Pictured above: Barbaras’ buttons (Marshallia graminifolia) by Eleanor Dietrich. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF.
Barbara’s buttons is a short-lived perennial wildflower. Its fragrant, showy blooms have a tassled, button-like appearance. Disk florets are whitish-pink to pale lavender and are abundantly arranged in a concentric circle; ray florets are absent. The solitary flowers are borne on erect stems that emerge in spring from a whorl of long, oblanceolate basal leaves. Stem leaves are linear, sessile and smaller than the basal leaves.
Grassleaf Barbara’s buttons occurs naturally in mesic to wet flatwoods, bogs, seepage slopes, wet prairies and savannas. It typically blooms summer through fall and attracts pollinators such as butterflies, bees and beetles.
All species in the genus Marshallia are commonly referred to as Barbara’s buttons, although the identity of the Barbara to which the name refers is unknown. The name first appears in botanist John Kunkel Small’s 1933 book, Flora of the Southeastern United States. Marshallia honors Moses Marshall, a renowned botanist and cousin of John and William Bartram. The species epithet, graminifolia, refers to the plant’s grasslike leaves (hence the use of “grassleaf” in its common name).
Family: Asteraceae (Daisy or composite family)
Native range: Panhandle; northeast Florida; Central and East Florida to Palm Beach County; Pinellas County
To see where natural populations of Barbara’s buttons have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Hardiness: Zones 8A–10A
Soil: Moist to wet organic soils
Exposure: Full sun to minimal shade
Growth habit: 2’+ tall
Garden tips: Grassleaf Barbara’s buttons would make a nice addition to a moist mixed wildflower garden.
Grassfleaf Barbara’s buttons may occasionally be available from nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit www.plantrealflorida.org to find a nursery in your area.