Drought may develop over the next few months from North Central Florida to South Florida, according to the Climate Prediction Center, so the time is now for spring wildflower viewing. Look for the best native wildflower displays in wet areas and shallow water.
Florida flame azalea (Rhododendron austrinum) is a deciduous flowering shrub found in hardwood, floodplain and slope forests, bluffs and ravines in North Florida. Although easily overlooked most of the year, it puts on a stunning spring display of fragrant fiery flowers. The blooms appear before (or as) the plant leafs out, and attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. The plant is a state-listed endangered species.
Inkwood (Exothea paniculata) occurs naturally in coastal hammocks, rocklands and shell mounds in coastal Central and South Florida. It is an excellent ornamental option for residential and commercial landscapes. Its dense, evergreen foliage is attractive year-round and offers cover for birds and other wildlife. Its fragrant flowers bloom late winter into summer, peaking in spring. They attract a variety of pollinators. The abundant fruit (produced on female trees) provides a tasty treat for birds in late spring and summer.
Dwarf huckleberry (Gaylussacia dumosa) is a low-growing colonial shrub found in pine savannas, flatwoods, sandhills and scrub throughout much of Florida. The plant is a larval host for the woodland elfin butterfly. Its spring flowers are attractive to pollinators, especially native and honey bees, and its juicy summer fruits are a delight for birds, small mammals and humans! Try them raw or make them into a jam or pie filling.
Our wildflower family has lost a dear friend. Dick Bush, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 2 wildflower coordinator until his retirement in 2015, passed away on Feb. 24. He gave his all to the job he loved, and roadsides from Nassau to Levy counties showed it. In 2015, the Foundation gave Dick its Coreopsis Award – its highest honor – in recognition of his lifetime of service of Florida, its environment and its wildflowers.
The Florida Wildflower Foundation’s Seedlings for School program is now accepting applications for campus wildflower garden grants. Public and private pre-K to 12-grade schoolteachers may apply to receive a grant.
False garlic (Nothoscordum bivalve) is a grasslike perennial with lovely star-shaped flowers. It typically blooms late winter through spring, but may bloom again in or continue blooming into fall. The unscented flowers attract a variety of pollinators, including small butterflies and native bees. The plant occurs naturally in moist woodlands and grasslands and along roadsides in North and Central Florida.
Flatwoods plum (Prunus umbellata) is a deciduous large shrub to small tree found in hammocks and woodlands throughout North and Central Florida. It typically blooms in March, at which time the entire crown is covered in umbels of delightful white blooms that attract a variety of pollinators, especially bees.
Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) is a dainty mat-forming vine with fuzzy white flowers. It is found on hardwood forest and mesic hammock floors and along seepage slopes in North and Central Florida. Its fragrant flowers typically bloom spring through fall, attracting a variety of insects, especially bumble bees. Its fruits are enjoyed by birds and small mammals. The fruits are edible to humans, too, and can be eaten raw or made into a jam, sauce or pie.
Get to know Florida Wildflower Foundation member Janice Broda. Janice has been attending Foundation field trips, symposiums and webinars regularly since 2014. Exceptionally active in her community, she has served on the board of directors of the Indian River Mosquito Control District for nearly 30 years and is a founding member of her Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) chapter. Janice currently coordinates the Volunteer Nature Stewardship Program for the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory.
Dr. Nash Turley of UCF will introduce his project Lawn to Wildflowers, a community science effort focused on converting lawns to pollinator-friendly wildflower habitat while engaging the public in collecting plant pollinator data.
Southern twayblade (Neottia bifolia) is a small terrestrial orchid found in bogs, moist hardwood forests, swamps and marshes throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada. In Florida, it is a threatened species, having been documented in only 19 counties. It blooms primarily in January, but may bloom between December and March. It is often found growing among Cinnamon ferns, however, Southern twayblade’s camouflaging colors, short thin flowers and low stature make it difficult to spot. For this reason, the plant may have a greater distribution than documented.
Rabbitbells (Crotalaria rotundifolia) is a low-growing wildflower found in pinelands, sandhills and disturbed sandy areas throughout Florida. Its small yellow flowers bloom throughout the year, attracting mostly bees. The unassuming plant often goes unnoticed as its flowers do not open until the afternoon and remain open only for one day. Of the 15 species of Crotalaria that occur in Florida, only four are native. Rabbitbells is the most common and widespread of the native species.
Carolina cranesbill (Geranium carolinianum) is an annual native wildflower that occurs in lawns, urban gardens and disturbed areas throughout Florida. It is often considered a weed, but its winter- and spring-blooming flowers attract bees and other small pollinators. Birds eat the seeds and white-tailed deer may forage on the leaves. Humans can eat the leaves, too, but they can be very bitter and astringent. The root has been used historically to treat sore throats and diarrhea. Carolina cranesbill is Florida’s only native Geranium species.
Ceraunus blue butterflies, found in the gossamer-winged family, fly in southern Florida throughout the year. The common name of these small butterflies comes from the violet blue of the male’s dorsal side. Females have a smaller amount of blue which is located on their dorsal side at the base of their wings. The larval hosts of the Ceraunus blue are plants in the Fabaceae family.