Scrub Balm, Beach Botany


Scrub Balm, Dicerandra frutescens, a species of the lamiaceae (Mint) Family. Frutescens is a threatened and endangered species that is endemic to a few hundred acres in Highland County in the Lake Wales ridge, not far from the Kissimmee Prairie. Frutescens  is a perennial woody sub-shrub about 2’ high growing in the drained yellow sands of the hot Florida scrub. The plant’s branches join at the base with a single deep growing tap root. Leaves are arranged on the branches in an opposite order. Leaf shape is narrow and oblong elliptic ½” to 1” long and  about 1/8” wide. Leaves have a strong aroma. This is caused by an organic chemical called Terpenoids. If leaves are macerated the Terpenoid’s strong aroma acts as a defense strategy against insect herbivores. It is also a signal to other plants.

The plant has hundreds of flowers that occur in the leaf axils. This would be a solitary inflorescence. The structure of the flower is the usual Mint flower, with an upper lip and a lower lip with five lobes. The  upper lip has two fused lobes covering a deep throat. The lower lip has two lateral lobes fused to a larger dorsal lobe that leads into the throat  Four stamens project out of the throat covering a long style. Flower color is white with red spots to attract pollinators. The back of the flower has a light lavender color. Blooms summer and fall. Pollinators are bee flies. Seeds are produced and dispersed to the soil in the fall. Seeds will not germinate until a scrub fire kills the plant.

I found the specimen in the picture at the Box Tower Gardens.

Photo by James Rodwell