Monday, May 28, 2012

Hibiscus aculeatus – Pineland Hibiscus

Hibiscus aculeatus, pineland hibiscus, comfortroot

Hibiscus aculeatus is a perennial hibiscus native to the southeastern United States coastal plain in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, as well as in Hardin County, Texas. In late winter or spring, it produces thick, somewhat woody, ascending to erect stems with alternate, deeply lobed, roughly hairy leaves. It begins to flower soon thereafter and can continue flowering so long as moist to wet conditions prevail. The flowers are comparatively large—note that they are larger than the leaves—and are very showy as a result of their pale yellow to creamy white color with a contrasting maroon-red eye. If pollinated by bees, butterflies, or hummingbirds, they are soon followed by rather large capsules that are covered with coarse, sharp hairs.

Hibiscus aculeatus, pineland hibiscus, comfortroot

As is apparent from its common name, pineland hibiscus frequently occurs in wet pine flatwoods, but it is also found in bogs, savannas, and roadside ditches. Unlike many other southeastern United States hibiscus, it often occurs where there is no permanent standing water and perhaps this is the reason that it is the easiest of southeastern native hibiscus to grow under ordinary garden conditions in a perennial border. Hibiscus aculeatus is extremely drought tolerant and, under adverse conditions, will produce only one or two short stems; however, under ideal conditions, it will form a large, bushy mass with many stems up to 3 feet (0.9 meters) tall and about as wide or wider. Self-sown seedlings have been few and welcomed in my dryish garden but I would imagine that it would spread from seed far more aggressively if provided with continually moist soil in sunny, open areas free from taller competing plants. In autumn or early winter, the deceptively woody stems die back to the ground and, in formal garden situations, will need to be cut down, otherwise, it requires no other maintenance. It is not particularly bothered by pests except the occasional aphid or scale, but rarely to any serious extent. Due to its ease of cultivation and value in attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, it is a welcome addition to the garden and is recommended wherever one can provide a moist, sunny spot for this attractive and easily grown hibiscus.

In Florida, Hibiscus aculeatus occurs throughout the panhandle as well as much of northern Florida, from which it extends south to Lake County. In spite of its northern distribution, it is remarkably adaptable and my original plant, first placed in the ground in February 1996, is still with me, more than 16 years later, in my southern Florida garden. Another common name for Hibiscus aculeatus is comfort root, this being an allusion to the soothing, comforting qualities of its mucilage-containing roots.

Images and text © 2012 Rufino Osorio

Psychotria nervosa – Wild-Coffee

Wild-coffee is a member of the madder family (Rubiaceae), this is the same family to which coffee, ixoras, and gardenias belong. It is a common understory shrub in tropical to warm-temperate forests in northern and peninsular Florida from Duval County south to the Florida Keys. Wild-coffee is extremely popular as a landscape plant due to its beautiful, glossy, dark green leaves with deeply impressed veins. In addition, it is easily grown, adapts well to a variety of light and soil conditions, and it is extremely drought tolerant once established, especially if growing in the shade or in a partly shaded site. The tiny creamy-white flowers are insignificant but they are lightly scented and attract a diverse array of wildlife including native bees and both large and small butterflies. The flowers are followed by conspicuous red berries that are eaten by birds and mammals. From time to time, individuals with leaves variegated with white markings are encountered, either in the wild or among cultivated plants; however, thus far, such variegated-leaved clones have not been established in general cultivation.

Image and text © 2012 Rufino Osorio

Polygala nana – Dwarf Bachelor's Button

Polygala nana, Dwarf Bachelor's Button

Image © 2012 Rufino Osorio

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gaillardia pulchella – Firewheel

Gaillardia pulchella - Indian Blanket, Firewheel
Gaillardia pulchella has several common names, including "indian blanket" and "firewheel."

Gaillardia pulchella is an easily grown annual commonly cultivated for its showy flowers. The flowers are exceptionally attractive to native bees as well as to a wide variety of both large and small butterflies. Although commonly regarded as native to Florida, the genus is centered in the great plains of the United States. Also, Florida plants exhibit wide variation in the size, form, and color of the ray florets (the so-called petals of a daisy), and this bolsters the possibility that perhaps some populations in Florida are derived from plants that escaped cultivation. This particularly showy form was photographed on a deeply overcast day at the Native Choice Nursery in Boynton Beach on Saturday, May 26, 2012.

Image and text © 2012 Rufino Osorio


Hemerocallis cultivar - daylily
Day-lily flowers are usually bright and showy, but they last but a single day.

On Saturday, May 26, 2012, I stopped briefly at the garden of Robert Hopper and photographed several of the half dozen or so cultivars of day-lilies that he is growing. Garden day-lilies are derived from species of Hemerocallis, a genus native to Eurasia. One species with orange flowers, Hemerocallis fulva, is an extremely aggressive and invasive pest plant that has escaped from cultivation nearly throughout the United States and eastern Canada. A second species, Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus, with yellow flowers, is almost as widespread outside of cultivation, while Hemerocallis minor has escaped in Oregon. Due to their tendency to escape from cultivation and become invasive, gardeners should not cultivate day-lilies that regularly form seed pods or that form large vegetative colonies from underground rhizomes. Fortunately, modern hybrid cultivars have less of a tendency to become invasive since they usually do not readily form seeds and they commonly grow in better behaved clumps.

Hemerocallis cultivar - daylily
This day-lily cultivar has cheery yellow flowers and is growing with the native Florida greeneyes (Berlandiera pumila).
Images and text © 2012 Rufino Osorio