Sunday, January 31, 2010


I just had someone ask what plants I have seen in bloom or green in our area (Central Florida) since their yard was hit hard by the freeze. I dashed off some pictures of my St. John's Wort (Hypericum tetrapetalum), Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida) and Shiny Blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinites) which I had just taken a day or two ago.
St. John's Wort
Shiny Blueberry

I was pleased to report that my Blue Curls (Trichostema dichotomum), though not in bloom, were green and they are considered an ANNUAL. As a matter of fact, I had remarked to the local nursery operator how nice they looked in the sea of brown that was my mowed area.

I suggested Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera) and Dahoon Holly (Ilex cassine), both of which reared their heads at the freeze and laughed loudly. The birds are feeding off of the berries of these two choices regularly.

As a side note, shortly after the freeze I headed out to Maple Street Natives in West Melbourne, Florida ( to shop for a tree to be planted in honor of Florida Arbor Day which was January 15th this year. I purchased a Red Cedar and planted it the next day (January 16th). I also bought some Twinflower, Ironweed and Horsemint all of which looked healthy enough at the nursery, so appeared to make it through the colder times. They are in the ground and seemingly happy.

My Bidens alba (Spanish Needles) are not cold tolerant and died back completely, but have already started to show signs of renewed life from the vast amounts of seeds they spew forth. Not every native is cold tolerant, but if they are recommended for your zone, they will come back. The Fogfruit (or Frogfruit) (Phyla nodiflora) was unaffected and I already saw Phaon Crescent butterflies fluttering around. These tiny beauties use it as their host plant, as do White Peacock Butterflies.

Another native, often considered by some to be a weed, hasn't bloomed yet, but the green and red tinge of its leaves indicates that it won't be long...that is Wild Geranium or Cranesbill (Geranium carolinianum). The butterflies will use this low grower for nectar.

There still is a smattering of goldenrod (Solidago sp.) that is in bloom and I spotted some Yellow Stargrass (Hypoxis juncea) and Toadflax (Linaria sp.) beginning to blossom so the Little Metalmark, Common Buckeye and Sulfur butterflies who are already making an appearance have some nectar sources.
Life is returning after our dreaded hard freeze...and the native plants stood up boldly to it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

How a Bluebird House Hunts

I got a new camera which has a decent zoom to take photos of birds.  I captured a few bluebird pictures that I was satisfied with and was in a "fun" mood, so I put together this 1 minute video slideshow with some tips on attracting bluebirds.  Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It Doesn't Have to be Fancy to be Effective

Birds and nature don't care how much money you spend on ornamentation for your yard.  They appreciate functional.  I had a garden clog that cracked and started allowing in water so I tossed it aside and came up with a perfect recycle use.  I drilled a hole in the toe for drainage, nailed it to a snag, put some screening in the toe to "prop up" the feed and added bird seed.  Free, saved some space in the landfill and as you can see, the red-bellied woodpecker loves it! 

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Assessment of what grows in my garden!

After viewing my "Butterflies of Holopaw" video, @HDMarsh asked if I could name some of my native plants. This made me sit down today to organize my thoughts and gather the names from the various files I have created in the past six months on what actually grows in my yard. Well, here goes:

Top 10 Nectar sources in my yard:

1. Bidens Alba : Spanish Needles, Beggarticks

2. Elephantopus elatus : TALL ELEPHANTSFOOT

3. Lachnanthes caroliniana : REDROOT

4. Eupatorium capillifolium : dogfennel

5. Lyonia lucida : Fetterbush

6. several species of Goldenrod

7. Symphyotrichum pilosum : WHITE OLDFIELD ASTER


9. Conoclinium coelestinum : Blue mistflower

10. Poinsettia cyathophora : PAINTEDLEAF; FIRE-ON-THE-MOUNTAIN

Many of the above plants people consider "weeds", but they bring such a rich biodiversity to my yard. Keep in mind that I have just shy of an acre of land and don't have to cater to the whims of a HOA that insists on aesthetically pristine landscapes. I always state: "I garden for wildlife, the benefit to my senses is merely a bonus". Most of what is in my yard just grew when I let the property begin to grow to see what was there. About the only things I purchased to plant were some passion flowers, the tropical sage, some blackeyed susans and a vine or two, that are still in their infancy, growth-wise and haven't begun to show the signs of what fun creatures will appear due to their addition to my landscape. Before I joined the Florida Native Plant Society, I purchased and lost a great deal of plants because I was trying to conform my yard to a vision that I had. Once I discovered the importance of native plants and stopped fighting mother nature, I found a yard full of wonderful plants and happy critters, which in turn made me happy and got me into my hobby of insect and butterfly photography.

Others nectar natives include:

Baccharis halimifolia : GROUNDSEL TREE; SEA MYRTLE
Salvia coccinea : scarlet sage TROPICAL SAGE; BLOOD SAGE
Euthamia caroliniana : SLENDER FLATTOP GOLDENROD
Pluchea baccharis : ROSY CAMPHORWEED
Lygodesmia aphylla : ROSE-RUSH
Hieracium gronovii : QUEEN-DEVIL; hawkweed
Liatris spicata : blazing star, dense gayfeather
Rhexia alifanus : savannah meadow-beauty
Lobelia glandulosa : GLADE LOBELIA

I also have various species of tickseed (Florida's state wildflower).

Now for the Host plants, many of which also serve as nectar sources:

Bacopa monnieri : HERB-OF-GRACE water hyssop host for white peacock

Phyla nodiflora : TURKEY TANGLE FOGFRUIT; CAPEWEED host for Phaon Crescent

Chamaecrista fasciculata : PARTRIDGE PEA host for sulphurs

Thalia geniculata : ALLIGATORFLAG; FIREFLAG host for brazillian skippers

Passiflora incarnata : passion flower vine host for Gulf Fritillary

Oxypolis filiformis : WATER COWBANE host for eastern black swallowtail

Sida rhombifolia : CUBAN JUTE; INDIAN HEMP host for Tropical Checkered-Skipper

Buchnera americana : AMERICAN BLUEHEARTS host for common buckeye

Myrica cerifera : SOUTHERN BAYBERRY; WAX MYRTLE host for hairstreaks

Desmodium : hitchhiker plant host for Long-tailed skipper

Mikania scandens : CLIMBING HEMPVINE host for little metalmark butterfly and Scarlet-bodied Wasp Moth

Rhus copallinum : Winged sumac host to grey hairstreak

citrus (not native) host for giant swallowtails

I'm sure there are more hosts since i have more types of butterflies appear than corresponding host plants above...I'm just not always sure who eats what, but I'm learning....DAILY!

There are many more species than are shown in this list. A lot I still don't know the names of. I didn't include any of many sedges and rushes that appear or the plants that are in my pond. I'll put together another list when time allows.

Heidi, thanks for asking about my natives. It made me realize just how much I have growing on around here!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Let's make 2010 the year the word gets out that what you plant--matters!

As we begin 2010, I hope that everyone will help spread the word on the importance of native plants in the scheme of things. There is an excellent article entitled "Why Native Plants" in the 2010 Guide to Real Florida Gardeners published by the Association of Florida Native Nurseries ( You can get a free print copy by visiting their website or read the entire magazine online. Click here to go to their website!

I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did! Here are the excepted pages:

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