Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Moving to a New Home

Readers of The Longleaf may have noticed the scarcity of new posts on this blog over the last year or so. Changes in staff here at MOSI have meant changes in the way we care for and communicate about our outdoor exhibits. The Backwoods Forest Preserve is now a part of MOSI Outside, which also encompasses the BioWorks Flight Encounter and Butterfly Garden, and the Historic Tree Grove. To simplify things for readers and guests to the museum, all information about these exhibits can now be found on one convenient blog: MOSI Outside (

All posts from The Longleaf have been migrated to MOSI Outside, and in a month or so this blog will be deleted. We hope you'll continue to follow us at MOSI Outside by changing your bookmarks and RSS feed subscriptions accordingly. Join us on Facebook, too, for daily updates and news and information of interest, and to share your own questions and thoughts.

We look forward to continuing to provide you with valuable information about MOSI's living exhibits. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Leaping lizards!

Parts of the wetland are awash in fragrant white blooms of Lizard's Tail (Saururus cernuus). Native to most of eastern North America but found mainly in the southeast, Lizard's Tail stream margins and shaded marshes. 

The botanical name of this plant derives from the Greek words sauros (lizard) and oura (tail) which relate to the long and narrow flower cluster and from the Latin cernuus for falling headlong which refers to the drooping shape of the blooms

These flowers have a lovely fragrance and my nose led me to this blooming patch by our boardwalk. You will be able to find Lizard's Tail blooming through most of the Spring.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Violet Wood Sorrel


Another of the early wildflowers of the year, Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea) is starting to flower in the woods.

Often mistaken for clover or even shamrocks, oxalis species are a common herb sometimes considered a weed in gardens. This particular wood sorrel is common east of the Rocky Mountains but is becoming increasingly rare and threatened in it’s northeastern range. Violet Wood Sorrel is listed as endangered in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Last week, I passed a patch of Violet Wood Sorrel and was surprised to watch a Zebra Longwing butterfly nectaring on the flowers. I never really thought of this species as much of a nectar plant, but when flowers are scarce this probably looks quite inviting.

DSCN0222 Oxalis is also edible to humans. Check out last week’s post on Creeping Wood Sorrel for more information about this wild edible plant.

Learn more about this species

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Creeping Wood Sorrel


Green is starting to appear in the undergrowth of the BackWoods Forest Preserve as perennial plants clamber out from under the leaf litter. One favorite of this season is Creeping Wood Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata).

Rich in vitamin C, the leaves and flowers of this plant are edible and have a slight tang of lemons.  The genus name Oxalis comes from the Greek oxus, which means "sour" in reference to the tangy flavor of the plant. This wood sorrel and many other related plants contain Oxalic Acid so a "steady diet of raw leaves," is not recommended. [1] If you have this tasty edible growing in your yard and want to experiment with eating it, lots of recipes are available online. A quick search for wood sorrel recipes found

As always, when considering eating of wild edibles, take care to make sure that the plant that you have is indeed edible. Many online and book references exist to help you identify your plants.

For more on this species

[1] Rombauer, Rombauer Becker, and Becker (1931/1997). Joy of Cooking, p.415. ISBN 0-684-81870-1.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Coat Buttons

Coat Buttons (Tridax procumbens) is a daisy-like weedy flower that is not native to Florida. This invasive wildflower spreads readily by wind-dispersed seeds and can take hold in unusual spots with little soil. This flower was recently observed growing and blooming among the gravel on the roof of the main MOSI building, just outside the glass stairway to the top of the IMAX dome. 

The genus name, Tridax, means three-toothed and refers to the tooth like ending points of the flower petals. Although considered a pest, this flower is often visited by butterflies in the winter when other nectar sources have become scarce. This patch of Coat Buttons was found among the grass around a retention pond on the east side of the Backwoods Forest Preserve.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Caeser’s Weed

Caeser’s Weed (Urena lobata) is an erect and weedy invasive shrub that can often be found in disturbed sites of south Florida. Here in the Backwoods Forest Preserve we sometimes find this weed growing in open and sunny spots on the edge of the woodland or in the open grassy area near the sinkhole.

The fruits of this plant spread seeds readily especially with the help of humans and animals. The outside of the fruit has bristly hook-ended hairs that cling to hair, fur and clothing very readily. Please take care to avoid the seeds so that you don’t help to spread this invasive species.

Learn more about this invasive species at the IFAS website.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Florida Tasselflower

Florida Tasselflower (Emilia fosbergii) is a diminutive weedy wildflower. Native to the Old World, this readily seeding wildflower has naturalized in Florida and other southern states often traveling through the ornamental landscape trade.

On warm days, look for a variety of small insects taking nectar and pollen from these flowers. Bees and even butterflies can be observed visiting the tassel-like flowers.

These pinky purple beauties were found blooming near a retention pond at the east side of the Backwoods Forest Preserve.