One of the club’s main projects, is the restoration and maintenance of Homosassa’s Historic Stagestand Cemetery. Today, Saturday the 27th is the club’s big fall cleanup. Members and people from the community come to tidy the grounds, trim trees, spread mulch, prune the plants and bag debris. The club has worked through the year, towards erecting a historic marker to help recognize the history of the cemetery and community. So part of this years cleanup, will include starting to put in plants at the marker and nearby. Careful consideration must be given to plant selection, since they are left alone for weeks at a time. Ideally plants that are hardy and do well with minimal attention or inputs are best. Currently, there are many low maintenance landscape plants around the grounds. Tomorrow, we’ll be installing a few native plants that also fit the bill. We have pots of muhly grass, beauty berry and our own club’s symbol, the coontie waiting to be dug into their new home.
Muhly grass ( Muhlenbergia capillaris ) develops light billowy waves of pink/purple flowers, on medium height stems. It’s very showy and a nice touch of color for fall, while giving hints of a breezy meadow. It is known for its tolerance of poorly drained soil, but prefers well-drained medium to moist soil. A very forgiving plant, it is also tolerant of drought, heat, and poor soils. They thrive in full sun or partial shade. You can read more about them here.
Beauty berry ( Callicarpa americana ) is a lovely deciduous plant. Able to obtain 6-8 feet, it is more commonly a smallish 4 foot shrub. Small inconspicuous flowers are not prominent, yet enjoyed by pollinators. The leaves do not densely cover the stems and allow for easy view of the bright jewel toned berries. Many areas enjoy berries in both spring and fall. Birds enjoy the fruits, which are also edible for humans, however not very palatable. They do well in damp areas or dry scrub, though the moisture level will affect how large they get. They prefer a more shady area. The leaves contain a compound that has shown as effective of a bug repellent as DEET.
Coontie ( Zamia pumila L. ) is a prehistoric plant and unlike other plants alive today. A botanically ancient species, they are referred to as living fossils. Frequently mistaken for sago palms, which are not a palm but a cycad like the coontie. Coonties however, are the only native cycad and have not been effected by the ravaging scale and fungal problems, which are killing many a sago in home landscapes.
Thriving in moist environments, they can obtain a very large size over time. By storing carbohydrates, they are very tolerant of long dry periods and are even found living in dry sandy habitat. Coonties are salt tolerant as well. They prefer filtered light, but can do well in full sun. The plants are either male or female and are fertilized by beetles in the winter. They are host to Atala Butterfly caterpillars and are the only food source. With their clumping/mounding shape and minimal light requirements, they are also suitable for house plants. These long-lived plants can still be seen today, around old cracker homes.