Funky Florida Flora – Turk’s Cap Hibiscus

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This is another volunteer in my garden, drafted into service to provide summer color in the unirrigated wilds of the garden. These tough shrubs just pop up here and there and once established are very difficult to get rid of. My neighbor’s Hibiscus keeps growing through the fence and after about 5 removal attempts, I gave up and began espaliering it to the fence instead of trying to get rid of it. Time will tell how that works out.

Most people call this Turk’s Cap Hibiscus (Malvaviscus penduliflorus), however, my favorite common name for this plant is Nodding Hibiscus. The shrub itself is a bit rangy looking, shapeless and branchy with light green foliage. The flowers make up for the green part, being prolific and attractive to pollinators and hummingbirds. Originally from Mexico, it has naturalized on the peninsula and is tolerant of South Florida’s extreme variation in precipitation. My Hibiscus thrive in partial shade with benign neglect, no fertilizer and roots in sugar sand (dare I call it soil, I think not)

I like to cut these for arrangements, they add a bit of draping over the side drama and last well in a vase, but you have to be careful not to knock the flowers off, the stems are somewhat delicate.

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Funky Florida Flora – Snake Plants

This is my side yard. When I moved to South Florida and rounded the corner of my new (old) house I could hardly believe my eyes.

Brain says “Snake Plant”, a person from much further north says “Not possible”. Oh, but it is. I would guess there is a ten-foot wide band of Snake Plant alongside my house- yes, Sansiveria and/or Mother in Law’s Tongue and the band is at least a hundred feet long. And they flower. I have cut them for arrangements, not a particularly long-lasting flower, but kind of interesting.

House plants run amok. One has to wonder, did someone throw out Snake Plant a hundred years ago and this is the result.

Snake Plants are considered invasive in South Florida. I have managed to make a dent in some of them:

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Yes, that is a pile of Snake Plants in front of a Bobcat (not the feline version) It is strange to me that we (my husband and I) would rather look at a telephone pole than all the Snake Plants and assorted garbage (Brazilian Peppers, another story for another day)

The Snake Plants grow running tubers (if that is a word) similar to Ginger. It is nearly impossible to pull up without breaking it and when it is broken it just reproduces – hence, the Bobcat.

Our landscapers are now mowing over the tubers weekly; we will see if the mowing actually helps.

I read somewhere a Snake Plant as a houseplant will clean the air. This means having one of these things in my house – and watering it. Um, no.

I am going to pass on that and use them in a vase. One less for the Bobcat. Here is a Vase with Snake Plant.

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Funky Florida Flora – Bismarck Palm

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This is the canopy and fruit stalks of a Bismarck Palm (Bismarckia nobilis) – named for Otto Von Bismarck, a very big and very blue gray palm. So big, the fronds are 4 feet across and they can reach 60 feet in height. I frequently see these towering palms dwarfing the houses they are planted near.

A native of Madagascar – a place that must have spectacular Dr. Seuss-like forests. Bismarcks are hardy to freezing and adaptable to a wide variety of soils.

Here are the fruits, they are about 2 inches in diameter and fall indiscriminately to the ground. A bit like a chestnut, one of my greyhounds had a bite of one and immediately spit it out, so I am guessing not so tasty.

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Funky Florida Flora – Little Harv

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Another of my garage sale finds, ‘Little Harv’ has been graciously flowering and producing pups for the past five years or so. An Aechmea Bromeliad created in South Florida in 1978, ‘Little Harv’ is fairly common in landscapes in this area. I would hate to see Big Harv as the little one can reach almost 4 feet of height.

Here is a close up of the bud, you can see the prickly edges of the silvery foliage and its coloration. The bud started up about a month ago and the flower opened two weeks ago and will usually last a few more weeks.

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Funky Florida Flora – Coral Plant

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It occurred to me this morning there are not too many plants that would work in this narrow space in my garden (about 18″ wide). This is a very funky plant, a Jatropha  multifida, called the Coral Plant. I thought initially the name was based on the color of the flower, but then realized the flower does resemble an actual coral.

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The foliage on this plant resembles something else. Cannabis, however, all Jatropha is poisonous, so I would resist the urge to smoke it and keep it away from children and pets.

The Jatrophas are interesting plants, tropical – this one is native to Mexico. They do best in South Florida or where temperatures stay above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Common to members of the Euphorbia family, they exude toxic, milky sap and can become a nuisance by its tendency to produce a lot of seeds. However, the seeds contain oils that have been proposed for use to make sustainable biodiesel fuel. They just haven’t quite figured out how yet.  Click for the Biodiesel story.

Despite the fact this plant is widely reported to love sharp drainage, full sun and noted for its extreme drought tolerance – it suffered in such a place in my pollinator garden and is much happier in its new skinnier digs with its own tiny irrigation bubbler and protection from the western sun. Butterflies continue to enjoy the flowers and I will as well now that the Coral Plant is in a happier place.