A species unknown to science until the 1990s, Florida False Rosemary occurs in small populations in very restricted scrub habitats in Putnam County. The plant was quickly put on the endangered species list, protecting the lands where it occurs from future development.
There are seven species of Conradina, and six of these are endangered or threatened. Two species are endemic to scrub habitats in Putnam County, just about 25 miles from Gainesville. These species are significant because they occur only in areas close to UF, are showy shrubby mints, and were each discovered only recently. They are geographically restricted and globally endangered. Our Museum houses type specimens, that is, name-bearing specimens, of both of these species.
Christy Edwards, formerly of the Soltis Lab, and now a scientist at the Missouri Botanical Garden, conducted genetic and phylogenetic studies on these recently described plants – compiling evidence that we used to support the hypothesis that Conradina cygniflora is a species distinct from the earlier-described Conradina etonia. In addition to their genetic differences, the two can be identified by differences in the form of the hairs on their lower leaf surfaces.
Conradina etonia was described in 1991 and Conradina cygniflora only in 2009. These two are among many Florida species recently described as new to science. In fact, new species of vascular plants are being discovered in Florida at a rate of about one per year, suggesting that the flora of our diverse state is far from completely known.
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Florida Biology Department
Courtesy Faculty, Florida Museum of Natural History
Florida False Rosemary (Conradina etonia)
From Bok Tower Gardens, Florida, Sept. 2015