Piloblephis rigida pronounced (pil-oh-BLEF-is RIDGE-jid-du) is one of Florida’s most charming wildflowers. It adorns Florida’s sunny pine flatwoods and sandhills with a layer of dainty but numerous purple buds. It only occurs naturally in these well-drained regions of Florida as well as a few counties in Georgia, making this species nearly endemic to our state. False pennyroyal is a short-lived oval-shaped perennial, which grows no higher than a foot and no wider than a foot and a half. In Latin Pilo means hairy and blephis means eyelids referring to hairiness of the inflorescences that appear at the ends of each of the stems, while rigida refers to the stiffness of the branches. This elegant evergreen blooms most profusely in spring, when most other wildflowers aren’t, which certainly adds to its appeal. When not in bloom during the summer months, it can be easily identified by the leaves’ strong minty scent that is released when touched. Perhaps it was the smell that led the Mickosukee and Seminole to realize the properties of false pennyroyal. They were known to use the leaves to brew teas and make soups. It was also commonly used to treat many health issues and in traditional ceremonies associated with the passing of loved ones. Natives even discovered its properties as an insect repellant and made sachets to place under pet beds to deter fleas. Therefore, this wildflower may have served as one of Florida’s original pest controls.
-Article written by Emily Wilson, Natural Areas Gardener, Naples Botanical Garden.
Originally published in the News-Press.