Weeds of Wednesday: Marvelous Mistflower

You will find mistflower (Conoclinum coelestinum) growing along roadsides and in other disturbed location.  Some gardeners consider this plant to be a weed, while other folks plant this wildflower in heir yards.

Also known as ageratum, this pale blue (or violet-ish) flowered beauty grows at the south Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) in sunny disturbed spots, primarily on the ORCA Link, a 6.6 acre property that provides a connection between the original 1991 ORCA purchase of 298 acres on the north side of Oslo Road and the 132+ acres purchased on the south side of Oslo Road.  Five acres of this property is a former citrus grove that became invaded by Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolia).  The uneven terrain is a vestige of the furrows that provided drainage between the rows of citrus.

In 2003, the Indian River Mosquito Control District mechanically chopped and mulched all of the Brazilian pepper.  Indian River County secured a Florida Division of Forestry hurricane recovery grant and attempted to restore this area with an eclectic collection of native trees including magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), red maple (Acer rubrum), buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus), and live oak (Quercus virginiana), as well as a small smattering of shrubs.

The restoration effort was not especially successful.  Invasive plants including Brazilian pepper and many grasses have re-colonized.  Mistflower is one of the few native plants to pioneer in this area.

This perennial wildflower is very variable.  It has opposite, stalked leaved that vary from triangular to oval with toothed or scalloped margins.

The flowers of this member of the daisy family, Asteraceae, are held in terminal clusters with 35 – 70 tubular flowers in each head.  Its fruit is a tiny nutlet that is easily spread by the wind, shown below stuck to the hairy stem.

Mistflower is found throughout Florida and the southeastern U.S. as far north as New Jersey and as far west as Kansas.  It dies back to the ground in freezing temperatures to re-emerge in the springtime.  This plant spreads by suckers, as well as by wind.

Mistflower is a staple of southern gardens and quite attractive to butterflies and other pollinators.  Its ability to colonize moist places, like nursery containers, makes it a weed in the eyes of some.


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