native wildflower

Butterflies Love Brickellia

Some of Brickellia cordifolia’s (pron. brick ELL ee ah core deh FOHL ee ah) common names are Brickellia, brickelbush and Flyr’s Nemesis. It prefers full to part sun and is usually found growing in sandy soil. However, Eleanor Dietrich, Florida Wildflower Foundation Liaison to DOT, has a great patch growing in her slightly shady back garden in rich, moist woodland soil. According to Lilly here at the nursery, it is doing REALLY well there. Brickellia blooms in late summer to fall. Lilly (who’s had it in her yard for going on two years) says deadheading increases the blooming period. This native, perennial wildflower can grow up to 5 feet in height, but 3 to 4 feet is more common. Unlike most members of the aster family, it does not have ray flowers, only disc. It produces a great many of them in small clusters at the end of each stem. They have extremely long styles, giving each flower head a wispy, spidery appearance. They range in color from almost white to pinkish purple and are very attractive to butterflies.

Brickellia cordifolia along Hwy 98 in Wakulla County, FL

Brickellia cordifolia along Hwy 98 in Wakulla County, FL

Despite the fact that Brickellia is easy to grow and propagate (by seed, division or cutting), there is very little of it around. There are some small, surviving populations in Wakulla, Jefferson and Alachua Counties in Florida and a little in Alabama and Georgia. It is on the state endangered list here in Florida and listed globally as a G2/G3 species (imperiled globally because of rarity or very vulnerable to extinction throughout its range because of other factors).

The following is from the Facebook Page of Scott Davis, St. Marks Ranger:

“One of the more amazing floristic encounters of my life occurred today! I was privileged to walk along an astounding roadside, literally blanketed with Brickellia cordifolia, the Flyr’s Nemesis. This endangered species maintains a stronghold for itself here in Wakulla county in (literally) just a handful of roadside localities. Without the cooperation of FDOT and private property owners, long-term conservation for this species would not be possible. To see such rare beauty in such large numbers is not something that happens very often.”

After learning of the rarity of this plant from Scott, the property owner, another Scott (Arnold), and the Magnolia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) successfully petitioned DOT for decreased mowing.

The following is a Facebook comment by Gail Fishman (Ranger US Fish and Wildlife Service and president of the Magnolia Chapter (FNPS) :

“The common name for this beautiful plant, Flyr’s Nemesis, causes many to believe that Dr. Lowell David Flyr committed suicide over this plant. That is not true. Dr. Flyr was a Texas botanist who worked on Brickellia species in Texas and Mexico. As far as I can ascertain he never described this species. It is true that he died by his own hand because he was probably manic depressive for most of his life according to personal communication with David’s brother, Lewis Flyr. David was a fine botanist who died much too soon.”

Most sources I found simply said the origin for the name was a mystery. The story according to the Alabama Plant Atlas (although it’s described more as a rumor) is that Flyr was a graduate student working on the Brickellia genus out west. Before his committee would let him graduate, they insisted that he personally visit populations of this rare eastern member of the genus. While searching for the plant in southwest Georgia, he was killed in an automobile accident.

Either way it’s a sad story that adds one more layer of interest to the story of this beautiful plant. I admit that till now I’ve paid little attention to Brickellia. We’ve stocked it in our wildflower section for a while, and I had noticed its very pretty and unusual flower. Beyond that however there just isn’t time to study every plant we sell as extensively as we’d sometimes like to (unless you’re one of the plant buyers and I’m not). Having taken that time now for this blog—well, all of a sudden I just have to have a Brickellia for my yard. In fact I just came inside from planting it, and I can’t wait to see what it’ll do.

At Native Nurseries, we typically stock Brickellia in 1-gallon and 4" pots. Currently we have both. As always, give us a call to check availability before making a special trip (although we’re always happy to see you). Sorry . . . we do not ship plants.

Some information for this blog post came from the following sources –

The Alabama Plant Atlas Facebook page

Heliopsis helianthoides

Probably my favorite native wildflower is Heliopsis helianthoides, a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Pronounce it heal ee OP sis heal ee ann THOY dees, or you can call it ox-eye sunflower or just plain old Heliopsis. Its genus and species are both Greek in origin. Heliopsis means ‘sun-eye’, and helianthoides means ‘like a sunflower’. That’s a pretty good description as far as it goes, but there’s a lot more to this native perennial and it’s pretty much all good. Here in the panhandle, Heliopsis blooms its heart out from late spring until frost; and it’s tough and drought tolerant. In the middle of July and August when so many other plants in our yards look hot and tired—and so do we unless we’re enjoying our gardens through the window of an air conditioned room—Heliopsis is still beautiful and blooming with a profusion of bright yellow, daisy-like flowers. That’s not to say it would not eventually succumb given no water at all; it just lasts considerably longer than most. I should warn you however that Heliopsis is not the most impressive plant during that first year after you introduce it into your garden. It doesn’t look like much in the pot either. I cannot tell you how many customers I’ve practically bullied into purchasing it. Most of them come back for more though. Once Heliopsis has had a season or two to fill in, it’s just gorgeous.

Plant Heliopsis in full sun to part—although full sun is best for lots more flowers. It tolerates a wide range of soil types from moderately moist to dry, including nutrient poor soils. It’ll grow two to three feet in height and spread and fill in by rhizome. It’s mostly pest and disease free, although it’ll sometimes get aphids. In most cases, I wouldn’t bother to treat them. Heliopsis is tough enough to stand up to them, and having a few aphids around will help attract beneficial insects to your yard.

You can divide Heliopsis in the fall, after you have a good thick clump of it. Use it to fill in bare spots in your garden or pass some on to a friend. They’ll be glad you did and so will their bees and butterflies. Heliopsis is a great pollinator attractant. It also makes a great, long lasting cut flower.

So what’s not to love about Heliopsis! There are cultivated varieties available in the industry, but why bother when the original is such a winner just the way nature made it.

At Native Nurseries, we typically stock Heliopsis in 4” and 1-gallon pots. Currently we have 4" pots only. As always, give us a call to check availability before making a special trip (although we’re always happy to see you). Sorry . . . we do not ship plants.

Some information for this blog post came from the following sources –

Cut-leaf Rudbeckia

Native to North America, cut-leaf rudbeckia (Rudbeckia laciniata) is thriving in my perennial garden. Further north it’s an herbaceous perennial, but here in Tallahassee it is usually evergreen. This edible wildflower, most often found in flood plains and moist soil, shoots up rapidly in spring. The new foliage can be used as a salad green or steamed. This time of year it is 4 to 5’ tall with robust, glossy green foliage and flower buds showing. It won’t be long until it blooms profusely with beautiful, yellow-green coneflowers.

Give cut-leaf rudbeckia full to partial sun and regular waterings – it is not drought tolerant. It’s a great perennial to divide and share with friends, and it holds up well as a cut flower.  It’s a good one to add to your butterfly garden – quite pretty alongside red pentas.

My co-worker, Mary at the nursery, likes it even when it’s not blooming because its knee-high basal foliage is very attractive. She cuts the flower stems out at the base once it’s done blooming so it won’t reseed. Cut-leaf rudbeckia does spread, but I do not consider it to be overly aggressive.

At Native Nurseries, we typically stock Rudbeckia laciniata (cut-leaf rudbeckia) in quarts and 1-gallon pots. Currently we have quarts only. As always, give us a call to check availability before making a special trip (although we’re always happy to see you). Sorry . . . we do not ship plants.