Flowers of ice in Florida??? Yes, seeing is believing. I first saw icy flowers — often called frost flowers, ice flowers, ice ribbons, or the exotic-sounding crystallofolia — on a cold December morning in 2010. From a distance they looked like pieces of cotton attached to the stems of tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) growing in my front yard. But up close, these icy formations were just as William Gibson described in the 1800s when he saw them on longbranch frostweed (Helianthemum canadense).
Sandsquares, or Rugel’s nailwort (Paronychia rugelii), is one of the most unusual wildflowers you will ever see. This short plant is easily overlooked as it blends into the sandy background where it grows low to the ground. I first came across this plant during a hike in the Ordway Preserve in Melrose, where it was growing in a tall pine xeric flatwoods restoration area. Although it is found only occasionally, populations may occur in dry sites and sandhills throughout the Florida peninsula, extending into Alabama and Georgia.
Do you enjoy juicy watermelons, local blueberries and strawberries and fresh Florida orange juice? How about carrots, broccoli, almonds and apples? If you do, please thank an insect! More than 100 crops are dependent on insect pollination, resulting in an economic value of $18 to $27 billion in the United States. Major Florida crops that benefit from bee pollination include cucumber, watermelon, specialty citrus, squash, strawberries, avocados, blueberries and eggplant.
Are you passionate about Florida’s natural environment? Would you like to know more about Florida’s native plants and animals and the ecosystems they inhabit? Consider becoming a Florida Master Naturalist, an adult education program designed to “promote awareness, understanding, and respect of Florida’s natural world.” The program is offered through the University of Florida/IFAS Extension offices and other organizations throughout the state, and is open to anyone age 18 or over who is interested in increasing their knowledge of Florida’s natural systems.
A concern was recently raised about planting two species of Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.) near each other in a garden because the two might hybridize. If they were both Florida ecotypes, so what if they did? We share what research has shown us about this intriguing issue.
If you have added wildflowers to your landscape, you’ve probably learned how adaptable they are to a wide range of environmental conditions. Although it is a challenge to introduce wildflowers to a dry site, many species will adapt and flourish once established.
Have you ever had a deer wander into your yard to dine on your landscape plants? Well, that’s what happened several years ago at a wildflower demonstration garden established as part of my extension program at the University of Florida/IFAS research center in Quincy.
When it’s time to identify a wildflower, most of us head for our favorite field guide and look through beautiful close-up photographs until we find our subject. Some versions are even color-coded to aid the process. I must own all the popular Florida books by now, but alongside those on my bookshelf are also several special volumes I have collected just for their beautiful hand-drawn reproductions of wildflowers.
Tropical milkweed can enable monarchs to continue breeding well into fall and winter, causing populations to persist longer in certain areas than they naturally would. Unfortunately, this can foster higher than normal infection rates by a lethal protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE). We have suggestions for native milkweeds you can plant to support monarchs.
In your wildflower garden this fall, the butterflies, bees and wasps are still busy gathering nectar and preparing for migration or dormancy. Goldenrods, asters, dotted horsemint, liatris, meadow beauty and Indian paintbrush are in their glory now. Take time to enjoy your garden up close and watch the changes of fall.
Some wildflowers wait until summer to emerge and begin faster growth to take their place in the fall garden. Check your garden for new arrivals such as coneflowers, blue curls and sunflowers.
Although summer’s heat keeps many of us inside, it’s a busy time for wildflowers. Thousands of butterflies, bees, wasps and other insects visit flowers to obtain nectar. It’s also the changing of the guard, when lovely delicate spring bloomers such as coral bean, Coreopsis and skullcap are replaced by sturdier heat-loving species.