Pine Hyacinth

Clematis baldwinii

pine hyacinth

Pine hyacinth, photographed at J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area (Hungryland) Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach County, in April 2022.

Truly there is no other flower found in the wilds of South Florida quite like pine hyacinth, Clematis baldwinii. Its upside down, subtly shaded, bell-shaped flower instantly captures the eye.

Pine hyacinth is a Florida native, in fact it’s endemic to Florida — found nowhere else on the planet. Its range covers most of the Peninsula roughly from Alachua County south and into the Keys. It is absent from Martin and St. Lucie counties.

And, as the name suggests, Pine hyacinth is found in pine flatwoods. But despite the name, it is not a true hyacinth.

Pine hyacinth is a perennial, but it goes dormant in fall and winter, emerging in early spring and producing flowers spring through summer and into fall. The leaves and stems can vary somewhat in their characteristics, but when in bloom, the flowers provide an unmistakable ID.

A single flower hangs upside down atop a long stem called a penduncle that rises above the leaves. Those aren’t petals that form the "bell." Rather, they’re four sepals — the outer part of a flower — fused together. The sepals separate near the throat and curl back like a peeled banana, each “fringed.” To our eyes, the flowers looks like an old-fashioned ladies’ hat as much as they do a bell. Bees, butterflies and other insects, pollinate the flowers. Hummingbirds are also said to be attracted to pine hyacinth.

The flowers eventually give way to a seed head that looks as if the flower at some point exploded. The small, single-seeded fruit of pine hyacinth is food for some wildlife.

One more note concerning the flowers: the Flora of North America (link below) says pine hyacinth blooms year-round while most others say the plant goes dormant in winter. The difference could be attributed to geography, going dormant up north, continuing to flower in the south. But the Institute for Regional Conservation (link also below), which covers South Florida, says the blooming season is spring to fall. Our only observations of pine hyacinth have come in spring, so we have no independent opinion, but we tend to go with the local experts.

As we said, other parts of pine hyacinth can vary. The leaves are oval-shaped and arranged alternately along the stem. They can be lobed or unlobed, simple or compound, one to four inches long. They become more linear, less rounded, the higher up the stem they appear. The leaves and stems can be nearly hairless or moderately hairy.

It takes to full sun but can tolerate some shade. It grows in moist, sandy soils but can tolerate drought. It does not tolerate salt.

Pine hyacinth is grown by a few commercial nurseries that specialize in Florida natives. It also can be grown from seed, though it does require some patience — the seeds can take months to germinate.

The species name, Baldwinii, honors late 18th, early 19th century physician and botanist of note William Baldwin, who explored the plant life of the southeastern United States, including Florida. Clematis is ancient Greek meaning climbing plant, but this clematis doesn’t climb.

Pine hyacinth is also known as pineweeds clematis. It is a member of Ranunculaceae, the buttercup family. It is the sole member of Ranunculaceae found in South Florida.

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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.