≡ Menu

Plant Profile: German Iris (Iris Germanica)

Also known as bearded iris and common flag, this herbaceous perennial is native to the eastern Mediterranean and may be a natural hybrid between Iris pallida and Iris variegata.  It is best known by its multitude of cultivars that exhibit great variety height of plant and color and size of flowers.  Plants grow from creeping rhizomes  that may for large clumps and may be less than 8″ or up to 38″ tall.  The leaves are sword shaped and mostly basal.  Up to six flowers appear in the spring on flowering stalks and consist of three upright “petals” called standards, and three drooping “petals” called falls that display a beard.  The wild form of german iris has lilac standards and purple falls with white bases, brown veins and yellow beards but cultivars display a wide range of blues, purples, yellows, and pinks for all flower parts.  Some flowers are fragrant and some plants rebloom in the fall. Plants produce a stunning display in the sping and the flowers are beautiful in the vase but are short lived.  The genus name, Iris, honors the Greek goddess of the rainbow due to the huge variation in flower color.  The specific epithet, geramica, refers  to Germany one of the many places the plant has naturalized. [click to continue…]

Earleaf acacia, also known as wattle, is an evergreen tree native to Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea and is currently invasive in the pinelands, scrub, and hammocks of south Florida where it is displacing native vegetation. A member of the bean family, Fabaceae, it has nitrogen fixing bacteria and can live in nutrient-poor soil. A shallow spreading root system gives rise to one or more crooked trunks with gray bark and carrying an open, spreading crown of dense foliage with thick leathery leaf-like structures. Loose spikes of yellow-orange fragrant flowers are followed by a flat somewhat woody pod containing shiny black seeds that are attractive to birds. The rapidly growing plants are tolerant of a wide variety of soils and do best in full sun on moderately moist soil in tropical environments. USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11 [click to continue…]

Hairstreak Gray common openThe gray hairstreak is one of the most widely distributed butterflies in the US being absent only from the far North. They prefer open sunny sights such as coastal areas, chaparral, old fields, parks, vacant lots, and roadsides. The dorsal side is deep slate gray with an orange spot on the hindwing near the tail. The ventral side is dove-gray with a straight, thin straight white mid-band is bordered by orange on the inside edge. Heads usually have an orange patch and the abdomens of males often have orange sides. The wingspan is 7/8 to 1 3/8 inches. [click to continue…]

The lotus is associated with Job in the Bible and some scholars have identified it as Nelumbo nucifera, the sacred lotus of Egyptian fame.  It is an aquatic perennial native to tropical Asia and Australia, and has been cultivated in China for over 3000 years for its ornamental medicinal and culinary value. The plants are anchored in the mud by a rhizome that spreads and form colonies.   The green waxy leaves are up to two feet across and are held above the surface of the water on stems (petioles) up to 6 feet long that are attached to the center of the leaf-back.  The cup-shaped pink or white flowers are eight to twelve inches across and are produced on erect stems above the foliage. They open during the day and close at night over a period of about three days. In the center of each flower is an inverse-cone receptacle two the three inches across that bears the nut-like seeds. The receptacle, which differentiates lotus from water lily, becomes woody and is valued for dried arrangements. The seeds are very long lived and 1300 year old seeds found in China have been germinated.  [click to continue…]

Using Auxins for Stem Cuttings

rootsAuxins are plant hormones that can stimulate or inhibit growth. The most well-known naturally occurring auxin is indol-3-acetic acid (IAA) . Plants contain varying a mount of IAA and those with high concentrations produce roots more quickly and easily than plants with low concentrations of auxin. Although cuttings of some plants will produce roots with just the naturally contained auxins they contain, many will not. In these cases, a synthetic auxin can be used to stimulate root growth. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Bulrush (Cyperus papyrus)

Also known as  paper reed and Nile grass, this tender aquatic herbaceous perennial is native to lakes, rivers and swamps of northern Africa, and was cultivated in the Nile Delta in ancient times.  It is a member of the sedge family, Cyperaceae, that also includes water chestnut and nutgrass, a common lawn weed.  The plants are up to 16′ tall and form grass-like clumps.  They have thick woody rhizomes that are covered by red-brown triangular scales when young.  Triangular green  stems support dense umbels up to 12″ across  of  thin bright green thread-like structures up to 10″ long.  Greenish-brown flower clusters appear at the ends of the threads and give way to brown, nut-like fruits. Papyrus has a long history of use going back to the ancient Egyptians who made one of the first kinds of paper with the stems.  Parts of the plant are edible and the stems are very buoyant so can be made into boats.  Papyrus is used as a house plant, and as an ornmental in water gardens of frost free areas such as  Florida where it has become invasive.  The genus name, Cyperus, is from the Greek word kypeiros , the name given to sedges in ancient times.  The specific epithet, papyrus, comes from the Greek word πάπυρος, referring to paper made into rolls.   [click to continue…]

variegated stonecrop-variegated iris combinationThe beautiful variegated foliage of this combination makes a long season statement in the garden. Both plants have creamy white and green foliage creating an echo between the two that begins in spring and lasts until fall. Contrast is provided by the shape and texture of the leaves; stonecrop has thick rounded succulent leaves while Iris pallida has upward thrusting, sword-shaped leaves with a strong linear element emphasized by the veining. Further interest is added to the garden when Iris pallida produces its lavender flowers in early summer and later when the stonecrop produces heads of small green buds that open to pale pink flowers from August to frost. Both plants like full sun and moist, well-drained soil. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)

Native to central Asia, this deciduous small tree is a member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes  cherry, almond, and lady’s mantle. The trees grow 26-39′ tall and have a dense, spreading canopy of ovate leaves 2-3.5″ long, with toothed margins and 2 small glands at the base of the blade.  In early spring before the leaves appear, white to pinkish flowers appear singly or in pairs.  They have 5 petals and give way to fruits called drupes that are fleshy, yellow to orange tinted with red, each with a single seed enclosed in a hard ridged stony shell.  Fruit production is very difficult because flower buds are very sensitive to early frost but the tree is well worth growing for its ornamental value.   Evidence suggests that the apricot was domesticated in China by 1000 BC and was introduced into Greece by Alexander the Great.  It is proabably the “apple” of the Bible.   The genus name, Prunus, comes from the Greek word  προύνη, and is the Latin word referring to plum, also a member of this genus.  The specific epithet, armenaica, refers to Armenia, one of the geographic origins of the plant. [click to continue…]

Lentil is a cool season annual domesticated in the Fertile Cresent and dating back to 7500-6500 BC.  The many branched plants grow 12-20″ tall  may be erect or spreading.  The  slender stems are angular and hairy  and  leaves are pinnately compound with 5-8 pairs of oblong to elliptical leaflets that are yellowish green to bluish green. The leaves end with a tendril or bristle.   In temperate climates the flowers appear from late spring to summer in the leaf axils on long slender stalks and may be white pink, purple, lavender or pale blue.  The oblong pods are slightly inflated, about 5/8″ long, and usually contain 2-3 lens-shaped seeds.  There are many different kinds of lentils and they differ in size, hairiness, and color of leaves, flowers, and seeds.  The seeds are eaten cooked and are a staple in Indian cuisine. Photo Credit Wikipedia [click to continue…]

Also called love-apple, mandrake is a very variable herbaceous perennial that is native to the Mediterranean area including Israel and the Levant and some sourses would classsify mandrakes in the eastern Mediterranean as M. autumnalis.    It is a member of the nightshade family, Solonaceae, that also includes potato, tomato, and eggplant.  The plants have a short stem  bearing a rosette of ovate leaves and a thick forked root that is highly toxic and resembles the lower half of a human body.  The leaves are up to 18″ long and vary in hairiness.  In spring, bell shaped flowers with 5 speals and 5 greenish white to pale blue or violet petals appear in the leaf axils on stalks up to 18″ long. Yellow to orange egg-shaped berries  up to 1.6″ wide appear from late autumn to early summer and contain numerous light brown seeds.  The hallucinogent and narcotic  properties of  mandrake and the resemblance of its root to the human form have led to a long association with superstition, witchcraft, and magic as well as medicine.  In past times mandrake was believed to scream if touched and could only be safely uprooted by tying a black dog to the plant in moonlight and and having the dog run after its master. Anyone hearing the scream of the mandrake would be driven mad but once uprooted, the mandrake protected its owner from evil spirits.  The genus name, Mandragora, is the classical Latin name for the plant.  The specific epithet, officinarum, is the classical Latin word meaning of workshops and refers to the real or supposed medicinal properties. [click to continue…]