Friday, January 31, 2014

Living Wall Plants for Florida, Carolina Jessamine

Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens is a lovely native evergreen vine perfect for Urban Core greening if you don't mind lots (and I mean lots) of buzzing pollinators.
Carolina jessamine, great evergreen living wall plant

This vine is relatively fast growing and survives most North Florida winters.  I have found that with few exceptions, Carolina jessamine grows faster and develops a fuller, more dense habit than other native vines, such as Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens.

Carolina jessamine in bloom, amazing pollinator attractor
One of the first native flowering plants to bloom here in Florida, when she does begin to bloom in late January she really puts on a show with bright yellow, fragrant flowers.

The pollinators arrive in wave after wave of buzzing insects.  Supposedly the plant can contribute to bee brood death because the flowers contain strychnine-like alkaloids.  Children have been poisoned by mistaking the flowers for honeysuckle and ingesting the nectar, according to some sources.

I've never seen bee brood death tied to the Carolina jessamine's flowers but I would probably not plant this vine near where children may play or congregate.

Some of the advantages this species offers as a living wall plant include;
* good, hardy drought tolerance
* low leaf litter rate
* grows well in low nutrient and most poor urban soils
* provides great wildlife value
* supports biodiversity
* low alleleopathic influence
* and withstands strong storm winds.

Consider using this native plant for your next vertical green project if pedestrian access is limited.   Because the plant does attract lots of bees and wasps, stings are a real possibility to those standing or walking near the plant.  You may also want to post a 'no eating the flowers' sign to prevent accidental poisoning if mistaken for sweet honeysuckle by a child (hopefully the child will be old enough to read), or other precautionary measure.

Otherwise Carolina jesamine is an excellent, native plant useful for vertical urban greening.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Florida Living Walls, Vertical Green in the Urban Core

I just love this building in downtown Orlando covered in vines!
Creeping fig, Florida Living Walls, Orlando
Yes I know it is a common vine, creeping fig, Ficus pumila, one that is not even native species. But despite the fact that this low maintenance, drought tolerant is an exotic landscape plant, I still appreciate its use in covering otherwise, blank concrete block walls.

It is important to always check to make sure a landscape plant is not listed by regulatory agencies as invasive, and creeping fig, Ficus pumila, is not on any invasive lists I am aware of.  The plant is actually a relatively slow grower.

Here the plant is also shown growing on the historical Lady of LaLeche Chapel in St. Augustine.
Creeping Fig, Ficus pumila, living walls, Chaplel LaLeche, St. Augustine

Creeping Fig, Ficus pumila, living walls, Chaplel LaLeche, St. Augustine
Living walls offer so much.  They;

  • Reduce urban heat island effect
  • Provide habitat for wildlife and insects
  • Sequester carbon
  • Produce oxygen
  • Create a sense of place and add immense beauty
  • Integrate in natural pest control
  • Serve as insulation
  • and provide so many more benefits!
Kudos to creeping fig and those who have planted it at the locations shown above.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Aptenia cordifolia, tropical green roof plant

Aptenia cordifolia aka ice plant or baby rose plant is a native to the southern Africa geographic region. Aptenia is a beautiful, drought tolerant tropical green roof plant and does well in some Florida environments however the green roof designer should be aware that high humidity loving fungus or below freezing temperatures may very quickly decimate an Aptenia green roof planting. Despite these issues, Aptenia is a lovely non-native horticultural specimen that will turn heads. I would use this drought tolerant plant sparingly on tropical green roofs and only in areas needing significant color splash. When used appropriately she offers significant eye appeal!