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Pineland Heliotrope
pineland heliotrope
Pineland Heliotrope, photographed at Okeeheelee Nature Center, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, in May 2014.
Pineland Heliotrope

The odd thing about pineland heliotrope, Heliotropium polyphyllum, is its flowers. They vary greatly in color by geography. On Florida's West Coast, they tend toward white with a yellow throat. Along the Atlantic, they're bright yellow with a golden throat— like the ones on this page.

Pineland heliotrop is a small plant, but its flowers do pack a pretty good punch from a looks perspective. It's fairly common, found in most of Florida's Peninsula and the extreme northwestern corner of the Panhandle.

Florida is the only state in the union where it grows, but its range extends to the northern Bahamas. It's a ground creeper, it's height usually less than a foot but its spread can be much greater.

It has glossy, narrow leaves that grow alternately along the stem. The leaves are less than an inch long and the plant vaguely resembles herbal rosemary. Its scientific name, polyphyllum, means many leaves. (The name of its genus, Heliotropium, means to grow toward the sun.)

Pineland heliotrope is usually found near water — we've found it above canals and marshes — but it will adapt to drier conditions. Favorite habitats include pinelands (of course) prairies and coastal thickets, according to Delray Beach's Institute for Regional Conservation. The tops of the plant, where the flowers form, tends to arch over.

It is cold sensitive and will die back if temperatures dip below freezing, but thanks to a deep tap root, it will rebound once warmer weather returns. It flowers throughout the year, assuming temperatures are favorable.

pineland heliotrope

There's also a white-flowered version of pineland heliotrope that can grow to about three feet. Despite the obvious differences, they are both classified as the same species.

Pineland heliotrope can be used in landscapes as a ground cover, in edgings or in a butterfly garden. It's also used in restorations and natural settings. Warning: it does spread, and it can be a tough plant to remove — remember that deep tap root.

We've read references that the Seminoles used pineland heliotrope medicinally but found no specifics. We've also read that based on the chemical composition of other Heliotropium species, pineland heliotrope might be worth studying for potential drugs.

It is a member of the Boraginaceae, or Borage family, which includes forget-me-nots.

Photographs by David Sedore
pineland heliotrope
pineland heliotrope florida


United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) distribution maps for pineland heliotrope.

pineland heliotropoe u.s.
Links for Pineland Heliotrope
Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.