Panhandle interest puts wildflowers on fast track

BLOUNTSTOWN – It was a beautiful day in Calhoun County – blue skies, maple tree seed pods shining red – when about 70 people streamed in from 15 counties streamed into Rivertown Community Church. Drawn by their common passion for Florida’s wildflowers, they had came to learn more about fostering wildflowers along federal, state and…

Wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis) Photo by Jim Haley

Flower Friday: Wild petunia

Wild petunia is a low-growing, erect perennial wildflower that typically blooms in late spring through late summer/early fall. It occurs naturally in mesic hammocks, flatwoods and sandhills, and along roadsides and in disturbed sites. It is the host plant for the white peacock (Anartia jatrophae) and common buckeye (Junonia coenia) butterflies, but attracts a variety of pollinators.

Xerces milkweeds conservation guide cover

Review of Xerces Society’s Milkweed Guide

Many of us are aware of the monarch’s population decline that has been well documented by researchers. Weather, habitat destruction of overwintering grounds in California and Mexico, and loss of food source on migration routes have caused great concern in the last few years. The Xerces Society’s insight into factors that influence monarch butterfly populations has pointed to many things we cannot control. However, the increased production and planting of the monarch food plants, milkweeds, is certainly an environmental movement that can be achieved on a large scale in the United States.

Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia). Photo by Lisa Roberts

Flower Friday: Red buckeye

Red buckeye is a deciduous understory shrub or small tree with showy clusters of red, tubular flowers that appear in late winter through spring. It is one of the first of the red tubular flowering plants to bloom each year, and is important food source for returning hummingbirds and butterflies.

WIld pennyroyal (Piloblephes rigida) Photo by Wayne Matchett

Flower Friday: Wild pennyroyal

Wild pennyroyal is a low-growing, evergreen, herbaceous to woody shrub. It typically flowers in late winter through spring, but can bloom year-round, and occurs naturally in scrub, scrubby and pine flatwoods, sandhills, dry prairies and ruderal areas. Flowers are attractive to a variety of bees and butterflies. The entire plant is delightfully aromatic, particularly when crushed. Its leaves can also be brewed into a minty tea.

Lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata). Photo by Lisa Roberts

Flower Friday:Lyreleaf sage

Lyreleaf sage is an attractive perennial that produces leafless spikes of lavender to bluish, tubular flowers. Bees are its predominant pollinator, but it also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. It typically flowers in late winter through late spring along woodland edges, in open areas and in disturbed sites.

Buttonsage (Lantana involucrata). Photo by Bob Peterson (Creative Commons license)

Flower Friday: Buttonsage

Buttonsage is a woody, evergreen shrub that produces dense clusters of small, fragrant, whitish to lavender flowers. It occurs naturally along coastal strands, dunes, hammocks, and pinelands in coastal counties from Pinellas (on the west) and Brevard (on the east) south to Monroe and into the Keys.

Christmasberry (Lycium carolinianum). Photo by Joseph A. Marcus, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Flower Friday: Christmasberry

Christmasberry gets its common name from the bright red, egg-shaped berries that it produces in abundance in December. It has also been referred to as Carolina desert-thorn, which is a reference to the occasional thorns borne on its branches. The nectar of the flowers attract a variety of butterflies and moths. The berries, while toxic to some animals, are a favorite food source for many birds. Christmasberry is a close relative of the Goji berry (Lycium barbarum, Lycium chinense).

Burr marigold (Bidens laevis). Photo by Mary Keim

Flower Friday: Burr marigold

Burr marigold is an annual wildflower that grows en masse in wetlands and along river and marsh edges throughout Florida. Its bright yellow flowers appear in late fall through early winter and attract many bees and butterflies. Its seeds have two barb-like bristles on the end that stick to clothing, hair and animal fur.