Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 011317 Contents THE RIVER - JANUARY 13, 2017
by Gerri Reaves
Southwest Florida is blessed with a
profusion of flowers throughout
the year. See if you can identify the
three pictured here. A clue: one is a native
wildflower, one a wildlife-friendly non-
native, and one an all-too-common species
it’s best to eradicate.
That stunning five-lobed purple-blue
flower with the dark purple throat is native
seaside gentian (Eustoma exaltatum).
The petals’ color, which can vary from
rosy purple, lavender or even white, calls
attention the fact that it’s a close relative of
the Texas bluebell.
This color contrasts among the bright
yellow stamens, cupped flowers, and
silvery or blue-green leaves endows this
wildflower with outstanding ornamental
It produces bloom of up to three inches
across all year ‘round, but most profusely
winter through summer.
Its native habitat includes hammocks,
marshes, coastal sand dunes and disturbed
areas of South Florida and the Keys.
As the alternate common name marsh
gentian suggests, it does well in coastal
landscapes and has moderate tolerance for
brackish water and a high tolerance for salt
wind. It will survive in nutrient-poor soil,
but needs some organic matter.
It’s also a good choice for a natural
gardens or wildflower gardens, where it
will grow two to three feet high and attract
pollinators. Give it full sun to light shade
and consistent moisture.
Florida-friendly golden dewdrops
(Duranta erecta) is also a lovely study in
color contrasts. The five-lobed tubular blue
or lilac flowers and clusters of yellow fruit
are often on the shrub at the same time.
The flowers attract butterflies and
hummingbirds, and the fruit and twiggy
foliage attracts songbirds seeking food and
This member of the verbena family
prefers full sun. It is drought-tolerant and
will grow in dry coastal, rocky or sandy
In favorable conditions, it can reach
small-tree size, more than 15 feet tall. It
can also be trained to grow on trellises,
walls and fences.
While songbirds love the fruit, it is
poisonous to humans.
The stalk of greenish white flowers
displayed against those intriguingly
patterned sword-like leaves belongs to
the appropriately name snake plant
This species is a category-II invasive
plant, so don’t hesitate to banish it from
the yard. Imported as an ornamental
many years ago, it has since has “shown
a potential to disrupt native plant
communities,” according to the Florida
Exotic Pest Plant Council.
It is also known as bowstring hemp and
iguana-tail and is a member of the agave
family. Its flowers are less familiar than the
striking chartreuse-yellow leaves because
they bloom only summer into fall. In
addition, they are somewhat hidden amid
the large flat erect leaves that grow three
to four feet long.
The thick leaves and deep roots makes
this invader very drought-tolerant and able
to spread and thrive in adverse conditions
– on e of the very reasons it was a popular
ornamental in the first place.
It takes work to dig up the carrot-like
rhizomes, horizontal root-like stems, and
eliminate the plant. And the needle-sharp
leaf tips don’t help! If you miss a root, it
will simply recolonize the yard.
Sources: Everglades Wildflowers by
Roger L. Hammer, Florida Wild Flowers
and Roadside Plants by C. Ritchie Bell
and Bryan J. Taylor, Native Florida Plants
by Robert G. Haehle and Joan Brookwell,
The Shrubs and Woody Vines of Florida
by Gil Nelson, Waterwise: South Florida
Landscapes, ifas.ufl.edu. floridasnature.
com, fs.fed.us, and regionalconservation.
Plant Smart explores the diverse flora
of South Florida.
Golden dewdrops’ sky-blue flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds
Snake plant, a category-II invasive species,
is named not for the spikes of flowers but
for the exotic variegated leaves. It is also
called iguana-tail and bowstring hemp.
A study in contrast... seaside gentian’s cup-
like flowers with purple throats and bright
yellow stamens against the blue-green
photos by Gerri Reaves
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