Thursday, May 6, 2010

Stop! In the Name of Love!

Although it seems to be a little late this year, the Simpson's Stopper (Myrcianthies fragrans) is finally in bloom! We have three of these native shrubs in My Florida Backyard, and over several years these have proven to be one of our favorites. They are hardy to about 25 degrees, so they made it through the hard winter with only superficial damage to outer leaves. This is a nice shrub for areas ranging from mostly sun to full shade, and we have two that grow well on the north side of the house, where they receive only small amounts of sun. In the fall, they provide nice deep orange berries the birds seem to appreciate.

Apparently we're not the only ones who think the showy little blooms are great - today I found that one of our stoppers was covered in love bugs doing the things that love bugs do (namely, eating and mating).

Floridians are plenty familiar with lovebugs (Plecia nearctica), and depending on where you live, you may even dread the season for the damage it does to your car's front grill. They're interesting little creatures though - very single-minded and successful. They spend their larval stage in grassy areas eating dead vegetation, helping to keep the thatch under control. In May and September, they hatch en masse and immediately get to work.

Adults eat the nectar of blooming plants, and obviously the Simpson's Stopper was quite the draw this year - kind of like a singles bar for bugs. These bugs don't waste time, as their life spans are only a few days. In fact, they find mates almost immediately upon hatching, and stay connected until their deaths. The female will even drag the dead (and still attached) male around until she's ready to lay her eggs. This romantic(?) activity has given them their common name - lovebugs.

Whether you love them or hate them, they are certainly a quintessential Florida sight this time of year!


  1. Oh, your stopper blooms are very pretty. I just planted one this year and it has buds but they haven't opened yet. I've been thinking that I would love to have a few more of this shrub for my wet and shady area. You've sold me.

  2. I'm still waiting on my stopper to bloom. They really are a great plant, especially for the birds. I noticed a few lovebugs the other day while working in the yard. The only thing I don't like about them is when they end up smashed on the front of my car...otherwise, who could hate a bug with such a sweet name?

  3. The proprietor of my local native nursery recommended these when we were looking for a hedge fence plant (or maybe she said dwarf stopper?). We've yet to do it though. I'm in East Central Florida and have yet to see love bugs. I wonder if the freeze had any effect on them.