Weeds of Wednesday: Mock bishopsweed?


Pictured above is mock bishopsweed (Ptilimnium capillaceum) growing at Cypress Bend Community Preserve when we visited on 5/5/2018.  Herbwilliam is another common name for this plant which was identified by Ellie Klebonis (Class of 2015).

The genus name, Ptilimnium, likely comes from the Greek words ptilos, which means feather, and mnium, which means moss. The species name, capillaceum, means hairlike, and, like the genus name, references its delicate, deeply dissected leaflets.

The Florida Wildflower Foundation describes this smallish (6 -18″ tall) annual plant as a prolific self-seeder:  “Mock bishopsweed usually volunteers itself into a landscape, particularly in sites that are wet or watered regularly.”  The common name mock bishopsweed foretells this tendency.

It was not surprising to find it growing on the sandy banks of the Sebastian River near where Delta Dawn stopped for a drink of water …

Much to my surprise, this plant “volunteered” in our dirt driveway on the edge of a mangrove pond — likely compliments of Hurricane Irma which blanketed the entire state and spread about lots of wind-borne seed, some weed and some not.

A member of carrot family, Apiaceae, mock bishopsweed is a larval food for the black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes), as are some cultivated members of this family including parsley (Petroselinum crispum), dill (Anethum graveolens), caraway (Carum carvi), celery (Apium graveolens), and sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).  Its flowers are held in compound umbels as is characteristic of this plant family.

Pollinators are attracted to its tiny white flowers that bloom throughout the year in tropical Florida and in spring/early summer in more northern climes.  This plant ranges as far north as Massachusetts and grows west to to Texas.

A delicate wildflower of moist places, a larval host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly, and a potentially prolific weed, mock bishopsweed is a pretty plant.

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