Coastal searocket (Cakile lanceolata) is a charming little wildflower found on dunes and strands in many of Florida’s coastal counties. It typically blooms in early spring and summer, but can bloom year-round. The specimen in the photo was recently spotted on St. George Island in the Panhandle. The flowers attract bees and butterflies, including the great southern white, for which it is a larval host. The stems and leaves are edible.
Pineland daisy (Chaptalia tomentosa) is an early-blooming aster found in wet flatwoods, bogs and freshwater marsh edges. It begins as nodding pinkish bud, and opens into a wheel of white disk and ray florets. It is also known as woolly sunbonnets — “woolly” because the undersides of its leaves are covered in a dense mat of hairs, and “sunbonnets” because the drooping bloom has a bonnetlike appearance.
Fanpetals (Sida spp.) bloom in dry uplands and ruderal and disturbed areas. This member of the Hibiscus family can bloom year-round and attracts bees and butterfies, including the tropical checkered skipper, for which it is a larval host. Fanpetals do well in naturalistic landscapes as they can become weedy if not maintained.
With so much attention given to the Christmas poinsettia this time of year, we thought it would be a good time to pay homage to our native poinsettia, paintedleaf (Poinsettia cyathorphora). It is smaller and far less dramatic than its Mexican cousin, but it is just as striking. The flowers, which are tiny and greenish-yellow, are surrounded by large, leaflike bracts with distinctively red bases, giving the plant its common name. The seeds are a favorite of mourning doves.
Smallfruit beggarticks (Bidens mitis) is an annual aster that blooms year-round in wet prairies and along fresh and brackish marsh edges throughout much of Florida. It blooms en masse in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, among other locations. The bright yellow flowers attract many bees and butterflies.
Indianpipe (Monotropa uniflora), also known as ghost plant, is an odd and interesting wildflower as it contains no chlorophyll. It begins its life as a white, translucent plant, turning pinkish and developing blackish-purple flecks as it matures. It is often mistaken for a fungus because of its growth habit and lack of color, but it is actually a myco-heterotrophic species, which means it gets its food by parasitizing underground fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees. Even more interesting is that indianpipe is in the Ericaceae family — the same family as blueberries and azaleas!
Fragrant ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes odorata) is a semi-aquatic to aquatic perennial orchid. The genus Spiranthes comes from the Greek speira or “coil” and anthos or “flower.” It refers to the spiral arrangement of the inflorescence. The species epithet odorata comes from the Latin for “fragrant” or “perfumed” and refers to its delightful vanilla-like scent. Fragrant ladies’-tresses can be found blooming now in swamps, wet pinelands and seepage slopes.
Also known as bushy aster, rice button aster (Symphyotrichum dumosum) is a perennial herbaceous wildflower and a profuse bloomer like so many other Symphyotrichum species. Its flowers are small but they attract a plethora of pollinators including butterflies and native bees. It is the larval host plant for the pearl crescent butterfly.
Nothing says fall in Florida like the purple haze of hairyawn muhly grass in bloom. When planted en masse, this perennial bunchgrass puts on a spectacular fall display. It’s great for just about any landscape as it is hardy, drought-tolerant, easy to care for and adaptable to a variety of soil and light conditions. Its foliage is attractive all year and its clumping habit provides excellent cover for wildlife.
Seminole false foxglove (Agalinis filifolia) is an annual herbaceous wildflower found in sandhills, flatwoods, coastal scrub and xeric woodlands throughout Florida. It bears lovely pink flowers with fringed corollas and white throats with pink spots. It attracts many pollinators, including the common buckeye, of which it is a larval host plant. Its secret to survival is its parasitic nature, living off nutrients it takes from the roots of other plants.
Bushy seaside oxeye (Borrichia frutescens) is common in Florida’s coastal strands, mangroves, beach dunes, salt marshes and tidal flats. It blooms year-round, keeping our coastline in color and attracting butterflies and other pollinators. Its seeds provide food for birds and other small wildlife.
Meet vanillaleaf, the odiferous Carphephorus! Perhaps the most telling of common names, vanillaleaf refers to the vanilla-like scent that the plant’s wilting leaves emit when crushed. Vanillaleaf (Carpephorus odoratissimus) is a perennial that produces many small purple flowers in terminal, flat-topped inflorescences. It blooms late summer into fall in mesic to hydric pine flatwoods, moist sandhills and bogs, and is attractive to pollinators.
Say hello to summer farewell, a perennial herbaceous wildflower native to sandhills, dry flatwoods and scrub habitat. As the common name implies, summer farewell (Dalea pinnata) blooms in late summer and early fall. Its many white flowers attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. Its seeds provide food for birds and small wildlife. Summer farewell makes an excellent addition to a dry, sunny wildflower garden. It is dormant in the winter, but its spring leaves, summer and fall flowers, and fall seed pods provide plenty of color throughout the rest of the year.
Even cat people love dogtongue wild buckwheat! This herbaceous perennial produces a plethora of white to pinkish flowers in late summer and fall. You’ll find it blooming in sandhills, scrub and pinelands in the Panhandle and north and central peninsula. It attracts a variety of pollinators, including the thread-waisted wasp (Eremnophila aureonotata) and tiphiid wasp (Myzinum sp.).
No one knows who Barbara is, but we can surely admire her buttons! A member of the aster family, Grassleaf Barbara’s buttons (Marshallia graminifolia) is a fragrant wildflower with showy, solitary blooms that have a tassled, button-like appearance. Each flower has many whitish-pink to pale lavender disk florets arranged in a concentric circle — and no ray florets. It blooms summer through fall and like most Asters, attracts a plethora of pollinators.