Christmasberry (Lycium carolinianum) gets its common name from the bright red, egg-shaped berries that it produces in abundance in December. It has also been referred to as Carolina desert-thorn, which is a reference to the occasional thorns borne on its branches. The nectar of the flowers attracts a variety of butterflies and moths. The berries, while toxic to some animals, are a favorite food source for many birds. Christmasberry is a close relative of the Goji berry (Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense).
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
Burr marigold (Bidens laevis) is an annual wildflower that grows en masse in wetlands and along river and marsh edges throughout Florida. Its bright yellow flowers appear in late fall through early winter and attract many bees and butterflies. Its seeds have two barb-like bristles on the end that stick to clothing, hair and animal fur.
Climbing aster (Symphyotrichum carolinianum) is a robust vine-like shrub that produces many fragrant daisy-like blooms of lavender to pinkish or even bluish. It occurs naturally in floodplain swamps and marshes, in coastal hammocks and wet pine flatwoods, and along riverbanks and lake edges, and is an excellent nectar source for many butterflies and bees.
Drumheads (Polygala cruciata) is a low-growing wildflower that blooms from late spring through fall. They occur naturally throughout most of Florida in wet pinelands, savannas and other open wetland habitats, as well as along marsh edges. The name Polygala comes from the Greek polys, meaning “many or much,” and gala, meaning “milk.” It is so-named because it was once believed that the presence of Polygala species in cow fields would result in higher milk production.
Garberia (Garberia heterophylla) is unlike most species in the Asteraceae family in that its growth habit is woody and shrubby rather than herbaceous. It is endemic to Florida’s north and central peninsula, and occurs naturally in scrub and xeric hammocks. It typically flowers in late fall but has been known to flower sparsely throughout the year. Garberia is a state-listed threatened species and is part of the Eupatorieae tribe, whose members produce flowers consisting of only disk and no ray florets. It is an excellent nectar source for many butterflies and bees.
Also known as swamp sunflower, Narrowleaf sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) is one of Florida’s most common sunflowers. It occurs naturally in marshes, wet flatwoods, and roadside ditches throughout North and Central Florida. It is a short-lived perennial, and blooms primarily in October and November, although some flowering can occur in September and December. In nature, it tends to form dense colonies, resulting in spectacular swaths of sunshine yellow. Narrowleaf sunflower blooms attract bees and butterflies, while its seeds provide a tasty treat for birds.