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.
What’s in a name? Well, if it’s sandbog deathcamas, everything is in the name! Sandbog deathcamas (Zigadenus glaberrimus) is a poisonous wildflower native to wet flatwoods and prairies in the Panhandle. Its many star-shaped flowers are cream-colored with greenish-gold glands at the base of their petals. It blooms summer through fall (it’s blooming now!) and attracts bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Don’t forget pineland heliotrope (Euploca polyphylla) if you’re looking for year-round blooms! This member of the forget-me-not family is a Florida endemic and is adaptable to a variety of conditions. Its small white or yellow flowers attract many pollinators.
Pink milkweed is an erect, herbaceous perennial wildflower with showy pink flowers. It occurs naturally in floodplain swamps, hydric hammocks, wet pine flatwoods and marshes. It typically blooms in summer and attracts many pollinators. It is a larval host plant for Monarch, Queen and Soldier butterfly caterpillars.
Comfortroot, also known as pineland hibiscus, is a large perennial wildflower with showy cream-colored blooms. It occurs naturally in wet to mesic pinelands, and along the edges of savannas, bogs and roadside ditches. It typically blooms late spring through fall and attracts pollinators, specifically bees. The common name comfortroot may allude to the belief that the plant’s mucilaginous roots has soothing properties.
You will find Walter and Karin Taylor at most Florida Wildflower Foundation and Florida Native Plant Society events, many times volunteering their time to speak to others or sit at information tables and promote wildflowers. They are longtime residents of Florida and experts on wildflowers, with Walter having authored numerous field guides that have become indispensable to Florida wildflower enthusiasts.