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Also called octopus tree, Schefflera is an evergreen tree native to the rainforests in Australia, New Guinea, and Java where it grows up to 50’ tall. It was introduced into Florida in 1927 as an ornamental, escaped cultivation, and has become invasive in a variety of habitats including sand dunes, beaches, forests, and cypress stands. Schefflera can only survive in warm climates with temperatures above 35 F and is a problem in both Hawaii and Puerto Rico but is also a popular house plant in many parts of the US . When growing in natural areas, Schefflera has an aggressive root system and highly efficient seed dispersal method by birds, and shades out native species with its abundance of large attractive leaves. Once established it is very difficult to control because neither fire nor herbicides have proven effective in the long term. USDA Hardiness Zones 10-12 [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Sheepbit (Jasione montana)

Native to thin, dry, sandy soils of central Europe, North Africa, and western Asia, this biennial or annual is a member of the bellflower family, Campanulaceae, that also includes balloon flower, ladybells and Lobelia. The plants grow up to 12″ tall and have a stout root and several stems that branch near the base. Lanceolate leaves are 1/2-1″ long, stiffly hairy, and form a rosette. Throughout most of the summer, dense, 1″ wide, round umbels of starry violet-blue flowers appear subtended by involucral bracts. The individual florets open successively from the outside and are attractive to butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Sheepbit is easily grown from seed and does well in thin, acid, rocky or sandy soil in full sun and is often found on sea-cliffs and in maritime grasslands. It is a good choice for rock and maritime gardens and the flowers are good in the vase. The genus name, Jasione, is of uncertain origin. The specific epithet, montana, comes from the Latin word mons, meaning mountain. 

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With stunning  foliage, this short-lived tender perennial brightens up any garden or container with its burgundy red, hot pink, yellow or white leaves .  A native of Central and northern South American, it grows 1-5′ tall and can be used as a bedding plant or houseplant and does well in a patio container. Other common names for the plant are beefsteak plant, blood leaf and Joseph’s coat.  Two outstanding cultivars are available, ‘Brilliantissima’ with purplish-red leaves with pink veins, and ‘Aureoreticulata’ with green leaves with yellow veins.  The small white flowers are inconspicuous and should be removed to promote the growth of foliage, the crowning glory of the plant.  Photo Credit Wikimedia Commons

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Native to the Balkans, this deciduous tree is a member of the soapberry family, Sapindaceae, that also includes maple, lychee, and buckeye. It has a deep taproot and grows up to 75′ tall with spread up to 65′. The palmate compound leaves are 24″ across and have 5-7 ovate to oblong leaflets that are 4-10″ long. They are light green in spring, mature to dark green in summer, and turn an uninteresting yellow to brown in the fall. In spring, terminal panicles appear that are 4-12″ long and composed of 20-50 flowers. The flowers are white with a yellow throat speckled with red. One to five flowers per panicle give rise to a globular fruit that consists of 1-2 seeds (horsechestnuts) in a leathery, brown husk that is 1-3″ long and spiny. The seeds are shiny, dark brown and bear a pale round scar at the base. They are poisonous, unlike chestnuts that are produced by an unrelated tree (Castanea) belonging to a different plant family. European horsechestnuts can be beautiful park or street trees if their foliage does not deteriorate during the summer. The genus name, Aesculus, is the Latin word for a species of oak with edible nuts, so is a misnomer for this plant. The specific epithet, hippocastanum, is from the Greek word hippos meaning horse and the Latin word castanea meaning the chestnut tree of Virgil

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Also known as tiger lotus, Egyptian white water lily, and white lotus, this aquatic fresh water perennial is a member of the water lily family, Nymphaceae, a small family of 3-6 genera.  It is native to east Africa and southeast Asia where it grows in clear, warm, still and slightly acidic waters.  Growing 8-18″ tall from a rhizomatous root system it has large round leaves up to  12″ across that float on the surface of the water.  The mature leaves are peltate, softly hairy below, and have spiny, toothed margins.  The  flowers appear all summer, are 5-10″ across, and consists of a center of golden stamens surrounded by conspicuously veined sepals and  pointed petals that are white, sometime tinged with pink.  They open at night, close by late morning, and are held up to 8″ above the surface of the water. Photo Credit Wikipedia [click to continue…]

Also called herb of grace, rue is an evergreen mounding subshrub and a member of the Rutaceae family that also includes oranges, limes, and skimmia. It is native to the Balkan Peninsula where it grows on dry hillsides, often on limestone. Growing up to 3’ tall, the plant has a woody base and blue-green pinnately compound leaves 3-5” long with oblong to spatulate leaftlets. The leaflets are fleshy, dotted with glands, and are very aromatic when crushed. The dull yellow flowers have 4-5 petals, are ¾” across, and appear in flattened corymbs in early summer. Plants are usually grown for the attractive foliage and are popular in herb and rose gardens. Plants like full sun, average to lean, dry to medium moist, well-drained soil in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9. Reproduction is by seed and terminal cuttings in late summer and early fall. The genus name, Ruta, is probably related to the Greek word reuo meaning  set free and refers to the medicinal qualities of the herb. The specific epithet, graveolens, may be related to the Latin word gravis meaning heavy, and refers to the scent. [click to continue…]

Also known as spotted fushia-bush, this evergreen shrub is endemic to southern Australia, and a member of the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, that also includes mullein, butterfly–bush, and Diascia. The plants are densely branched, grow up to 8′ tall, and may be spreading or erect. The gray-green leaves are .1″ to 2″ wide and vary is shape from thread-like to almost circular. The tubular flowers appear singly in the leaf axils in late winter to spring, and periodically thereafter. They are up to 1″ long, have 5 petals that may be pink, mauve, red, orange, or yellow, and usually have distinct spots and hairs inside the flower tubes. The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies and give way to dry, round fruit with a beak. Spotted emu bush grows in a variety of soils and is salt and drought tolerant. It is very popular in dry regions of the US like New Mexico and Arizona where it is used for both public and private landscaping. The genus name, Eremophilia, is from was Greek words erêmos meaning lonely or desert and ‘phílos’ meaning dear, beloved and refers to the plants in the genus growing in arid climate locations. The specific epithet is the Latin word meaning spot, stain or speckle and refers to the markings on the petals.

Photo Credit Geoff Derrin Wikipedia

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Don’t bother with the species if you want a chameleon plant in your garden as it is dull by comparison to the variegated cultivar ‘Chameleon’ aka Variegata, Tricolor, or ‘Court Jester’ (different names for the  same cultivar).  The cultivar has bright red stems and heart shaped-leaves that are red, pink, yellow, cream and green.  It is quite a pretty sight and will grow in almost any garden except one with dry soil.  It likes full sun and part shade but tolerates deep shade;  it likes moist soil but tolerates wet soil up to inches over its crown so can be used in a bog garden or on the edge of a pond as well as a ground cover for moist places. And it makes a great ground cover! The flowers are a bit on the dull side but the pretty foliage makes up for that and the plant looks good from spring until fall.  The real down side is that the plant can be a thug.  It rapidly spreads by rhizomes and can become invasive.  The worst part is that the new plants may revert to the species and have plain green leaves so you need to get rid of them or your whole bed will become filled with the species and its plain green leaves.   Not to worry, however, because if the plant overwelms you you can always harvest the stems and leaves and eat them as the Chinese and Vietnamese do, but be forewarned that the leaves have a fishy taste.   Photo Credit Wikipedia [click to continue…]

Native to rainforests of Java, New Guinea and southeastern Australia, this epiphytic fern is a member of the Polypodiaceae, a fern family that also includes resurrection fern. The plants grow up to 3′ across and have short rhizomes and two different kinds of fronds. The sterile fronds are basal, round to heart shape, and overlap to form a shield that clasps and covers the “root” . They lie flattened against a tree and take up water and nutrients, fading from green to brown with maturity. The arching fertile fronds emerge from the basal shield and are green, up to three feet long, and are pronged like the antlers of a male deer. Spores are produced in specialized structures on the undersides of the tips of the fertile fronds and give rise to offsets that can be used to propagate the plant. Staghorn ferns can be grown outdoors in warm climates but also as houseplants in cool climates and moved in and out of the house. The fern is usually mounted on wood planks with some organic matter such as peat moss for the root structure. The genus name, Platycerium, comes from the Greek words platys meaning flat and keras meaning horn, and refers to the shape of the fronds. The specific epithet, comes from the Latin bi- meaning two, and furcatus, meaning forked, and refers to the branching pattern of the fertile fronds.

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Native to the eastern Mediterranean region including parts of North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, this evergreen coniferous tree is also known as Italian cypress, Tuscan cypress, Persian cypress, and pencil pine.  It is in the cypress family,  Cupressaceae that also includes redwoods and junipers. The trees can grow up to 115′ feet tall but usually are 40-60′. The foliage is aromatic when crushed and grows in dense sprays.  The dark gray-green leaves are scale-like and grow on rounded shoots.  Male and female cones are on the same tree. The  ovoid to oblong female cones are less than 1.5″ across  and are green ripening to brown 20-24 months after pollination. Photo Credit Wikipedia [click to continue…]