Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Green-eyes: beautiful and resilient Florida wildflowers

Florida greeneyes bloom nearly year-round and attract
many types of pollinators. Notice how showy the
disk florets are with their extra-long stamens
and their folded-down top edges. 

The greeneyes (Berlandiera spp.) are in the daisy family (Asteraceae) and have the typical flower head arrangement of this family with fertile central disk florets that produce the seeds surrounded by sterile showy ray florets that look and act like petals. They are perennials with a long tap root.

In the case of greeneyes, the flower heads consist of about eight bright yellow ray florets, each with a notched tip, surrounding a head of greenish-yellow tubular disk florets, which is, of course,  why they are called greeneyes. When disk florets open, they reveal maroon anthers and a long yellow stigma, and they smell like chocolate. 

Two greeneyes species are native to Florida

Florida greeneyes (Berlandiera subacaulis) is endemic to Florida with its range going from a few counties in northeastern Florida down through all of Central Florida with a disjunct population in Dade County in South Florida. See its range map on the Atlas of Florida Plants. The leaves are more or less lobed and are mostly basal and the flower heads are solitary and borne at top of a mostly leafless scape. This species is the one mostly commonly sold by native nurseries and you can also buy its seeds.

Soft green eyes (B. pumila) is native to North Florida and also to Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Carolina according to Biota of North America. The leaves are serrated (not lobed) and occur mostly along a main stem, which also supports three or more flower heads borne on separate scapes at the top of the main stem.

Then in St. Johns County in northeast Florida, there is also a hybrid of these two species (B. x humilis)  that was named and collected by John Kunkel Small, a botanist who explored Florida in the early 1900s. Whether it still exists there is certainly a question. The only image I could find of this plant is the type specimen in a herbarium--no photos. St. Johns County is not listed as part of the range of Florida greeneyes, so exploring that county for greeneyes would be an interesting project.

Soft greeneyes (B. pumila) has leaves on the stems. Florida green eyes (B. subacaulis) has basal leaves.
Florida greeneyes put on a show as their florets open and they smell like chocolate. Soft greeneyes in the wild at the base of an oak tree.

Greeneyes in the landscape

Greeneyes have a long blooming cycle from early spring to early winter, which is why these plants are a wonderful choice for front edges of pollinator gardens. They do reseed to some extent and they can be transplanted if growing in an inconvenient place, but keep in mind the long taproot and dig out as much of it as possible. Irrigate well after planting until established, but after that, no irrigation is necessary. Also, because of that taproot, they can compete well with even aggressive wildflowers. 

Florida greeneyes make a good showing in sunny wildflower meadows.

Florida greeneyes attracts a wide variety of pollinators. In this bed it competes well with dollarweed, coreopsis, and native primroses. 

Soft greeneyes in the wild next to a road in my neighborhood. This population has been in place for at least a decade.

Add these resilient and beautiful wildflowers to your landscape:

Purchase plants from these FANN members or
Purchase seeds from the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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