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Even Under Frost, Some Wakulla Weeds Still Bloom

The winters in Wakulla County are always (relatively) pleasant especially when they are compared to the remainder of the country. While ice-age conditions may be inflicting a polar environment on the remainder of the country, here in North Florida the season of short days and long nights only means the lawn mowers get a rest.

The reprieve from yard work allows more time to be spent on important tasks, such as watching on-air sporting events. After all, everyone’s grass is uniformly brown and the weeds are dead so the home landscape competition is over until spring.

However, when taking a break from all the televised leisure, a rude fact is discovered. There are patches of unplanned green in what should be a dormant and dull home landscape.

Even with the recent hard freezes and a few snowflakes which have temporarily eliminated even the worst of summer’s weeds, their winter counterparts are basking in the salubrious and crisp days currently here.

In shady spots under trees the common blue violets are flourishing.  Viola sororia, the scientific name for this native plant, provides a stark color contrast to the leaf litter and pine needles it thrives in.

This delicate herbaceous plant is an early spring bloomer, late February to mid-March, with inch- wide blooms which are commonly bluish-purple. These violets are self-pollinating perennials which flourish in the filtered light under tree canopies

The heavy mulch layer in flower beds and under trees in home landscapes provides the consistently moist soil and ample organic matter for successful growth.  Seed heads form in the late summer and early autumn, and are scatted by birds, animals, and weather events.

Carolina Geraniums have been blooming for weeks. They endured the “Wakulla Blizzard of ‘18” and the subsequent hard freezes with no ill effects. Their presence adds color to seasonally brown lawns. Photo by Les Harrison

Carolina Geranium (Geranium carolinianum) is an annual plant in the same genus as the popular porch shrub. Although not producing as many or as large blooms as its ornamental cousin, this native plant is striking in its own right.

The minute pinkish to purple flowers appears on the end of this herb’s stems.  The plant is highly adaptable and will grow in a variety of environments.

This winter bloomer can tolerate some shade, but prefers full sun.  Once established it will rapidly colonize an area and push out competitors to the point of becoming a pest, but without harming summer grasses.

These mass appearances add a stark color contrast to the lawn and landscape. The green foliage with the flecks of pink to purple blooms, starting in January but peaking in about a month, stands in stark contrast to the normally muted seasonal color.

Annual ryegrass, commonly thought of as a temporary cool season lawn, may also show up uninvited in the home lawn. The errant seed or seeds usually arrive as the byproduct of an undigested avian meal complete with a fertilizer encapsulation.

These and many other native winter annuals can be controlled by way of hand removing or the application of the correct herbicide. If the homeowner is willing to attempt control in their uniformly brown lawn, the effort will result with best effect if the plants are eliminated before they set seed.

If left in the lawn or landscape, they will wither and die back when the weather warms. They will be replaced with warm season cousins which intrude on the rapidly growing spring turf grass monoculture.

It seems there is one advantage to the snow covering, it covers all the weeds during winter giving everyone a uniformly white landscape. This, in the opinion of most, is a small conciliation for enduring the biting temperatures.

To learn more about winter lawn weeds in Wakulla County, contact the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://wakulla.ifas.ufl.edu/.

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