Bird pepper (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum) is a lovely native plant found primarily in coastal hammocks in South and Central Florida. The plant’s dainty flowers bloom year-round and attract mostly bees. As its name suggests, birds (especially mockingbirds) love its fruit, particularly before they ripen. The fruit is edible to humans, but be warned — it is hot!
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
Also known as Wild cinnamon, Cinnamon bark (Canella winterana) is an evergreen flowering shrub or small tree found in coastal hammocks in Florida’s extreme southern counties. Although common in the Keys, it is a state-listed endangered species. The plant blooms year-round, peaking in spring and summer and attracting butterflies, especially Schaus’ swallowtail. Birds and other wildlife eat its fruit and find cover in its foliage.
With its diminutive stature and greenish-yellow flowers, Savannah milkweed (Asclepias pedicellata) is oft overlooked in its native pineland and prairie habitats. It blooms late spring through fall, peaking in summer. Its flowers are attractive to bees, wasps and butterflies. Like all members of the Asclepias genus, Savannah milkweed is a larval host plant for Monarch, Queen and Soldier butterflies. The plant contains a milky latex that is toxic to most animals, but Monarch, Queen and Soldier caterpillars are adapted to feed on them despite the chemical defense.
Beach peanut (Okenia hypogaea) is a creeping, vine-like plant that occurs naturally in coastal strands and on beach dunes where it is a pioneer species. It blooms spring through fall, peaking in summer. Although not endemic, it occurs in only four counties in South Florida and is a state-listed endangered species. Despite its common name, it is not related to the common peanut (Arachis hypogaea), which is a member of the Fabaceae (Legume) family.
Also known as Pink prairie clover and Pinktassels, Whitetassels (Dalea carnea var. carnea) is an uncommon wildflower found in mesic flatwoods, open meadows and pine rocklands. Its distinct flowers bloom in late spring through early fall and are attractive to pollinators, especially bees. The seeds are eaten by birds and other wildlife.
Also known as Perfumed spiderlily, Mangrove spiderlily is found in mangrove swamps and coastal swales and dunes, and along coastal hammock edges in Central and South Florida. Its showy sweet-scented flowers bloom spring through fall and are primarily pollinated by moths.