Xerces milkweeds conservation guide cover

Review of Xerces Society’s Milkweed Guide

Many of us are aware of the monarch’s population decline that has been well documented by researchers. Weather, habitat destruction of overwintering grounds in California and Mexico, and loss of food source on migration routes have caused great concern in the last few years. The Xerces Society’s insight into factors that influence monarch butterfly populations has pointed to many things we cannot control. However, the increased production and planting of the monarch food plants, milkweeds, is certainly an environmental movement that can be achieved on a large scale in the United States.

WIld pennyroyal (Piloblephes rigida) Photo by Wayne Matchett

Flower Friday: Wild pennyroyal

Wild pennyroyal is a low-growing, evergreen, herbaceous to woody shrub. It typically flowers in late winter through spring, but can bloom year-round, and occurs naturally in scrub, scrubby and pine flatwoods, sandhills, dry prairies and ruderal areas. Flowers are attractive to a variety of bees and butterflies. The entire plant is delightfully aromatic, particularly when crushed. Its leaves can also be brewed into a minty tea.

Lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata)

Flower Friday:Lyreleaf sage

Lyreleaf sage is an attractive perennial that produces leafless spikes of lavender to bluish, tubular flowers. Bees are its predominant pollinator, but it also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. It typically flowers in late winter through late spring along woodland edges, in open areas and in disturbed sites.

Buttonsage (Lantana involucrata). Photo by Bob Peterson (Creative Commons license)

Flower Friday: Buttonsage

Buttonsage is a woody, evergreen shrub that produces dense clusters of small, fragrant, whitish to lavender flowers. It occurs naturally along coastal strands, dunes, hammocks, and pinelands in coastal counties from Pinellas (on the west) and Brevard (on the east) south to Monroe and into the Keys.

Saltmarsh skipper on Christmasberry

Flower Friday: Christmasberry

Christmasberry gets its common name from the bright red, egg-shaped berries that it produces in abundance in December. It has also been referred to as Carolina desert-thorn, which is a reference to the occasional thorns borne on its branches. The nectar of the flowers attract a variety of butterflies and moths. The berries, while toxic to some animals, are a favorite food source for many birds. Christmasberry is a close relative of the Goji berry (Lycium barbarum, Lycium chinense).

Burr marigold (Bidens laevis). Photo by Mary Keim

Flower Friday: Burr marigold

Burr marigold is an annual wildflower that grows en masse in wetlands and along river and marsh edges throughout Florida. Its bright yellow flowers appear in late fall through early winter and attract many bees and butterflies. Its seeds have two barb-like bristles on the end that stick to clothing, hair and animal fur.

Climbing aster (Symphyotrichum carolinianum). Photo by Mary Keim

Flower Friday: Climbing aster

Climbing aster is a robust vine-like shrub that produces many fragrant daisy-like blooms of lavender to pinkish or even bluish. It occurs naturally in floodplain swamps and marshes, in coastal hammocks and wet pine flatwoods, and along riverbanks and lake edges, and is an excellent nectar source for many butterflies and bees.

Drumheads (Polygala cruciata)

Flower Friday: Drumheads

Drumheads is a low-growing wildflower that blooms from late spring through fall. They occur naturally throughout most of Florida in wet pinelands, savannas and other open wetland habitats, as well as along marsh edges. The name Polygala comes from the Greek polys, which means “many or much,” and gala, which means “milk.” It is so-named because it was once believed that the presence of Polygala species in cow fields would result in higher milk production.

Garberia (Garberia heterophylla). Photo by Stacey Matrazzo

Flower Friday: Garberia

Garberia is a member of the Eupatorieae tribe of the Aster family, whose members produce flowers consisting of only disk and no ray florets. It is unlike most Aster species in that its growth habit is woody and shrubby rather than herbaceous. It is endemic to Florida’s north and central peninsula, and occurs naturally in scrub and xeric hammocks. It is a state-listed threatened species.