Florida Rosemary

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Green needles pointing upward to the sun waiting for fire and new life.

Florida’s scrub country is a harsh environment of a hot sun and a fast drying white sandy soil of sand hills and sand ridges in coastal and inland sites.  One of the predominate species that thrives in the scrub is the Florida Rosemary, Ceratiola ericoides, of the Ericaceae (Heath) family. A perennial evergreen shrub, Ceratiola  can grow to a height of six feet. This species is a densely branched semi-woody plant with a dark gray trunk. Woody branches grow out from the trunk and arch upward giving Ceratiola a dome shape which helps in protecting against wind and sand blasting.

Needle like leaves grow in whorls on the branches. The needle shape is caused by leave margins that curl underneath. This shape retards water loss due to evaporation. Leaves are at most ½ inch long.

Ceratiola is dioecious which means the plant is either a male or a female. Tiny flowers yellow to brownish are barely ¼ “ wide. The bloom has two sepals and two petals. Male flowers have two stamens and female flowers have two protruding styles that lead to ovaries. Only the female plant bears fruit of yellow spheres with brown seeds.

Ceratiola produces a chemical that inhibits its own seeds from germination. Seeds germinate only when the parent plant dies, usually by fire.

The specimen in the picture was taken in the pine scrub at Rookery Bay.

 

Dorothy Rodwell