Sunday, December 25, 2011

Okeeheelee County Park Nature Center – Part 1

The following are photographs taken during a hike at the Okeeheelee County Park Nature Center on Friday, December 23, 2011. This set of photographs was taken at the parking lot and at the Visitor's Center. The next set of photographs (Part 2) was taken on the hiking trails.

Immediately upon getting out of my car in the parking lot, I saw a nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) rooting in the soil for worms or grubs just a few feet from the car. He was completely fearless, or perhaps oblivious, and casually went about his business while I snapped about 4 dozen pictures. Since he was in constant motion, all of the pictures were blurry except for four of them, two of which are reproduced below.

nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)

nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)

The little pink flowers visible in the armadillo pictures is large-flowered Mexican-clover (Richardia grandiflora), which is seen in close-up below. The plant is neither Mexican nor a clover. It is, in fact, from South America and is in the same family as coffee. It is now one of the most ubiquitous weeds of lawns, roadsides, parks, fields, and the disturbed portions of natural areas in Palm Beach County. It was first seen in Palm Beach County about 15 years ago and in that span of time its population has grown to such an extent that it is perhaps among the top 10 most common herbaceous, non-grassy perennials in the county. It was ever-present along the trails of the nature center and in one area its thick growth was shading a population of the small, native wildflower, Stenandrium dulce (pine pinklet).

Richardia grandiflora

The following pictures were all taken around the perimeter of the visitor's center, which is landscaped with both native and non-native butterfly garden plants. These plants were very effective as there were numerous butterflies, both small and large, visiting these plants that day.

Clerodendrum ugandense (blue butterfly plant), from Africa, was in full bloom. It is said to be a minimally invasive Clerodendrum, some of which are extremely aggressive in gardens due to an abundance of root sprouts. In many ways, it reminded me of the native blue curls, Trichostema dichotomum, on steroids, which is not surprising since both plants are in the mint family (Lamiaceae).

Clerodendrum ugandense

Clerodendrum ugandense

Clerodendrum ugandense

And here is an image of the native blue curls, Trichostema dichotomum, for comparison:

Trichostema dichotomum

Koanophyllon villosum was an interesting addition to the Okeeheelee County Park Nature Center butterfly garden. It is an endangered relative of the thoroughworts (Eupatorium species) and occurs in Florida, as a non-cultivated native plant, only in Miami-Dade County. It is unusual in being a woody shrub, most other related plants in Florida being herbaceous perennials. It bears innumerable tiny white daisies when in full bloom, at which time it is extremely attractive to nectar-seeking butterflies. Of additional interest is the aromatic foliage, which has an unusual mildly spicy scent or, in some forms, a slightly minty scent.

Koanophyllon villosum

Around the corner from the Koanophyllon, and on the west side of the nature center, was a large clump of Leonotis leonurus, a plant native to Africa. Its bright orange flower buds were extremely attractive and eye-catching . . .

Leonotis leonurus

Leonotis leonurus

. . . but they opened into slightly dingy-orange flowers. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that the leaves above the flowers in the photo immediately below have crinkled edges. This is due to a viral infection. Such infections were rare in native plants but, as people bring cultivated virus-infected plants into close proximity with native plants, I am beginning to see native plants afflicted with viruses.

Leonotis leonurus

After the flowers have faded, they leave behind an interesting set of green calyces.

Leonotis leonurus

The aptly named fire-spike (Odontonema cuspidatum) from the American tropics grew in a large clump at the front of the nature center and it was visited by numerous brilliant yellow sulphur butterflies, none of which stood still long enough to be photographed. As one can imagine, the combination of yellow butterflies and bright red flowers created a very colorful scene.

Odontonema cuspidatum

Pentas lanceolata, is one of the most common butterfly garden plants in south Florida; however, I have seen insects visiting this plant exactly twice in 20 years. As usual, no butterflies were to be seen on the brilliant red pentas at the nature center on the day of my visit.

Pentas lanceolata

Golden polypody (Phlebodium aureum) grew in a large cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) and its yellowing leaves provided a bit of "autumn" color on a warm subtropical winter's day. It is a very large fern with a dramatic presence and it is mostly ignored by Florida gardeners, perhaps because it is so common. Were it rare and endangered, it would surely be greatly sought after by plant collectors.

Phlebodium aureum

Tropical sage (Salvia coccinea was well-represented in the butterfly garden. This was, of course, no surprise since this native plant is a staple of South Florida butterfly gardens where it attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds. All three color forms—red, pink, and white—were present in the garden.

Salvia coccinea

Salvia coccinea

Another staple of butterfly gardens, and equally attractive to hummingbirds, is Sophora tomentosa (necklace pod). The plant in the image below clearly has leaves densely covered with tiny silvery hairs. This identifies it as the non-native var. occidentalis, whose native range is Texas and tropical America. The Florida native var. truncata has leaves that are hairless, or nearly so, at maturity. In the background, is firebush, Hamelia patens, another favorite of butterfly gardeners.

Sophora tomentosa var. occidentalis

Go to Part 2.

All images and text © 2010 Rufino Osorio.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nymphaea mexicana

Nymphaea mexicana

Nymphaea mexicana is a yellow-flowered subtropical and tropical water-lily native to the southern United States from the Carolinas to New Mexico, as well as southern Mexico. It is also recorded from Oklahoma and Arizona, but there is some question as to whether it is native or introduced in those two states. It is recorded as an introduced plant from California, where it is considered an invasive aquatic weed, and British Columbia in Canada. It is one of the smaller water-lily species and I have seen it successfully cultivated in Palm Beach County, Florida, in small tubs that hold about 5 gallons of water.

USDA Distribution Map

© 2011 image by Joseph Libertucci, used with permission; text by Rufino Osorio..

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Elymus – Wild-Rye


Above is a landscape image of the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes of Kobuk Valley National Park in Alaska. The image was taken by Michael Compagno while on vacation. The grass seen colonizing the sand dunes is an Elymus species, of which Alaska has quite a few species and most of which have the common name of wild-rye.

Image © 2011 by Michael Compagno, used with permission.

Dryas octopetala – White Mountain Avens

Dryas octopetala - White Mountain Avens

Michael Compagno snapped the images above in Alaska of Dryas octopetala, which is commonly known as white mountain avens. A member of the rose family, it is a plant of cold boreal and arctic regions and it extends south from Alaska through Canada and into the United States by growing down the chain of western mountains. Each tiny, seedlike fruit, technically referred to as an achene, is equipped with a long feathery tail that aids in catching the wind and helps to disperse the seeds to new locations. These images were captured in August and it was the middle of autumn in Alaska. Thus, very few plants were in flower but many were in fruit. If Michael had visited earlier, he would have been greeted by many dozens of pure white flowers, held a few inches off the ground, and resulting in a spectacular display. The flowers face the sun and the petals form a little bowl that concentrates the sun's rays and raises the temperature of the central part of the flower several degrees above the ambient temperature. Thus, keeping its pollinating insects cozy and warm.

USDA Distribution Map

© 2011 Michael Compagno (images) and Rufino Osorio (text) (exclusive of the USDA map).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Two Giant Dustbowls

There are now two giant dustbowls developing in the eastern hemisphere: one in sub-Saharan Africa, the other in central Asia, western Magnolia, and eastern and northern China. Read more about how overgrazing and goats are changing our planet at the Earth Policy Institute.


© 2010 Rufino Osorio.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cypripedium acaule – Pink Lady's Slipper

Cypripedium acaule

Michael Compagno, an attorney at the South Florida Water Management District, took this striking photograph of the pink lady's slipper in June of this year while hiking a trail in Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. The plant grows in a wide variety of conditions, from lightly shaded to full sun and from wet to dry. However, it has three absolute requirements: highly acidic soil, freedom from the competition of taller plants, and rather cool summer temperatures. Here it is growing with a rich assemblage of plants that includes Clintonia borealis, Cornus canadensis, Coptis trifolia, and Trientalis borealis.

Image © 2011 by Michael Compagno. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nymphaea odorata

Nymphaea odorata

Nymphaea odorata, the white water-lily, was observed growing in a garden pond at the home of Cecily Hangen in West Palm Beach, Florida, during this year's Palm Beach County Florida Native Plant Society's yard tours. Rob Hopper pointed out that it is among the most fragrant of water-lilies and that many hybrid water-lilies owe their fragrance to this species

Nymphaea odorata is a common aquatic plant with a huge range from Alaska in the north to Central America in the south, as well as the Bahamas, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Its occurrence in both Cuba and Puerto Rico is unusual since Nymphaea odorata has not been recorded in Hispaniola, the large island comprised of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which lies between Cuba and Puerto Rico. In the United States, Nymphaea odorata has been recorded from every state except Hawaii, North Dakota, and Wyoming. In Florida, it has been recorded from every county, and is expected to occur in all counties; however, it has not yet been recorded, in the form of herbarium specimens, from Calhoun, Hardee, Indian River, Liberty, Monroe, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Seminole, Suwannee, and Union counties

© 2010 Rufino Osorio.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ipheion uniflorum 'Alberto Castillo'

Ipheion uniflorum 'Alberto Castillo'

Ipheion uniflorum 'Alberto Castillo' is a small, South American bulbous plant in the onion family. Flowers are typically some shade of blue but 'Alberto Castillo' is a robust, large-flowered plant with pure white flowers that was originally collected in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A few bulbs were given to me by Rob Hopper. I grew the bulbs as potted plants but Rob also planted them in the ground, where they grew equally well and freely flowered.


© 2010 Rufino Osorio.

Phacelia divaricata

flowers of Phacelia divaricata

In 2010, I came across seeds for sale of Phacelia purshii, an annual native to Ontario and much of the eastern United States. Since it has showy flowers noted for their distinctively fringed petals, I decided to try to cultivate it and purchased a packet of seeds. Based on the foliage alone, I quickly realized that the seeds were not Phacelia purshii. Upon flowering, the plants keyed out to Phacelia divaricata, a very different species native only to eastern California, from the Klamath ranges, south to the San Francisco Bay region and the inner south coastal ranges.

Seeds germinated readily, the seedlings grew very rapidly, and they quickly flowered. Just as quickly, however, the plants set seeds and died. However, during the several weeks that they were in flower, the plants produced attractive masses of lavender-blue flowers with pale, almost white centers. The petals were marked with translucent patches of tissue and this was unlike anything that I had ever seen in any flower. These translucent patches can clearly be seen in the above image of the flowers.

young seedlings of Phacelia divaricata
Young seedlings of Phacelia divaricata.

I have never seen seeds of Phacelia divaricata for sale under that name and I assume that, like so many native plants, it's charms are overlooked because it does not originate from some far-off exotic land.



© 2010 Rufino Osorio.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Visit to the Garden of Michael Manna

On Saturday, February 26, 2011, Ryan Leavengood and I visited the home of fellow Florida Native Plant Society member, Michael Manna. The following is a brief account of that visit.

The variety of plants grown by Michael was amazing but four principal groups stood out in my mind: Florida native plants; carnivorous plants; utilitarian plants such as edible, medicinal, or herbal plants; and a variety of tropical plants, most notably, orchids and bromeliads. One remarkable plant that did not fit any of these categories was a venerable Florida cracker rose that was growing to perfection and had beautiful, dark green foliage unblemished by even a hint of disease or insect damage. Among the utilitarian plants, there were a variety of spinach substitutes, as well as a dwarf everbearing mulberry tree, with the fruits of the latter proving a great delight to Michael's daughter, the 18-month-old Willow.

Michael is perhaps best known for his carnivorous plant collection and he grows a wide variety of butterworts (Pinguicula species) and Asian pitcher plants (Nepenthes species). Also well represented are sundews (Drosera species) and American pitcher plants (Sarracenia species). Unfortunately, at the time of our visit, the American pitcher plants were mostly dormant so we had to content ourselves with admiring the freshly developing flower buds, which promised a bountiful show of blossoms a little later in the year. Also present in Michael's collection of carnivorous plants was the Albany pitcher plant (Cephalotus follicularis), which grows in the vicinity of the town of Albany in southwestern Australia, as well as the rainbow plant (Byblis liniflora), also hailing from Australia and named for its linear leaves bedecked with dewy glands that beautifully glisten in the sunlight.

Although many Florida native trees and shrubs are grown by Michael, the most interesting native plants for me were the numerous native wildflowers that he cultivated. The list is a very long one and included many small, colorful plants that are rarely ever grown by gardeners of any kind, whether focusing on native plants or not. Among these were Polygala lutea (orange milkwort); Dichanthelium species (witchgrasses); Xyris species (yellow-eyed-grasses); and Viola species (wild violets), of which Michael had three different species, this being the largest number I have ever seen in a south Florida garden. Also noteworthy, among so many other noteworthy plants, was a tub of the native yellow-flowered water-lily, Nymphaea mexicana.

The images below represent a small sample of the many beautiful plants Ryan and I observed during our visit:

Achillea millefolium - Yarrow
Achillea millefolium (yarrow) is grown for both its ornamental and herbal uses.


Brugmansia (angel's trumpet).


Cephalotus follicularis - Albany pitcher plant
Cephalotus follicularis, the Albany pitcher plant.


Drosera binata
Drosera binata var. binata, a striking sundew native to Australia and New Zealand.


Drosera burmannii
Drosera burmannii, an annual Asian sundew that readily spreads by way of self-sown seeds.


Greenhouse of Michael Manna
A view of the greenhouse, where most of the Asian pitcher plants are kept.


Pinguicula 'Aphrodite'
Pinguicula 'Aphrodite', a hybrid butterwort whose parents are Pinguicula agnata and Pinguicula moctezumae.


Pinguicula gigantea
Pinguicula gigantea, note the numerous tiny gnats that have been trapped by the plant.


Florida cracker rose
A beautifully grown old fashioned Florida cracker rose.


Tillandsia fasciculata
The native Tillandsia fasciculata, one of many bromeliads in the collection.


Verbesina virginica
Verbesina virginica, white crownbeard, growing with the native grass, Panicum dichotomiflorum var. bartowense


Viola palmata
Viola palmata has dark violet-purple petals when the flowers first open.


Viola palmata
Viola palmata flowers continue to enlarge, and become more pale, as they age.


© 2010 Rufino Osorio.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winding Waters Natural Area

Steve Pisano leads a field trip to Winding Waters Natural Area

On January 29, 2011, approximately 15 members of the Palm Beach Chapter of FNPS went on a field trip to the Winding Waters Natural Area, a 550-acre preserve that protects large areas of pine flatwoods, cypress forests, and marshes, as well as constructed ponds and wetlands. The field trip was lead by Steve Pisano, an Environmental Analyst with the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resource Management. Following are a few images from our field trip.

Steve Pisano leads a field trip to Winding Waters Natural Area

Winding Waters Natural Area

Winding Waters Natural Area

Euthamia caroliniana
Euthamia caroliniana

Heliotropium polyphyllum
Heliotropium polyphyllum

Pluchea carolinensis

Dichanthelium species
Dichanthelium species

Gamochaeta pensylvanica
Gamochaeta pensylvanica


© 2011 Rufino Osorio.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pelargonium Caliente® Fire '09

Pelargonium Caliente Fire

Caliente® is a series of Pelargonium hybrids developed by Syngenta for increased heat tolerance. The plants have great hybrid vigor, which results from crossing zonal pelargoniums (Pelargonium × hortorum) with ivy pelargoniums (Pelargonium peltatum). Although touted on various web sites as suitable for the deep south, the Syngenta web site lists the heat tolerance of the Caliente® series as moderate, that is, 70–80° F (21–27° C), which does not appear to be much, or at all, greater than the heat tolerance of typical zonal pelargoniums. Perhaps the plants are being compared, not to zonal pelargoniums, but to regal pelargoniums (Pelargonium × domesticum) and to regular ivy pelargoniums (Pelargonium peltatum), both of which tend to have low heat tolerance. In any event, the Caliente® series can be expected to burn out during south Florida's torrid summers; however, for reasons that are not too clear, when grown in pots the plants tend to be much more heat tolerant than if planted in the ground, especially if protected from the intense afternoon sun.

Fire '09 is a Caliente® cultivar characterized by very dark green leaves and intense tomato-red flowers. Unfortunately, it is all but impossible to capture the true color of its flowers with either film or digital cameras and the above image has an orange tone that is completely lacking when the flowers are viewed by the human eye. Fire '09 is listed by Syngenta as PPAF (plant patent applied for), which precludes its vegetative propagation without a license from Syngenta.


© 2011 Rufino Osorio.