Ferruginea or Fruticosa

Common names can be confusing. Because it fits so well, this plant – Lyonia fruticosa – is commonly called rusty lyonia. But, in the Bible of Florida plant ID, the Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida, Dr. Richard Wunderlin names this plant ‘coastalplain staggerbush’, and he reserves the name ‘rusty staggerbush’ for Lyonia ferruginea.

Lyonia fruticosa grows in Indian River County at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, the North Sebastian Conservation Area (where the photograph above was taken), and many other locales with pine flatwoods. Lyonia ferruginea is a ‘northern’ plant and has not been reported from Indian River County.

Lyonia ferruginea, according to Dr. Wunderlin, has ‘distinctly revolute’ leaves that are not reduced in size toward the end of the flowering shoot. Take a look at the photo of Lyonia fruticosa and note the flatness of the leaves (the edges do not turn under) and the the leaves get smaller toward the tip of the branch. Also check out the plant in the background.

Thanks to Judy Gersony for asking about how to differentiate these two species while we were visiting NSCA, with Nancy Soucy, Jane Schnee, Gayle Lafferty, and Reva Brugnoli where, in the wet pine flatoowds, we saw the ‘real Florida holly’, Ilex cassine
and gloriously flowering dog fennel, Eupatorium capillifolium

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