Roger Hammer (Login Gladesman) Hummingbird lover 2011
We often grow different hummingbird-attracting plants here in southern Florida than are grown elsewhere. Where I live in Homestead, Florida, hummingbirds are only here through the fall, winter, and spring, so we need to cultivate plants that flower through those seasons. I've been at this for three decades now and here are the absolute best plants to grow down here (many will be familiar to northern gardeners as well):
Red Firespike (Odontonema cuspidatum)
Mangrove Mallow (Pavonia bahamensis)
Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia x blakeana)
Chinese Hat Plant (Holmskioldea sanguinia)
By the way, these are all photographs that I've taken for a book I'm working on, entitled Hummingbird & Butterfly Attracting Plants for Tropical Florida. I've also authored Everglades Wildflowers, Florida Keys Wildflowers, Exploring Everglades National Park, and...just recently...Florida Icons - 50 Classic Views of the Sunshine State.
Thanks Bob. Not to dismiss the red, tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds in our area, that green hibiscus-like flower, called the Mangrove Mallow or Bahama Swampbush (Pavonia bahamensis) is not only a hummingbird magnet that they fight over, I've watched Wilson's warblers hovering in front of the flowers sipping nectar. Orioles visit the flowers, too. Unfortunately, I doubt it would survive outside of Zone 10, but maybe the warmer sections of Zone 9.
Here's a ruby-throat around my red firespike (Odontonema cuspidatum). That's a new name for Odontonema strictum, if anyone is keeping up with name changes.
Also, here are two morning-glory vines on my fence that attract hummers:
Both are rarely seen in cultivation. The second one is a native of Florida and is a state-listed endangered species. It's called Man-in-the-Ground, which relates to the large underground tuber, similar to the one produced by its relative, the sweet potato.
Is the scientific name change of Red Firespike for reasons of priority or because of a split from the pink [or purple] Firespike? Can you direct me to a citation for this change? I just finished a manuscript and want to make sure all the nomenclature is up to date before it goes to press.
Thanks for the insight Bob. Can you or someone else delete one of those duplicate posts. When it didn't appear the first time I retyped it, then I realized I wasn't logged in. DUH!
Nancy, I'll get a citation for that nomenclature change. Because that species has escaped cultivation in Florida, it's in the Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida by Dr. Richard Wunderlin. An updated volume just came out this year and the plant in question is listed as Odontonema cuspidatum (Nees) Kuntze. I believe it's also listed as O. cuspidatum in the Flora of North America. The violet-flowered species is Odontonema callistachyum. When the red-flowered species was being called Odontonema strictum, there was a salmon-colored species (which I grow also) that was referred to as O. cuspidatum. I guess someone did some taxonomic work on them and determined that what was being called O. strictum was not taxonomically different than O. cuspidatum, and the latter was probably named first, so that name holds precedent.
I'll email Dick Wunderlin (he's a friend of mine) and find out who the authority is that he's citing, but all of the most recent works I've seen use the name O. cuspidatum. Stay tuned!
I was not referring to Odontonema callistachyum, which I also grow. The plant I know as pink [or purple] Firespike is generally much like the red Firespike, but the flowers are shaped somewhat differently. Let me see if I can find a link to some images.
They have the one in the circular frame labeled Odontonema callistachyum. However, I don't put much credence in what I find on that Dave's Garden forum. Misidentifications of plants are rampant on that site and it's a nightmare to try to navigate around on their forum, plus you have to be a paid member to discuss anything. Too bad you can't see the leaves. If it is something other than O. callistachyum, it's probably merely a color form of O. cuspidatum, which would have no botanical standing other than nursery growers attaching a cultivar name to it.
One note of interest is that Mabberly's Plant Book (a dictionary of vascular plants) sinks the entire genus Odontonema in with Justicia. There's been a lot of recent changes in families, too. Many members of the Verbenaceae (Verbena Family) are now relegated to the Lamiaceae (Mint Family)...most notably Callicarpa, Clerodendrum, and Vitex. Also, the spelling of Buddleia is now Buddleja. It's a jungle out there.
Roger, I know I'm probably offering no new information, but have you tried Bauhinia corymbosa? It's a lovely vining Bauhina I purchased after I lost my Orchid tree in Katrina. It's very fast growing and will leaf out after a freeze here in Zone 9 so it would probably be evergreen where you are. It's blooming now and seems to bloom off and on year round. Hummers like it as well as the Orange-crowned warblers presently in my yard.
The two plants that Nancy is referring to are very different. Odontonema callistachyum has more detail to the leaves and the flowers are different from the standard red ones (what we've been calling O. strictum). It's also later to begin blooming and blooms later into the spring. Here's a photo showing the leaves and flowers.
Here's a photo of the pink [or purple] O. strictum. The flowers and leavers are the same as the red O. strictum. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo showing the leaves.
Roger Hammer (Login Gladesman) Hummingbird lover 2011
Re: Best Zone 10 Hummer Plants
December 6 2011, 7:08 AM
Thanks for the recommendation Joan. I was given a plant labeled Bauhinia corymbosa several years ago but, when a Bauhinia expert friend of mine looked at it, he correctly identified it as Bauhinia yunnanensis. True Bauhinia corymbosa should have large masses (corymbs) of flowers. The problem down here in southern Florida is that most all of the Bauhinia species become exceptionally weedy. I once had specimens of Bauhina tomentosa, B. monandra, B. acuminata, and B. divaricata. All produced so many seedlings around my property that I yanked every one of them out of the ground with my truck and hauled them to the dump. Now I only have a rare species called Bauhinia walteri, which has leaves totally unlike most other members of the genus, and narrow, tubular, pinkish flowers. I also have the petite, bonsai-like shrub called B. grandidieri. The true Hong Kong orchid tree is superior for hummers because it flowers at the perfect time for them down here (fall through spring), and it's a sterile hybrid. By the way, I also hauled my B. yunnanensis to the dump after it became too weedy and started clambering all over everything.
Steve, I'll look into that purplish-violet species of Odontonema. Is the first picture you posted the plant in question? By the way, down here in Zone 10b, Odontonema cuspidatum flowers almost continuously throughout the year, with a big flush of flowers in the fall and winter. My O. callistachyum has a very distinct flowering period, which generally is at the tail end of hummingbird spring migration.
The first picture is the one that I believe to be O. callistachyum. It hasn't bloomed yet this year. It should within the next month. The red ones begin blooming in August and the pink/purple ones began blooming in November. Unfortunately, freezes have been the reason they've all stopped blooming in the past few years.
It appears that the only purple-violet-lavender Odontonema species out there are O. callistachyum and the lavender form of O. cuspidatum. There's a nursery called Black Olive East that sells what they're calling Odontonema purpurea, but that doesn't seem to be a valid taxon. Quite a few nurseries just make up names so I don't have much faith when I'm looking on the Internet. I looked in Google Images for Odontonema and there was everything from ants to orange trees and even an image of Hillary Clinton!
There's a very cool species called Odontonema schomburkianum with long pendent spikes of red flowers that I'll have to look for. Another name you see a lot is O. tubaeforme, but that's a synonym of O. cuspidatum.
Roger, in rereading your post from Dec 5 7:36 pm, I realize that you did acknowledge that the "purple" strictum (identified as a O. callistachyum) is "probably merely a color form of O. cuspidatum". The Dave's Garden photo is misidentified. This is what I was emphasizing with my photos.
New Orleans, where I live, is in zone 9 and we grow most of those plants very successfully. Baton Rouge, 75 miles west northwest, is in zone 8b and those do alright there as well, but often they are hit by frost earlier than we are.
From January 1996 until January 2010, we did not experience a significant frost and we had many lush tropicals. Then, in January 2010, we experienced a hard freeze. A few tropicals were killed, but most were just severely knocked back. My small yard is filled with flowers right now.
I'm growing Chinese Hat and Turks Cap in zone 9a east of Tampa. They froze to the ground the past couple of years, with temperatures reaching 19 degrees last year and 13 consecutive nights below freezing the year before, but most plants came back from the base. For the most part, they were at least semi-protected either by a mature oak or being close to the house.
Sanchezia speciosa and Mangrove Mallow (Pavonia bahamensis) are the only plants that you listed that I'm not familiar with growing in zone 9. Most of them will eventually freeze but they will come back from the roots. Many of them can be grown in pots and can be moved to a warmer location for a few days in the event of a frost or freeze. I've been able to keep most of them blooming after a minimal freeze by covering them with sheets at night.
I found an article from the Lakeland Ledger discussing a hybrid of Pavonia bahamensis,
Pavonia x gledhillii (sometimes referred to as P. multiflora) that is lower growing and does well grown in pots.
There are no hybrids of Pavonia bahamensis but, what has been referred to as Pavonia multiflora in the trade has been determined to be a 19th-century hybrid between true Pavonia multiflora and P. makoyana, and is referred to as Pavonia x gledhillii. Pavonia bahamensis is endemic to the Bahamas and is a small tree to about 12' or so. I first noticed it being a good hummingbird plant by watching the activity around a specimen at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables. It's very similar to a rare, endangered Florida native, Pavonia paludicola, which was first collected in Florida in Everglades National Park along the Rodgers River in 1962 by botanist Frank Craighead, and was not reported again for thirty years. In 1992 I decided to paddle the 99-mile Everglades Wilderness Waterway for the third time solo. On the fourth day of my 10-day excursion I decided to paddle the length of the Rodgers River instead of taking the adjacent Broad River (both rivers empty into the Gulf of Mexico at the same location) and look for the native Pavonia. While cruising the river I discovered many dozens of plants of Pavonia paludicola growing in with red mangroves and buttonwoods along the bank. What differentiates this species from P. bahamensis is beyond me because they look identical. Both are extraordinarily good hummingbird attractors, and hummers will often favor them over other more-typical hummingbird plants if given a choice. It's definitely worth trying in Zone 9.
I stand corrected on the hybrid. The article states "More attractive, however, and the basis for this column, is a Pavonia hybrid generally listed as Pavonia x gledhillii, though it's sometimes called P. multiflora, a reference to one of the parent plants. For our purposes, let's just call this 4-to-5-foot tall plant pavonia."
Fairchild's website from 2006 states:
"Pavonia bahamensis, ... Several years ago, there was a Bananaquit sighted near our Pavonia in the lowlands. Birders from all over the country came to see the rare bird and add it to their life list. Earlier this year, a rare buff-bellied hummingbird was also sighted at Fairchild, feeding on the nectar of our Pavonia bahamensis for a few weeks. Ruby-throated and rufous hummingbirds are the most commonly seen species that visit Pavonia in South Florida."
I canoed the Wilderness Waterway with a community college from Illinois in December of 1979. It was an awesome trip but plants were not a main focus.
There are only 2 plants that should be listed as well: Grevillea banksii and Tabebuia impetiginosa. G. banksii for flowering year round and bearing LOTS of sweet nectar and Tabebuias for flowering during Winter and showing a huge number of flowers. When I see a Grevillea, a Tabebuia or a Bauhinia in front of a house, I can just look up and see at least 1 HB feeding, any time of the day.
There are two other plants I found nearby my new house but I don't know them. I'll take pics for ID. They also attract many HBs, from Chlorostilbon lucidus to Phaetornis pretrei.
I grow Tabebuia bahamensis but have never seen a hummingbird visit the flowers, nor any other species of Tabebuia for that matter, but I'm not around them as much as I am the more commonly grown plants for hummers. Grevillea robusta is grown in Central Florida but I've never seen it grown down this far south in the state, and I'm not familiar with any other species in the genus.
Yes, there's been a buff-bellied hummingbird visit Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden twice now in recent years, and a reported black-chinned too, but the bird I saw was a ruby-throat, so I'm really wondering about the ID. There was also a pair of Bahama woodstars reported in a woman's yard here in Miami, so I rushed over there and they were both ruby-throats. I told her she was lucky because, had they really been Bahama woodstars, there would have been hundreds of rabid, wacko birders in her yard the very next day!
I've also watched Wilson's warblers hover at Pavonia bahamensis flowers like hummingbirds and sip the abundant nectar from the flowers. The non-native spot-breasted orioles down here visit the flowers too, and they're also really partial to the male flowers on my bananas. It's definitely a hummingbird magnet, and perhaps the single best tree down here to attract them. Non-tubular green flowers...who would have thought?
This one looks like some Cuphea species. Its roots actually grow underwater and the stems near the flowers are very sticky.
I've seen all species that visit my yard near these plants. I've been trying to make some cuttings but it's been quite hard. I've tried rooting powder, superthrive and nada. I think I'll gather a huge amount of Cyperus rotundus rhizomes and soak those cuttings in them.
Thank you Roger and Nancy for your replies. I think I will attempt Turk's Cap, mainly because it can tolerate some shade, and the Sanchezia for no other reason than it just looks so incredible. I would like to try shrimp plant as well...but we have the occasional year where it falls into the low 20's. I don't know if Justicia would survive that.
Ato, one of the plants that I do have in the yard, is the Grevillea banksii 'Robyn Gordon'. Its one of the plants that got me fired up about putting in a hummingbird garden. Its very nectiferous and the the hummers love it! They're working it right now.
I suspect the Cuphea sp in your image is Cuphea melvilla, which is native to the Amazon Basin. You can find it in Jardim dos Beija-flores by Johan Dalgas Frisch under the name Cuphea speciosa. As far as I know, it is not available in the United States though it would probably do well in zone 10, maybe zone 9 too, if its particular growing conditions could be provided.
Ato Puro (no login)
Re: Best Zone 10 Hummer Plants
December 18 2011, 5:39 PM
Thank you, Nancy. I didn't know if there was any other Cuphea sp. native to Brazil, so I wanted a second opinion to be sure. I've never seen this plant for sale here, so I guess I'm lucky to have it around. Soon or later I think I'll have a sucessful cutting or get some seeds (which is hard since the plant is always very close to the river and one 'wrong' step could lead me to a stink bath....)
Anyway, thanks for addressing my question.
What about the other plant? Does anyone have an idea? This is very hard (or impossible) to grow from cuttings and I can't find the right time to gather seeds (they are either green or have dried and fallen among the huge grass around).
Nancy, I think it's Cuphea melvilla indeed. There are some minor differences in those pictures but I'd say it's due to cam settings or due to region (I'm in cerrado; a very different environment from rain forests). I'm trying to make cuttings as I can't gather seeds from the wild plants (actually, I haven't seen any seed pods on them) but it's been proving to be quite hard to make cuttings. I'm using bean seeds right now (a tip from a friend) and I'll see how they do. If they fail to root, I'll try Cyperus rotundus "juice". If this fails as well, I'll try to find a seedling growing wild.
I'll success, soon or later. Then, I'll spread the seeds.
I have yet to try to root them in a pot. It'd be easier, but I hate making soil mix for pots....
I'll assume that layering in situ isn't a practical choice for you, but you might want to try rooting cuttings in a container filled with soil that is high in humus and set in water. Since this plant grows along and in rivers, it probably needs a lot of water on the stems.
Yes Nancy, I usually plant plants that are hard to propagate through cuttings in a pot with humus (wormcast) and vermiculite. This is what I use for seed germination (with great results) and for the afore mentioned plants. Perlite is too expensive here.
The thing is: I moved to this new house a few months ago, found these plants a month or so ago and I'm still ill, so I can't go everyday to check for seeds or collect more stems. I started doing the easy way, which works for Odontonema, Russelia and Malvaviscus spp. (I've got more than a dozen cuttings of each, let alone other plants). Now, I dug a hole around the cuttings and keep them watterlogged. It seems that one or two stems are rooting (they're not dry and dead like the others). For the other plant, this didn't work.
Anyway, Rolando e-mailed me about collecting its seeds. Soon or later, I'll have some seeds to share. While these 2 plants keep growing wild, I'll keep on trying to make cuttings. (I haven't found seeds on the wild plants -- they're very hard to reach)
I was re-reading comments on this thread and was reminded that you were seeking an ID on that species you posted with the Cuphea, which has three leaves in whorls along the stem and white flowers with a large, pronounced flat petal. I forwarded your images to Harri Lorenzi, a botanist friend who lives in Brazil, and he identified it as Qualea cordata, but said it could be another species of Qualea. It's in the Vochysiaceae family.
Here's a website showing photos of various species of Qualea: