What Is Swamp Titi: Is Summer Titi Bad For Bees

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

What is swamp titi? Is summer titi bad for bees? Also knownby names such as red titi, swamp cyrilla, or leatherwood, swamp titi (Cyrillaracemiflora) is a shrubby, moisture-loving plant that produces slenderspikes of fragrant white flowers in summer.

Swamp titi is native to the warm, tropical climates of thesoutheastern United States, as well as parts of Mexico and South America. Althoughbeeslove swamp titi’s fragrant, nectar-rich blooms, bees and swamp titi aren’talways a good combination. In some areas, the nectar causes a condition knownas purple brood, which is toxic to bees.

Read on for more summer titi information and learn abouttiti purple brood.

About Bees and Swamp Titi

Summer titi’s fragrant blooms are attractive to honeybees,but the plant is associated with purple brood, a condition that can be fatal tolarvae that eat the nectar or honey. Purple brood can also affect adult beesand pupae.

The disorder is so named because the affected larvae turnblue or purple instead of white.

Fortunately, purple brood isn’t widespread, but it isconsidered a serious problem for beekeepersin certain areas, including South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida.Although it isn’t as common, titi purple brood has been found in other areas,including southwest Texas.

Florida Cooperative Extension Office advises beekeepers tokeep bees away from areas where large stands of swamp titi are in bloom,typically in May and June. Beekeepers can also provide bees with a sugar syrup,which will dilute the effect of the toxic nectar.

Generally, beekeepers in the region are familiar with purplebrood, and they know when and where it is likely to occur.

If you aren’t sure if it’s safe to keep bees, or if you’renew to the area, contact a beekeeper’s group, or ask your localcooperative extension office for summer titi information. Experiencedbeekeepers are usually happy to offer advice.

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Large swaths of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum spp.) in bloom throughout the Blackwater River floodplain in Milton, Florida. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

Late summer is prime time for floating or canoeing down north Florida’s slow-moving, cold-water rivers. It is favorite summer tradition for our family, floating for hours in inner tubes and stopping to jump off rope swings.

If you drift down just about any north Florida river in the summer, you will likely notice large numbers of low-lying, thick green shrubs along the banks, loaded with tiny yellow flowers. These would be St. John’s wort. In our neck of the woods (or riverside), there are at least 28 species of Hypericum, with 9 of them endemic to the Panhandle. More devoted botanists can differentiate between all the species, but it takes years of study and field experience. All of them have woody stems with thin, evergreen, upright, opposite clusters of leaves, and small bright yellow flowers. Most prefer wet habitats—open marshes, streambanks, swamps, you name it—although 7 species are considered upland varieties. The most common species statewide is Marsh St. John’s Wort (Hypericum fasciculatum), which has softer-appearing leaves that remind me a lot of sand pine needles.

The bright yellow flowers of St. John’s Wort are noticeable throughout the summer in Panhandle wetlands. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

Named for the feast of St. John the Baptist (celebrated in late June, and the plant blooms in summer) and the Old English term for herb (wyrt), St. John’s Wort has long been notable for its medicinal purposes. Research has shown the plant to be particularly effective for treating symptoms of menopause and moderate depression. However, serious drug interactions can occur if taken with prescription medications, so it is imperative to speak with a physician or pharmacist before using St. John’s Wort.

St. John’s Wort also makes a great home landscape plant, as it is highly adaptable to many soil types and sunlight levels.

What are the most productive nectar plants in South Carolina?

Most often people think of meadows of wildflowers as being the most productive systems for bees, but this is not the case in most of South Carolina. The state is dominated by forest. About 60% of the land is forested (private, state and federal land), 20% is managed farmland, and 18% is developed or disturbed. This means that forest plant communities cover most of the land and that native trees often are the most important nectar sources for honey bees in the state. Beekeepers should learn to identify these trees and shrubs to determine what food is available nearby.

Figure 1

Land Use Statistics according to the 2015 USDA National Resources Inventory

Forest plant communities in South Carolina change from the mountains to the coast. There are four distinct ecoregions: the Blue Ridge mountains, the piedmont, the sandhills, and the coastal plain. Each ecoregion contains unique plant communities because of differences in slope, temperature, precipitation, and soil types. From the beekeeper’s perspective, South Carolina can be divided in two, the upstate (mountains and piedmont) and the lowcountry (sandhills and coastal plain). The division between the two, sometimes referred to as “the fall line,” follows the sandhills from Cheraw through Columbia to Aiken (Figure 2). Certain plants grow well above the fall line, other plants grow well below the fall line, and some plants can be found statewide.

Figure 2


There are many nectar producing trees that thrive all across the state. The most widespread and prolific nectar trees are red maple (Acer rubrum), tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), dogwood (Cornus florida), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides), willows (Salix spp.), red mulberry (Morus rubra), black cherry (Prunus serotina), American holly (Ilex opaca), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) and southern crabapple (Malus angustifolia). These trees are common throughout the state and readily available at garden centers.

There are also a variety of nectar producing shrubs and vines that grow throughout most of South Carolina. Blackberries (Rubus spp.), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), devil’s walkingstick (Aralia spinosa), elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), sumac (Rhus spp.), virginia sweetspire (Itea virginiana), beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), carolina rose (Rosa carolina), trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quiquefolia), and passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) are some of the most productive. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) also is an exceptional nectar producer. Poison ivy nectar is healthy for honey bees and does not contain urishiol, the poison in the leaves and stems that responsible for rashes and irritation.

Natural and human caused disturbances in the forms of mowing, grazing, tillage, selective herbicides, fire, timber harvests and wind storms create openings in the forest and allow sunlight to reach the ground. Numerous species of wildflowers take advantages of these openings and provide additional forage for honey bees, especially during the summer months when most trees are not blooming. Areas such as roadsides, utility rights-of-way, field edges, yards and forest clearings provide meadow-like conditions for wildflowers to colonize. The most productive nectar producing wildflowers found in these disturbed areas are goldenrods (Solidago spp.), asters (Symphiotrichum spp.), tickseeds (Coreopsis spp.), sunflowers (Helianthus spp.), bush clovers (Lespedeza spp.), milkweeds (Aesclepias spp.), thistles (Circium spp.), salvias (Salvia spp.), spiderworts (Tradescantia spp.)

Above the Fall Line

The landscape of South Carolina above the fall line is characterized by rolling hills and steep slopes. The rocky soils and slopes limit agriculture to the more level valleys, so most of the land is forested. Pines dominate the lower piedmont close to the fall line, but forests transition to hardwoods closer to the mountains. In general, hardwood forests produce more nectar than pine dominated forests, so nectar supplies also tend to increase closer to the mountains. There are several nectar producing trees that are much more common above the fall line than below it. These include black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos), basswood (Tilia americana), and sourwood (Oxydendron arboretum). Basswood, an exceptional nectar producer, was once prolific across the eastern US, but heavy forest harvesting has greatly reduced its prevalence in the southeast. Sourwood is the most coveted nectar tree in the region, producing a light, sweet and flavorful honey. A number of understory trees and shrubs also are important in this region, including American plum (Prunus americana), serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.), winterberry (Ilex verticilata), buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica), chokeberry (Aronia spp.), and pawpaw (Asimina triloba).

Agriculture in the upstate has some row crop and vegetable production but is largely managed as pasture or hay fields to support livestock. Pastures and hay fields consist of grasses which provide no nectar, although some operations do include clover and alfalfa, which are excellent nectar producers. The upstate also has some fruit orchard production. The counties along the mountains (Oconee, Pickens, Greenville) produce apples, which rely heavily on honey bees and are good nectar trees. Also, the western counties in an area called “the ridge” (Edgefield, Saluda, Aiken, Greenwood) are the heart of peach production and make South Carolina the second largest peach producer in the nation. While peaches do not require bee pollination, they do supply nectar and pollen.

Historically, the piedmont was home to a unique ecosystem called the piedmont prairie. These prairies formed when bison roamed and natural fire was common. Grazing and frequent fire limit woody vegetation and select for meadowland plants, many of which support pollinators. Elimination of bison from South Carolina and changes in land use have greatly reduced the once expansive piedmont prairies, but efforts are underway to restore this unique ecosystem. You can learn more about efforts to restore piedmont prairies at https://www.segrasslands.org/piedmont. Many of the wildflowers once common in these prairies can still be found in utility rights-of-way, along roadsides and in well-thinned forests where prescribed-fire is used.

Below the Fall Line

South Carolina below the fall line is mostly flat or low rolling terrain with sandy or loamy soils that make for prime farmland. For this reason most row crop agriculture in South Carolina occurs in this region, and cultivated fields are almost as common as forestland. Where soils are not suitable for agriculture, pine forests dominate. Many of these pine forests are intensively managed for pulp and timber production, South Carolina’s largest industry. Intensive pine management reduces tree diversity to maximize pine tree growth, so commercial pine stands tend to produce less nectar than natural pine stands. Unmanaged forestland tends to be mixed pines and hardwoods. In the coastal plain, hardwoods are dominant only in the wetlands and river flood plains where conditions are too wet for pines.

The uplands of the coastal plain were once vast pine savannahs with widely spaced longleaf pines. The forest floor in these pine savannahs was a meadow of grasses and wildflowers that was extremely diverse. Like the piedmont prairies, these pine savannahs have largely vanished from the landscape, replaced by managed loblolly pines and agricultural fields. Several important nectar producing plants still thrive in the remaining upland pine forests of the low country. These include gallberry (Ilex glabra), Carolina laurelcherry (Prunus caroliniana), yaupon holly (Ilex vomitorium), sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), and fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), along with an array of wildflowers that once called the pine savannahs home.

Lowcoutntry beekeepers benefit from being located near wetlands. The expansive wetlands and river flood plains in the coastal plain are home to many exceptional nectar producers. The most notable is the swamp tupelo (Nyssa aquatica), a dominant tree in permanently flooded freshwater wetlands. It is the source for tupelo honey, one of the most highly prized honeys in all of North America. The wetlands are also home to Dwarf palms (Sabal minor) which are prolific in the forested floodplains. The iconic palmetto tree (Sabal palmetto) is another nectar source unique to the region, and groundsel trees (Baccharis halimifolia) and button bushes (Cephalanthus occidentalis) are abundant at wetland edges. Closer to the coast and river deltas, t he remnants of rice plantations left vast freshwater marshes and tidal meadows that harbor an array of wetland wildflowers such as swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata).

Agriculture in the coastal plain also provides nectar sources for honey bees. Several of the row crops such as cotton, soybeans, peanuts, flax, and canola cover thousands of acres across the region and are nectar sources for honey bees. There also are many fruit and vegetable operations growing cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupe, etc.), berries (blueberries, blackberries, elderberry, etc.), and brassicas (turnips, radishes, collards, cabbage, broccoli, etc.) which provide nectar to bees if they are allowed to flower. The other way agriculture helps bees is by disturbing and increasing fertility of the land which encourages many annual flowering plants to colonize field after the crops have been harvested. Plants such as wild mustard, henbit, thistle, buttercups, plantains, dandelions and a host of other “weeds” provide nectar sources for bees in and around agricultural fields. Also, field margins which provide superior forage habitat are home to blackberries, pokeweed, sicklepods, and a variety of other early successional wildflowers.

Florida Natives: Black Titi

Florida is home to some amazing and gorgeous plants that are underused and underappreciated in the home landscape. One such plant is an evergreen and easy-care large shrub or small tree known as black titi or buckwheat tree, botanically known as Cliftonia monophylla.

Pink-flowered variety of black titi, Cliftonia monophylla. Photo credit: Mary Salinas, UF/IFAS Extension.

Black titi or buckwheat tree. Photo credit: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, bugwood.com

Black titi is commonly found in wet areas and at the edges of swamps in USDA hardiness zones 7B through 9A from Louisiana through the Florida panhandle and into South Carolina. This is a perfect plant for those areas of your landscape that are low and consistently moist.

Early spring brings clusters of small white flowers at the tips of the branches. Occasionally one can find the pink-flowered variety of black titi in the native nursery trade. These fragrant flowers provide an early season nectar source for bees in February and March. The flowers give way to golden-amber seed pods that resemble buckwheat. The seed pods turn a pleasing orange-brown and persist on the plant through winter. The shiny dark green evergreen leaves along with the seed pods provide an additional ornamental quality to the tree in fall and early winter.


The rose is America's national floral emblem, and it is a favorite flower and plant for many gardeners. Here are 10 of our favorite varieties.

Green Ice (Rosa)

One of the few miniature roses showing very good disease resistance. Buds open to small, lightly scented greenish double flowers that age to white. Hardy, and good for containers.

Natchez Rose (Rosa 'POUllen')

A wonderful groundcover featuring finely textured, glossy foliage studded with small, pale-pink semi-double flowers with a long blooming season.

Rosa 'Mrs. Dudley Cross'

Nearly thornless, producing beautifully red new foliage and creamy yellow/pink flowers. Great for mixed borders with a nice repeat bloom in autumn.

Rosa 'Therese Bugnet'

Prickly stems are beautifully burnished red in winter, while mildly fragrant, stunning pink double flowers emerge late spring through early autumn.

Sweet Fragrance Rose (Rosa BAInce)

Long-blooming, peach double flowers are richly fragrant and disease resistant.

Pretty Lady aka 'Easy-to-Love(tm)' (Rosa 'SCRivo')

Reliably disease-resistant foliage with mildly fragrant, pearl-pink ruffled double petals that bloom over an extended flowering season.

Rosa 'Ducher' (Rosa 'Bengale Ducher')

Tidy and manageable over a long blooming season. Produces delightful red new foliage and young stems that contrast nicely with lightly fragrant, small white double flowers.

Rosa 'Natchitoches Noisette'

Loose, upright stems with clean foliage and spicy-scented, lavender-pink semi-double flowers bloom over a very long flowering season.

Rosa chinensis forma mutabilis

Single flowers change from yellow to rose, making a whimsical display on this large, healthy, long-blooming shrub.

The Pilgrim (Rosa AUSwalker)

This shrub rose features fully double, light yellow flowers emit a lightly spicy fragrance. Reliable, long blooming, and possessed of very good disease resistance.

Watch the video: Eversweet Apiairies Basic Beekeeping 101: Part 2 of 3

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