Short-Leaved Rosemary

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Shades of red
Flowers small, make a statement
Yawning wide open

Dorothy Rodwell

The Short-Leaved Rosemary, Conradina brevifolia, is a rare and endangered species that is endemic to the hot and dry sand scrub in an area known as the Lake Wales rise.  This species has a few fragmented populations that are found in only Highland and Polk counties and nowhere else in the country.  Brevifolia is an erect and woody perennial shrub that grows to a height of around three feet. Needle-like alternate linear leaves are barely ¼” in length. Leaf margins are rolled over to retard water loss.

A member of the Lamiaceae, (Mint) family, brevifolia has the usual two lipped, five lobed tunnel flower that has the appearance of a yawning hippopotamus. The upper lip has two fused small lobes, the lower lip has three larger lobes.  A dorsal lobe in the center with two lateral lobes on either side. Between the lips is a deep tunnel housing sex organs and nectar glands. Four long male stamens extend out of the tunnel over the dorsal lobe. Flowers are barely 3/8 of an inch in length. The flower’s dark red color entices flying insects’ ultra-violet vision.  As many as six red blooms can occur in a single leaf axil at the junction of a leaf and a stem.

The specimen in the picture was taken in the Box Tower Gardens rare plant garden.  Brevifolia is on the federal and Florida endangered lists.