Firebush flowers are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Many times I hear the wings of hummers when I'm paying attention to something else but get near a firebush shrub while gardening. I often see them buzzing from flower to flower also. In my garden Zebra Longwing butterflies hover around the shrubs almost continually. I've seen sulphurs, swallowtails, and skippers nectaring from the tubular flowers too. When the flowers turn to berries in the fall songbirds happily eat them clean. They are fabulous shrubs for wildlife.
All of my shrubs survived this past winter with no damage which made it necessary to trim back the only one I have located in full sun. It has a natural mounding shape and has grown into a 12-14' small tree. The rest of my firebush shrubs grow and flower just as well in partial shade, but don't get as large and their shape is more sprawling.
I was led to believe the firebush plants in my garden were Florida natives. They were sold as native plants in the garden center. However, subsequent research indicates they are more likely a related variety that is actually non-native. How disappointing! I've been misinformed. In my quest to increase native selections in my garden I bought five of them. The variety in my garden is likely Hamelia patens var. glabra which is said to have clusters of yellowish tubular flowers and smooth leaves like mine.
|Kanapaha Botanical Gardens Native Firebush Plant (Hamelia patens)|
According to the Okeechobee Extension Office the non-native selections cause concern because "as non-native imports become more popular in local landscapes, they will interbreed with our native forms and alter the natural populations of Firebushes. No one is certain if the resulting hybrids will make it difficult for native Firebush populations to survive, and the wildlife that depends on them may also be affected by a loss of the native genetic makeup of Florida’s Firebush."
Do you know which one you have in your garden? How do you feel about the mislabeling of plants in our local garden centers?
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