Thursday, February 1, 2024

Lyreleaf sage

Lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata) is in the mint family.

Lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata) makes quite a show in several areas of our front yard in the spring. We delay the first mowing of our lawn in the spring for this wildflower show. 

Over the years, we have replaced more than half of the lawn that came with the house and what is left is a freedom lawn that is:
- free from landscape-wide pesticide applications,
- free from synthetic fertilizer applications,
- free from over irrigation, and
- free from over mowing. It's allowed to go dormant during the winter months. 

I have moved some of these lovely wildflower volunteers from the lawn into wildflower gardens. Where this wonderful sage grows quite a bit larger and more robust. 

I saw that someone described this plant as weedy, but I don't see it that way at all, even though it is prolific. In the lawn, it's easy to mow, in the wildflower beds, it makes quite a show, and in the vegetable beds, it's easy to pull if necessary and if not, it attracts pollinators.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Ohio Spiderwort: a pollinator-friendly native wildflower

A small fly-like bee was pollinating this flower.

Bluejacket or Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) is native to most of Eastern North America and to most of Florida. It attracts pollinators, especially bees. Each day, one or two flowers bloom in each flower head. They open early in the morning and then wilt in the afternoon. Each flower head contains twenty or more flowers and new flower heads are formed throughout the long season from early spring to late fall. There is a long blooming season.

There are three other species of spiderworts native to Florida: hairy spiderwort (T. hirsutiflora), longleaf spiderwort (T. roseolens), and zigzag spiderwort (T. subaspera). But the bluejacket has the largest native range and is the one that's most readily available from the native trade.

Spiderworts are monocots and are in the Commelina family (Commelinaceae), which includes 36 genera world wide, but only five occur in Florida. "Spiderwort" refers to the sap which dries into web-like threads when a stem is cut.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Pumpkin, carrot, onion soup recipe

A delicious, rich, thick pumpkin carrot soup

This is a delicious, hardy soup using one of our many Seminole pumpkins. My husband and I worked together on this soup, which was three dinners for the two of us and two lunch servings. (See my Seminole pumpkin article, which has more recipes for this versatile squash.)


1 small pumpkin, seeded, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes*
6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes 
2 large sweet onions, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup grated radishes*
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped*
1 teaspoon of fresh oregano leaves*
1/3 cup of garlic chives, chopped*
1/2 teaspoon of dill seed*
1 cup plain Greek yogurt added to the soup and more as garnish
8 cups of water
2 eggs, beaten
enough olive oil to sauté the herbs and the onions
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of dill, chopped for garnish*

*Fresh from the garden (except for the dill seed, which collected last spring)

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Florida's goldenrods

Goldenrods do Not cause allergies

The insect-pollinated goldenrods (Solidago spp.) with their beautiful flowers have erroneously been blamed for fall allergy season when it's the wind-pollinated ragweed (Ambrosia spp.) with the unnoticeable green flowers that are filling the air with pollen when the goldenrods are blooming. The ragweeds do not need to put any energy into creating beautiful flowers or sweet nectar because the wind will blow anyway. As I understand it, some allergy doctors test people to see if they are allergic to goldenrod pollen even though that pollen is too heavy and sticky to float in the air and there is zero chance of its getting into anyone's nose. 

A swallowtail butterfly is pale in comparison to
the very yellow goldenrod.
Ragweed, the source of the air-borne pollen that gives people hay fever.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Why talking about native plant landscapes is so important

Consumers are presented with this array of mostly
nonnative plants in full bloom to plant so their yards can
decorated with plants at peak bloom all the time.

Where are the native plants?

New homeowners and beginning gardeners find displays similar to this photo that I took at a big box store a few years ago. It's filled with mostly nonnative annuals in full bloom. Each tray is not too expensive, but after they fade in a couple of months, people are expected to come back to replace them with the next set. 

Examples in garden magazines and gardening TV shows with their instant landscapes imply that garden installations are events, and not ongoing projects that develop over the years.

Friday, September 1, 2023

Hurricane-scaping in Florida

Hurricane Idalia 2023

Florida's hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30. These five months are also the wet season here when we receive up to 70% of our annual rainfall. Our hot wet summers make it difficult to grow some vegetables like sweet basiltomatoes and most members of the squash family, but growing crops is not the topic for this post.

As I'm writing this, Hurricane Idalia is pummeling the west coast of Florida. Florida is subjected to more hurricane activity than other states because the 1,350 mile-long coastline, which is surrounded by warm waters. When sea surface temperatures are above 82˚F, this warm water sustains and intensifies tropical storms that may strengthen into hurricanes. This year the Atlantic Ocean temperatures reached as high as 101˚F just off the east coast of Florida. So it's not surprising that we have been struck by a Category 4 hurricane.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Starry rosinweed is a star in Florida yards

Starry rosinweed is a star in your garden not only
for its beauty and long blooming cycle, but also because
of the wide variety of pollinators that it attracts.

Starry Rosinweed (Silphium asteriscus) is a member of the aster or daisy family, Asteraceae and is a wonderful choice for Florida's wildflower meadows and for pollinator gardens. It's a beautiful, tall, long-lived, drought tolerant, easy-to-care-for wildflower. (See below for more information on how it behaves in gardens and meadows.)

Botanically, the starry rosinweed is an outlier in the aster family. Yes, its flower head has the typical arrangement of disk florets in the center surrounded by showy ray florets that each have one outsized petal. 

In most aster family plants with this typical flower head arrangement such as sunflowers, only the tiny, cylindrical disk florets in the center produce fruits or seeds, while the petal-like ray florets around the outside of the center are sterile and produce no fruits. The starry rosinweed is exactly the opposite with its ray florets producing fruits and the disk florets being sterile.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Why do plants produce caffeine?

I've covered this topic on my cruise ship presentations on coffee.
A bit of plant science for this post...

Caffeine is the most widely consumed psycho-active substance in the world!

Caffeine is not the work of Satan, nor the product of some mad scientists working in a chemistry lab; rather, it’s the result of millions of years of plant evolution. 

All plants build a variety of compounds including enzymes. Many of these molecules serve as a defense against enemies of the plants—large and small. 

Building caffeine is an expensive process (energy-wise) for the plant, so why do they do it? 

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Dill is a beautiful, easy-to-grow herb in Florida

Pollinators love dill flowers.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a fast-growing, cool-weather annual with a long taproot. It provides both a classic herb and a spice--the leaves are called dill weed, and used fresh or dried as a herb in salads or as a garnish, while the seeds are used as a spice for pickling or in potato and pasta salads. Dill is native to the Mediterranean region, but it's grown world wide.

The majestic dill flower heads can reach fourteen inches across. They attract a wide variety of pollinators, and importantly for organic gardeners, dill attracts the small parasitoid wasps that prey on tomato worms and other garden pests. 

All the above-ground parts of the dill plant are edible. The leaves and the seeds are most often harvested, but you can also eat the flowers and the stems. 

Taxonomic note: The Kew Garden's Plants of the World Online database considers dill (Anethum graveolens) and several other related species to be synonyms of false fennel (Ridolfia segetum). I have not found other organizations joining in on this lumping of species as yet, but there may be a dill name change in the future.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Hibiscus: Plants with the most beautiful flowers

A scarlet rosemallow (Hibiscus coccineus):
 a Florida native

There are 432 Hibiscus species that are found worldwide, and with their beautiful flowers, many are grown in gardens and some are even used as crops. In general, the flowers are large and showy.

For example, see the scarlet rosemallow in the lead photo. Here there are five green sepals subtending five large red petals. The pistil, the female reproductive part of a plant, is attached to the center of the flower. The pistil is made up of a five-chambered ovary where seeds develop, the style that is a long tube between the ovary and five round stigmas where the pollen is absorbed. A stamen, the male reproductive structure, consists of the anther that holds the pollen, and a stalk called the filament. In hibiscus flowers, the filaments fuse into a tube that surrounds the style. Numerous anthers stick out from the filaments below the five stigmas at the top of the style. The prominent pistil with all those anthers is one reason the hibiscus flowers are so showy.