With its narrow leaves and fine stems, Carolina milkweed can get lost among the wiregrass with which it typically grows. But its splendidly stellar blooms will stop you in your tracks. You’ll find it flowering in summer in sandhills, pine flatwoods and bogs throughout the Panhandle and North Florida. Like all members of the Asclepias genus, Carolina milkweed is a larval host plant for Monarch and Queen butterflies. Its flowers are an important nectar source for bees and wasps.
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
White lobelia is a winsome, wet-loving wildflower found in swamps and wet flatwoods throughout much of Florida. It primarily blooms in spring and summer, but may bloom year-round, especially in South Florida. The flowers attract bees and butterflies. The genus Lobelia is named for Matthias de Lobel (1538-1616), a Flemish physician, botanist and author of a landmark botany textbook. The species epithet paludosa is from the Latin paludosus, meaning boggy, swampy or marshy.
Also known as Florida spiny pod, Florida milkvine (Matelea floridana) is a deciduous twining vine that occurs naturally in sandhills, woodlands and other open habitats. Its small flowers bloom in late spring and summer. They are pollinated mostly by beetles. The plant is a larval host for Monarch, Queen and Soldier butterflies and is a state-listed endangered species.
Softhair coneflower is a robust plant with bright yellow blooms that provide late spring and summer color to sandhills, dry open hammocks and roadsides in North and Central Florida. Butterflies and Halictid bees nectar on the flowers, while small birds enjoy eating the seeds. Use it in a mixed wildflower planting or in the back of a planting where its height can be appreciated. It is drought tolerant and requires little to no maintenance once established. It does not tolerate prolonged shade. Although the plant typically perishes after it blooms, it is a prolific self-seeder and can produce many seedlings.
Woodland poppymallow (Callirhoe papaver) is one of our most unique native wildflowers, with large, cuplike blooms ranging from bright magenta to wine red. These striking flowers attract a variety of bees, which are the primary pollinator. The plant is the larval host of the Checkered skipper. Woodland poppymallow is endangered in Florida, occurring naturally in upland mixed forests and dry hammocks in only four counties.
Spanish stopper (Eugenia foetida) is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to coastal hardwood hammocks and thickets in Central and South Florida. Its semi-showy flowers bloom year-round, with peak blooming in spring and summer, attracting many types of pollinators. Its dense foliage provides cover and its abundant fruit provides food for birds and other small animals.