When in bloom, Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is arguably one of Florida’s most beautiful flowering trees. Though dormant in winter, the tree comes alive in early spring. Before leaves emerge, a bounty of showy white to pinkish blooms cover the crown. From late summer to fall, its abundant fruit provides food for a variety of birds and small mammals. Flowering dogwood occurs naturally along the edges of mesic hardwood forests and pinelands throughout North and much of Central Florida.
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
Gallberry (Ilex glabra) is an evergreen shrub to small tree found in flatwoods, bayheads, coastal swales, bogs, sinks and moist woodlands throughout Florida. Its tiny flowers attract bees, while its pulpy berries and evergreen foliage provide food and cover for birds.
Trumpet creeper is a high-climbing woody vine so named because its showy flowers are trumpet-shaped. It is found in moist woodlands and thickets throughout Central and northern Florida. Flowers bloom year-round, peaking in spring and summer. They are very attractive to hummingbirds. Its flowers are very similar in appearance to the flowers of its cousin, Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata). The latter has visible tendrils and its compound leaves have only two leaflets.
White stopper (Eugenia axillaris) is an evergreen shrub or small tree found in coastal hammocks, strands and shell mounds in Florida’s central and southern peninsula. Its fragrant flowers bloom year-round, with peak blooming in spring and summer, attracting many types of pollinators. Fruits generally form in fall, but may persist several months. They are eaten by birds and wildlife. Humans can eat them, too — the flesh is quite sweet when ripe, but eating the bitter seeds is not recommended.
Wiregrass (Aristida stricta) is a perennial bunchgrass found in scrub, pinelands and coastal uplands throughout much of Florida. It is the dominant groundcover species in longleaf pine savannas and is a primary food source for gopher tortoises. Birds and small wildlife eat the seeds. Historically, cattle grazed on Wiregrass’s tender new growth.
Marlberry (Ardisia escallonioides) is an evergreen shrub that occurs naturally in coastal strands and hammocks and pine rocklands throughout Central and South Florida. It blooms and fruits intermittently throughout the year, with peak blooming in summer through fall. Marlberry’s abundant fruit is enjoyed by birds and small animals and is also edible to humans. Its dense foliage provides significant cover for wildlife.