Nodding Pinweed

Lechea cernua

nodding pinweed

Nodding pinweed, photographed at Seacrest Scrub Natural Area, Boynton Beach, Palm Beach County, in March 2022.

Nodding pinweed, Lechea cernua, is both common and rare. How can it be both at the same time? Simple.

It’s a scrub plant commonly found in coastal scrubs and scrubby flatwoods. Unfortunately, both are among the rarest of Florida’s habitats. Which means, in the greater scheme of things, nodding pinwood, too, is rare.

Nodding pinweed is a Florida native, in fact endemic to Florida, meaning it’s found here and nowhere else on the planet. Its range within the state varies according to which source you use; the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts as far north as Flager County, the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants says Lake County is its northernmost point. Both say nodding pinweed is found no farther south than Broward and Collier counties.

It’s found in coastal scrubs on both sides of the state and along the scrubby Lake Wales Ridge in the central part of Florida. It likes open ground, particularly in Florida rosemary plant communities.

In any case, nodding pinweed is state-listed as threatened, but it has no federal standing. The Institute for Regional Conservation considers it a rare plant in South Florida; NatureServe says it is vulnerable to extinction because of its limited range and habitat.

Nodding pinweed is a “subshrub,” getting no more than a foot or so off the ground. It has multiple, angular woody stems, the leaves are oval, and cluster at intervals along the stem. On flower-producing stocks, the leaves are alternate. Both the leaves and stem are covered with hairs, giving the plant a slight silver look. The oval-shape of its leaves differentiates nodding pinweed from its cousins.

By the way, we’re guessing that the “nodding” part of its common name comes from its angular habitat and the bobbing it makes as the wind blows. The pinweed part of the name is explained by its pinhead-shaped flowers, something that the 18 members of the Lechea genus have in common. And while we’re explaining names, might as well mention here that Lechea honors Johan Leche, an 18th century Swedish botantist and friend of the great naturalist/physician Carl Linnaeus.

Nodding pinweed blooms in the spring, putting out dozens of small red and green flowers that produce fruit in summer and fall.

It is not cultivated, nor does it have any other human uses to our knowledge.

Nodding pinweed is also known as scrub pinweed. It is a member of Cistaceae, the rock-rose family.

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Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.

Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.