Pictured above: Pineland heliotrope (Euploca polyphylla) taken at Babcock-Webb WMA. Photo by Alan Cressler, courtesy of Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF.
Pineland heliotrope is a perennial herbaceous wildflower endemic to Florida. It occurs naturally in pine rocklands, wet prairies, coastal thickets and ruderal areas. It typically blooms throughout the year, but in North Florida, it may bloom only in fall. The flowers attract a variety of pollinators, especially small butterflies.
Pineland heliotrope’s many small flowers may be yellow or white and are born on distinctly curved spikes. The yellow-flowered form tends to be erect and upright, while the white-flowered form has a more prostrate and creeping habit. Though the two forms are quite distinct in growth habit, they are considered one species with no varietal status. Stems are pubescent. Leaves are narrowly elliptic to 1 inch long and sessile with a smooth upper surface and densely pubescent underside. They are alternately arranged. The fruit is a small schizocarp containing up to four nutlets.
This plant was recently reclassified as Euploca polyphylla, although many sources still refer to its original name, Heliotropium polyphyllum. The yellow and white flower forms were once separated into two genera: H. polyphyllum polyphyllum (white) and H. leavenworthii (yellow). The common name “heliotrope” (as well as the original genus name Heliotropium) comes from the Greek helios, or “sun,” and trepein, or “to turn.” It refers to the belief that the plants turn their flowers toward the sun.
Family: Boraginaceae (Borage or forget-me-not family)
Native range: Peninsula south into the Keys and Escambia County
To see where natural populations of Pineland heliotrope have been vouchered, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zones 8A–11
Soil: Moist to moderately dry sandy soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 6–12″ tall (1–3″ for prostrate form) and much wider
Propagation: Cuttings, seeds (seeds are difficult to germinate)
Garden tips: Pineland heliotrope is adaptable to many growing conditions, making it an excellent addition to butterfly and wildflower gardens, as well as in the home landscape. It suckers and can form large patches if allowed. It is drought tolerant and can grow in nutrient-poor soils. It is not particularly salt tolerant.
Pineland heliotrope is often available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a grower in your area.