Dune (or beach) sunflower (Helianthus debilis) is a sprawling, herbaceous groundcover that produces many yellow, daisy-like flowers. It typically flowers in the summer, but may flower year-round in South Florida. Its flowers attract a variety of pollinators, including butterflies, moths and bees. Its dense growth pattern provides cover for many small animals, while its seeds are eaten by birds.
Blue porterweed is a low-growing and sprawling evergreen shrub that produces small bluish-purple flowers. It typically blooms in the summer, but may flower year-round in South Florida. It is an excellent addition to a butterfly garden: It is the host plant of the tropical buckeye and is a nectar source for many butterfly species.
Purple coneflower is an endangered Florida native wildflower, found naturally growing only in Gadsden County. Its striking bloom attracts a variety of butterflies, bees and even hummingbirds, while its seeds are eaten by birds and other wildlife.
Spotted beebalm (also known as dotted horsemint) is a robust, aromatic wildflower known to attract a huge variety of pollinating insects, including bees, wasps and butterflies. It blooms from early summer through fall, and occurs naturally in meadows, coastal dunes, roadsides and dry disturbed areas.
Scarlet rosemallow (also known as scarlet hibiscus) is an herbaceous to semi-woody perennial wildflower that is common along wetland and stream edges, and in swamps and other wet, open sites. Its deep red flowers are very attractive to hummingbirds.
Also known as beach morning glory, bayhops, or goat’s foot, railroad vine is a fast-growing, evergreen, perennial commonly found on beach dunes. Its large showy flowers attract bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps and ants. As with other morning glory species, railroad vine flowers open in the morning and last only one day, however, the plant is a prolific bloomer.
American lotus is an aquatic emergent perennial with large, solitary flowers that are pale yellow in color and are very fragrant. It has one of the largest blooms of any flowering plant in America. It occurs naturally in still to slow moving freshwater habitats such as along lake and pond edges, and in freshwater marshes.
There’s a good chance that if you’ve been to any Florida Wildflower Foundation events, you may have run into this member. Most recently, he could be found with 25 other wildflower enthusiasts at the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area, soaking up some plant identification and lore on a walk led by author and FWF board member Dr. Walter K. Taylor.
FWF member Chris Waltz is known to many in native plant circles because of the supporting role he plays in conferences and other events. Here is what Chris has to say about his involvement with the Florida Wildflower Foundation.
Many of us have had the pleasure of seeing gopher tortoises (or at least their burrows) on nature walks. They live in every county in Florida, and although they are associated with dry sandhills, they may also be found in many diverse areas such as pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, scrub areas and coastal dunes. Open pastures and vacant lots can also be a refuge for them. Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) prefer sunny open land with sandy soil that is also conducive to the growth of many of our Florida wildflowers. So it is no surprise that wildflowers make up a significant portion of their diet.
You may know this group of plants as “rattlesnakemasters.” Although not widely grown for landscape use, these perennial plants can be found across Florida in a variety of habitats. I love the diversity of these plants, as well as their interesting flowers that occur in summer and fall. They are always a little hard to describe because the heads are comprised of many tiny flowers, but their unique blooms, which may last for several months, are best captured in photos.
Spring and fall wildflowers can be spectacular with a plethora of yellow and purple flowers, but summer seems to offer a wider diversity of colorful, showy wildflowers along roadsides.
The Wildflowers, Naturally! program was launched to recognize gardens throughout the state that have areas dedicated to native wildflowers, flowering shrubs and trees. One of the first to apply for recognition was Roger Agness of Orlando.
Butterfly milkweed is a perennial that produces large, showy clusters of bright orange to reddish flowers from spring through fall. It occurs naturally in sandhills, pine flatwoods, and other sandy uplands as well as along sunny roadsides. It is an exception to the Asclepias genus in that its stem does not contain the milky latex that distinguishes the rest of the genus and gives it the common name “milkweed.”
Partridge pea flowers in the summer to late fall, and year-round in southern Florida. It occurs naturally in scrub, sandhill, flatwoods, beach dunes and disturbed areas. The blooms attract mostly bees and butterflies, although ants are also attracted to the nectar glands. It is the host plant to several species of butterfly, including the gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) and cloudless sulfur (Phoebis sennae).
Tarflower is a woody evergreen shrub with showy white to pinkish flowers. It occurs naturally in scrub, pine flatwoods and scrubby flatwoods and is found in most of peninsular Florida, but its native range does not extend into the Panhandle. It gets its common name from its sticky flowers that attract and then trap bees, flies and other insects.