Gaura angustifolia thru Iris savannarum
Species Name Common Name Gaura angustifolia Helianthemum nashii Helianthus debilis Heliotropium polyphyllum Herissantia crispa Heterotheca subaxillaris Hibiscus coccineus Hibiscus moscheutos Hydrocotyle umbellata Indigofera hirsuta Ipomoea triloba Iris savannarum
Gaura angustifolia is a native annual that grows in sandy soils, and belongs to the evening primrose family, Onagraceae. From a distance, as shown at left, this plant looks weedy. It has multiple branches and can grow to 1.5 m.
As shown below, the leaves are alternate, oblong to lance-shaped, and have toothed margins. The leaves are the larval food for a hummingbird moth.
Flowers are located along the stem near the top of the plant and at the ends of straggly branches. These tubular flowers open white at sunset, turn to rosy pink overnight, fade to light pink the next day, and wilt. Wilting is beginning in the flowers shown in the bottom right photograph. Bees are butterflies are attracted to the pollen and nectar of these beautiful delicate flowers.
Nash’s Rock Rose
Helianthemum nashii is a native, perennial, small shrub in Family Cistaceae (rock roses). In the Smith Preserve, Nash's rock rose grows among the slash pine needles, and there are no other plants growing near them. It is unknown whether or not there is something preventing the growth of other plants, but many members of Family Cistaceae have a symbiotic relationship with Tuber spp. (root fungi). In this relationship, the fungus kills all vegetation within the reach of its mycelium except the rock rose. This action creates an exclusiveness for the rock rose. Perhaps this is what is occurring in the Smith Preserve.
Nash's rock rose has small elliptic leaves that are grayish-green and covered in stiff white hairs. The stems are also covered with hairs as shown in this photograph. One of this plant's common names is "Florida scrub frostweed", and the hairs do give it the appearance of being covered with ice crystals.
As shown below, when Helianthemum nashii is in bloom, it is covered by yellow flowers that are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds.
Members of Family Cistaceae have adapted to wildfires in a way that gives them an advantage over other plants in the process of repopulating an area. After flowering, the plant casts its seeds onto the soil, but the seeds do not germinate the next season. Because the seed coat is impermeable to water, the seeds remain dormant and accumulate in the soil. Then, when exposed to fire, the seed coat softens and new plants germinate. This results in a large number of young shoots developing simultaneously.
Helianthus debilis is a native, spreading, perennial in Family Asteracea. It grows year-round in Southern Florida and can reach a height of 1.2 m. Its deltoid-shaped leaves are glossy, roughly pubescent, irregularly lobed, and with toothed margins. The plant spreads by above-ground stems and seeds.
Its flowers are small sunflower-like flower heads with ten to twenty yellow rays. The center disk is purplish-brown and 1.3 to 25 cm in diameter. Many different butterfly species are attracted to the flowers.
Beach/dune sunflowers frequently grow along beaches and help to stabilize sand dunes. In the Smith Preserve, these beautiful flowers have been planted adjacent to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center entrance.
Heliotropium polyphyllum is a native, perennial member of Family Boraginaceae. It is endemic to Florida. This plant has ascending stems with branches that spread radially. Leaves are alternate, elliptical, and small and narrow (1-1.9 cm long and less than 5 mm wide). The tops of its leaves are smooth, while the bottoms have dense hairs.
Pineland heliotrope blooms year-round. As shown in these photographs, a flower spike curls under at the tip. Flowers are fragrant, 5-lobed, and small (3mm - 6 mm in diameter). Typically, Florida east coast flowers are bright yellow, while west coast flowers are white. As shown in these photographs, in the Smith Preserve, there are two different color varieties: a white and a pale yellow. Bees, butterflies, and birds are attracted to these flowers.
Herissantia crispa is a short-lived perennial member of Family Malvaceae (The Mallow Family) that lives in hammocks and pinelands. It has vine-like stems and leaves that feel like velvet. As shown in the 2nd photograph, the leaves are toothed, alternate, egg-shaped, and heart shaped at the base.
The flowers are yellowish orange and open at midday.
As shown below, the seed capsules are globose, with thinly grooved, papery walls. The species name crispa means "curled" and refers to the margins of the seed capsule.
Bladdermallow is the larval host plant of the Strymon melinus (Gray Hairstreak) and Strymon istapa (Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak.)
Heterotheca subaxillaris is a native, annual or biennial wildflower in Family Asteraceae. The plant is weedy, upright, and can grow to be .9 m. Most of its leaves are along the lower part of the unbranched main stems. The leaves are alternate, green, and hairy. The leaf shape is round to oval. As shown in the second photograph below, the stems are very hairy. They are also very sticky. The lower stems are unbranched, while the upper stems have many branches. This arrangement gives camphorweed a very distinctive shape.
Another very distinguishing characteristic of Heterotheca subaxillaris is its odor. When a leaf or flower is crushed, it releases a camphor odor.
The flowers are daisy-like in appearance, about 2.5 cm wide, and composed of two flower types. The yellow petals are the ray flowers and the orange-yellow center of the flower is made of many disk flowers. Bees and butterflies are attracted to the flowers, as are a wide variety of other insects.
Each individual flower produces a tiny achene. An achene is a dry fruit containing one seed. As shown at left, a cluster dry achemes appear to be fluffy.
Hibiscus coccineus is a native, perennial member of the mallow family Malvaceae. It is an erect, slender, woody scrub that can grow to over 3 m in height. Its leaves are 10-20 cm long and deeply cut into 5 lobes. Its shape resembles Cannabis spp. (marijuana).
Scarlet hibiscus blooms in the summer. Each flower is 15 cm wide, 5 petaled, and red. Each blossom lasts only one day and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
Photograph of flower: Courtesy of Roz Katz, Conservancy of Southwest Florida volunteer.
At left is a seedpod photographed in November.
The plant's habitat includes coastal freshwater swamps, marshes, and ditches. At the Smith Preserve, Hibiscus coccineus is growing along the banks of the filter marsh adjacent to the gazebo.
Hibiscus moscheutos is a native perennial member of the mallow family Malvaceae. It is a cold-hardy wetland plant that can grow to a height of 1.2 to 3 meters tall. As shown in the 2nd photograph, leaves are lobed, resemble maple leaves in shape, and have red veins and deep burgundy margins. Leaves are hairy.
This hibiscus typically blooms in most of its range during mid to late summer. These photographs were taken in the Smith Preserve in mid November. Flowers are dark red and funnel-shaped with overlapping petals and deep burgundy centers. As shown in the photographs, prominent pistil and stamen structures add to the beauty of the flower.
Hibiscus sawfly larvae, which resemble caterpillars, can defoliate a plant. Other insect visitors include aphids, scale insects, whiteflies, and pollinators like the wasp shown in this photograph.
Hydrocotyle umbellata is a native member of Family Apiaceae, the carrot and parsley family. It grows low to the ground and is a succulent (stores water in its tissues).
As shown above, its leaves are ovoid, hairless, and scalloped. A leaf stalk is attached to the center of the bottom of each leaf.
Flowers are tiny, 5 lobed, and greenish-white. As shown in the third photograph, the flowers are arranged as an umbel (an inflorescence made of short flower stalks of equal length that spread from a common point, like ribs on an umbrella).
Marsh pennywort habitat is wet ground. At the Smith Preserve, this plant forms a dense ground cover along the margins of the filter marsh.
Indigofera hirsuta is a non-native, erect and spreading member of the pea family, Fabaceae. Like other members of the family, it is nitrogen-fixing. It is an annual that can grow to up to 1.5 m tall. Its stems are cylindrical, branched, and covered with gray or reddish-brown hairs. Its leaves are alternate and compound with five to nine elliptical-oblong leaflets. Each leaflet is up to 40 mm long and 25 mm wide. As shown above, the terminal leaflet is longer than the lateral leaflets. The leaves are chartreuse/yellow and have a fuzzy texture.
The small, bright salmon-red flowers are in a dense, clustered, spike-like inflorescence. Each flower is pea-shaped.
The dried fruits (seed pods) are straight, cylindrical, 12 to 20 mm long, 2 mm wide, and covered with many hairs, as seen in the photograph at left . Each pod contains six to nine cube-shaped seeds.
The plant is the larval host plant for Hemiargus ceraunus (Ceranus blue butterfly), and is also attractive to bees, other butterflies and birds.
The genus, Indigofera, in Greek means "indigo dye". Many species of Indiogera are widely used as natural dyes obtained when leaves and twigs are fermented. Indigofera hirsuta has several medicinal uses in Africa. One of the first uses for this plant in Florida was for hay and silage production for livestock feed.
Littlebell / Aiea Morning Glory
Ipomoea triloba is a non-native, fast-growing, vining member of Family Convolvulaceae (The Morning-Glory Family). The plant has long thin stems and heart-shaped leaves as shown above. Leaves are 3 to 6 cm long and sometimes have three lobes. This feature was the origin of the species name triloba.
Flowers are tubular and bell-shaped. As shown below, each is about 2 cm long. Flower color is variable (pink, red, or lavender) and it may have white markings. In Florida Ipomoea triloba is considered a noxious weed.
Iris savannarum is a native, perennial member of Family Iridaceae that lives in freshwater wetlands. In the Smith Preserve, clumps of prairie iris grow along the east bank of the filter marsh.
The plants have flat, linear, bright green, sword-shaped leaves with parallel veins. The leaves are 60-100 cm long, .8 to 2 cm wide, and smooth.
The violet-blue flowers appear in March through April in clusters of one to three. To prevent self-pollination, each flower has a small flap that protects the stigma. When a bee gathers pollen, it rubs this flap open on its way to the anther. Once inside, the bee deposits pollen collected from other flowers onto the stigma. The flap closes when the bee leaves the flower.
Plants spread by underground rhizomes. All parts of the plant are poisonous.
© Photographs and text by Susan Leach Snyder (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer), unless otherwise credited above.
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