Also known as Rugel’s nailwort, Sandsquares (Paronychia rugelii) is one of Florida’s most unique wildflowers. It occurs naturally in sandy habitats such as pine flatwoods, sandhills, scrub and disturbed areas. And as its name implies, it has a square inflorescence! Sandsquares bloom from summer into early fall, attracting mostly small bees. The plant is easily overlooked due to its short stature.
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
Chapman’s fringed orchid (Platanthera chapmanii) is an endangered terrestrial orchid found in wet prairies, pine savannas and along wet roadsides and ditches. Its showy flowers typically bloom in summer and peak in August. Although this species is rare, Chapman’s fringed orchids tend to grow in small colonies resulting in patches of bright color. Many botanists believe Chapman’s fringed orchid is a natural hybrid of Yellow fringed orchid (P. ciliaris) and Crested fringed orchid (P. cristata).
With its narrow leaves and fine stems, Carolina milkweed (Asclepias cinerea) can get lost among the wiregrass with which it typically grows. But its splendidly stellar blooms will stop you in your tracks. You’ll find it flowering in summer in sandhills, pine flatwoods and bogs throughout the Panhandle and North Florida. Like all members of the Asclepias genus, Carolina milkweed is a larval host plant for Monarch and Queen butterflies. Its flowers are an important nectar source for bees and wasps.
White lobelia (Lobelia paludosa) is a winsome, wet-loving wildflower found in swamps and wet flatwoods throughout much of Florida. It primarily blooms in spring and summer, but may bloom year-round, especially in South Florida. The flowers attract bees and butterflies. The genus Lobelia is named for Matthias de Lobel (1538-1616), a Flemish physician, botanist and author of a landmark botany textbook. The species epithet paludosa is from the Latin paludosus, meaning boggy, swampy or marshy.
Also known as Florida spiny pod, Florida milkvine (Matelea floridana) is a deciduous twining vine that occurs naturally in sandhills, woodlands and other open habitats. Its small flowers bloom in late spring and summer. They are pollinated mostly by beetles. The plant is a larval host for Monarch, Queen and Soldier butterflies and is a state-listed endangered species.
Softhair coneflower (Rudbeckia mollis) is a robust plant with bright yellow blooms that provide late spring and summer color to sandhills, dry open hammocks and roadsides in North and Central Florida. Butterflies and Halictid bees nectar on the flowers, while small birds enjoy eating the seeds. Use it in a mixed wildflower planting or in the back of a planting where its height can be appreciated. It is drought tolerant and requires little to no maintenance once established. It does not tolerate prolonged shade. Although the plant typically perishes after it blooms, it is a prolific self-seeder and can produce many seedlings.