Although the state of Georgia has four very distinctive seasons, the changing weather patterns can sometimes bring an overabundance of rain, drought-like conditions or even excessive heat and cold. Fortunately, the native plants of Georgia have adapted to the constant seasonal changes and even thrive in them.
Galax (Galax ureceolata) is an evergreen perennial that grows from 8 to 15 inches in height and is sometimes more commonly known as beetleweed, coltsfoot or wandflower. It is most commonly seen in the northern to northwest part of Georgia, including Meriwether County. Galax has low-growing, shiny green leaves that have a somewhat round, heart-shaped appearance. It produces tiny white flowers from May to June that grow in spike-like clusters at the top of leafless stalks above the plant’s lower foliage. The galax prefers part shade to shade and needs rich, acidic, sand or loam soil for it to thrive. It does not do well when used in normal home landscaping projects, since it needs a well-drained, richer soil that is typically found in the Georgia woodlands. The galax is recommended for USDA Zones 6 to 7.
The purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is an herbaceous vine that grows up to 25 feet in length and uses a thread-like shaped stem (tendril) for climbing or to spread itself across the ground. It is commonly seen in pastures and open fields from the northwest part of Georgia to Atlanta and into the coastal area of Savannah. The passionflower has three-lobed dark green leaves that resemble an outstretched hand. It blooms from April to September with delicate looking 10-petal purple-colored flowers and has crimped sepals that resemble a fancily decorated pinwheel. The passionflower prefers sun to part shade and does well in either moist soil or dry. Interestingly, its large orange-yellow fruit is edible and the plant’s root is used to treat everything from boils to inflammation. The purple passionflower is recommended for USDA Zones 5 to 10.
The spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a deciduous shrub that grows from 6 to 12 feet tall and has a 6 to 10 foot spread. It can be found in several counties in the northern and metro part of Georgia and as far south as Early County. The spicebush has light green branches and egg-shaped leaves that are 6 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide. In April, before its leaves appear, it blooms with clusters of small, light yellow flowers that later give way to small red fruit. An adaptable plant, the spicebush does fine in sun, part shade or shade and tolerates wet, moist or even dry soil, however, it is best suited for moist, shady areas. A favorite of the Eastern Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtail, parts of the shrub are not only aromatic, but edible and the leaves and twigs are sometimes made into tea, while the fruit can be used as a spice. The spicebush is recommended for USDA Zones 5 to 9.
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