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FutureStarrHandsome Harry Plant
Virginia Meadow Beauty, or "Handsome Harry", is typically found in acidic soils that are consistently moist. However, it reportedly will survive in higher pH soils which may dry out for a period of time. A temperate member of the mostly tropical Melastomataceae family, it is one of the showier wildflowers, with deep pink petals surrounding long, slender, bright yellow anthers, which are curved like a sickle. The well-attached pollen in each anther is released through a small pore at one end by “buzz pollination”: solitary bumblebees must grab the flower and buzz to vibrate the anthers. Honeybees cannot buzz-pollinate, and common tomatoes also require buzz pollination, so this is accomplished in the greenhouse trade by electric vibrators, or the application of transported bumblebee colonies.
Handsome Harry lives up to its name! Rose-pink to pale-pink petals surround yellow stamens to create an attractive flower, which blooms in May-September. It is cross-pollinated by bumblebees, which forage for its nectar and pollen. Its leaves contain “pulegone,” and can be rubbed on your skin to repel mosquitos. Handsome Harry is an important host plant to larvae (caterpillars) of the Large Lace Border moth (Scopula limboundata). Old seed heads offer shelter for over-wintering beneficial insects, which in turn provide food for birds in the spring. Handsome Harry prefers wet peat or sandy acidic soil. It grows best on the edges of moist woodlands or meadows. Plant Handsome Harry in masses along borders, beds, and moist natural areas of your yard. It propagates through self-seeding.Meadow beauties are perennial herbaceous plants that die back to the ground each winter, and handsome harry is no exception. By late spring it reaches a mature height of several feet and initiates blooming. The stems are squarish, somewhat like a mint, but these belong to the Melastoma family. They are also covered with bristly trichomes - "hairs". The leaves of this species are opposite on the stem and somewhat variable in shape. The plants photographed above have lanceolate leaves, but sometimes they are more ovate. When they are linear, this species could be confused with the much rarer panhandle meadowbeauty (R. salicifolia). The foliage of handsome harry, however, is held horizontal to the ground and the leaves are sessile and never twisted upright as they are in panhandle meadowbeauty.
Rhexias are only occasionally offered for sale commercially. They are undemanding, if their moisture requirements can be met. Though somewhat forgiving of short droughty periods, it perfers extended periods during the growing season of ample moisture. Handsome harry performs best in north Florida and other similar species should be tried further south here if you wish to add it to your landscape.Handsome harry (Rhexia virginica) is one of ten species of meadow beauties resident to Florida. Common to moist flatwoods, and the margins of open savannas and other wetlands, it occurs across the northern tier of counties in Florida from the far west to the Jacksonville area. This is a common species to our north, and occurs in every state east of the Mississippi River as well as the line of states immediately west of it. (Source: hawthornhillwildflowers.blogspot.com)