Featured Plants - Redroot and golden-crest
Redroot (Lachnanthes) and golden-crest
Throughout Florida, in wet prairies, marshes, and
flatwoods, flat sprays of two-ranked,
sword-shaped leaves are common. They look like irises (Iris) or maybe some
yellow-eyed grasses (Xyris), but in summer each spray sends up a stalk that grows
two or three feet tall, branches at the top and produces a cluster of hairy gray flowers.
These plants are called redroot and golden-crest.
Both redroot and golden-crest are monocots, and like most monocots they have
parallel-veined leaves and flower parts in threes. They are the only members of the
bloodwort family, Haemodoraceae,
in the United States. This family includes Australian plants like kangaroo paws (Anizoganthus)
as well as plants in southern Africa and South America. Recently, some botanists have
decided that golden-crest is not closely related to redroot and should be in another
family, Melanthiaceae or Nartheciaceae.
The state of Florida classifies both these plants as facultative-wet (FACW)
species because they are usually, but not always, found in wetlands.
Key to Lachnanthes and
Rhizomes (horizontal underground stems) and roots cream-colored to brown; perianth
segments ("petals") equal in size; stamens 6; blooming early summer (May-June);
Florida panhandle only Lophiola
Rhizomes and roots purple to red-orange; perianth segments unequal in size, the 3 inner
ones ("petals") larger; stamens 3; blooming late summer and fall (July-October);
throughout Florida Lachnanthes
Golden-crest, Lophiola americana
Golden-crest has rhizomes and roots that are not red or purple. The base of the leaves
may be a light pink, but when you dig up the plant the rhizome and roots are almost white
to dark brown. The flower stalk is up to two feet tall and has gray hairs on it from top
to bottom. The flowers have six widely spreading perianth segments ("petals")
that are gray and hairy on the outside and yellow or reddish brown on the inside. Long
golden yellow hairs puff out from the base of the perianth segments, and six stamens poke
out above the tuft of hairs. Each flower produces an egg-shaped capsule.
Golden-crest, FACW, is found in the Florida panhandle from Leon and Wakulla
counties west. It always blooms a few months earlier than redroot.
Redroot, Lachnanthes caroliniana
Redroot (the name of which should be
Lachnanthes caroliana, not L.
caroliniana) has slender rhizomes and roots that are red-orange to purple. The flower
stalk is up to three feet tall and has gray hairs on it mostly at the top. The flowers
appear to have only three erect or slightly spreading perianth segments
("petals"), but close inspection shows that there are three erect shorter ones
outside the obvious inner ones. These perianth segments are gray and hairy on the outside
and yellow or yellow-green on the inside; they lack tufts of golden hairs. Each flower
produces a globular capsule that is covered by the persistent perianth segments.
Redroot, FACW, is common in wet prairies, marshes, and wet, sunny, disturbed
soils throughout Florida. The red roots allow you to identify this plant instantly, even
in young seedling stages. Species of Iris and Xyris also have flat sprays of
sword-shaped leaves, but never have red or purple roots.
For more information, see pages 99 and 100 in
Plants: An Identification Manual.