Pictured above: Flower flies (Toxomerus sp.) on Narrowleaf silkgrass (Pityopsis graminifolia) by Mary Keim. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF.
Also known as Silver-leaved aster, Grass-leaved goldenaster, and Silky golden-aster, Narrowleaf silkgrass(Pityopsis graminifolia) is a robust perennial wildflower found in scrub, scrubby flatwoods and pine flatwoods throughout the state. At first glance and when not in bloom, the plant may appear to be a grass. Its flowers bloom in late summer through early winter and attract butterflies and other pollinators.
Flowers are compound with many brilliant yellow ray florets surrounding a compact center of orangish-yellow disk florets. The plant’s mostly basal leaves are long, linear and grasslike. They are covered in fine hairs, giving the leaves a silvery hue. Stem leaves are short by comparison, appressed and alternately arranged. Seeds are born in achenes.
The genus name Pityopsis is from the Greek pitys, or “pine.” It is a reference to the nymph Pitys, who, in Greek mythology, was changed into a pine tree by the gods. The species epithet graminifolia is from the Latin gramen, or “grass,” and folius, or “leaf.”
Family: Asteraceae (Aster, daisy or composite family)
Native range: Throughout Florida
To see where natural populations of Narrowleaf silkgrass have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Soil: Dry to moist, well-drained sandy or calcareous soil
Exposure: Full sun to moderate shade
Growth habit: 1’ tall, 2′ tall when blooming
Garden tips: Narrowleaf silkgrass blooms later than many Florida native wildflowers. It is easy to establish and maintain in a garden setting. Its silky foliage can make a dense groundcover in dry to moist soils. The plant spreads by underground rhizomes; a single plant can spread and densely cover a much larger area.
Plants are often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area. Seeds may be available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative.
For more information on Pityopsis, see Silver-leaved aster (from 20 Easy-to-Grow Wildflowers).