Baldwin’s eryngo (Eryngium baldwinii) is a deciduous perennial (sometimes biennial) wildflower with a prostrate, vine-like growth habit. You’ll rarely notice it as you drive along the highway, but it can form a large sprawling groundcover, providing a hazy, light blue understory to other wildflowers. It occurs naturally in wet hammocks and in disturbed areas such as moist roadsides. It typically blooms in summer, although it has been known to bloom as early as spring and into the fall. It attracts small bees and butterflies.
Like all milkweeds, whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) is a larval host plant for the monarch butterfly and is attractive to a variety of pollinators. It flowers late spring through late summer/early fall. .
If you’re looking to dress up your landscape this summer, consider these native species, which adapt readily to home gardens and provide weeks of blooms.
Yellow colicroot (Aletris lutea) is a slender, short-lived perennial that produces long terminal spikes of yellow blooms. It occurs naturally in mesic pine flatwoods, wet prairies, open seepage areas and moist ruderal sites. It flowers in late winter/early spring through summer.
Pale meadow beauty (Rhexia mariana) is an herbaceous perennial wildflower with showy blooms that vary in color from white to pink. It occurs naturally in wet flatwoods, open savannas, marshes, bogs and wet roadsides. It flowers spring through fall and attracts many bees and butterflies.
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) 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) 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.
Dr. Alan Franck is curator of the University of South Florida Herbarium in Tampa, founded in 1958. It holds 285,000 specimens, and is the second largest collection in Florida. Alan has supported the Florida Wildflower Foundation through membership since 2011. To join Alan in supporting the Florida Wildflower Foundation as a member, click here. Tell…
Southern beeblossom (Oenothera simulans) 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 humifusa) 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).
Blue-eyed grass’ low profile makes it an excellent groundcover choice. It is fairly adaptable to conditions of drought and partial shade, but planting in full sun and moist soil will result in denser foliage and more flowers.
False indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) 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 (Baptista alba) 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.)
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.