Pineland plants abloom and abuzz

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pollen sacks full, this bee is working varnish leaf flowers.

A resin-like coating on the leaves of Dodonaea viscosa sometimes gives it the common name of varnish leaf. As a result of this coating, its leaves are less likely to lose water and therefore the plant is quite drought tolerant. Of course, the shrub also is referred to as Florida hopbush, because its fruits resemble hops for making beer.

This shrub, in our pine rockland plantings, is pan-tropical, and can

Seed capsules are attractive.

be found from Australia to Hawaii, Florida to Arizona. Male and female flowers are on different plants. Bees were working the flowers in the lowlands like crazy the other day. The flowers are diminutive, with succulent sepals, and on the female shrubs, the winged seedpods seem to form shortly after the bees visit. Those capsules are pinkish-green, and resemble delicate little lanterns.

Dodonaea viscosa will not need extra irrigation once it has produced two or three flushes of growth. This pineland plant likes well-drained soil and sun, and will grow to about 8 or 10 feet.

Pretty in yellow, pineland
heliotrope attracts butterflies.

Also flowering in the pinelands is pineland heliotrope, Heliotropium polyphyllum, which has the typical scorpion-tail shape to its terminal flowers. White peacock butterflies like this one. Our east coast version has yellow flowers, though they are white toward the west coast. The heliotrope is a drought-tolerant, spreading ground cover.

Havana skullcap, Scutellaria havanensis, is another ground cover from pine rockland that is flowering now. Its flowers are a beautiful purple-blue, but to be honest you have to bend over to see them. Better yet, sit down beside

Havana skullcap's beautiful
purple-blue flowers.

them. They’re impressive up close. Really up close.

Passion vine, Passiflora suberosa, keeps on flowering and fruiting. A white caterpillar with black spines (Zebra Heliconid) made the journey from the vine growing up a pine to the underside of a nearby sabal palm. The trip took it over pine needles, up the base of the palm still loaded with old leaf stems or boots, and then out onto the frond. 

Just another wonder of the natural world.

One caterpillar's amazing journey may end here.