Wildflower lovers are building a statewide profile of what can be seen along the highways and in gardens and natural areas. You can join in—all you need is a digital camera, a map or GPS unit and a field guide.
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Above-normal temperatures predicted for spring, combined with adequate winter rains throughout much of the state, should result in showy displays of early spring beauties such skyblue lupine (Lupinus diffusus), lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata), violets (Viola spp.), spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis), toadflax (Linaria spp.), and annual phlox (Phlox drummondii). While annual phlox is not native to Florida, it is a familiar roadside wildflower throughout the Big Bend and Central Florida as far south as Tampa.
While this spring should be warmer than normal, it should be relatively dry, so moist sites in rural areas will be best for good wildflower displays in April and May. Look for Leavenworth’s tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii, right), Southeastern sneezeweed (Helenium pinnatifidum), and the blue prairie Iris (Iris hexagona). Another common native species of moist areas in Central and South Florida is black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), although in the Panhandle, that species tends to occur in drier habitats. A good place to view showy stands of Leavenworth’s tickseed, black-eyed Susan and other wildflowers that prefer moist sites is the Florida Turnpike south of Orlando, from about mile marker 220 south to Yeehaw Junction.
A warm, dry spring should result in good stands of blanketflower (Gaillardia pulchella) and beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis), mainly in coastal areas, as well as of the hairy form of lanceleaf tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata). C. lanceolata, which occurs in the northern half of Florida, typically has smooth leaves. In parts of the Panhandle, though, a very fuzzy form occurs in dry, sunny, sandy sites. Warm, dry weather may reduce the extent of goldenmane tickseed (Coreopsis basalis), which is very common on roadsides in the Big Bend region (C. basalis is native to the U.S., but its nativity to Florida is debatable).
View wildflowers along these routes, developed by the Foundation:
See details about these routes.
Photo by Katherine Edison
Florida's garden clubs led the way in beautifying roadways with wildflowers. In the 1960s, the Florida Department of Transportation joined the effort. FDOT now has its own wildflower program, whichplants wildflowers and maintains natural populations along hundreds of miles of federal and state highways. Counties and cities can establish or care for wildflowers along roads and trails and in parks they maintain. They also can request that FDOT plant wildflowers and alter mowing practices within their boundaries.
Want more wildflowers along roadsides and multi-use trails near you? Learn about a resolution that is the first step to preserving and planting wildflowers in your county. Read more.
When you are out viewing wildflowers, please don’t pick them. Many of our native wildflowers reproduce only by seed. Picking a flower reduces the ability of that plant to reproduce and for that population of wildflowers to sustain itself. Instead, use wildflowers in your yard or in containers. Seed packets are available in the Florida Wildflower Foundation Flower Shop and from the Florida Wildflower Seed and Plant Growers Association. Florida native wildflower seed packets also may be available at native plant garden centers.
More reasons not to pick wildflowers: