New backyard plant: Wild Cinnamon

Canella winterana foliage.

The rainy season is right around the corner, so last month I worked on the landscape a little bit. I’d been disappointed in the performance of the gumbo limbo tree out front; it was in the shade of the towering coconut tree that dominates that front yard, and I wanted to see whether it would [...] [...]

Plants and transplants

Swietenia mahogani, Boca Raton, November 23, 2013.

The week before Thanksgiving 2013 was a busy one at the homestead. First, I found out that the “shrub” I transplanted from the old house and put right up next to the new house, counting on a nice upright slender shrub was in fact a West Indies mahogany tree that would have a crown width [...] [...]

New backyard planting: Black Ironwood, Krugiodendron ferreum

Black ironwood (Krugiodendron ferreum). Boca Raton, FL, October 28, 2013.

It was my dad’s 70th birthday last week, and to celebrate the occasion I sent him a pair of the most comfortable work gloves I’ve ever owned. Turns out my timing was good: the next day he planned to start a major lawn-reduction project involving the removal of hundreds of square feet of sod, the [...] [...]

New backyard plant: Limber caper (Capparis flexuosa)

Limber caper flower. Boca Raton, FL, June 13, 2013.

So I planted this twig in the front yard a couple of years ago. I “won” it at the Native Plant Society annual auction, and I’ve been waiting all this time to figure out what it is and what it does. Of course, I knew when I picked it up that it’s called limber caper [...] [...]

Dune sunflowers, spiders, and moths, oh my!

Dune Sunflower (Helianthus debilis). Boca Raton, FL, July 9, 2012.

Dune sunflower, Helianthus debilis, is a commonly recommended plant for Florida native gardeners. It’s in the daisy family (Asteraceae), and it’s very pretty: Yellow rays, purple disc flowers, loads of pollen—very attractive to bees and butterflies. It self-sows and reseeds annually, so once you’ve got it established, you don’t have to do much except remove [...] [...]

Grasses really are flowering plants

Grasses really are flowering plants.

Grasses don’t get a lot of love. People walk on them, dogs do their business on them. If they get noticed at all it’s only for the time it takes the gardener to sigh or curse, depending on temperament, at how tall the grass has gotten before heading off to fire up the lawnmower. Even [...] [...]

Mallow, scrub, and hairstreaks

Strymon istapa (Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak), Boca Raton, FL, March 28, 2013.

More and more butterflies are appearing in front of my lens; I doubt that’s because there are in fact more butterflies in my yard. It’s much more likely that this phenomenon is the result of my camera lens being pointed outdoors more and more frequently as the north wind continues to keep the weather nice [...] [...]

Puddling butterflies

We’ve had some cold and dry weather so far this young spring—daytime highs in the 60s, with humidity in the 40% range. (To all those outside Florida or south Texas, neither of those numbers sounds like cold or dry, but hey—it’s all relative, right?) We’ve also had our first full moon of spring very early [...] [...]

Florida Native Plant: Alligator Flag (Thalia geniculata Linnaeus)

Thalia geniculata, Alligator Flag. Fern Forest, September 15, 2008

Alligator flag is a very common sight to birders in Palm Beach County, because it appears in abundance at two of our favorite wetland areas: the boardwalks at Wakodahatchee and Green Cay (where I’ll be leading a birdwalk this Saturday). Thalia geniculata, as it’s known to botanists, is a a tall (up to 10 ft [...] [...]

New backyard plant: Helianthus debilis


Last winter I ordered some seed from a Florida native wildflower nursery to spread in the bare patches in the front (I got rid of a bunch of turf grass with the idea of having a nice wildflower bed instead). I ordered sunshine mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa), Indian Blanketflower (Gaillardia pulchella), and four other species that [...] [...]