…or an alien space pod? It is rosary pea (Abrus precatorius) to my best knowledge. As cool as this pod looks, the seeds of the rosary pea are actually more toxic than the infamous ricin. Paired with the fact it is an invasive exotic species here in Florida and you really have a deadly (non-space) invader.
One of the most exciting things about moving to new area is that you get to see and learn about your new locale. Food is always a fun and universal pleasure, but what about the plants? For me, that is the best part.
Making the two-hour drive back home from work can be quite tedious and I find myself looking for distractions, a reason to stop and take a picture or two. It was one of these drives that a small patch of white flowers on the side of the road caught my eye. Being pretty tired, I almost didn’t stop but the flowers looked like different. They stuck in my head for a few miles and I had to turn around to investigate. To my delight, they were a species I haven’t seen before and quite beautiful. I snapped a few photos excited by my new discovery and, being a plant geek, knew that the fun had just begun. What were they? How often do they bloom? Are they native or an escaped exotic?
It turns out this beautiful plant is one of Florida’s native rain-liles, Zephyranthes atamasca. This species reportedly flowers after a spring or summer rain. This lasts for a month or so before the flowering ceases altogether. Also, the bloom only lasts a short while, making it a good thing that I stopped when I did as subsequent visits have not found the rain lilies blooming as they did that day.
Its not always easy to break out of the day’s mundane, but sometimes taking a break to stop and smell, or photograph, the flowers leads to its own adventure. While finding the rain lily was a treat, leaning about the plant and its precious nature made it that much more beautiful.
What, were you expecting some grandiose beauty found hanging in an ancient cypress tree, only accessible by wading through the Everglades for three days? Sorry, the deltoid spurge (Chamaesyce deltoidea) has no such story.
The deltoid spurge is only found in the endemic Pine Rockland habitat (which happens to be my personal favorite) found in southern Miami-Dade county. With its habitat reduced by over 98%, there aren’t many places for this diminutive plant to go. Small? Yeah you can say that. The leaves are not too much bigger than the size of a pinhead and unless you know where to look, it is easily stepped right over. What amazes me about this and the other rare plant species found in this area is the fact that most of the plants grow on rock with no soil and little nutrients. This makes for small but incredibly beautiful plants.
When working in these areas I have to keep my eyes peeled, looking at the same spots again and again until these rare, and endangered plants make their presence known. But, their discovery is always an amazing experience since they may not be here when next I come.
PS – One of these days I will get around to showing all of you a real beauty from the Pine Rockland, the Polygala smallii.