Common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) on purple thistle (Cirsium horridulum) Photo by Mary Keim

Know your native pollinators: Bumble bees

Bumble bees are very efficient pollinators because they “buzz pollinate.” The bee grabs onto a flower and vibrates its flight muscles but not its wings. This causes the flower to release its pollen. It also creates an audible buzz at the frequency of a middle C note. The genus name Bombus comes from the Greek bombos, which means “buzzing sound.”

Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia). Photo by Stacey Matrazzo.

Flower Friday: Spanish bayonet

Spanish bayonet is an erect, woody evergreen shrub that produces large (1-3 feet) terminal panicles of showy white flowers. It occurs naturally in sandhills, dry thickets, disturbed sites, and coastal strands, hammocks and grasslands. It flowers spring through fall and provides food and cover for a variety of wildlife and pollinators. The blooms are frequented for their nectar by hummingbirds and butterflies such as the great southern white (Ascia monuste). Spanish bayonet is also the larval host plant for the cofaqui giant skipper (Megathymus cofaqui) and yucca giant skipper (Megathymus yuccae) butterflies.

Swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscous). Photo by Stacey Matrazzo

Flower Friday: Swamp azalea

Swamp azalea is a long-lived perennial shrub to small tree with fragrant white blooms. It occurs naturally in wet flatwoods, seep and bay swamps and along lake margins. It flowers late spring through summer after the leaves emerge. It is attractive to a variety of pollinators, including hummingbirds. Swamp azalea is Florida’s only white-flowered and summer-blooming rhododendron.

Southern beeblossom (Oenothera simulans). Photo by Mary Keim

Flower Friday: Southern beeblossom

Southern beeblossom is an erect herbaceous annual that occurs naturally along roadsides and in pinelands, open woods and sandy fields. It flowers spring through summer and attracts a wide range of small pollinators, including moths and bees. The pollen grains are held together by a threadlike substance and can only be collected by pollinators that are morphologically specialized. Its flowers open at night (hence the family name, evening primrose), so only pollinators that forage at night can pollinate them. Birds have been known to eat Southern beeblossom seeds.

Pricklypear cactus (Opuntia humifosa). Photo by Stacey Matrazzo

Flower Friday: Pricklypear cactus

Pricklypear cactus occurs naturally in scrub, scrubby flatwoods, sandhills, coastal strands, ruderal sites and dry, open areas. It flowers in late spring and attracts a wide range of pollinators, especially native bees. The fleshy fruits and seeds are eaten by birds, small mammals and gopher tortoises (who also enjoy browsing the pads).

Mock bishopsweed (Ptilimnium capillaceum). Photo by Stacey Matrazzo

Flower Friday: Mock bishopsweed

Mock bishopsweed is a delicate little annual that is too often disregarded as a weed. But despite its small stature, it is both attractive and ecologically beneficial, especially when it occurs in mass. Its many dainty white flowers typically appear in spring and summer in swamps, marshes, coastal swales, ditches and along pond edges. Like most members of the Apiaceae family, mock bishopsweed has a long taproot, which helps the plants survive “hazards” such as drought and being eaten by black swallowtail caterpillars.

False indigo (Amorpha fruticosa). Photo by Craig Huegel

Flower Friday: False indigo

False indigo is a densely branched woody shrub with a striking spring and summer floral display. It occurs naturally in alluvial forests, wet and coastal hammocks, cypress pond edges, and along stream and river banks. It attracts many pollinators and is the larval host plant for the silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus), Southern dogface (Zerene cesonia), gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) butterflies.

White wild indigo (Baptisia alba). Photo by Lisa Roberts

Flower Friday: White wild indigo

White wild indigo is a long-lived perennial herbaceous wildflower with showy white blooms. It occurs naturally in pine flatwoods and along riverbanks and deciduous forest edges. It attracts many pollinators and is the larval host plant for the wild indigo duskywing and Zarucco duskywing butterflies. The fruits are eaten by a variety of birds, and the foliage is browsed by rabbits and deer. (The plant’s large tuberous roots allow it to withstand browsing.)

Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus). Photo by Lisa Roberts.

Flower Friday: Fringetree

Also known as old man’s beard (or grancy graybeard in limited circles), fringetree is often overshadowed by dogwood, plum and other spring-flowering trees. But fringetree’s graceful tassled flowers put on an equally spectacular display. It occurs naturally in a variety of habitats including moist hammocks and sandy uplands. It attracts many pollinators, including bats, and is the larval host plant for several species of sphinx moths. Birds love the fruits.

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). Photo by Eleanor Dietrich.

Flower Friday: Mountain laurel

Mountain laurel is an evergreen, perennial shrub to small tree that puts on a spectacular springtime display. It occurs naturally in slope forests, bluffs and along creeks, seep streams and swamp edges. It attracts bees and provides cover for birds and small mammals. Mountain laurel is a state-listed threatened species in Florida.

Lanceleaf tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata). Photo by Stacey Matrazzo

Flower Friday: Lanceleaf tickseed

Lanceleaf tickseed is a perennial wildflower with conspicuously sunny blooms that typically appear in spring and sometimes into summer. It occurs naturally in moist sandhills, marshes, and along swamp edges. It attracts butterflies and other pollinators, and its seeds are commonly eaten by birds and small wildlife. Lanceleaf tickseed is one of 13 species of Coreopsis native to Florida. Coreopsis is Florida’s state wildflower.

Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis). Photo by Eleanor Dietrich

Flower Friday: Eastern redbud

Eastern redbud is a deciduous perennial tree that produces an abundance of striking magenta blooms. It typically flowers in March, at which time the entire crown of the tree will become covered in deep pink blooms. It occurs naturally in mesic hardwood hammocks. Eastern redbud depends on bees for pollination. Its leaves provide food for many caterpillars, including the io moth.