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Canada Toadflax
canada toadflax
Canada toadflax, photographed at Riverbend County Park, Jupiter, Palm Beach County, in February 2015.
 

The taxonomic backstory of Canada toadflax could have inspired a line out of Shakespeare, if not for the flower's completely unromantic name. I mean "a toadflax by any other name" just doesn't cut it no matter how goodlooking said toadflax might be.

Scientists just don't know what to call it. Or more accurately, they don't agree on what to call it. Or what family to which it belongs. For our purposes, we'll use Linaria canadensis.

Canada toadflax is in fact a native Canada, but commonly found throughout most of eastern North America as far south as Texas and Florida. Its native range includes almost every county in the Sunshine State, with the notable local exception of Monroe. It's also found along the Pacific coast. It considered rare in South Florida. It is listed as endangered in Ohio, where it's called old-field toadflax.

Canada toadflax is a small plant, extending four to eight inches off the ground. The flowers, which bloom in spring, are pale blue to violet. They're small, about a third of an inch long, but the plant often occurs in clusters, and sheer numbers help make up for the lack of size. With its different hues of purple and blue, the plant can put on an impressive display. The stems can be reddish. It is a biennial, meaning it lives only two years, developing as a plant the first year, flowering the second. The blooms last about a month, go to seed, and the plant dies.

 
 
toadflax
 

It's found in open, disturbed areas, where it can get full sun. It's used in natural landscapes and restorations. Butterfly gardeners also cultivate Canada toadflax — the common buckeye butterfly uses Common toadflax as a host plant, while bees and other bugs find the flowers to be a tasty source of nectar. In folk medicine, the leaves are used to treat hemorrhoids. They're also used in a tea as both a diuretic and laxative.

But this plant is a bit of a headache for taxonomists. The Delray Beach-based Institute for Regional Conservation lists Canada toadflax as a member of the genus, Linaria. The United States Department of Agriculture, however, puts it in another genus, Nuttallanthus. Similarly, the IRC has Canada toadflax in Plantaginaceae, the plantain family, of which the snapdragon is one of the better known members. The USDA assigns it to Scrophuliriaceae, the figwort family.

Another common name: Blue toadflax. It also is related to Florida toadflax, another local, native plant.

 
Photographs by David Sedore
 
Links for Canada Toadflax
 
 
Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.