In the previous post, I mentioned that my family recently took a trip to Sint Maarten/Saint Martin. Another interesting plant I wanted to highlight was the Pride of Big Pine or Strumpfia maritima.
We were walking along the rocky coast on the Dutch side of the island when I saw a spiky plant hiding in a crevasse. I had no idea what the species or family could be. It took some serious googling to figure out that it was Strumpfia maritima, in the Rubiaceae or coffee family. The common name, Pride of Big Pine, is based on the first collection site at Big Pine Key in Florida (The Institute for Regional Conservation, Floristic Inventory for South Florida Database: Strumpfia maritima).
Pride of Big Pine (Strumpfia maritima, Rubiaceae) can survive some harsh conditions. This one was a few feet from the ocean.
Pride of Big Pine is found all over the Caribbean near rocky shores, dry coastal marshes and pine flats. Unfortunately, it is endangered in Florida due to habitat destruction by invasive plants and coastal erosion (The Institute for Regional Conservation, Floristic Inventory for South Florida Database: Strumpfia maritima).
Notice the radial symmetry of the flowers (actinomorphic flowers), a feature of the coffee family. Also, notice how the sides of the leaves curl under (revolute margins), an identifying feature of Strumpfia maritima (Rubiaceae)
Another feature of the coffee family is interpetiolar stipules. Stipules are little leaf-like tags that sit at the base of a leaf, by the stem. Interpetiolar stipules are two stipules of paired leaves that connect around the stem. So, there is a little collar of stipules on the stem by ever pair of leaves. You can see these collars on Pride of Big Pine plants, as darker circles around the stems.
The interpetiolar stipules give the ringed appearance of the stems of Strumpfia maritima (Rubiaceae)
Pride of Big Pine has been used to heal cuts and sores, as well as used internally for colds, fevers and digestive problems. Branches are also burned to repel mosquitoes (Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve: Strumpfia maritima).
These plants are tough! (Strumpfia maritima, Rubiaceae)