Pictured above: Innocence (Houstonia procumbens) by Mary Keim. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View as a PDF.
Although often overlooked, the diminutive white flowers and verdurous leaves of Innocence (Houstonia procumbens) are a welcome sight for anyone with the winter blues. This low-growing perennial creeps along the floors of many open habitats throughout Florida including pine flatwoods, sandhills, scrub and ruderal areas.
Innocence goes largely unnoticed until late winter and early spring when it blooms with lovely white four-lobed flowers on a tidy carpet of green ovate leaves. Although its solitary flowers are only 4–6 mm in diameter, the plant can form a miniature wildflower garden. The leaves are oppositely arranged. Stems are prostrate. Seeds are born in tiny capsules.
The species epithet procumbens is from the Latin procumbo, meaning “to lie down.”
Family: Rubiaceae (Madder or coffee family)
Native range: Throughout Florida
To see where natural populations of innocence have been vouchered, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Soil: Moderately moist soils
Exposure: Sunny, open areas to light shade
Growth habit: 1” tall, spreading up to 12”
Garden tips: Innocence is rarely for sale in nurseries, but is easy to grow and can be used as a slow-spreading winter groundcover in a lightly mulched or open area. Although dormant in summer, it co-exists well with sparse grasses and seems to reseed or be long-lived.