If you have ever walked a trail with a botanist to discover and name each flower you pass, you realize the importance of plant morphology in the taxonomic routine of plant identification. Not only do the “small parts” of each flower and leaf provide clues to each plant’s identity and separate members of the same genus and family, they also show the evolutionary trends that forced that species to specially adapt for survival.
‘Tis the season for seed collecting. As you return to the garden after the last two months of unbearable heat, biting bugs and sweat, you’ll probably encounter a lot of overgrown stems. Cut those back to their base to freshen up the plant for winter. Trailing species, such as beach sunflower and Gaillardia, can also be whacked into submission and will probably bloom again by late November.
Jackie Rolly joined the Florida Wildflower Foundation when she purchased a license plate for her car many years ago. She’s also a member of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS), as well as the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club. On Mondays, you’re likely to find her at the Oakland Nature Preserve (ONP) where she’s been working since 2007. And when the travel bug bites, Rolly volunteers for expeditions with Earthwatch Institute, on which she’s done such things as helped track wild elephants in Sri Lanka and studied biodiversity in the vineyards of France.
Sometimes we think of spring as having the showiest wildflower display, but I think this time of year wins that title. Somehow nature has worked this out. Pollinators are abundant, gathering their provisions before cold weather comes. The fall wildflowers are taller too, having had the whole summer to grow.