What’s in a name? The “involucrate” of Lantana involucrata

My last post was about a nice little Florida native plant that I'm trying out (again) in the yard: Lantana involucrata. Now "lantana," you'll recall, in addition to being the name of a town not far from where I live, comes from the Latin for "flexible," whatever that may mean when applied to these rather woody shrubs. But in that recent post about this little flowering shrub, I never did get around to the definition or derivation of the specific name, "involucrata." To do that requires a bit of background, so sit tight, hold on, and learn with me. When I looked the plant up on the FNPS blog, Laurie Sheldon's recent article on the different lantanas available told me that this species has white flowers "borne in flat-topped, sometimes involucrate heads." Now flat-topped, that I understand, but "involucrate"? That has me scratching my head. Sure, you can look it up in a botanical dictionary, as I did, but it might not be a big help. According to my Facts on File Dictionary of Botany, involucre has the following meanings:
1. A protective structure consisting of a ring of bracts arising below the inflorescence in angiosperms with condensed inflorescences (e.g. the capitulum and umbel). 2. A sheathlike outgrowth of tissue in bryophytes protecting the archegonia or antheridia in certain liverworts. 3. A tubular extension of the thallus of hornworts that rises up and surrounds the base of the sporophyte.
Huh? Well, since we're not talking about liverworts or hornworts, we can safely ignore definitions two and three. Let's concentrate on definition number one. "A ring of bracts." I know what a ring is, but what is a ring of bracts? Bracts, as you may or may not know, are modified leaves. They're not actually flowers, but in many ornamental plants, like the Bougainvillea that grows on my neighbor's side of the fence but only sends its thorny branches on our side, they put on a very showy display of "flowers," while the true flowers are rather inconspicuous:

Bougainvillea flower (mouse over image to see labels, or if you can't do that, click here for the labeled version). Boca Raton, FL, March 31, 2015

That little white thing on the pink stalk? That's the flower (technically it's the pistil, the pollen-receiving part, while the stalk connects the pistil to the base of the flower where the anthers are located). You can see that there are two other stalks in this group, waiting their turns to flower. "Arising below the inflorescence" So a bract can subtend or, as my botanical dictionary definition has it, "aris[e] below the inflorescence" of a flowering plant ("angiosperm"), as it does in the Bougainvillea pictured above. But what's the difference between an inflorescence and a flower? An inflorescence is just a group of flowers that share a common stalk. The typical example of an inflorescence that most people call a flower is a sunflower:

Dune sunflower (mouse over image to see labels, or if you can't do that, click here for the labeled version). Boca Raton, FL, May 30, 2012

As you can see, it has a bunch of bright yellow ray-like "flowers" or "petals" surrounding a darker purple bunch of, um, things. Those things are the actual flowers. The yellow things are variously called sterile florets, ray flowers, ray florets, or even bracts. After all, they're modified leaves. Taken together, this arrangement is an inflorescence: a collection of small flowers arising from the same stalk. Which brings us back to the lantana, whose specific name, involucrata, refers to the arrangement of its flowers into inflorescences with protective bracts arising beneath them:

"Flower" (actually inflorescence) of Button sage (Lantana involucrata). Mouse over image to see labels, or if you can't do that, click here for the labeled version.

So that's where Button Sage, Lantana involucrata, got its name: the flexible plant with clustered flowers protected by bracts. Got it? Don't lose it. References Bailey, J., ed. 2003. The Facts on File Dictionary of Botany. New York: Facts on File. Capon, B. 2005. Botany for Gardeners, revised edition. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

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 native gardeners like me often don't bother to know the various species they might have in their yards, except for the showy ornamentals like muhly grass or purple lovegrass. They're so overlooked that people forget that they truly are angiosperms, flowering plants. I was reminded of this the other day when I was out chasing bugs for the camera and I noticed the exquisite flowers on a spikelet of grass in the back yard. The species is the ubiquitous St. Augustinegrass, which is supposed to require a lot of care (read, fertilizing, weedkilling, pesticide applications, frequent mowing) if you want to use it as turf here in South Florida, as many homeowners do. My experience was completely different, however: all I had to do to get this grass to invite itself into my yard was mulch the back yard completely and then let it grow in. It came on its own, with no encouragement from me, and has been spreading in competition with two or three other species of  grass and a few nongrassy flowering ground covers like Mexican Clover (Richardia grandiflora). But it's doing quite well, having conquered about half of the nonplanted area in my back yard, and it's making good inroads into the clover-dominated terrain. All this while I've been doing absolutely nothing that your typical lawn-happy homeowner does. Zip, zero, zilch, nada. Of course, without all the fertilizer and weedkiller and other chemicals that I refuse to introduce into my local environment (my children play in this yard!), it's not a beautiful monoculture turf, but that's not really what I'm looking for in my native-planted back yard. And since I prefer the meadow to the golf course, I've let the grass grow up tall around the edges, where it grows the most beautiful little flowers, if you take the time to look closely enough. See?
St. Augustinegrass flower

St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum). Boca Raton, FL, May 22, 2013

Grass Terminology I still haven't mastered my graminology, so I have to have my references next to me when I write about it, but according to the dean of Florida botanists, and the first graminologist I'd ever heard of, Walter Kingsley Taylor, the flowering part of the grass you see pictured above is usually called the culm, and depending on species may be "single (simple) or branched (multiple)...creeping, ascending, spreading, erect, abruptly bent (geniculate), or prostrate (decumbent)." For this species, they are "branching, creeping, compressed, terminal and axillary." (I think the comma after "compressed" is a typo.) From just looking at the picture above, I can tell you in my own words (and then in translation to graminological terms) that I love the purple spikelets (stigmas), the gold whatzits (technically called anthers, familiar to those who know wildflowers), and the little white trailing whoozits (filaments). They sure are purty, ain't they? Many grasses propagate vegetatively. That means they spread by growing sideways, rather than needing to grow from seed. They spread vegetatively by two means: stolons, or aboveground runners, and rhizomes, or belowground runners. St. Augustinegrass sends out long aboveground runners, so it uses stolons. Etymology This genus' name is derived fro the Greek words stenos, narrow, and taphros, trench. Again according to Taylor, this refers to the shallow cavities or depressions of the rachis. What's a rachis? Well, according to our local graminologist, George Rogers up at Palm Beach State College (Palm Beach Gardens campus), this is:

Rachis: The stem of a spike or raceme---the stem of a branch within an inflorescence. Image from floridagrasses.org

The species name is Latin and has been adopted by botanists into the English word secund (not a typo): a botanical term used of plants when similar parts are directed to one side only, as flowers on an axis. (Lat. secundus, "following"). It's not entirely obvious from my shot of the flowering St. Augustinegrass, but the flowers truly are on only one side of the "stem." I had a hard time finding one of these in flower in the right light; most of them were on the shady side of the stem. References Bradford, J, G. Rogers, and J. Wilkinson. Grasses of Palm Beach and Martin Counties. floridagrasses.org. Taylor, W. K. (2009). A Guide to Florida Grasses. Gainesville: U of Florida P.  

Late October

It's late October, and in South Florida that means it's going to be either windy, or hot, or both. Today we've got a bit of both: a steady 7–8 mph east wind, with gusts up to 14 mph, and a temperature of 83°F. Mercifully, the humidity is relatively low (under 60%), so the heat index isn't really an issue,  but it sure feels hot after the traditional pre-Halloween cool spell we had last weekend. (And for some reason, the weather is never nice on Halloween day.) When the weather's this hot and the breeze is blowing, it gets harder and harder to get outside looking for things to take pictures of (nothing makes for blurry pictures like an unanticipated gust of wind through the field!). But I went outside anyway, because I had a few things I wanted to investigate. One of these is in the back yard, where we have one spindly stalk of milkweed (Asclepia curassavica) growing up near one of our beauty berries (Callicarpa americana). For weeks now I've been seeing milkweed butterflies, mostly Queens (Danaus gillipus) visiting that plant and nectaring and hovering as if considering laying eggs. But I've never seen an egg on it. Today, though, I decided to investigate yet again, and I'm glad I did. I may have missed the egg, but I did find a relatively early instar queen larva up in the flower head: These cousins of the monarch butterfly (D. plexippus) look very similar to that familiar long-distance migrant, both in the larval and adult stages. And since as larvae they eat the same poisonous plants as well (milkweeds), these species serve as partners in a vast Muellerian mimic complex. (Muellerian mimicry is where distasteful species resemble each other so that predators learn to avoid all members of the complex after a distasteful encounter with one of them.) These butterflies, along with other milkweed-eating Danaus species like the Soldier butterfly (Danaus eresimus) and an unrelated willow-feeding species, the Viceroy (Basilarchia archippus), all benefit from their similar appearance. Honestly, though, the larvae of the four species are rather dissimilar, except for the queen and monarch larvae, but the adult forms are confusingly similar both to beginning butterfly-watchers and to the insect's predators (birds, lizards, etc.). And, since all members of the complex taste bad (these are not Batesian mimics, where tasty species masquerade as yucky ones), their survival is enhanced by their convergent coloration. To get an idea of how similar these butterflies are, here's a Viceroy pair I saw at Fern Forest back in 2007: note how the orange and black aposematic (warning) coloration is very similar to that of the familiar Monarch: If you look closely at the monarch and queen larvae, you can see that there is one "easy" way to distinguish the two: Monarchs (below) have two pairs of fleshy filaments, one fore and one aft, while Queens (see first picture, above) have a third pair amidships: So if you're wondering which milkweed caterpillar you've got, count the "antennae" (they're not antennae, but they do appear to be sensory apparatus) and you'll have your answer! At the beginning, I mentioned that I had a few things I wanted to investigate; more on that in a later post. Enjoy!

New backyard planting: Cordia globosa

I've mentioned this plant a few times, but I don't think I've ever really written up this interesting little shrub, Cordia globosa; the common name is bloodberry. It has many virtues to recommend it: it's easy to grow, easy to maintain, and attractive to a wide variety of  nectaring insects and berry-hungry birds. The flowers aren't particularly showy, but they are abundant, and when the plant fruits, the little red berries make a nice display. I have one growing in my front "courtyard"; here's a picture of the tiny little flower: The flowers aren't normally borne singly; I just wanted to show one flower head without the old brown flowers cluttering it up. Here is what the marble-sized flower head on a short stem (peduncle, when it supports an inflorescence, as these do) looks like normally, with a few new white flowers and a few old brown ones. I also like the intricate pattern of "dots" (papillae; when hairy, "papillose-hispid") on the coarsely serrate leaves: The flowers are quite small, which is very nice for the smaller butterflies like the Cassius Blue or the Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, which are tiny little guys that can't extend their proboscis into the deeper flowers. And the berries are so abundant that the giant plant at my old house provoked several families of mockingbirds into weeks'-long squabbles over possession of it. Here's a little shot of that large old plant (and less than a year in the ground at that; it eventually grew to about twice this size): According to Rufino (we native plant enthusiasts say that the way a previous generation of card players would say "According to Hoyle," at least here in Palm Beach County), it can be trimmed to nearly any desired height or shape. I didn't find this to be the case with the large plant I had on the side of the old house; when I trimmed it back from the a/c unit, it never regained its former vigor. The IRCS website notes that it is listed as endangered by the state of Florida, and imperiled in the Florida Keys. It's readily available in the native plant trade, though. I'm hoping to get numerous seedling of this baby and plant them as a hedge in the front yard. I've got several firebushes and cocoplums in the propagation station, but nothing looks super vigorous, and I know firsthand how fast this bloodberry plant can grow. The name is a bit of a puzzler: cordialis in Latin is hearty, cordial, but that doesn't help us at all. In fact, cordia is actually an eponym. The genus was named after the 16th-century German botanist Valerius CordusGlobosa is, well, globular (spherical, really), as in globular cluster. The plant is usually written up as Cordia globosa (Jacq.) Kunth HBK., which might lead one to believe that this is  another of the plants described by the short-lived French botanist, Victor Jacquemont. Another one is the vine in my back yard, Jacquemontia pentanthos. However, this is not the case, because Victor Jacquemont was born in 1801, and no matter how precocious he was, I don't think he was getting published before birth. No, this plant was described in 1760 as Varronia globosa by Nicolas Josef Freiherr von Jacquin in his ponderously titled, pre-Linnaean botanical prodromus, Enumeratio Systematica Plantarum, quas In Insules Caraibes vicinaque Americes continente detexit novas, aut jam cognitas emendavit). Here are the two pages where it is mentioned by Jacquin; first the "genus" page: and then the "species" page: The taxon was later revised by Kunth in Humboldt et al., Nov. Gen. Sp. 3: 76. 1818, and we know it today as good old Cordia globosa: The one in my front courtyard certainly appears vigorous; here is what it looked like back in late April, shortly after being put in the ground; you can see it's barely taller than the baby Salvia in front of it: And here it is almost exactly three months later (the plant on the right); it's nearly four feet tall already, and preparing to dominate the scene: It looks even bigger because it's placed right next to the diminutive Heliotropium polyphyllum, which is a fine flower in its own right, but will not grow about 12 inches high at best. That's a mistake I'll not repeat. I'm waiting rather impatiently for this plant to fruit, so I can collect the babies and put them out front as a border hedge along the front sidewalk. (My neighbors are probably waiting slightly less patiently, as the bare patch in the front yard is rather unsightly at the moment!)

Flowering trees

Flowering trees add visual interest to your home landscape, sure. Some of them, like this Tabebuia tree (Tabebuia chrysotricha), that's about all they do: And they only do it for about three weeks a year. The picture above, taken in my front yard in late March, shows a beautiful yellow trumpet-flower tabebuia; today that tree looks a bit scraggly, with green leaves that remind me of a cross between a willow and an olive. I mean, it's OK, but it's nothing like its glory season: Other trees, like the Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia), may look scraggly when they're not in flower: but even then they serve many different species of wildlife needs. The pictures above were taken on the same day in late March as the tabebuia in all its glory, but this bare poinciana tree is playing host to several different bird species. And now in May, the starling in the top picture is nesting in one of the many cavities in this magnificent old tree. (Yes, I wish it were a more politically correct native species, like the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker I saw there earlier, or the Downy Woodpecker or Northern Cardinal I saw in it today while waiting for a decent shot at the starling, or even the Mourning Dove from March, but I guess it's kind of appropriate: this non-native tree is hosting a non-native bird species!) And you know what? I think the Royal Poinciana might be jealous of the Tabebuia stealing its thunder every year (the tabebuia flowers in March/April, the poinciania in May/June) because it is really pulling out all the flower stops now (Bijan Dehgan calls it "one of the most prized flowering trees in south Florida, and one of the most gorgeous trees in cultivation anywhere"): D. regia is native to Madagascar (the generic name comes from Delos=conspicuous + onux=a claw, in reference to the long clawed petals; regia, regius means royal); T. chrysotricha is native to South America (it's actually considered the national tree of Brazil; the generic name comes from the Brazilian native word for the tree, while chrysotricha means "with golden hairs"). Both trees do quite nicely here in South Florida, but I much prefer the poinciana, simply because I've seen so many more wildlife uses for it. That's one of the reasons I'm not too keen on the beautiful exotic frangipani tree (Plumeria sp.) that are so common here: not only is it a non-native tree, but it doesn't do a thing for the birds and insects I like to attract to my little corner of the world. I don't want just pretty things; I want nectar sources for hummingbirds or beetles, pollen sources for bees. Sterile beauty is not something I will add to my landscape. I won't root out the bougainvillea that was here when we moved in, but I won't add to it. Anything I do add must combine the useful and the pleasant (dulce et utile, as Horace describes it in his letter to the Epistola ad Pisones, commonly known as Ars Poetica). Starlings in other parts of the world seem to appreciate Horace's advice, as well: On one of my trips to Delhi I saw this Asian Pied Starling (Sturnus contra) in a gloriously flowering kapok tree (Bombax ceiba, I believe): A flamboyant flower for a flamboyant bird! References Dehgan, B. (1998). Landscape Plants for Subtropical Climates. Tallahassee: UP of Florida.

New plantings: Zanthoxylum fagara

One of the cornerstone plantings in my new backyard is a Wild Lime tree, Zanthoxylum fagara. It didn't come from the native plant auction, but from one of my friends in the Audubon Society who is also an FNPS member and who graciously allowed me to come take many many plants to get my back yard started. Wild lime is a great one, because it's useful in many ways: as a larval host plant for Giant Swallowtail butterflies, as a cover plant for small birds (it has thorns to deter predators, although because it's a tree, it's not as good as a thickety shrub would be), and, because of its aromatic leaves, as a nice accent tree in the native garden. Neither Craig Huegel ("The seeds have only very minor value to most wildlife") nor Rufino Osorio ("It does not have any outstanding horticultural attributes...")  seem to like it too much, although they note that it is popular with butterfly gardeners. I'm just glad that it's coming in, as I had my doubts when I first planted it. It seemed to be taking forever to send up new growth. But some tender leaflets are appearing at last: The entire plant is about two feet tall right now, and it looks like it's rooting well, as the new growth is coming in nicely: I've planted this member of the prickly ash family in an out-of-the-way corner of the yard, along with some other prickly plants like coral bean (Erythrina herbacea); as I get more plants I'm going to screen in front of it with marlberry, wild coffee, firebush, etc., so people don't blunder into the thorns. Zanthoxylum means "yellow wood"; I'm not sure what Linnaeus meant by "fagara," which is also the name of a genus of tree found in India. Wild Lime is a citrus tree, but it bears only the tiniest of fruits, certainly nothing like a true lime or Key lime tree would... Nonetheless, I'm excited to have it in my garden!

New plantings: Heliotropium polyphyllum

Our old house in Boca was just starting to enjoy some great trees and shrubs after our native plant makeover of several years back, but it was a little light on wildflowers. Sure, we had tropical sage (Salvia coccinea), but that was really about it. We had planted lizard's tail, scorpion tail, and a few other perennials, but they all sort of got tired of living there, I guess, because they all sort of disappeared. Even my pickerelweed and blue flag iris sort of petered out after a while, although they're both still around over there, and I didn't really know what to do to cultivate/renew/rejuvenate them. Now that I'm in a new place, and am a card-carrying member of FNPS, though (not literally; if they issue membership cards, I didn't get one in my packet) I intend to lean heavily on the wisdom and experience of the membership  of that organization to keep my new plantings, wildflowers included, ship-shape. One tiny little plant (two, actually) taking pride of place right now in the new plantings is Heliotropium polyphyllum, Pineland Heliotrope. It's sort of accidental that it's taking pride of place: there were two containers of H. polyphullum in the auction lot, whereas all the other plant species I came home with that night were singletons. According to Craig Huegel, Pineland heliotrope comes in two different forms, one of which grows up to 12 inches high, while the other is a recumbent species not getting much above 3 inches off the ground. Apparently the difference in growth form is also accompanied by a difference in flower color: the yellow variety grows tall, while the white variety stays small. Here are a couple of shots of my scraggly little guys, about as high right now as the white variety will ever get, but these are yellow: You can see by the height of the plant stake in the background just how shrimpy these newbies are; if they're 2 inches high, I'll be surprised. Here's a closeup: Rufino writes that "with just a little coddling" these can grow into impressive plantings. I'm not really clear on what it means to "coddle" them, but I'm watering them assiduously and keeping my fingers crossed. I'll save the coddling for the kids... In case you're curious about the derivation of the name, Heliotropium means turning toward the sun, apparently in reference to the curving flower cluster rather than any specific sunflower-like activity (although I'll have to watch for it to see); polyphyllum means that it has many leaves.

New plantings: Jacquemontia pentanthos

There's a tiny little street in Paris, in the 17th arrondissement, not too far from the Parc Monceau, called Rue Jacquemont. It's named after the French botanical explorer Victor Jacquemont, who traveled briefly to the United States before moving on to India for the remainder of his too-short life (b. 1801, d. 1832). But he is immortalized in the taxonomic name of several lovely New World vines, two of which I know from Florida: Jacquemontia reclinata (Beach Jacquemontia) and J. pentanthos, Skyblue clustervine. The latter vine is one that I obtained at the recent auction benefitting the Palm Beach County chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society; I've planted it along the back fence near another lovely vine that I wrote about last week, Passiflora suberosa. According to one online guide for South Florida gardeners, J. pentanthos is "infrequently cultivated and unsightly when out of flower," but it does go on to mention that "the compelling blue flowers make this species splendid when it is in flower." For a more thorough review of the species, this article from the Naples News cites Rufino Osorio and Roger Hammer, with plenty of photos. The vine doesn't look like much right now: But when it gets going, it will have dozens of small blue flowers, like this:

Jacquemontia pentanthos, from Jim Conrad's Naturalist Newsletter

Various authorities disagree on the grammatical gender of Jacquemontia; Gil Nelson, in The Shrubs and Woody Vines of Florida, calls it J. pentantha, and Roger Hammer, in Everglades Wildflowers, agrees; Osorio calls it J. pentanthos in my native plant bible, A Gardener's Guide to Florida's Native Plants, and since the USDA's species account agrees with Osorio, that's the spelling I've followed as well. It's been a few days since I planted this vine, and it seems to be doing really well, sending out runners and tendrils groping for the fence and the surrounding area; I suspect it will be a rather vigorous grower. I can only hope that its neighboring passionvine will turn on the growth as well...

New plantings: Passiflora suberosa

One of the plants I scored at the native plant auction earlier this week is a real workhorse in the garden: Passiflora suberosa, Corkystem passionvine. It's one of our two native passionvines. Not as showy as its cousin, P. incarnata (the "maypop" vine), it is nonetheless also a larval food plant for three species of butterfly in Florida: Gulf fritillary, Julia heliconian, and Zebra heliconian. I've had several generations of Gulf fritillaries on the maypop at the old house; I'm hoping for many more to come on the corkystem here at the new digs... Here's what the maypop looked like at my house in 2009: Here's what the corkystem flower will look like (from the NABA information page about this vine): Quite a difference, eh? And here is what it looks like in my yard at the moment: Unassuming, to be sure, but with loads of wildlife potential. According to the write-up in Coastal Dune Plants (the first of a 5-volume series of booklets detailing over 200 common plants in the ecosystems of South Florida; the other volumes are Coastal Hammock, Scrub, Flatwoods, and Wetlands),
Birds are fond of these fruits and are the main dispersers of the seeds, "planting" them in their droppings. Another animal relationship is with the zebra butterfly. This local representative of the tropical family Heliconidae lays its eggs only on passionflowers, the caterpillars feeding on them specifically. The plant has developed defenses against this onslaught, including poisons in the foliage and even the growing of "fake eggs" on the stem. If a female butterfly sees these, she will move on without laying her own eggs.
Quite a story, eh? I've not seen any fake eggs on mine (that I'm aware of), but I'll keep looking! I got another vine as well, a Jacquemontia, about which more later...

New plantings: Forestiera

For anyone interested in creating a backyard habitat for wildlife, it makes sense to learn everything you can about your own backyard and what kind of plants will thrive there. So this year I joined the Florida Native Plant Society, Palm Beach County chapter. And this week they held their native plant auction, which I attended with the desire to acquire both knowledge and some appropriate plants for my yard. And I came away with both desires satisfied. The auction had groups of plants arranged into themes: butterfly garden plants, grasses, "staples" (i.e. plants for beginners to grow), orchids, etc. I had hoped to get some grasses, but the bidding was too intense for me, so I had to settle for picking up the starter group, which actually contained many plants that I was looking for, and some that I'd never planned to use but am quite happy to have. (I still need a bunch of "normal" native plants, like cocoplum, wild coffee, firebush, etc., that I have in abundance at the old house, but I'm not ready to try my hand at propagating; at least not yet.) There was also a silent auction for some plants that didn't go into the themes, and a few leftovers from their sale table at an event the previous weekend, and I picked up several from each category as well. Over the next few days, I'll tell you about them. The first plant I want to talk about is the first one I put into the ground: Florida-privet, Forestiera segregata. It's a shrub that is perfect for hedging, with tons of tiny little flowers that aren't particularly showy but that are quite attractive to many insect species. And when it fruits, it's rather attractive to birds as well. I'd been trying (quite lazily) to get this plant for some time, so I was quite pleased when a decent-sized one fell into my lap last night. I've got it planted in a nice sunny corner of the yard, and can't wait for it to get established so I can see what it will really look like. After all, it's hard to tell what it will be like from its appearance right now: But when it grows up, it will be an extremely important backyard plant, almost a foundation planting. Rufino Osorio, author of A Gardener's Guide to Florida's Native Plants, and last night's MC at the auction, says:
Both the regular and small-leaved forms make excellent, tough, pest-resistant garden plants. As a result of their stiff, densely leafy branches, Florida-privets make excellent hedge plants that may be trimmed to any desired height or shape. [...] Although the flowers are small and inconspicuous and lack petals, they are sweetly fragrant and provide abundant nectar for an assortment of insects.
Gil Nelson, in Florida's Best Native Landscape Plants, agrees:
The dainty and tidy habit; thick, dense, evergreen foliage; drought and salt tolerance; and edible fruit, which are a superb source for songbirds, make Florida privet an excellent landscape plant. Tolerates pruning and shaping.
About all he can find to complain about is that it is "subject to a few insect pests, but not seriously so." My newest reference, Craig Huegel's Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife has the best advice, and something I hadn't remembered to check, and will need to address as soon as I find out whether I have a male or female:
[O]nly the females produce the large and dependable crops of 1/4-inch purple fruit that make this such a valuable wildlife plant. [...] Because it is dioecious, it needs to be planted in groups.
My little specimen won't tell me whether it's male or female for some time, so I'll have to leave room in the yard for more of this guy to come in at a later date. Elizabeth Smith, over in Southwest Florida and an excellent blogger whom I just discovered, had a similar experience, as you can see from this beautiful page of one of her gardening journals (click on the image to go to her blog post about it, and explore her site for yourself; it's worth it!): I can't recommend her blog highly enough; I wish I had the talent and energy to sketch as she does. Something to aspire to!
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