Saturday, April 24, 2010
Blue Porterweed ~ Elizabeth Smith
This unusual plant can be found wild in well-drained disturbed soil, and is often cultivated in south Florida. Considered endemic by some, purists debate its status as a true Florida native. A similar but larger relative exists, often confusing identification between the two.
Zebra Longwing and Julia butterflies love the flowers, and I recently learned that it’s also the host plant for Tropical Buckeye larva. The flowers on this plant are a violet to violet-blue, but I’ve seen blossoms that veer into a vivid clear blue with very little violet.
I resorted to the Internet to find out why this is called porterweed, ironically finding the answer from an acquaintance here in Florida. Roger Hammer is (among many things) the Senior Interpretive Naturalist in the Miami-Dade Parks Department, and in his online article (click here to read) he clears up the mystery. A foaming porter-like tea (porter is beer or ale) has been made from the plant to treat several conditions, hence “porterweed.”
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