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The Other Conradinas

By Marie Harrison (can2growApril 2, 2010

Besides beach rosemary, which is fairly plentiful in the coastal areas of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, there are five other species of Conradina. Unfortunately, all of the other species are either threatened or endangered. All except one is native to Florida. An article about beach rosemary was published previously on Dave's Garden. Here is a bit of information about the other species.

Gardening picture In general, all Conradina plants are woody perennial shrubs that are members of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. Most of them occupy xeric habitats that have sandy, well-drained soils. Flowers are white to lavendar, two-lipped structures typical of the mint family. Hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators visit the nectar-laden flowers often during the blooming season.

Other Kinds of Conradina

In all six species of Conradina have been identified. Some authorities consider C. canescens and C. brevifolia as variants of the same species, but the APG II group lists them separately. Besides these two, the GRIN website lists C. etonia (Etonia rosemary), C. glabra (Apalachicola rosemary), C. grandiflora (large-flowered rosemary), and C. verticillata (Cumberland rosemary).

ImageEtonia rosemary (Conradina etonia) is the rarest of all the Conradina species. This short-lived woody perennial, found only in two places in Putnam County, Florida, was listed as federally endangered in 1993. Fewer than 1,000 plants are located in the vicinity of Etonia Creek State Forest. Historic Boc Sanctuary in Lake Wales, Florida, has Etonia rosemary in cultivation in an effort to perpetuate the species.Image

Apalachicola rosemary (Conradina glabra) is another endangered species and is found only in Santa Rosa and Liberty Counties in northwest Florida. Characteristic linear, aromatic evergreen leaves have a smooth upper surface, but the bottom of each leaf is covered with dense hairs that can be seen only when magnified. Pale lavender to white flowers bloom from February through April. The Nature Conservancy has made efforts to reintroduce Apalachicola rosemary to locations within one of its preserves. The success of this effort is still under review.

Conradina grandiflora has the largest flowers of the species and blooms year round. A beautiful full-screen slide show can be seen of this plant on the University of South Florida's Plant Atlas. Large flowered false rosemary can be found along the Atlantic Coastal Ridge in eastern Florida from Volusia to Broward County (Zones 10-11). Like some of the other species, it is rare and local in distribution. Florida lists it as a threatened species, so it should never be removed from a native population.

Conradina brevifolia (short-leafed rosemary) is both federally and state (Florida) endangered. Endemic to Florida, it can be found in white sand scrub on the Lake Wales Ridge in Polk and Highland Counties. Although it is very similar to C. canescens, it tends to have more flowers at each axil, and as its name indicates, the leaves are shorter.

Conradina verticillata (Cumberland rosemary) is native to the southeastern United States and is hardy in Zones 5-7. Populations can be found in Kentucky and Tennessee along the banks of various river systems in that area. Its habitat is along sand bars, gravel bars, and boulder bars of sloping river banks where the soil is deep but well-drained and has no visible organic material. According to the USDA Plants Database, it is listed as threatened by the United States and Tennessee and endangered in Kentucky.ImageImage

Loss of a single species from its ecosystem affects others that rely on it. The disappearance of one plant species may affect an entire food chain. Immediately affected are the insects that live or feed on the plant-and other plants that depend upon these insects for pollination. On down the chain, it affects the birds and frogs that eat the insects. And so it continues, eventually affecting the larger animals like snakes, hawks, and foxes that prey on the birds and frogs-and eventually us humans.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 1300 different species in the United States are listed as endangered or threatened. All but one of the Conradina species is either threatened or endangered. Realizing that the loss of a single species affects others that rely on it helps us to realize the value of every plant. Locating and protecting the areas where the Conradina and other endangered species live should be high on the list of priorities for each of us. Thus we preserve the integrity of the web of life, including our very selves.

 What is the difference between endangered and threatened? An "endangered" species is one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A "threatened" species is one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future


 Thanks to the following people for the generous use of their images.

Scott Zona, Botanist, Horticulturist, Miami, Florida (Conradina etonia)

Tom Barnes, University of Kentucky (Conradina glabra)

Charley Lewis, Wikimedia Commons (Conradina glabra), thumbnail picture

R.A. Howard, Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution (Conradina verticillata)

Lilwren, Dave's Garden PlantFiles (Conradina grandiflora)


  About Marie Harrison  
Marie HarrisonServing as a Master Flower Show Judge, a Floral Design Instructor, instructor of horticulture for National Garden Clubs, and a University of Florida Master Gardener immerses me in gardening/teaching activities. In addition to these activities, I contribute regularly to Florida Gardening magazine and other publications. I am author of four gardening books, all published by Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida. Read about them and visit me at

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