Happy National Weed Appreciation Day!

Today, March 28, is National Weed Appreciation Day, but I cannot find a greeting card. Weeds, like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder.

The weed pictured above pink wood sorrel (Oxalis debilis) that graced the entry to the trails at the north Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) is an awfully pretty escapee ornamental. The terrific triangle spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper) that we recently saw at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is structurally spectacular.

The Weed ID page of the University of Florida Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona includes many native plants that we enjoy seeing at ORCA such as beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), silkgrass (Pityopsis graminifolia), and winged sumac (Rhus copallinum) — as well as coral bean (Erythrina herbacea). Woody plants — or poisonous plants — are regarded as weeds in pastures.

The coral colored, hard-coated seeds of coral bean are poisonous. They contain alkaloids and cryogenic glycoside and are said to be used to poison rats in Mexico and South America.

Coral bean is a tropical deciduous species, and most plants drop their leaves when they flower …

Its stunning spikes of scarlet flowers are attractive to long-tongued butterflies and hummingbirds. It is flowering now at ORCA and along Oslo Road.

Its alternate pinnate leaves have three leaflets that are widely delta-shaped. Note the tiny prickles that are another reason that pasture people consider this native plant to be a weed.

In south Florida and especially southwest Florida, this tropical plant can grow to be a good-sized tree (to 30′). In north Florida and southern Georgia, it is more herbaceous and dies back to the ground with freezing temperatures.

Its bark rough bark is whitish and distinctively patterned …

The beauty of coral bean is in the eyes of the beholder …

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