Tropical sage is my kind of plant, largely because it’s called “tropical sage.” It’s a strong name. I looked into getting it on my business cards, but apparently “editor” is clearer and fits better.
Tropical sage is actually the more casual name of a plant with the scientific name Salvia coccinea, which sounds more like somebody who played in Sinatra’s horn section. (“Sal Coccinea? Ah. Dumb as a rock, but the guy knew his way around a trumpet solo.”) But whatever you call it, it’s a good plant. Beautiful red flowers, also some whites and pinks, and butterflies and hummingbirds love it. Oh, and it’s from Florida.
I’ve been thinking a lot about plants like our friend Sal lately. My wife and I are attempting to cultivate a Florida native yard. That means no sod and no plants that didn’t come from here. It’s been confusing at times. We’ve pulled a lot of things out. We’ve planted some things we later found out we shouldn’t have. We’ve planted some other things that have let us know that just because you’re a plant from Florida, doesn’t mean you’re not also a plant that can promptly die in Florida.
We quickly deduced that we needed help. Lucky for us, help is out there in the form of organizations like The Florida Native Plant Society. I talk to the leader of the society’s Broward chapter for a story in this month’s issue on Florida natives. I also talk to Roger Hammer, who is a big deal in circles where things like muhly grass vs fakahatchee grass are hot topics. Once, he commented on a post my wife made in the Florida Native Plants Facebook group. She tells that story the way you’d tell about seeing a famous actor at the airport. In addition to Roger Hammer, I also talk to top Miami landscape architect and native plants evangelist Raymond Jungles. To answer your follow-up question: yes, everybody involved in the native plants scene does seem to have an awesome name.
One point that was made over and over again is that anybody who thinks they might want to plant natives doesn’t have to be perfect about it. Natives offer great benefits to our natural world, and even planting just a few things is a step in the right direction. A few coontie here, some frogfruit instead of traditional grass there – heck, it might be as simple as not pulling up the Bidens alba when it sprouts up naturally. You don’t have to be an expert to support Florida natives.
I know I’m not. I’ve been trying native gardening in my own yard for a little bit now, and I’m certainly no pro. Although I do feel I am becoming more wise.
A tropical sage, you might say.