Friday, November 19, 2010

More Spectacular Fall Color: Yaupon Holly

Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) is a wonderful small native tree.  It can either be a large shrub or a small tree, growing up to about 25 feet tall and with a spread of about 15 feet wide.  It will tolerate clipping and can be formed into a hedge, left to grow into a large vase-shaped shrub (wider at the top, narrow at the bottom), or trained into a small tree.  It has small leathery leaves with scalloped margins, or edges.  The fine texture of the plant makes a nice hedge.  There are also dwarf varities for use in smaller landscape applications.  It's quite a versatile plant.
Close up of the fruit.
This time of year is one of the best times in terms of color for the Yaupon Holly.  The (female) plants are resplendent with fruit right now.  The fruit of the Yaupon Holly is called a drupe- which looks like a berry.  Most trees have red fruit, but yellow varieties can be found.  In addition to the lovely sight of the fruit they are also a wildlife attractor and will encourage birds to visit your yard.  The fruit is great for birds because they persist on the plant well into winter, providing a food source when others have become scarce.

Wouldn't these make lovely holiday decorations as well!

Yaupon Holly in it's natural vase shape.

Ilex vomitoria 'Dodds Cranberry'

The "Planting Pinellas" blog will take a short holiday next week for Thanksgiving and return the following week.  Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Unusual Fall Color: the Floss Silk Tree

This is not your typical fall color! The floss silk trees (Ceiba speciosa) are in bloom and they put on a great show, but their pink flowers are not your usual fall color. This curious tree also has a thick green trunk covered in spines which can be seen in the pictures below. The trunk is often bottle-shaped (wider at the base and narrower as you move up) which you can also see in the photos below.

This tree can grow up to 50’ tall and have a spread of 55’. It is fast growing at first and then slows down as the tree matures. The floss silk tree is considered a lovely specimen tree in the landscape. The trees lose their leaves in September and are usually bare by the time the spectacular flowers burst. The beautiful flowers are seen between September and December. After that the tree remains mostly bare until spring when the leaves flush out again. The leaves are palmately compound with 5-7 leaflets (not pictured). Between the blooms and the new leaves you will see the seed pods. They look like big white cotton balls that come from pear-shaped pods. The “silk” found in these pods was once used as stuffing for pillows and mattresses.

If you don’t have one of these beautiful trees near you please come by and visit the Extension office- the pictures you see here were taken of the one in our parking lot. You can’t miss it this time of year!

Friday, November 5, 2010

What’s in bloom: Flat-top Goldenrod

Fall is a spectacular time in Florida for wildflowers! There is a lot of color in our landscape this time of year. One of the wildflowers in bloom right now is Flat-top goldenrod, Euthamia caroliniana. This plant is a native and is also a nectar plant for Monarch butterflies in south Florida. Flat-top goldenrod is not a true goldenrod species, although it was once classified in the same genus as true goldenrod (Solidago).
Flat-top goldenrod typically grows up to 3 feet tall and spreads by seed and also by rhizomesIt is a perennial with narrow leaves which are alternately arranged.  The name flat-top comes from the flat-topped appearance of the inflorescence, or cluster, of bright yellow flowers.  It flowers from September through November, so get out there and enjoy it now!