The Many Faces of Primrosewillow

This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on September 13, 2014 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments and find working links to other stories.

Savannah Primrosewillow (Ludwigia virgata) is probably the showiest species at my place
Savannah Primrosewillow (Ludwigia virgata) is probably the showiest species at my place

Family Onagraceae                     Genus Ludwigia

shown with flea beetle
shown with flea beetle

I’ve grown quite fond of Primrosewillow (Ludwigia spp.).  They provide bright yellow spots in moist to wet landscapes primarily in the Southeastern United States.*  {click on the subordinate taxa tab in the database to find the native most appropriate for your state}

Mexican Primrosewillow (Ludwigia octovalvis) probably has the most prolific seeds
Mexican Primrosewillow (Ludwigia octovalvis) probably has the most prolific seeds

Some may tend to be aggressive which gives rise to their other common name “seedbox” likely based on the prolific amounts of seeds in often square shape “pods”.

L. vigata has more squared seed “boxes”
L. vigata has more squared seed “boxes”

I have several species that grace my landscape, many blooming at the same time.  They are larval hosts for Banded Sphinx Moth Caterpillar (Eumorpha fasciatus) and the Primrose Flea Beetle (Altica litigata).   Some bagworm moths also will use Ludwigia as a larval host.

Larval Host
Larval Host

Some are taller plants with smaller blooms, somewhat shrub-like. On my naturally restored property, the natives have the right mix of competition so no one species has a leg up on the other.

Sadly, one is a horrible invasive species
Sadly, one is a horrible invasive species

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Invasive Peruvian Primrosewillow  (Ludwigia peruviana) which is listed as a Category I on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s (FLEPPC) 2013 List of Invasive Plant Species.  That one has claimed the front culvert. It is a losing battle to keep that area in check.

ludwigiaVSludwigiaBuds-1024x1024L. peruviana was introduced as an ornamental likely by someone who thought the flowers were showier than the native counterparts.  The ongoing cost of control of invasives is proof again that bigger is not always better and you need to be aware of nativity and appropriateness of species when adding to the landscape environment. As L. peruviana rapidly takes over the neighborhood, crowding out lovely natives of ALL species, I wonder how long it will take until there is nothing but a monoculture of this thug.
ludwigiaVSludwigiaFlowers-1024x682
Some Ludwigia spp. are submersed plants and can be used in an aquarium environment.  It makes sense to choose a native species instead of various genus of plants sold in pet stores which aren’t native and can overtake our waterways if accidentally introduced, even from something as simple as cleaning a fish tank in the outdoors.

Host to flea beetles
Host to flea beetles

The plants are regularly visited by pollinators drawing quite a crowd.  Some are emersed, living in the pond margins.  I’m still working through identifying some plants to species and I’m always happy to see them pop up all around my place.  They are a welcome addition to my native plant and wildlife garden.

The sphinx moth caterpillars have many color variations as they grow
The sphinx moth caterpillars have many color variations as they grow
Young instars can be bright pink
Young instars can be bright pink

Some species are delicate with thin green leaves such as Southeastern Primrosewillow (Ludwigia linifolia):
southeasternludwigiaSept2014-682x1024

Some species are small at less than 8 inches with nondescript flowers such as Smallfruit Primrosewillow (Ludwigia microcarpa):
smallfruitludwigiaJune2014A-682x1024

Wingleaf Primrosewillow (Ludwigia decurrens) has wider leaves and tiny flowers, it grows upright as an annual and appears later than in the season than the others:
ludwigiaAug2013-1024x682

No matter which species you choose, you’ll be adding some delightful diversity to your garden.
unknownludwigiaSept2013A-682x1024

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