What is Titi?

What is Titi?

What is a titi? Google it.  Wiktionary says it is “a New World monkey of the genus Callicebus, native to South America, distinguished by their long soft fur”. But deeper into the definitions you will find “a shrub or small tree of the southern Unites States, having glossy leaves and elongated clusters of flowers, occurring in wet soil conditions”.

Titi is just a common name for two species that grow in the wetlands.  Black titi (Cliftonia monophyla), also referred to as buckwheat tree, is the first to bloom in the spring.  Native seedlings produce clusters of small white flowers at the tip of the branches.  The sweet-smelling blooms provide a nectar source for bees in February and March.  Following pollination, golden-brown seed pods will form, resembling buckwheat grains; hence, the other common name.  The seed persists through the fall, providing added aesthetics and a food source for native and migratory birds.  Pink-flowering sports of the Black titi have been propagated for the native plant nursery trade.  ‘Chipolo Pink’ is one of the most popular (pictured).

The other species is Red titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), also called Swamp titi.  It will send out multiple drooping white flowers in a finger-like cluster from the previous year’s wood.  Blooming begins in the late spring and continues into the summer.  Unfortunately, the nectar has shown to be a source for purple brood disease in bees, a terminal condition for the baby bees.

So, when deciding on native plants for your wetlands edge or rain garden, look for the Black titi and the new cultivars on the market.  Then research other summer-flowering nectar sources like Clethra alnifolia, Sweet pepperbush, and their many new cultivars.

Taking Care of the Plants Inside

Taking Care of the Plants Inside

Winter is probably the easiest time of year to kill the plant you brought in from the cold. And, the fastest way is by overwatering. Grueling growing conditions like lower light levels, dry air, shorter days and chilly temperatures really stress out plants, which makes them susceptible to insect and disease problems. Then the pests finish them off.

The secret to helping plants survive winter is adjusting care routines to suit seasonal growing conditions. Here are a few things to consider.

Light

In winter, the sun is lower in the sky and light levels near windows drop up to 50 percent. Houseplants that grow near a sunny eastern or northern window in summer may need a southern or western exposure in winter. Likewise, tropical plants that were able to withstand direct sun outside will need to be in the brightest spots possible or may require extra lighting inside.  Plants are likely to lose leaves in order to adjust to the light change. The new leaves that grow back will be accustomed to the lower light. Remember that if those plants are going back outside in the spring. They will need to be shaded for a while or the new leaves will sunburn.

To help plants cope with changing light levels:

  • Move plants closer to windows, if possible.
  • Clean windows to allow maximum light transmission.
  • Shift plants to new locations near brighter windows for winter.
  • Wash dust off plants so leaves can make maximum use of available light.
  • Add artificial light. Fluorescent bulbs provide adequate light. They’re cheaper than traditional grow lights and produce less heat. Position bulbs 4 to 12 inches away from plants for effective results.

Temperature

Most of these plants and prefer temperatures between 65° F and 75° F during the day and about 10-15 degrees cooler at night. For tropical plants, temperatures below 50°F can cause problems. Hopefully, you had the chance to bring them in with the first cool spell a month ago.

Adjust thermostats for your comfort, but remember your plants need some consideration.

  • Avoid placing plants near cold drafts or heat sources.
  • Keep plants several inches away from exterior windows.

Humidity

Homes may offer only 5-10 percent relative humidity in winter. Houseplants like 40-50 percent. Signs of low humidity stress on plants include brown leaf tips and appearance of pests like spider mites.

  • Raise humidity around plants with a room humidifier.
  • Place plants on a pebble-lined tray filled with water. Keep the water level just below the pebbles. As the water evaporates, it raises humidity around plants.
  • Mist plants with room-temperature water. Avoid wetting walls or furniture.
spides plant
A spider plant on a coffee table. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

Water

The most common problem plants suffer from in winter is overwatering. Most plants need soil to dry out almost completely before watering. How can you tell if plants need water?

  • Don’t just spot test the soil surface. Plants need water when the root zone is dry. Poke your finger into soil up to 2 inches. If the soil is dry, water.
  • Lift the pot. Soil is lighter when it’s dry. Learn how wet soil feels by lifting pots immediately after watering.
  • Exceptions to drying out between watering: Potted citrus and ferns require consistently moist soil. Always research plant moisture needs if you’re unsure.

When you do water, never allow plants to sit overnight in water that collects in the drainage saucer.

Fertilizer, Pruning and Repotting

Save these tasks until spring. Winter growth is usually leggy. Prune and fertilize to encourage bushy growth when the sunlight and temperatures increase. The right time to repot most tropical and houseplants is during periods of active growth – in spring and summer. The exception is potted woody plants that go completely dormant in winter. Transplant those prior to bud break in early spring.

Celebrate Trees in January

Celebrate Trees in January

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.  The second best time is Arbor Day 2024.  Florida recognizes the event on the third Friday in January, so the next one is January 19, 2024.

Arbor Day is an annual observance that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care.  As a formal holiday, it was first observed on April 10, 1872 in the state of Nebraska.  Today, every state and many countries join in the recognition of trees impact on people and the environment.

Trees are the longest living organisms on the planet and one of the earth’s greatest natural resources.  They keep our air supply clean, reduce noise pollution, improve water quality, help prevent erosion, provide food and building materials, create shade, and help make our landscapes look beautiful.  A single tree produces approximately 260 pounds of oxygen per year.  That means two mature trees can supply enough oxygen annually to support a family of four.

The idea for Arbor Day in the U.S. began with Julius Sterling Morton.  In 1854 he moved from Detroit to the area that is now the state of Nebraska.  J. Sterling Morton was a journalist and nature lover who noticed that there were virtually no trees in Nebraska.  He wrote and spoke about environmental stewardship and encouraged everyone to plant trees.  Morton emphasized that trees were needed to act as windbreaks, to stabilize the soil, to provide shade, as well as, fuel and building materials for the early pioneers to prosper in the developing state.

A newly planted tree with water retention berm.
A planted tree with water retention berm. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County

In 1872, The State Board of Agriculture accepted a resolution by J. Sterling Morton “to set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit.”  On April 10, 1872 one million trees were planted in Nebraska in honor of the first Arbor Day.  Shortly after the 1872 observance, several other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day.  By 1920, 45 states and territories celebrated Arbor Day.  Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day during his presidency in 1970.

Today, all 50 states in the U.S. have an official Arbor Day, usually at a time of year that has the correct climatological conditions for planting trees.  For Florida, the ideal tree planting time is January, so Florida’s Arbor Day is celebrated on the third Friday of the month.  Similar events are observed throughout the world.  In Israel it is the Tu B Shevat (New Year for Trees).  Germany has Tag des Baumes.  Japan and Korea celebrate an entire week in April.  Even, Iceland one of the most treeless countries in the world observes Student’s Afforestation Day.

The trees planted on Arbor Day show a concern for future generations.  The simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will grow and provide wood products, wildlife habitat erosion control, shelter from wind and sun, beauty, and inspiration for ourselves and our children. 

“It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetime the nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted.”

 ~Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Arbor Day Message

Colorful Trees

Colorful Trees

Florida’s natural areas—a great source of pride and enjoyment to its citizens—provide recreation, protect biodiversity and fresh water supplies, buffer the harmful effects of storms, and significantly contribute to the economic well-being of the state. Unfortunately, many of these natural areas can be adversely affected by invasive plant species. An estimated 25,000 plant species have been brought into Florida for use as agricultural crops or landscape plants. While only a small number of these have become invasive, Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera) is one of them. 

As the trees begin to turn various shades of red, many people begin to inquire about the trees.  While their autumn coloration is one of the reasons they were introduced to the United States, it took years to realize what a menace the trees become.  Triadica sebifera, the Chinese tallow is locally referred to as popcorn tree due to the appearance of the developing seed heads, white three-chambers seeds covered in a fatty wax. It was introduced to Charleston, South Carolina in the late 1700s for oil production and use in making candles. However, the seeds are also tasty snacks for birds and can float long distances in the water, enabling it to spread to every coastal state from North Carolina to Texas, and inland to Arkansas. In Florida it occurs as far south as Tampa, displacing other native plant species in those habitats.  Therefore, Chinese tallow was listed as a noxious weed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Noxious Weed List (5b-57.007 FAC) in 1998, which means that possession with the intent to sell, transport, or plant is illegal in the state of Florida.

tree with red leaves
Fall color of Chinese tallow

Individuals can help mitigate the problem of Chinese tallow trees in Florida’s natural areas by removing them from their property. Mature trees should be felled with a chain saw by the property owner or a professional tree service. The final cut should be made as close to the ground as possible and as level as possible to facilitate application of an herbicide to prevent sprouting. Stumps that are not treated with an herbicide will sprout to form multiple-trunked trees. If it is not objectionable for dead trees to be left standing, certain herbicides can be applied directly to the bark at the base of the tree (basal bark application).

Herbicides that contain the active ingredient triclopyr amine (e.g., Brush-B-Gon, Garlon 3A) can be applied to cut stumps to prevent re-sprouting. The herbicide should be applied as soon as possible after felling the tree and concentrated on the thin layer of living tissue (cambium) that is just inside the bark. Herbicides with the active ingredient triclopyr ester can be used for basal bark applications. Only certain triclopyr amine products may be applied to trees that are growing in standing water.  If trees are cut at a time when seeds are attached, make sure that the material is disposed of in such a way the seeds will not be dispersed to new areas where they can germinate and produce new trees.

Space in a landscape left after removal of Chinese tallow can be used to plant a new native or noninvasive tree for shade, or some other landscape purpose. Although Florida is not known for the brilliant fall color enjoyed by other northern and western states, there are a number of trees that provide some fall color for our North Florida landscapes.  Red maple, Acer rubrum, provides brilliant red, orange and sometimes yellow leaves. The native Florida maple, Acer floridum, displays a combination of bright yellow and orange color during fall.  And there are many Trident and Japanese maples that provide striking fall color.  Another excellent native tree is Blackgum, Nyssa sylvatica. This tree is a little slow in its growth rate but can eventually grow to seventy-five feet in height. It provides the earliest show of red to deep purple fall foliage. Others include Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, Sumac, Rhus spp. and Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua.  In cultivated trees that pose no threat to native ecosystems, Crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia spp. offers varying degrees of orange, red and yellow in its leaves before they fall. There are many cultivars – some that grow several feet to others that reach nearly thirty feet in height. Also, Chinese pistache, Pistacia chinensis, can deliver a brilliant orange display.

There are a number of dependable oaks for fall color, too. Shumard, Southern Red, and Turkey are a few to consider. These oaks have dark green deeply lobed leaves during summer turning vivid red to orange in fall. Turkey oak holds onto its leaves all winter as they turn to brown and are pushed off by new spring growth. Our native Yellow poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera, and hickories, Carya spp., provide bright yellow fall foliage. And it’s difficult to find a more crisp yellow than fallen Ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba, leaves. These trees represent just a few choices for fall color.  Including one or several of these trees in your landscape, rather than allowing the popcorn trees to grow, will enhance the season while protecting the ecosystem from invasive plant pests.

For more information on Chinese tallow tree, removal techniques and native alternative trees go to: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag148.

Roadside Flowers

Roadside Flowers

As you drive along the highway look out the window at the blooming roadside wildflowers.  Fall is the season of yellow and purple, with splashes of red.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum spp.), many different “daisies” (Aster spp.), tall and short Goldenrod (Solidago spp.), and “sunflowers” (Helianthus spp.) brighten up the landscape with the many shades of yellow.  Spikes of Blazing Star (Liatris spp.), clumps of False Rosemary (Conradina canescens), and carpets of Moss Verbena (Verbena tenuisecta) add the purple hues.  Here and there clusters of Red Basil (Calamintha coccinea) grab your attention with their fiery color.

Scarlet calamint, also called Red Basil, with its brilliant red flowers, offer a dramatic contract against the backdrop of scrub, sandhill and coastal dunes where the plant naturally occurs in Florida.  They bloom sporadically throughout the year, peaking in the fall with as many as 100 flowers on a single plant.  It is the only Florida native Calamintha species with red flowers, and its flowers are the largest.

Red Flower
Red Basil (Calamintha coccinea)

When the Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the eastern shores in 1513 he immediately noticed the vast wealth of wildflowers and promptly name his new discovery the “Land of Flowers”, which is the translation for Florida.  Habitats throughout the state vary greatly.  Changes in elevation by only a few inches can change the soil and impact the types of plants growing there.  Associated birds, butterflies, and other pollinators change as the wildflower species vary.  Florida has one of the highest biodiversity in the United States.

Learning to identify the roadside wildflowers is the topic of the next Okaloosa County Master Gardener Lecture Series.  Join Dave Gordon on Monday, October 23 at the Okaloosa County Extension 3098 Airport Rd. Crestview, FL 32539 from 10 -11 am CDT to learn about what is blooming along the road right of way and how they may be utilized in the landscape. For more information go to: