
Map courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database

 

© 2009 Rufino Osorio (exclusive of the USDA map).

Bellis perennis – English Daisy

Bellis perennis - English Daisy

Bellis perennis, now commonly known as English daisy, is the original plant to which the word daisy was first applied. The word daisy is itself a corruption of day's eye and referred to the flower heads of Bellis perennis, which opened during the day and closed at night. Other English common names include common daisy, European daisy, garden daisy, and lawn daisy.It is a small plant 2–3 inches high with leaves arranged in a basal rosette from which arise short, creeping rhizomes. As alluded to by one of its names, it is a common component of weedy lawns. The plant has a decided affinity for disturbed areas and, "On the sand-dunes and sandy pastures at Killeany (Inishmore) the daisy becomes dominant on rabbit-tracks, which are visible as white streaks at a distance of over a kilometre." Webb & Scannell 1983:107. Bellis perennis was originally native to Europe, Africa (Libya), and western Asia, but it is now widely introduced and naturalized nearly throughout all of the temperate regions of both the northern and southern hemispheres and is well-established in Canada and the northern and western United States.

References:

Webb, D.A. and M.J.P. Scannell. 1983. Flora of Connemara and the Burren. Cambridge University Press.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Arisaema triphyllum 'Black Jack'

Arisaema triphyllum 'Black Jack' - Black Jack Jack-in-the-Pulpit

A beautiful specimen plant of the black-leaved form of jack-in-the-pulpit. The original plant was found growing wild in Highlands County, Florida.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Acer rubrum – Red Maple

Acer rubrum - Red Maple

Red maples (Acer rubrum) combine ease of cultivation with year around beauty. Although the familiar winged fruits will mature to a light brown color, some female trees bear brilliant immature fruits that are almost as colorful as the autumnal foliage.

Red Maple Trivia: of all the trees confined to the forests of eastern North America north of Mexico, red maples have the greatest north-south range and they occur from Newfoundland in the north to southern Florida in the south.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Contact Information

Contact information is available here.

Pokeweed—An Overlooked Native Plant

Pokeweed is one of the most common plants throughout much of the United States and has been recorded from all but 12 states. In Florida, it has been recorded from all but 8 northern counties—and chances are that it occurs in those counties but has merely been overlooked. Perhaps because it is so common, it is often ignored as a garden plant. Additionally, it is frequently described as a coarse and homely plant but such assessments are more a reflection of the writers' prejudices than they are an accurate description of pokeweed.

Botanically, it is known as Phytolacca americana and it is the only temperate-zone member of a small, mainly tropical family. Pokeweed is a big, bushy perennial that can grow up to 10 feet in height but plants in natural communities with low nutrient soils rarely exceed 3 feet in height and width. It has stout, fleshy, pink stems and large, elliptic, dark green leaves but is otherwise rather unremarkable in appearance. Small, white flowers are produced in long spikes, which vary from rigidly erect to gracefully pendent. The flowers are followed by dark purple berries with beautifully contrasting rose or red stalks. The combination of rose-red and dark purple is a magnet for a wide variety of birds, which avidly seek out and eat pokeweed berries. An image of a yellow-breasted chat whose ventral area has been stained purple from eating so many pokeweed berries may be seen at the Hilton Pond web site. In colder areas, such as northern Florida, the berries persist on the plant for many months and they are an important winter food source for birds when other foods are unavailable or scarce.

As is to be expected from a common plant that frequents areas affected by human disturbance, pokeweed is simplicity itself to grow and asks for nothing more than dry to moist soil in full to partial sun. The stems arise from thick, tuberous roots and if the tops are destroyed by drought, hurricanes, insect hordes, or human pruning, new shoots will arise in due course when conditions improve. Since I rarely water my garden, my pokeweed plants rarely exceed two feet in height and maintain themselves as compact masses of green accented by white flowers and purple berries. New plants are easily grown from seed but patience is required since seeds sometimes take a few months to germinate. Select forms are easily propagated vegetatively by dividing the tuberous roots.

In addition to its horticultural and wildlife uses, pokeweed is famous as the source of poke sallet, a spinach-like green prepared from young shoots up to 12-inches tall that have been boiled in at least two changes of water. It is extremely important that poke sallet never be prepared from shoots that include any parts of the roots or that show any tinges of pink or rose color. These precautions and extensive pre­pa­ra­tion are necessary since all parts of the plant, but most especially the roots and older shoots, are toxic to human beings. Although the berries are also toxic, they are not dangerously so and, to this day, their juice has been used to add vibrant color to jams and jellies. Rural children used the berries' juice as ink but today’s children, reared on television and computers, are oblivious to such simple enter­tainments. The sliced roots, fried in bacon fat, have been fed to dogs to rid them of intestinal worms, but this is a dangerous practice and it is preferable that parasite-infested pets be taken to a veterinarian.

As is the case with so many plants, pokeweed has found greater acceptance outside its native home and has long been grown in Europe and Asia, where it is popular both for its edible shoots and as an unusual accent plant in perennial borders and shrubby foundation plantings. The time to welcome this interesting native to American gardens is long overdue and pokeweed deserves a place in every native Florida garden that can accommodate its modest needs.

Aruncus dioicus - Goat's Beard

Aruncus dioicus - Goat's Beard

Goat's beard, Aruncus dioicus, is an attractive perennial native to Asia, Europe, Canada, and the United States. As is to be expected of a plant with so wide a range, it is variable depending on the growing conditions and geographic origin. Compare, for example, the image above of a cultivated specimen plant in Ireland with a plant growing wild in the Hengduan Mountains of China.

Image taken by Gary Goforth while vacationing in Ireland. The plant with tiny greenish flowers growing in front of the goat's beard is a lady's mantle (Alchemilla species).

Image © 2009 Gary Goforth. All rights reserved.

Salvia sclarea

Warning: Salvia sclarea has strong invasive tendencies. It is included here only as an aid to identification and not to promote its cultivation in any way whatsoever.

Salvia sclarea - Clary Sage (an invasive pest plant)

Salvia sclarea (clary sage) is a handsome biennial or short-lived perennial native to Europe and temperate and tropical Asia; however, it should not be grown outside of its native range since it has well-documented invasive tendencies. The State of Washington lists it as a Class A Weed because:

Clary sage poses a threat to forage production and plant biodiversity by displacing less competitive, more desirable species. The species has demonstrated its invasive characteristics in Idaho, where it once covered more than 1,000 acres. In addition, clary sage is a close relative of Mediterranean sage [Salvia aethiopis], a Class A noxious weed in Washington, which covers extensive areas of rangeland in Idaho, Oregon, and California. Because of its demonstrated threats and potential to invade Washington, preventing the spread of this species is desirable.

Image taken by Gary Goforth while vacationing in France.

Image © 2009 Gary Goforth. All rights reserved.

Centaurea montana

Warning: Centaurea montana has a strong potential to become an invasive pest plant. It is included here only as an aid to identification and not to promote its cultivation in any way whatsoever.

Centaurea montana

Centaurea montana is an evergreen perennial native to Europe, where it is especially common in southern, mountainous regions. Although it is a handsome plant, it should not be cultivated outside of its native range since it exhibits invasive and weedy tendencies. Chief among these are its evergreen growth habit, which allows it to start growth ahead of deciduous native plants in the spring and to continue growing in the autumn after deciduous native plants have gone dormant. Other invasive characteristics include a ready tendency to self-seed and escape from cultivation; an ability to grow in many different habitats over an extremely wide altitudinal range; a wide tolerance for different soil types; an ability to grow in acidic, neutral, and alkaline soils; drought tolerance; and the ability to establish new plants from small pieces of roots. It has escaped from cultivation in Scandinavia, the British Isles, Canada, and the northern United States, including Alaska. Additionally, other species in the genus Centaurea have become invasive pest plants and Centaurea montana is listed by the United States Bureau of Land Management as an invasive weed species of concern.

The image above was taken by Gary Goforth while vacationing in France. An image showing a close-up of the flower can be found on Wikipedia.

References:

  • Bureau of Land Management. BLM National List of Invasive Weed Species of Concern. Visited 2009 June 27. Internet
  • Keil, D.J. and J. Ochsmann. Centaurea montana in Flora of North America. Visited 2009 June 27. Internet
  • Wikipedia. Centaurea montana. Visited 2009 June 27. Internet

© 2009 Gary Goforth. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Delphiniums and Petunias

delphiniums and petunias

Gary Goforth, a hydrogeologist and consultant for the South Florida Water Management District, took this striking photograph of two brightly colored annuals while vacationing in France.

© 2009 Gary Goforth. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Mock Bishop’s Weed—An Overlooked Native Annual

Mock Bishop's Weed - Ptilimnium capillaceum

Mock bishop’s weed is a prosaic and rather unattractive name for a highly attractive little annual in the carrot family. It has been recorded as a native plant in all but six of Florida’s counties where it occurs in moist situations such as ditches and pond margins. It is both common and adaptable yet it is inexplicably overlooked by native gardeners. This has always puzzled me since I have often wondered how a garden can be considered “native” if it lacks common plants native to the area where the garden is located.

Scientifically known as Ptilimnium capillaceum, mock bishop’s weed has perhaps the daintiest and most delicate appearance of any plant native to Florida. As is typically the case with winter annuals, its life begins when the seeds, which have lain dormant throughout the summer, germinate with the onset of cooler weather in the autumn or early winter. At first, the seedlings resemble nothing more than wispy green threads. Throughout the winter and early spring, the little plants grow vigorously and soon resemble beautiful masses of the finest green lace. This singular appearance is the result of each leaf being divided into numerous, hair-thin segments. With the approach of warm weather, the plants begin to flower and they produce prodigious masses of tiny white flowers about as large as a pinhead. Both the “green lace” and flowering stages are equally beautiful but they are followed by an awkward final stage. As warm weather arrives in late spring, seed production ensues and the little plants wither as all their energies are focused on producing the next generation. The exhausted plants soon turn yellowish or brown, they completely dry up and, when summer arrives in full force, they survive only in the form of dormant seeds that await the coming of cold fronts in autumn.

Mock bishop’s weed is a useful butterfly plant and is highly recommended for butterfly gardens as food for the caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterfly, Papilio polyxenes. The caterpillars are interesting little creatures that mimic bird droppings when young but soon grow into beautiful green caterpillars with narrow black bands on each segment of the body, with each black band variously adorned with yellow spots. For best results in attracting black swallowtails, mock bishop’s weed should be grown in large masses. In spite of their small size, the tiny flowers play an important ecologic role in both natural communities and in our gardens. The tiny flowers have easily accessible nectar that is offered freely to all insects. Among these are tiny wasps and flies that parasitize other insects such as aphids, scales, and mealy bugs. Studies have shown that these diminutive biological control agents lay more eggs and stay in a given area longer if there are miniature flowers to provide much needed fuel in the form of nectar.

Growing mock bishop’s weed is simplicity itself and involves nothing more than spreading the seeds in late spring or early summer in a moist part of the garden. Gardener’s in dry areas can still grow a small colony of this plant if they can find a spot that stays moist during winter and early spring. For example, a colony may be started near the base of a potted plant that gets regular watering or where the water from a bird bath spills onto the ground. For many years, this endearing and charming little plant has provided months of beauty during the winter and early spring—and my only investment for this rich reward was the scattering of a few seeds in a spot where I occasionally aim the watering hose as I water my potted plants.

Finally, a word of warning is called for since there is a non-native impostor that frequently infiltrates gardens disguised as mock bishop’s weed. It is an equally common, lacy-leaved winter annual known as Cyclospermum leptophyllum. This interloper may be recognized by the position of its flower clusters, which occur along the stems opposite the leaves. In the native Ptilimnium capillaceum, the flowers terminate at the end of the stems and are held above the leaves.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Solenostemon scutellarioides - Coleus

Solenostemon scutellarioides - Coleus

The common garden coleus can be highly invasive in moist or wet tropical forests.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Cephalanthus occidentalis - Buttonbush

Cephalanthus occidentalis - Buttonbush

Close-up of the capitate inflorescence of buttonbush (scientific name: Cephalanthus occidentalis). It is a common North American shrub occurring in wet areas such as swamps, marshes, pond margins, and ditches. The ball-like inflorescence consists of numerous, tiny flowers with prominent, exserted styles. Plants in full flower are usually attended by a variety of nectar- and pollen-seeking insects and buttonbush is recommended for butterfly gardens. The plant is botanically interesting as a native, woody member of the coffee family (Rubiaceae) that is hardy as far north as parts of Canada. It is also noteworthy for its extensive north-south range and occurs from Canada south into Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. The pictured plant was photographed along the margin of a stormwater retention pond on the grounds of the headquarters of the South Florida Water Management District in Palm Beach County, Florida.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Drosera binata var. dichotoma 'Giant'

a damselfly caught by the carnivorous plant, Drosera binata var. dichotoma 'Giant'

The damselfly was too small to escape the sundew's tentacles,
but it was too large to be digested by the plant.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Pityrogramma - Goldback Fern

Pityrogramma species - goldback fern

An unidentified species of Pityrogramma from Puerto Rico
tries to establish itself in in cracks of a suburban driveway.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Salvia subrotundata

Salvia subrotundata

Crack cocaine for hummingbirds.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Clematis reticulata

Clematis reticulata

This is an outstanding clone with beautiful, richly colored flowers that was grown from seeds collected in November of 1999 in Hillsborough County, Florida. The seeds were sown in December after being soaked in a cup of water for 72 hours. The water was completely replaced with fresh water at frequent intervals in order to minimize the build-up of bacteria and fungi. After soaking for three days, the seeds were then planted in a large pot and left in a carport where they were sheltered from heavy rains but otherwise were fully exposed to all the normal temperature variations that occur in the winter in south Florida. The pot was watered as necessary to keep the soil moist and at no time were the seeds exposed to either freezing or excessively hot temperatures.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Arnoglossum ovatum - Indian-Plantain

Arnoglossum ovatum - indian-plantain

The white flowers of Arnoglossum ovatum against a backdrop of coontie leaves (Zamia pumila). The blurred yellow in the lower left is the old flowerhead of a rosinweed (Silphium species).

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Wild Poinsettia

Euphorbia cyathophora - wild poinsettia

Scientific Name: Euphorbia cyathophora

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Clathrus crispus

Clathrus crispus

How many different types of flies can you spot?

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

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Okeeheelee County Park Nature Center

pine flatwoods pond in Okeeheelee County Park Nature Center

A pine flatwoods pond in December 2008.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

Bucida molinetii

Bucida molinetii (with Tillandsia usneoides growing among its branches)

Bucida molinetii with Tillandsia usneoides growing among its branches.

© 2009 Rufino Osorio. All rights reserved.

2009 Florida Native Plant Society Conference

The presentation that I gave at the 2009 Florida Native Plant Society Conference is embedded below. Use the scroll bar on the right hand side to scroll through the presentation. To see it in full screen mode, click on the rightmost top button.

If you'd like to save a PDF copy to your computer, click the "More" button and select "Save Document."