Monday, May 22, 2017

Pollinator Plants: FrogFruit/Phyla nodiflora

What’s on my list to add during this year’s optimum growing season aka our Rainy Season? Frog Fruit! Although my grandmother thought of this plant as another “Creeping Charlie” nuisance plant in the lawn, I think of it as a ground cover that never needs mowing. And as the backdrop of a panoramic view of almost endless pollinators, best viewed at eye level while laying down on the ground, with the kids!

Where to plant this:
Differing information can be found from reliable sources and local native plant enthusiast. One advises it is drought tolerant and will grow well in dry locations another source states it is an aquatic edge plant. The true nature of this plant may lie somewhere in the middle, it will grow well thru the dry season if it is established. I have noted this never entirely dies out when it is growing mixed with lawn grasses and weeds at our Miami Dade County Extension Office in Homestead. However efforts to keep our cultivated patch full over the dry season have failed this year. It was necessary to relocate the plants in January and they did not receive enough water to establish.
We will establish a patch this summer and monitor and report on growth/maintenance habit through the dry season.

Where to obtain this plant:
It may already be growing in your lawn or your neighbor’s lawn. Extension Publication “Community ButterflyScaping” provides information on how to propagate fog fruit. The publication uses another common name, this serves as a reminder to refer to the scientific name to ensure you get the plant you are looking for! 

“How to propagate fogfruit"
"To propagate fogfruit, find a succulent, healthy stem with several leaves. Near the bottom of the stem, trim at least two leaves at the leaf nodes. Place the exposed nodes in wet, rich soil or water. The nodes will form roots. Water daily for at least a week until the plant no longer wilts between watering. While fogfruit can grow almost anywhere, from beach dunes to pond edges, it makes a lush, dense groundcover under moist, rich conditions.

We were able to transplant a 10” sq. of frogfruit with roots and soil attached into a large pot containing moist rich soil on Thursday, May 17th.  Our transplant is growing well so far. There is also one local but wholesale nursery that grows this plant. You may want to have your landscape company obtain the plants for you. Have them call our Extension Office for a list of local wholesale nurseries.

All the minor problems of finding this plant are quickly forgotten once your local butterflies begin to visit. It is a larval host for three butterflies, phaon crescent, common buckeye and white peacock. In addition many butterflies and small pollinators will visit for a sip of nectar.
Visit the Institute for Regional Conservation webpage for information on this plant and a partial list of butterflies that visit. Maybe you will see one of our tiniest and exquisitely patterned butterflies, the little metalmark.

Happy Gardening to all, remember to stay cool and hydrated.

Barbara McAdam
Urban Horticulture Program Specialist
Florida Yards & Neighborhoods/Florida-Friendly Landscaping
UF/IFAS Extension- Miami-Dade County
Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department

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