Southern crabapple (Malus angustifolia) is a deciduous flowering shrub to small tree with showy pink blossoms. It occurs naturally in open woods and disturbed areas in Florida’s Panhandle, where it is a state-threatened species. Its fragrant spring blooms are pollinated primarily by bees, but butterflies are also known to visit them. Birds and other wildlife love its ripe fruits. Humans do, too — but not raw! They contain malic acid, which makes them sour and astringent. They are tastiest when made into jelly or jam!
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) is a unique perennial wildflower that typically blooms in spring. Its pendulous, greenish-white flowers hang in pairs from the leaf axils and are often obscured by leaves. Its leaf surfaces are bright green with a gold iridescence. Wildlife enjoy its ripe berries, while humans may eat the rhizomes and young shoots. The plant also possesses medicinal properties
Violet butterwort (Pinguicula ionantha) is a rare insectivorous wildflower. That’s right — it eats insects! Hairs on its leaf surface secrete a sticky substance in which insects become trapped. Enzymes are then secreted to help the plant digest the insects. The ability to trap and digest insects allows violet butterwort (like most insectivorous plants) to survive in nutrient-deficient conditions. It typically blooms between February and April, but you have to go to the Panhandle to see it as it is endemic to only Bay, Franklin, Gulf, Liberty and Wakulla counties.
Also known as rusty staggerbush, rusty lyonia (Lyonia ferruginea) is a long-lived evergreen flowering shrub. Its common descriptor, “rusty,” and its species epithet, ferruginea, both refer to the many rust-colored hairs that cover the plant’s leaves, stems and trunk. It occurs naturally in scrub, scrubby flatwoods, xeric hammocks and moist pine flatwoods. Flowers typically appear in spring but can bloom as early as late winter.
Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) is a perennial evergreen vine, so named because a cross section of its stem reveals a cross-shaped pattern. It typically blooms in spring, when it puts on a spectacular display, but they can appear as early as February and as late as June. It occurs naturally in mesic to dry hammocks, floodplain forests and dry hardwood forests. It is mainly pollinated by hummingbirds but attracts some butterflies, as well.
Wakerobins (Trillium spp.) are long-lived perennial wildflowers native to upland hardwood forests, slope forests, hammocks and bluffs. They typically bloom in late winter before the tree canopy leafs out, but can bloom as late as early spring. The common name wakerobin refers to the flower appearing around the same time as the first robins. It is also known as birthroot due to its medicinal use during childbirth, and toadshade because some have said it resembles a toad-sized umbrella.