by Bob Silverman
You don’t have to travel far to see one of the hundreds of native flowers that make Florida stand out. They’re nature’s roadside attractions, and many can make for colorful additions to your yard.
Consider these natural wonders:
There are many benefits to introducing native plants to your gardens and outdoor spaces. Plant them in suitable conditions, and native plants thrive with little to no human intervention and are resistant to pests. Not sure what type of natives to introduce to your landscape? Start by keeping your eyes open: Note the plants that you see growing naturally along highways, in parks, and less developed areas of your part of the Sunshine State. While some are invasive, many are natives. Photograph the ones you like, and then consult a good online native plant directory, native plant book, knowledgeable FNPS member, iNaturalist, or an online plant identification group2. Let’s take a closer look at some of the native trees and plants you will see everywhere in Florida.
Florida’s native trees and plants are perfectly suited to the state's tropical and subtropical climate, weather patterns, and wildlife. The Sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) is one such plant. This Florida native, also known as the cabbage palm, is drought-tolerant and sturdy enough to weather some of the strongest hurricane winds. It can grow in forests, swamps, marshlands, and prairies, so you’ll find these trees in most Florida ecosystems. No surprise, it’s Florida’s state tree. In summer months, the cabbage palm produces a large panicle of small white blossoms. The central core — the "heart" of the tree — is edible and is considered a local delicacy. Keep in mind, the process of removing the heart from the tree will kill it.
You may see more than a few White Fringetrees (Chionanthus virginicus) decorating patios or balcony spaces north of Orlando, where their natural range begins. The fringe tree’s streamer-shaped flowers bloom in the spring. While cabbage palms can survive heavy winds, the fringe tree should be placed in a space that shelters it from harsh weather. You’ll often see them in swamp borders and moist, wooded areas, surrounded by other trees.
For a splash of color to complement the white blooms of the fringe tree, there’s the Florida Anise (Illicium floridanum). The Florida anise shrub bursts with scarlet blooms and its squat shape makes it perfect for planting around borders.It grows wild in the Northwest Florida Panhandle and along the coastal plains. This evergreen is a great addition to landscapes since it’s pest and disease-resistant.
Want to attract pollinators to your garden? Plant Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). A type of milkweed, Butterflyweed boasts bright orange blooms and is drought-tolerant. It's one of about 20 native Florida milkweeds. This flower grows wild in the sandhills, flatwoods, and roadsides, and you’ll often see it surrounded by monarch butterflies since the milkweed is their host plant. It’s also a favorite of hummingbirds and bees, benefiting other native plants in the landscape.
It’s tough to pass a Florida fence without spotting Yellow Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens). The yellow jessamine thrives when allowed to climb and is drought-tolerant. The bright yellow flowers bloom in winter months. A word of warning if you have pets: This flower is poisonous.
Three native plants you won’t see much of in Florida are our native Lantanas, also known as Shrub Verbenas: Lantana involucrata, Lantana canescens, and Lantana depressa. That’s because their homes along the South Florida coasts are being threatened by the invasive Common Lantana, Lantana camara. It’s easy to confuse them, but Lantana camara comes from the West Indies. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council lists it as a Category I invasive species because of the ecological damage it causes. Introduced to Florida in the early 1800s, spreads quickly and crowds out the native plants, including citrus groves. Like about half the 29 types of lantana, Lantana camara is toxic to people and livestock if ingested and causes blisters. Its toxic nature makes it unbearable for ranchers, whose pasture land is choked with the harmful plant.
While growing in their native environment, many Florida plants and trees are drought-resistant, so they practically take care of themselves. They help fight erosion, resist disease and pests, but they can’t resist an invasion from water-guzzling foreign species. Planting natives in your landscape nurtures a healthy ecosystem and makes your life easier. Avoid bringing in any exotic species, so we’ll continue to see more native trees and plants everywhere in Florida.
References: East Multnomah SWCD. 2020-07-23. What's so great about native plants? https://emswcd.org/native-plants/native-plant-benefits/
Bob Silverman is a freelance writer living on Florida’s Gold Coast. He is one of LawnStarter's longest-serving writing experts and for good reason! He enjoys sand volleyball, hiking, reading, and cruising the beach towns in his restored 1966 Ford Mustang convertible. More of Bob’s work can be found here.
1. Our other native Florida Tickseeds are: Baker's Tickseed (C. bakeri), Florida Tickseed (C. floridana), Coastalplain Tickseed (C. gladiata), Largeflower Tickseed (C. grandiflora), Fringeleaf Tickseed (C. integrifolia), Lanceleaf Tickseed (C. lanceolata), Texas Tickseed (C. linifolia), Greater Tickseed (C. major), Georgia Tickseed (C. nudata), Star Tickseed (C. pubescens), and Tall Tickseed (C. tripteris).
2. There are several excellent and fast native and general plant ID groups on Facebook: Plant Identification and Discussion, Plant Identification, Florida Native Gardening, and Native Plants of Florida. If you're a Facebook user and an FNPS member, you're welcome to join our Members-Only group, where we also provide identifications.
Popular posts from this blog
Austrailian Pine fruits Australian pines seem to be everywhere in the coastal regions in the bottom half of Florida. Their name is deceiving because, while they are native to Australia, they aren't pines or even conifers. They are flowering trees with separate male and female flowers, and what look like needles are really green twiglets with close-set circles of tiny leaves that drop at the first sign of a drought. In the photo to the right, the light-colored lines are where leaves where once attached. Most of the photosynthesis takes place in the twiglets. There are three species of Australian pine ( Casuarina spp ) that have been imported into Florida for various purposes. They were widely planted to soak up the "swamps" in Florida, stabilize canals, and hold beaches. Unfortunately for Florida's ecosystems, the "pines" accomplished all this and more--like seeding prolifically, growing five feet or more per year, producing dense shade, and emitting
Man-in-the-ground ( Ipomoea microdactyla ), fantastically beautiful morning glory for southernmost Florida. A post by Roger L. Hammer Most everyone is familiar with morning-glories in the genus Ipomoea, and certainly everyone reading this has even eaten Ipomoea batatas, the common sweet potato. The Morning-Glory Family (Convolvulaceae) is well-represented in Florida, with 67 species in fourteen genera. Of those, twenty-four species are naturalized exotics, and four species are endemic to Florida, found nowhere else. The genus Ipomoea is the largest in the family, with twenty-five species and one naturally-occurring hybrid of two native species. Exactly half of the species (13) in Florida are native. Only two species are rare enough to be listed as endangered by the state of Florida, and these are the rockland morning-glory ( Ipomoea tenuissima ) and man-in-the-ground ( Ipomoea microdactyla ). Both are on the northern extreme of their natural range in Florida, and both are re