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Florida Toadflax
florida toadflax
Florida toadflax, photographed at Pawpaw Natural Area, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach County, in March 2014.
florida toadflax
 

Its flowers certainly have a delicate look to them, but Florida toadflax, Nuttallanthus floridanus, is one tough little guy. Has to be. It grows in some of Florida's toughest habitats. It's also a bit of taxonomic puzzle, but more on that later. For now, let's talk about the basics.

Florida toadflax is a small plant, wire thin and easy to miss even if you're looking for it and know its there. Without the blooms, it's most likely miss it altogether. But Florida toadflax's soft blues, violets and whites have a way of eventually capturing your attention. It might go eight inches tall, with most of its sparse leaves growing lower on the stem. The leaves are simple, almost needle-like and arranged in alternate fashion.

Blooming season begins in early spring — we've seen it flowering in early January in South Florida — and lasts into May. The flower vary in color from soft light blue to violet to almost pink, with a white center. There are five petals, the top two fused together . They appear in loose clusters called an inflorescence at the top of the plant.

Florida toadflax is an annual, but it self-seeds the next season's batch of plants. It's also partly cleistogamous, meaning it has flowers that self-pollinate without opening up the way most flowers do. It also has chasmogamous flowers, which open up and are pollinated with the help of hungry bugs. As we said, it's a tough plant, thriving in some of Florida's toughest habitats, including scrubs, sandhills and dunes, all hot, dry places with minimal soil nutrients.

Florida toadflax is considered rare within the region, partly because the places where it grows are rare but it's not listed by any government agency and it's not believed to be at risk for extinction.

 
 
florida toadflax
 

It is a Florida native, which you might expect given its name (although it has a cousin named Canadian toadflax that isn't a Canadian native). It's found scattered throughout the state — in the western counties of the Panhandle, in Central Florida and along the Atlantic Coast from Brevard to Broward counties. Florida toadflax is also found in one county in Georgia and several in both coastal Alabama and Mississippi.

Florida toadflax has few ethnobotanical uses, but one suggestion we did see is truly different: Planting it in a "green roof." It's toughness makes it ideal; it also adds a pop of color to the roof at a time when most plants aren't in bloom and the fact that it reseeds itself makes it easy to maintain. The same source said toadflax has been used medicinally to treat jaundice and other liver problems and edema. It's also both a strong diuretic and laxative. It is a host plant for the common buckeye butterfly.

As we noted above, Florida toadflax has a bit of an identity problem. Apparently, some years ago, scientists created a new genus called Nuttallanthus and reclassified Florida toadflax (and three of its cousins) into it. (Its former name: Linaria floridana, which many authoritative sources still use, including the Institute for Regional Conservation and the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. Both still include Florida toadflax as a member of Scrophulariaceae, the figwort family, while others put it in Plantaginaceae. Florida toadflax as is known by another common name — Apalachicola toadflax.

Photographs by David Sedore
 
 
toadflax florida
 

 

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) distribution maps for Florida toadflax.

 
toadflax u.s.
 
 
Links for Florida Toadflax
 
Institute for Regional Conservation Natives for Your Neighborhood Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants USDA PLANTS Database Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants
 
Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.