Halictidae, or sweat bees, are an extremely diverse group that are often abundant year round. Some are metallic green, others are smaller than a grain of rice, and nearly all are valuable pollinators.
Despite its common name, Showy milkwort (Asemeia violacea) is a diminutive herbaceous wildflower with small flowers that are borne somewhat sparsely on terminal racemes. It is a summer-bloomer, but can bloom year-round in the southern part of the state. The flowers are attractive to bees, the plant’s primary pollinator. Showy milkwort occurs naturally in pinelands, prairies and open disturbed areas throughout Florida.
Eleanor Dietrich stepped down July 28 from her post as the the Florida Wildflower Foundation’s Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)/Panhandle Wildflower Alliance (PWA) liaison. Liz Sparks, a veteran of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and state Department of Environmental Protection, will take over Dietrich’s responsibilities.
Yellow fringed orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) is a state-threatened terrestrial orchid found in wet prairies, seepage bogs, ditches and wet pine flatwoods. Its showy orange to bright yellow flowers typically bloom in summer and peak in August. Although not common, Yellow fringed orchids tend to grow in small colonies resulting in a small mass of bright color. Butterflies are the primary pollinator and use their long tongues to access the nectar. The pollen attaches to the insect’s eyes and is carried to the next flower.
With a $21,000 grant to the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History, the Florida Wildflower Foundation is supporting a unique research project that will train prison inmates to test and document propagation techniques for milkweed, the only host plant for Monarch butterflies. The grant is made possible by sales of the State Wildflower license plate.
A visit to Cape Coral’s Rotary Park Environmental Center includes a new opportunity to become acquainted with some of Florida’s beautiful native wildflowers. With funds from the Florida Wildflower Foundation’s Viva Florida Landscape Demonstration Garden grant program, a native wildflower garden has been planted near the park’s education center.
Butterfly orchid (Encyclia tampensis) is a slow-growing epiphyte found in mesic hammocks, hardwood swamps and mangrove forests. It is most commonly found growing on live oaks, but also occurs on bald cypress, mangroves and pond apples. Its diminutive yet showy flowers appear in late spring and summer; their honey-like fragrance attracts a variety of bees, which are the plant’s primary pollinators.
The Florida Wildflower Foundation has awarded 2017 Seedlings for Schools grants to 30 Florida schools in 16 counties. In fall 2017, each school will receive personalized growing assistance and $50 of assorted native Florida wildflowers from a Florida Association of Native Plants nursery to plant on campus.
As anyone who has started a small wildflower meadow at home probably knows, weeds can make or break successful wildflower establishment. That’s why the Florida Wildflower Foundation has joined with Lake County on a research project at PEAR Park in Tavares that will experiment with various weed control methods.
Known by many names such as Camphorweed, Stinkweed, Salt marsh fleabane, Sourbush and Cattle-tongue, Sweetscent (Pluchea odorata ) is a short-lived perennial wildflower that occurs naturally in freshwater and salt marshes, swamps and coastal hammocks throughout Florida. Its rosy pink blooms appear summer through fall. Its sweet-smelling leaves and flowers are very attractive to butterflies. Bees love this plant, too.
Many areas are very dry now, especially in Central and South Florida. When traveling in West Central Florida in mid-May, I saw very few wildflowers blooming, even in normally moist areas, many of which had dried up. The good news is that the NOAA Climate Prediction Center is forecasting that drought conditions should be alleviated by the end of August in all but east Central Florida, and even in that part of the state drought conditions should improve.
Giant ironweed (Vernonia gigantea) is a robust, perennial wildflower that is perfect for butterfly and wildflower gardens. It is a member of the Aster family, but unlike most of its cousins, its flowers have only disc florets — no ray florets are present. Flowering occurs in summer and fall, with peak blooming in July, when it attracts many pollinators, particularly butterflies.
American bluehearts (Buchnera americana) is a perennial wildflower found in pinelands, prairies and marshes, and along roadsides throughout the state. Its bright violet to almost white blooms attract bees and butterflies, and its tiny seed capsules are eaten by birds. It also has a habit of hemiparasitism.
Melittidae, or oil-collecting bees, are considered to be one of the most ancient bee families. In fact, the oldest known fossil of any bee is thought to be about 100 million years old, and contains a specimen from this family.
Fringed meadowbeauty (Rhexia petiolata) is an herbaceous perennial wildflower with showy pink blooms. It occurs naturally in wet prairies, bogs and flatwoods, and along coastal swales. It flowers spring through summer and attracts many pollinators, especially bees.