Native plants

A Florida Friday: Time for some yard work?

Florida ‘snow’ (aka Florida pusley and Mexican clover)

It’s hot as blazes out today and hot, sunny weather is expected through next week, which may be a good thing since UV rays kill viruses. But with America on quarantine, I am asking myself: what am I going to do for the next few weeks so that I don’t go stir crazy? And the answer seems to be to get out and do some yard work. The local tree-trimming company we’ve used is happy to drop off 11 cubic yards of mulch for free to the home that is closest to its last work stop of the day, and we are on the list to have that mountain delivered. It would be fantastic if it came during this nationwide stoppage.

Our yard most definitely needs lots more work. Hurricane Irma’s wrath whipped up enough water in this part of Florida to leave many yards at least partially submerged. Over two years later, many homeowners are still struggling to free their properties of all the weeds that washed in and never washed out. The most obvious invader at this time of year is “Florida snow” (aka Florida pusley and Mexican clover)—its little white flowers are everywhere. Our yard is no exception! It’s easy to remove when you find the main stem, and then you can just yank it up out of the ground with all its tentacles trailing after it. But when your yard is 90% Florida snow… well, if you choose to fight back, brace yourself—the flowers produce seeds rapidly, allowing “Florida snow” to spread uncontrollably.

Major respect for this ‘little’ yellow flowered specimen whose roots go a mile into the ground

Instead of fighting, we are strategizing ways to minimize its presence through the creation of a Florida-friendly landscape that relies on native plants and lots of mulch and pine straw. Regarding the “snow,” which is an invasive species, we are going with the flow and looking on the bright side: the plant’s flowers attract a ton of bees—so many bees, in fact, that I don’t dare walk across the grass in wide-bottomed trousers or a long skirt. And the flower itself is actually quite pretty. Don’t get me wrong—we are on a quest to slowly eliminate it. We are mulching over segments of our yard as we install all sorts of native plants. It’s the natives that easily grow and thrive here. Why plant species from elsewhere, as beautiful as they are, when they’ll require a lot of maintenance in the summer rainy season and lots of water in the dry winters?

Pretty yellow flowers atop, but just see what is below. It takes some muscle to pull these sweethearts out

Plus, water is expensive if you don’t have your own well, which we do not. And, of course, if you water your lawn in the winter to keep it green, you also have to mow it.  We just go with Mother Nature’s flow and by doing so have only had to mow the lawn 3-4 times since September. That’s how dry it is and how slowly things grow this time of year.

Fortunately, we don’t live in an HOA-run community that makes homeowners keep their yards free of weeds. Having and maintaining a perfectly manicured grass lawn here is challenging. A chemical called Atrazine can be used to eliminate “Florida snow,” but who wants to use chemicals on their lawn especially given how sensitive Florida’s environment is? Fortunately, I’ve heard that someone in Tallahassee has introduced a bill prohibiting HOAs from banning the presence of “Florida snow” since it is so ubiquitous.

A tour of our front yard this past week alerted me to some more pretty little surprises, and before leaving you, I must point out the weed with the swirling pale-yellow flowers (see photo). It’s a Florida native called “common wirewood” (Sida acuta), and it is a BEAST! Check out that root. This is one tough cookie, and it takes real muscle to pull it from the ground. I’ve read that it can get quite large if allowed to grow unfettered and that it is high in protein, making it good deer food. In Florida’s natural settings, property owners are encouraged to let this plant grow. Anyway, gotta have respect for this one. My husband says to leave it where we find it; it’s earned its place here!

Some day when we are finished with our Florida-friendly landscaping project, I will share our “before and after photos”. Meanwhile, heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s back to work we go…  Stay safe, everyone.

Native succulent: Portulaca pilosa (pink purslane)

Spanish needles (Bidens alba)

Categories: Florida, Native plants, Nature | Tags: , | 4 Comments

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