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!
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
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 (Muhlenbergia capillaris) 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.
Seminole false foxglove (Agalinis filifolia) is an annual herbaceous wildflower found in sandhills, flatwoods, coastal scrub and xeric woodlands throughout Florida. It bears lovely pink flowers with fringed corollas and white throats with pink spots. It attracts many pollinators, including the common buckeye, of which it is a larval host plant. Its secret to survival is its parasitic nature, living off nutrients it takes from the roots of other plants.
Bushy seaside oxeye (Borrichia frutescens) is common in Florida’s coastal strands, mangroves, beach dunes, salt marshes and tidal flats. It blooms year-round, keeping our coastline in color and attracting butterflies and other pollinators. Its seeds provide food for birds and other small wildlife.