When it comes to gardening, Florida certainly is most interesting. Just as autumn seemed to be settling in with a low temperature of 48F in mid-November that brought spent seedheads to goldenrod and bluestem grasses, a second spring is happening, as temperatures returned to approach the high 80s for a few days last week.
My attention was drawn to the Inkberry (Ilex glabra) which began flowering again, as berries ripened alongside. Inkberry a.k.a. Gallberry, a member of the holly Family (Aquifoliaceae) is a dioecious species, requiring male and female plants for berry production. It is native to the East Coast and Southeast US. Very versatile as it grows in both sunny and shaded habitats, on dry to wet sites, and works in both sandy to heavier peat soils. Flowering takes place in March-June (and November in Florida ) with fruits appearing September and October and persisting into spring.
A workhorse of a wildlife garden, leaves are browsed by marsh rabbit and white tailed-deer. Fruits are important food for raccoon, coyote, and opossum when other sources are scarce. At least 15 species of birds, including bobwhite quail and wild turkey also dine at the Gallberry cafe. These multibranched shrubs provide cover for white-tailed deer, small rodents, and several species of birds. Nectar of the flowers is an important source for honey production. It does it all! source
I was also surprised by a renewal of the Giant Ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) that exhibited lush green leaves forming close to the ground. An existing stem provided a glimpse of the beautiful purple color, albeit a rather small offering of flowers, but the pollinators were happy, nonetheless. I broke off the majority of the towering stems filled with seeds and tossed them to the side for the birds to enjoy. Now I wait to see if we will be treated to more flowering. Native to the eastern half of the US, this plant can reach heights of 6-8 feet so makes a perfect choice as the backdrop in a garden. The nectar of the flowers attracts bee flies, butterflies, skippers, various bees (primarily long-tongued bees) and hummingbird moths. Several moth species are said to use it as a larval host plant. The leaves are said to be bitter so are not favored by herbivores… a good choice if deer are a problem in your area.
A walk around the pond gave another surprise of fresh growth Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata). Native to the eastern half of the US this plant provides food for birds and is a larval host for sulphur butterflies Partridge pea is considered an important honey plant. Nectar is not available in the flowers but is produced by small orange glands at the base of each leaf. It is one of the major winter food items of northern bobwhite and quail. Seeds of this legume are also eaten by prairie chickens, ring-necked pheasants, mallards, grassland birds, and field mice. Deer can eat it but it should be used cautiously around livestock, as it can be toxic to them. source
Thursday night we were headed for the lowest temperatures since last March. I’m not sure how the plants will react, but I know I will be watching carefully as I enjoy this bit of reawakening. Rather nice to have a second spring when you are gearing up for winter.
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