Central Florida gardeners will soon a have a new location to see and explore Florida’s native wildflowers and grasses. A no-mow wildflower meadow is being installed at the Orange County UF/IFAS Extension’s Exploration Gardens in Orlando, funded by the Florida Wildflower Foundation’s Viva Florida Landscape Demonstration Garden grant. The meadow will be approximately 2,700 square feet and will include 25 species of Florida native wildflowers and grasses. Eventually, it will connect two sections of a planned native tree walk.
Eleanor Dietrich stepped down July 28 from her post as the the Florida Wildflower Foundation’s Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)/Panhandle Wildflower Alliance (PWA) liaison. Liz Sparks, a veteran of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and state Department of Environmental Protection, will take over Dietrich’s responsibilities.
With a $21,000 grant to the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History, the Florida Wildflower Foundation is supporting a unique research project that will train prison inmates to test and document propagation techniques for milkweed, the only host plant for Monarch butterflies. The grant is made possible by sales of the State Wildflower license plate.
A visit to Cape Coral’s Rotary Park Environmental Center includes a new opportunity to become acquainted with some of Florida’s beautiful native wildflowers. With funds from the Florida Wildflower Foundation’s Viva Florida Landscape Demonstration Garden grant program, a native wildflower garden has been planted near the park’s education center.
As anyone who has started a small wildflower meadow at home probably knows, weeds can make or break successful wildflower establishment. That’s why the Florida Wildflower Foundation has joined with Lake County on a research project at PEAR Park in Tavares that will experiment with various weed control methods.
Many areas are very dry now, especially in Central and South Florida. When traveling in West Central Florida in mid-May, I saw very few wildflowers blooming, even in normally moist areas, many of which had dried up. The good news is that the NOAA Climate Prediction Center is forecasting that drought conditions should be alleviated by the end of August in all but east Central Florida, and even in that part of the state drought conditions should improve.
Earlier-than-normal blooming of spring wildflowers seems to be occurring more often, but this year stands out because some wildflowers are blooming nearly a month earlier than expected. The influence of this “abnormal” weather will probably be greatest in North Florida. If the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) climate predictions hold true, March will likely be wetter and warmer than normal, which would speed up the time when mid- or late-spring wildflowers bloom, such as Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and Blanketflower (Gaillardia pulchella).
Some of the plants that are common to our home landscapes are actually invasive species, many of which are now widespread in Florida’s natural areas. Removing these species from your landscape and replacing them with native alternatives can help prevent the spread of invasive species and will provide suitable food and cover for native wildlife. We suggest some “alter-natives” for your landscape.
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.”
“Know your native pollinators” is a series of articles that will help you identify and appreciate Florida’s varied pollinators, including bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, birds and bats. Cuckoo bees are often mistaken for wasps because their body shape resembles a wasp, and they are nearly hairless. They also lack the pollen baskets that most bees have on their legs because they do not collect pollen for their young.
Many Floridians become familiar with carpenter bees by accident. They may notice a hole that appears to have been drilled into unpainted wood around their homes with a sawdust pile beneath it. Or they might hear a buzzing sound coming from within the hole. Both are telltale signs of carpenter bees.
Chris Waltz, volunteer extraordinaire and wildflower-gardening enthusiast, was inspired by people saying they can’t grow natives because they live in an apartment, condo, or other small space. He started thinking: They grow houseplants and annuals; why can’t they grow natives the same way? The result? A “pollinator garden in a pot.”
More than 38,000 visitors have had the opportunity to become better acquainted with the beauty and benefit of Florida’s native wildflowers since the establishment of a wildflower demonstration garden at the Pinellas County UF/IFAS Extension in Largo. The garden was funded by a $3,000 grant from the Florida Wildflower Foundation.
It looks like a banner bloom ahead for Florida’s spring wildflowers, thanks to our relatively warm and wet winter months. Here’s a look at what’s happening across the state. See the Florida Wildflower Foundation’s What’s in Bloom page for more blossoms and instructions on how to submit your own spring wildflower photos.