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 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.
Candyroot is an annual herbaceous wildflower found in wet to moist pine flatwoods, wet prairies and coastal swales. It typically blooms in late spring through summer, but can bloom year-round.
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 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 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.
Megachilidae (commonly referred to as leafcutter, mason, orchard or cuckoo bees) are a large family of solitary nesters with distinctive and fascinating behaviors. Many are easily recognizable and can be attracted to your yard with artificial nesting boxes.