The Staphyleaceae is a small family of about six genera and 25 species. Only the American bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) is native to eastern North America. A single western species, the sierra bladdernut (S. holanderi). occurs in the foothills of northern California's Sierra Nevada.

The American bladdernut is a north Florida species that exists at the extreme southern limits of its range. It is found in Florida only aiong the upper reaches of the Apalachicola River^ a stream that is well known for harboring the southernmost remnants of a typically ice age flora. The main pan of the bladdernut's distribution extends from northern Georgia to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Quebec, with only a few scattered localities in the lower elevations of Mississippi and Alabama.

The common name of the plant derives from its relatively large, bladderlike fruit pods which mature in the fall following a burs! of showy spring flowers. The entire fruiting capsule is 3 - 6 cm long, inflated, predominantly egg shaped, and very distinctive,

( he bladdernut is a rare component of Florida's flora and is not often encountered by the average tree enthusiast.

Copyrighted mste i ia


The blolly, cockspur, and sea grapes represent four tree species in two families. All occur in Florida only in the southern peninsula and the Keys and are strictly tropical in distribution. The sole member of the cactus family that reaches treelike proportions is found only in one hammock in the Florida Keys and is listed among Florida's rare and endangered plant species.

The Four-o'clock Family

The Nyctaginaceae, or four-o'clock family, consists of about 30 genera and 300 species worldwide. Most North American members of the family are herbaceous rather than woody, and the family may be best known in Florida for the bougainvillea (Bougainvillca spp.), a collection of colorful tropical vines that are used ornamentally in the southern part of the state. However, the family takes its common name from the four-o'clock, or marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa), a temperate species that is cultivated for its bright red, tubular flowers. This latter species is quite showy and occurs as a frequent and weedy escape in the southwestern U. S. as well as in scattered localities throughout the southeastern coastal plain. With these two exceptions, however, the family is otherwise of little economic importance.

The blolly (Guapira discolor) and cock spur (Pisonia rotundato) are Florida's only tree-sized members of the Nyctaginaceae, Both appear quite closely related to each other and have, on at least two occasions, been assigned to the same genus. To complicate matters even further* the blolly has also undergone several transformations in its specific epithet. As a result of this somewhat fitful taxonomic evolution these species have acquired a rather long list of synonymous scientific names, and readers might still see either one referred io differently by different authors. The blolly may be found bearing any one of several scientific names, including Guapira longifotia, Torrubia longifolia, 7\ discolor, and Pisonia discolor; and the cockspur is sometimes, though generally only in older publications, referred to as Torrubia rotunda fa.

The blolly is the more widespread of the two. It is a small tree common throughout southern Florida from about Cape Canaveral southward and is not difficult to find. It is most easily recognized by the combination of its opposite to alternate, blunt-tipped, leathery leaves with yellowish and translucent central veins, its yellowish petioles, and its bright red, juicy fruit,

The name blolly derives from the English word Sobtolly, which refers to thickets growing in moist depressions. Blolly, then, actually means thicket, an apt appellation for this thicket-forming species.

The cockspur is much less common than the blolly and is restricted in Florida to the Lower Keys. It is also found outside of the state in both Cuba and the Bahamas. The plant's common name derives from its sticky seeds which readily attach themselves to


birds or mammals, thus using these animals to insure adequate seed dispersal, Although currently limited to an essentially tropical distribution, members ot this genus once ranged much farther north. Fossil evidence indicates that at least one, now extinct, species probably flourished in the area of what has become north Florida's Apalachicola River drainage basin, This 1 alter plant appears to have existed near the end of the Oligocene Epoch, or about 25 million years ago, and offers convincing evidence of the radically different environmental circumstances that likely defined Florida's landscape in prehistoric times.

Few plants are more closely associated with southern Florida than the sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera) and pigeon plum (C. diversifoUa). Both are members oí the Polygonaceac, or buckwheat family, a rather large collection of about 30 genera and 800 species that display an interesting distributional pattern. Those found in the north temperate zones of the world, which include many species in the United States, are mostly non woody plants that often exhibit a somewhat weedy nature. Those found in the tropics, on the other hand, arc more often woody species and include a number of shrubs and trees. Florida's two species of Coccoloba occupy an overlapping zone between these two growth forms and are North America's only two Polygonaoeous trees.

The sea grape lakes its name from its grapelike fruit, The reddish to purplish berries are eaten raw as well as fashioned into jellies and wines, and are often gathered by spreading a cloth under a fruit-laden tree, then shaking the trunk vigorously. The pigeon plum is also sometimes called the tie-tongue, probably due to the flavor of its fruit. Unlike the sea grape« the fruit of the pigeon plum is full of tannins, has an astringen! taste, and is seldom used as food.

In addition to being an important part of our native flora, the Sunshine State's two Coccoloba species have also found wide use as ornamental and landscape plants, The sea grape, in particular, has been planted along seashores in many of the world's warmer regions and is prized for its hardiness, orbicular evergreen leaves, and attractive, grapelike pendants of green to reddish fruits.

1 he first use of Coccoloba in cultivation dates back to 1690 when two separate species, one of which was our sea grape, were brought to England by New World explorers. Through the years, a variety of specimens of several species, including both of Florida's representatives, have shown up in greenhouses, arboreta, and botanical gardens around the world. Within the last several decades* Coccoloba uvifera has even found use as a low-maintenance potted plant.

Probably nowhere is this genus used more extensively for ornamentation than in southern Florida, where both of our naturally occurring species are widely planted. Throughout the lower peninsula and the Keys, sea grape is often seen gracing lawns as well as decorating shopping centers, roadside medians, and driveway entrances, and the pigeon plum is used regularly to line city streets or provide shading for backyard patios. Although the former is adapted primarily to coastal scrub and the latter to tropi-

Si cal hammocks, both have proven themselves worthy landscape plan is that require little care or maintenance.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment