With so much attention given to the Christmas poinsettia this time of year, we thought it would be a good time to pay homage to our native poinsettia, paintedleaf (Poinsettia cyathorphora). It is smaller and far less dramatic than its Mexican cousin, but it is just as striking. The flowers, which are tiny and greenish-yellow, are surrounded by large, leaflike bracts with distinctively red bases, giving the plant its common name. The seeds are a favorite of mourning doves.
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
Smallfruit beggarticks (Bidens mitis) is an annual aster that blooms year-round in wet prairies and along fresh and brackish marsh edges throughout much of Florida. It blooms en masse in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, among other locations. The bright yellow flowers attract many bees and butterflies.
Indianpipe (Monotropa uniflora), also known as ghost plant, is an odd and interesting wildflower as it contains no chlorophyll. It begins its life as a white, translucent plant, turning pinkish and developing blackish-purple flecks as it matures. It is often mistaken for a fungus because of its growth habit and lack of color, but it is actually a myco-heterotrophic species, which means it gets its food by parasitizing underground fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees. Even more interesting is that indianpipe is in the Ericaceae family — the same family as blueberries and azaleas!
Fragrant ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes odorata) is a semi-aquatic to aquatic perennial orchid. The genus Spiranthes comes from the Greek speira or “coil” and anthos or “flower.” It refers to the spiral arrangement of the inflorescence. The species epithet odorata comes from the Latin for “fragrant” or “perfumed” and refers to its delightful vanilla-like scent. Fragrant ladies’-tresses can be found blooming now in swamps, wet pinelands and seepage slopes.
Also known as bushy aster, rice button aster (Symphyotrichum dumosum) is a perennial herbaceous wildflower and a profuse bloomer like so many other Symphyotrichum species. Its flowers are small but they attract a plethora of pollinators including butterflies and native bees. It is the larval host plant for the pearl crescent butterfly.
Nothing says fall in Florida like the purple haze of hairyawn muhly grass in bloom. When planted en masse, this perennial bunchgrass puts on a spectacular fall display. It’s great for just about any landscape as it is hardy, drought-tolerant, easy to care for and adaptable to a variety of soil and light conditions. Its foliage is attractive all year and its clumping habit provides excellent cover for wildlife.