In the Center for Plant Conservation National Collection beds at Bok Tower Gardens, many of the false rosemary species (Conradina spp.) were in peak bloom in February. Housed in the National Collection are four species of false rosemary including, C. etonia, C. brevifolia, C. grandiflora, and C. glabra. Each plant is endemic to Florida and has very restricted ranges.
For instance, C. glabra only is found in Liberty County. This species’ common name, Apalachicola false rosemary, stems from it being in the Apalachicola region in the panhandle. The western boundary of Liberty County follows the Apalachicola River and the County contains a large portion of the Apalachicola National Forest. C. etonia, whose common name is Etonia false rosemary, is only found in Putnam County, in and around Etoniah Creek State Forest. In the wild, the ranges of each Conradina species do not overlap.
C. grandiflora, or Large flower false rosemary, has much larger flowers than the others. C. brevifolia, or False rosemary, has densely pubescent calyces and C. glabra does not (the specie’s name “glabra” is a shortened form or glabrous, meaning smooth or hairless). C. etonia has much wider leaves than the other species.
The leaves of Conradina spp. are fragrant when crushed and have similar notes of the pungent rosemary (Salvia spp.) commonly used for cooking and fragrances, however, the aroma of false rosemary is muted in comparison.
Although Conradina spp.in the National Collection may not have any culinary value, the flower nectar and pollen provide food for the local pollinators. The plants in the National Collection beds serve as a repository for the genetic material of these rare wild populations, and as specimens for educational tours of the Rare Plant Conservation Program.
The article was written by a member of the Rare Plant Conservation Program at Bok Tower Gardens. Photos were taken in the National Collection beds.