“Florida Snow” enchants and irritates the region’s lawns

“Florida Snow” enchants and irritates the region’s lawns

Winter storms may dump snow on the frozen northern plains, but South Florida has its own white dust with boswellia blooming in the fall.

Thin, sparse meadows and swamps thrive during the drier fall months and can take over large areas of grass stressed by insects, improper mowing, disease or lack of water.

With funnel-shaped flowers of white, pink or light purple, peas, nicknamed “Florida Snow,” can be a burden or a beauty depending on perspective. It is drought-tolerant and attracts butterflies, but turf specialists may rebuke the invasive ground cover as a weed.

“Some people think it looks so pretty all the way down, and they want to know where to get it,” said Joel Crippen, a horticulturist at Mounts Botanical Garden on the outskirts of West Palm Beach. “We have a few here and there, but don’t worry too much about them because when they’re not blooming, they’re still green.”

Pusley thrives in drier soil and November has been drier than usual. According to the South Florida Water Management District, much of Palm Beach County has fallen by about three inches during the month, and has been experiencing a 7-inch deficit since June.

Because Pusley — officially known as Richard Raw – It grows very low to the ground, often escaping mower blades which are usually recommended to be set at 3 to 4 inches so as not to damage the scalp. Once the ground cover is established, each flower produces three sticky nuts. Each plant cluster has 20 flowers, and contains plenty of seeds to spread.

Ed Skvarch, St. Lucie County Extension director and horticulturist, said his office gets several calls this time of year about bosley, wanting to know what it is and, more often than not, how to get rid of it.

“I explain that we call it Florida snow, and that they should embrace it and use it in Christmas decorations in the winter wonderland outside,” Skvarc said.

Skvarc took his own advice. He said he once had a large patch of white-flowered peas in his front yard. He brought down the sky and a snowman sat on top. “It looked like he was skating,” he said.

For people striving to have a pristine green lawn of pure St. Augustine or Bahia grass, removing bosley can be a challenge.

A 2011 paper written by a University of Florida horticulturist said that manual weeding may be counterproductive because the plant’s tiny seeds will seep into the ground unnoticed, sprouting new plants. There are three species of peas, which are related to tropical plants such as gardenia, ixora, penta shrub and wild coffee, according to the newspaper.

“What people call a bushel, may actually be a large-flowered bushel or a Brazilian bushel,” said Lori Albrecht, Palm Beach County Extension horticulturist.

Gardeners are moving away from recommending herbicides to fight weeds, suggesting changes in lawn care maintenance that will improve the health of the lawn to help overcome weeds. These changes can include increasing watering and raising the mower to a higher setting.

But if 50 percent or more of the grass is overgrown, Albrecht said the remedy is to replace the entire lawn.

“If the percentage is more than 50 percent, there is no recommendation other than starting over and re-acidifying,” she said. “The problem is that all the flowers turn into seeds and spread and soon there are too many of them.”

Kimberly Miller is a veteran journalist for the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA Today network in Florida. It covers real estate and how growth affects the environment of South Florida. Subscribe to The Dirt to get a weekly real estate report. If you have news tips, please send them to kmiller@pbpost.com. Help support our local journalism, subscribe today.

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