Monday, July 2, 2012

Blue porterweed

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This is my next set of pages for The Sketchbook Project.  Blue porterweed is an unusual plant that grows wild among the coastal scrub plants at Barefoot Beach Park, but it also happens to be a volunteer in my yard.  Several species of porterweed are cultivated in south Florida, with one species debated as a Florida native, Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

I think my volunteers might be a hybrid of exotic and native, since they seem to have characteristics of both.  The flowers on this plant are a violet to violet-blue, but some porterweeds have vivid clear blue blossoms.  My sub-shrubs, as they are called, are low in height and have a spreading habit, a native feature.  The leaves however, have a hint of the “quiltiness” of the exotic and larger shrubs. 

Flower close-up.
Butterflies love the flowers, especially Zebra Longwings, Gulf Fritillaries, and Julias.  According to the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), blue porterweed is the host plant for the Tropical Buckeye butterfly, although I haven’t seen any visiting.  I would love to add another host plant to my sparse butterfly offerings.  It seems that I notice more butterflies when their larval foods are nearby.

Let me add that these plants meet my basic criteria of “tolerates neglect,” since my gardening time is hit-and-miss.  Historically, a foaming porter-like tea (porter is beer or ale) has been made from the plant to treat several medical conditions, giving the plant its common name of “porterweed.”  A member of the Verbena or Vervain family of plants, porterweed is common throughout the Caribbean.

I’m happy to report that with the exception of a few tree branches down, the rain and wind of Tropical Storm Debby are memories, and the sun has come back out!

For more reading:

NABA Butterfly Gardening and Habitat Program – Blue porterweed information 

The Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, Roger Hammer on porterweeds, native vs. exotic

The Sketchbook Project sketchbook,
Pitt Artist pen in black, size XS for the sketch, and S for the text
Kimberly watercolor pencils,
Niji Aquabrush, small size.