Firehouse Cultural Center mural plantings

A caring neighbor of the Ruskin/Apollo Beach community approached Third Insight Design with the task to refresh and give purpose to the landscape at the Firehouse Cultural Center located at 101 1st Ave NE, Ruskin, FL 33570.

The donor requested an easy care, well adapted, fun and educational landscape that resonates with the surrounding community of the Cultural Center and its responsibilities within it.

In view of the importance of perpetuating culture and knowledge Third Insight Design has compiled a comprehensive list of the plantings for visitors to learn more about these plants. For easier reading the plants are listed as they were planted from left to right. The picture on the right will serve as a guide.

a. Cymbopogon citratus

Lemon grass

Is a grass with a citrus aroma often used in Thai cuisine to flavor dishes, as an ingredient in mosquito repellent and also in herbal teas. The part of the plant that contains the most essential oils is the stalk. The more the green foliage is cut, the thicker the stalks become.

This grass is native to Asia and well adapted to humid and heavy rainfall environments. It has deep roots that can aid with erosion control and it remains green throughout the seasons.

b. Canna flaccida

Yellow canna lily

This native lily grows along waterways and swamps. It is well adapted to humid conditions and partial flooding and propagates through rhizomes.

c. Lippia alba


Native to Southern Texas and the rest of the continent southwards. It is a butterfly and beneficial insect attractant as well as a highly medicinal plant used by the original peoples to treat inflammation and digestive afflictions. Contains many essential oils that also make it suitable as an ingredient in mosquito repellent.

d. Mentha sp.

Vietnamese mint mint

Is native to North America and perennial in subtropical climates. It can reach a height of 18 inches thrives in moist environments and attracts many butterflies and beneficial insects with its pink flowers. This variety of mint is cultivated commercially for the extraction of its oils for the food industry.

e. Gaillardia spp.


The Florida State wild flower, Gaillardia acts as a ground cover and can grow in disturbed soils. Many insects visit these flowers. It is short lived but re-seeds itself every year.

f. Canna edulis


This lily grows along disturbed landscapes and regenerating prairies in South America. It is well adapted to humid conditions and partial flooding and propagates through rhizomes. These provide an edible starch with which the original peoples made breads. The rhizomes are also eaten as a root vegetable.

g. Ocimum kilimandscharicum × Ocimum basilicum ‘Dark Opal’

African blue basil

Is a perennial hybrid sterile basil well adapted to hot climates. The flower spikes of this type are more abundant than leaves and attract bees, butterflies, beetles and many other beneficial insects. It can be used as a spice but its aroma is pungent, more commonly used for external purposes.

h. Stachytarpheta cayennensis

Blue porterweed

Porterweed is an edible, medicinal and ornamental plant. The edible part are its blue/purple flowers. Some say they have a taste reminiscent of mushrooms. Porterweed grows well in poor soils, is adapted to humid and hot conditions and thrives on neglect.

i. Hemerocallis fulva

Day lily

Day lilies have naturalized in most of the United states. They appear in disturbed areas such as ditches and roadsides. These plants have a vigorous root system that make them great erosion controllers especially in sandy soils.

j. Carica papaya


Papayas are native to Central and South America and are easy to grow in Florida. Papayas can produce fruit within a year of planting. The fruit can be eaten when ripe but also prepared as a salad when green, fermented or cooked in stews.

k. Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum

Chiltepín pepper or Chile tepín

This pepper is native to southern Texas and Mexico (viva México!) where it grows wild and is also harvested from the wild. Birds are particularly fond of it.

¡A gozar el chile con un buen taquito o unas tortillitas con mole recién molido en el molcajete! ¡Ay Ay Ay qué rico!

l. Petroselinum crispum


Mediterranean herb widely grown for culinary purposes. Caterpillars of the swallowtail butterfly use parsley as their host plant.

m. Callicarpa americana

Beauty berry

Native shrub with a long history of uses in traditional medicine and folklore. Berries are edible when purple. Leaves are used to make mosquito repellent. Birds, butterflies, native bees and other beneficial insects feed and live in this plant. It is very well adapted to humid conditions and grows vigorously during the warmer months.

n. Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora

Thai basil

Is a variety of sweet basil with small leaves. The aroma is slightly sweeter than common basil. We recommend using the flowers to flavor your dishes as they contain more essential oils than the leaves.