Rotary Park wildflower garden sign

Cape Coral garden showcases waves of native color

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.

Encyclia tampensis by Mary Keim

Flower Friday: Butterfly orchid

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.

Pluchea odorata by Mary Keim

Flower Friday: Sweetscent

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.

For sizzling summer wildflowers, head to the wetlands

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.

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Flower Friday: Giant ironweed

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.

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Flower Friday: American bluehearts

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.

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Award-winning roadside wildflowers

In a first for Florida, a project to manage naturally occurring wildflowers – versus displays that have been planted – has been recognized for its success. The Florida Federation of Garden Clubs recently gave a “Paths of Sunshine” award to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District 5 for successfully protecting and nurturing a natural wildflower display along a stretch of State Road 520 in east Orange County.

Pale grasspink (Calopogon pallidus) by Eleanor Dietrich

Flower Friday: Pale grasspink

Pale grasspink is a terrestrial orchid that occurs naturally in bogs and wet flatwoods, prairies and roadsides. It shares the same bloom time (spring into summer) and habitat as its cousin, tuberous grasspink, but can be distinguished by its flowers, which are smaller, paler, and have reflexed sepals.

Whitemouth dayflower (Commelina erecta) by Mary Keim

Flower Friday: Whitemouth dayflower

Whitemouth dayflower (Commelina erect) is an erect ephemeral wildflower found in pinelands, coastal uplands and scrub habitats. It generally blooms in summer and fall, but is known to bloom year-round in South Florida. Blooms attract a variety of pollinators, especially bees. Seeds are eaten by birds, and the foliage is sometimes consumed by gopher tortoises. The plant is also edible to humans. The flowers can be eaten raw or candied. Leaves are best cooked (boiled or fried), but the young shoots and tips can be eaten raw.