Monday, August 29, 2011

Fire and Rain

We've been enjoying the rainy season here in My Florida Backyard. We monitor the rain gauge daily, feeling almost as if we've accomplished something ourselves when there's a good reading, like today's inch and a half. Wandering the gardens after the rains, we love to watch as wildlife re-emerges and activity picks up. This Gulf Fritillary dropped by the Firebush as soon as the last raindrops had fallen.

Firebush (Hamelia patens) is one of our very favorite Florida native shrubs. Though vulnerable to freeze, it grows back so quickly, even from the ground, that it can even be grown up north as a perennial. The "fire" in its name can be attributed to the color of the tube-shaped blooms and leaf stalks, the reddish tinge of the new foliage, or the brilliant flame hue of the leaves in late fall.

Firebush is a terrific wildlife-attractant. Butterflies, especially sulphurs, love it. It's one of the two plants we've seen hummingbirds visit in My Florida Backyard (the other is Coral Honeysuckle). Birds, including Mockingbirds, love to eat the berries that follow the blooms throughout the year.

There is another type of firebush that is not native to Florida: Hamelia patens var. glabra, sold as “Dwarf Firebush”. This non-native hails from Mexico and Central America. There is some concern that it may be hybridizing with our native species, although no particular warnings or prohibitions have yet been issued. Native firebush, shown below and throughout this post, has orange flowers and lighter green leaves, while dwarf firebush has orange and yellow blooms and shiny darker green leaves. Both attract wildlife, but we find native firebush a little easier to grow.

There are still at least six weeks left in the rainy season, and though the temperatures and humidity are high, the rain is welcome in the garden. So for now, the rain continues to fall, wildlife wanders through, and summer lingers on here in My Florida Backyard.


  1. Thanks for the information. It's always good to know which natives attract what kind of critters. Enjoy the rain!

  2. I've been thinking about doing a post again on hamelia paten. It is one of my favorites in the gardens as it attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and birds. Mine started as a cutting.

    Thanks for the info about this plant.


  3. I didn't know you could start them from cuttings, FlowerLady! That's really good to know!

  4. It's amazing how fast this bush bounces back each year and how large it grows.