Posts Tagged Illicium floridanum ‘Alba’

Recently Sighted Fauna and Flora

Northern Cricket Frog?

In the last two weeks, a new species of frog has been hanging out on the edge of our little front yard water feature. Yesterday, two were sitting on opposite sides of the pond. Both are about three inches long, and this zoomed-in photo I took makes me think they are Northern Cricket Frogs.

This species is common in my wetland, but I’ve never seen them sitting on the edge of my little front pond before this year. I think perhaps they were born in the pond and recently emerged. They’re probably waiting for a rain event to disperse to less exposed areas. I was surprised by the lumpy texture on such petite amphibians.

A couple of new butterfly species have flitted through in the last couple of weeks. They didn’t stay long in one place, so my pictures are not optimal. But I think I have identified them correctly.

Monarch butterfly

I almost walked into this Monarch butterfly as it was sipping from my row of lantanas. Of course, it flew away before I could take its picture. It then briefly landed on the Chinese Abelia, which is where I managed to snap a very quick shot before it dashed off. I haven’t seen one since then. My Swamp Milkweed didn’t fare well this year. The July heat wave and drought made it surrender without blooming. I’m hoping to add at least one more species of milkweed to another area — a species that’s more heat- and drought-tolerant.

Another brief visitor to the vegetable garden was this battered specimen:

Great Spangled Fritillary?

A few of this species have visited my yard off and on throughout the summer. This one stopped to sip from a bean flower just long enough for me to snap its photo. I think it’s a Great Spangled Fritillary, but I confess the fritillaries look very much alike to me. I’m mostly basing my guess on my location.

The most interesting recent faunal encounter was a love story, well, perhaps more of a lust story. I spotted a male Writing Spider dancing at the edge of a female’s web. I saw him there two days in a row before he vanished. My research tells me that if he successfully courted the female, he either died soon after or was devoured by his lover.

The male is always much smaller. He’s the spider in the upper right corner of this photo.

The plants have been busy too. Most are finalizing fruit production. The native spicebushes (Lindera benzoin) set an unusually large number of gorgeous red berries this year. I think the fruit-loving birds will be pleased when they notice, if they haven’t already.

The berries in this shot are on a 12′ x 6′ shrub full of crimson-berry-laden branches.

As is always the case, the branches of my Two-winged Silverbell (Halesia diptera) are adorned by zillions of the large “two-winged” fruits from which its common name arises. When they are fully ripe, they turn brown, and soon after, squirrels devour every fruit.

When the squirrels tire of dining on acorns, they turn to the fruits of Two-winged Silverbell.

Flowers still abound also. I’ve come to expect Jewelweed’s (Impatiens capensis) arrival in late summer/early fall. Sure enough, it’s popping up in abundance right on schedule. Especially dense thickets line our side of the creek. In deep drought years, the water-rich stems of this wildflower are irresistible to thirsty deer. This year, we either have fewer deer, or they’re not as thirsty, because the Jewelweed is blooming enthusiastically from one end of the floodplain to the other.

The plants in this patch were about an inch shorter than me.

One recent bout of flowering was a surprise. My two white-blooming Florida Anise-trees (Illicium floridanum ‘Alba’) reside beneath dense shade that protects them from western and southern sunshine. I think that location, combined with off-and-on measurable rainfall for most of August, triggered a second round of blooming in these evergreen shrubs. Interestingly, I planted one of their red-blooming cousins (Halley’s Comet) in the same location, but it did not rebloom.

Sometimes when you see a second round of blooms from a shrub in the fall, its spring blooms are less impressive, because the plant spent much of its energy on autumn flowers. It will be interesting to observe how many flowers my albas produce next spring. For now, we are enjoying the unexpected bonus of glowing white star-like flowers against deep green leaves.

August blooms of Illicium floridanum ‘Alba’

As I observe my landscape transitioning from summer to fall, my prayers go out to the folks enduring a visit from what was Hurricane Isaac until quite recently. Hurricane Fran was the beast folks in my region still talk about; forests still show clear signs of the damage caused by her winds and water. Mother Nature is indeed capricious, simultaneously bestowing unexpected flowers and unforeseen chaos in different parts of our country.

Here’s hoping Isaac is the last hurricane to make landfall in the United States this year.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

An evergreen blooming shrub for shade: Florida Anise-tree

Illicium floridanum ‘Halley’s Comet’

When I was looking for an interesting evergreen to screen my vegetable garden from the neighbors in an area mostly shaded by a large Loblolly Pine, I decided to try Florida Anise-tree (Illicium floridanum) because its spicy leaves are supposed to deter deer damage. In fact, this native of swamps of the deep south is poisonous to cattle.

My neighborhood deer think my young shrubs are delicious, so much so, in fact, that I was forced to enclose them in wire cages. The deer are especially fond of the newly emerged tender leaves of spring, which, I suspect, contain lower amounts of toxins than fully mature leaves.

I chose a named cultivar — ‘Halley’s Comet’ — because it’s supposed to flower in greater numbers and for a longer time than the species. The plants were not happy during their first two years within wire cages. Part of it may have been the cages — some plants do not like bumping into the wire; when they do, it seems to inhibit their branch growth.

But I think my biggest problem was back-to-back significant drought years. When my shallow well for the garden runs dry — which it does most summers now — those shrubs only got what little water I could tote to them. Because they are native to shady swamps, they weren’t getting enough water to make them happy.

However, when we put the deer fence around the vegetable garden earlier this year, we were able to enclose within its borders most of the Florda Anise-trees. Freed from their caged confinement, they are responding surprisingly rapidly to their release. For the first spring since we planted them, these little evergreens are jam-packed with deep crimson, starburst-shaped flowers that persist quite a while on the plant. And I can see many flower buds waiting their turn to open and prolong the show.

The shrubs will supposedly grow six to eight feet tall. My tallest is about four feet high now. The evergreen leaves seem to get damaged by the cold every winter, so they look a bit bedraggled until new spring growth perks up the plants. I suspect they’d grow faster in a wetter spot, and I may move one down to a wet shady spot on my floodplain just to see how it responds — if I can figure out a way to protect it.

Here’s a shot of most of one of the shrubs near the garden; it still looks somewhat winter-worn, but it is full of flower buds:

Florida Anise-tree

When I ordered these trees, I also bought a Chinese Illicium species from the same nursery. Illicium henryi — Henry Anise-tree — seems to be faring better than the US native species, but is growing more slowly. I’ll keep you updated on its progress.

I also bought a couple of Illicium floridanum ‘Alba’ plants. These look just like the species, only the flowers are a creamy white that really stands out against the evergreen foliage. I happened to plant these in deeper shade down the hill from the vegetables, and these shrubs are doing very well. I’ll show you what I mean another time.

Bottom line: For shady, moist areas not severely impacted by deer predation, this evergreen, free-blooming shrub should be a welcome addition to any southeastern Piedmont landscape.

, , , ,

1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: