The Florida Wildflower Foundation provides scholarships for masters students studying wildflowers within the University of Florida’s Plant Restoration and Conservation Horticulture Consortium of the Department of Environmental Horticulture in Gainesville. Tia Tyler, the second of two students supported by FWF, is advised by Dr. Hector Perez, Associate Professor at the Plant Restoration and Conservation Horticulture Consortium at the Department of Environmental Horticulture, University of Florida.
Instrumental in getting the Florida Wildflower Foundation off the ground, Anne Mackay continues to serve on the Foundation’s board, first serving on the Florida Wildflower Council board, then as board chair for the Florida Wildflower Foundation. Read why she stays involved.
Frogfruit is known by many names: turkey tangle fogfruit, capeweed, matchhead, creeping Charlie… Regardless of what you call it, frogfruit is both a versatile and vital wildflower. This evergreen perennial is low-growing and creeping, often forming dense mats of green foliage.
If you are tired of mowing, watering and fertilizing the lawn, and fighting chinch bugs and other lawn pests, consider replacing your turf grass with oblongleaf twinflower, an easy-to-care-for native groundcover. It occurs naturally in dry to moist sandhills, flatwoods and mixed upland forests and attracts bees and butterflies, including the malachite (Siproeta stelenes) and white peacock (Anartia jatrophae). It is also a host plant for the common buckeye (Junonia coenia).
Some say creeping woodsorrel is a shamrock impersonator with its clove-like leaf blade. All will say that this ground-hugging native plant has an eye-catching yellow flower. It can bloom almost any time during the year, although spring is the time for heavy flowering and seed formation.
Dainty, ground-hugging, perennial, flowering and edible are just a few descriptions for Florida’s common blue violet. This plant is aptly named as it is the violet that is most common throughout Florida and is often seen in cultivated lawns. It grows in clumps, forming a thick groundcover that will never need to be mowed. They are prolific self-seeders, as well. When grown in the right conditions, violets flower from spring through the summer months.
Spiderwort is an erect perennial wildflower that is very attractive to bees. And like all species in the dayflower family, it is ephemeral, meaning its flowers stay open only one day. Four species of spiderwort are native to Florida, with hairyflower spiderwort (T. hirsutiflora) growing in the Panhandle, and bluejacket or Ohio spiderwort (T. ohiensis) being the most common throughout North and Central Florida.
Also known as Canadian toadflax, blue toadflax is an annual (or occasionally biennial) wildflower that forms a delicate sea of lavender when in bloom. It is common along roadsides, in pastures and in other disturbed areas and is sometimes confused with lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata) because of its similar growth habit and bloom color, and because they often grow together.
No matter what you call it — beggar’s tick, Spanish needle, monkey’s lice — Bidens alba is likely the most underappreciated of all Florida’s native wildflower. It is often considered a weed because it reproduces so prolifically, but it is a great native wildflower for attracting pollinators. In Florida, it is the third most common source of nectar for honey production. Its young leaves and flowers are edible.
Thistles have a bad reputation for their spiny personality, but these formidable wildflowers shine as favorite nectar and host plants for many bees and butterflies, including swallowtails. It is the larval host plant for the little metalmark and painted lady butterflies. The seeds are an important food source for seed-eating birds.
Known by many names — scarlet sage, tropical sage, red salvia, blood sage — this versatile perennial wildflower is a steadfast addition to any wildflower garden. Its flower is one that no pollinator can resist, but it is particularly attractive to bees, large butterflies and hummingbirds. It typically blooms in summer and fall, but can bloom year-round in many parts of the state.
Although often overlooked, the diminutive white flowers and verdurous leaves of innocence are a welcome sight for anyone with the winter blues. This low-growing perennial creeps along the floors of many open habitats throughout Florida.
The Florida Wildflower Foundation established the endowment in 2007 to provide funds for graduate students conducting full-time wildflower research. In fall 2013, University of Florida graduate student Nicholas Genna became the first student to receive a graduate assistantship from the Gary Henry Endowment for the Study of Florida Native Wildflowers. Genna is studying under Dr. Hector Perez within the Department of Environmental Horticulture’s Plant Restoration and Conservation Horticulture Consortium on the university’s Gainesville campus.
In the last decade or so, honey bee populations worldwide have significantly diminished due to unknown causes. Less known is the fact that native bee populations in North America are also in decline. As more rural and wild landscape becomes suburban and urban, there is less space and materials needed by native bees for laying eggs and feeding their young. But there is a way for you to help. Create a space in your garden that is attractive to native bees and encourage them to stay.
Leavenworth’s tickseed can bloom year-round. Its natural habitat is mesic pine flatwoods, but it is often used as a component of mixed wildflower and butterfly gardens, and is excellent for sunny roadsides, highway medians and powerline easements. It attracts many pollinators and is eaten by rabbits (if you’re lucky enough to have rabbits in your landscape).