Also known as swamp sunflower, Narrowleaf sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) is one of Florida’s most common sunflowers. It occurs naturally in marshes, wet flatwoods, and roadside ditches throughout North and Central Florida. It is a short-lived perennial, and blooms primarily in October and November, although some flowering can occur in September and December. In nature, it tends to form dense colonies, resulting in spectacular swaths of sunshine yellow. Narrowleaf sunflower blooms attract bees and butterflies, while its seeds provide a tasty treat for birds.
Mistflower, Blue mistflower, Wild ageratum, Pink eupatorium, Hardy ageratum, and Blue boneset are just some of the many common names used to identify Conoclinium coelestinum, an eye-catching Florida native wildflower that is also very attractive to pollinators, especially butterflies and moths.
Establishing a wildflower garden from seed is easier than you’d think, and now is the time to get started. We’ve made it easy for you with these resources.
Forked bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum) is an herbaceous to woody annual that bears dainty yet distinctive bluish-purple blooms. Flowers are short-lived, opening only in the morning, but individual plants may produce thousands of flowers throughout a season. It also has a particularly long flowering season, typically beginning in late summer and lasting through late fall.
If you have ever walked a trail with a botanist to discover and name each flower you pass, you realize the importance of plant morphology in the taxonomic routine of plant identification. Not only do the “small parts” of each flower and leaf provide clues to each plant’s identity and separate members of the same genus and family, they also show the evolutionary trends that forced that species to specially adapt for survival.
‘Tis the season for seed collecting. As you return to the garden after the last two months of unbearable heat, biting bugs and sweat, you’ll probably encounter a lot of overgrown stems. Cut those back to their base to freshen up the plant for winter. Trailing species, such as beach sunflower and Gaillardia, can also be whacked into submission and will probably bloom again by late November.
Jackie Rolly joined the Florida Wildflower Foundation when she purchased a license plate for her car many years ago. She’s also a member of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS), as well as the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club. On Mondays, you’re likely to find her at the Oakland Nature Preserve (ONP) where she’s been working since 2007. And when the travel bug bites, Rolly volunteers for expeditions with Earthwatch Institute, on which she’s done such things as helped track wild elephants in Sri Lanka and studied biodiversity in the vineyards of France.
Sometimes we think of spring as having the showiest wildflower display, but I think this time of year wins that title. Somehow nature has worked this out. Pollinators are abundant, gathering their provisions before cold weather comes. The fall wildflowers are taller too, having had the whole summer to grow.
Corn snakeroot (Eryngium aquaticum) blooms vary in color from rich lavender to a pale cornflower blue. They are globular and are surrounded by spiny bracts. They typically bloom summer through late fall, attracting a variety of pollinators. The common name snakeroot (also known as rattlesnakemaster, both of which are used to describe the Eryngium genus) may have come from its use in Native American culture as a remedy for snakebite.
Also known as Silver-leaved aster, Grass-leaved goldenaster, and Silky golden-aster, Narrowleaf silkgrass (Pityopsis graminifolia) is a robust perennial with brilliant yellow flowers and silvery leaves. It flowers in late summer through early winter in sandhill, flatwoods and scrub habitats throughout the state.
Narrowleaf yellowtops (Flaveria linerias) is a perennial, low-growing herbaceous shrub that produces many bright yellow flowers that are attractive to a plethora of butterflies, bees and flower beetles. It occurs naturally in Florida’s depression and basin marshes, wet prairies, pine rocklands, hydric hammocks, mangrove swamp and tidal marsh edges, and in disturbed or ruderal areas.
Purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), also known as Maypop, is an herbaceous, perennial vine that produces extraordinarily intricate purple-and-white-fringed flowers resembling something out of a Dr. Seuss book. It occurs naturally in open hammocks, along roadsides and in disturbed areas and is the larval host plant of several butterflies including the gulf fritillary and zebra longwing.
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 (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) 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 (Echinacea purpurea) 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.