Toothpetal false reinorchid (Habenaria floribunda) is one of Florida’s most common terrestrial orchids. It is found in swamps and hardwood forests throughout most of peninsular Florida and typically blooms fall through winter. The semi-showy flowers are aromatic, emitting either a sweet fragrance or an unpleasant odor, depending on who you ask.
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
Pine-pink (Bletia purpurea) is a state-threatened terrestrial orchid found in swamps, marshes, pinelands and pine rocklands in southern Florida. Its striking pink flowers bloom in winter, spring and early summer. Pine-pink flowers are a food-deceptive species. They do not contain nectar, but may attract bees and other insects with their conspicuous floral display. However, like many orchid species, Pine-pink is self-pollinating, and some of its flowers are cleistogamous, meaning the bud self-pollinates and never fully opens.
Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) is a deciduous shrub found in moist to wet pine flatwoods and along wetland and swamp margins. In late winter and spring, the plant is covered in a profusion of showy, sweet-scented blooms that attract a variety of pollinators, especially bees. In summer, flowers give way to a bounty of berries that persist well into fall. Although birds don’t care much for them, they may be eaten by deer, rabbits and other small mammals. Humans can eat them, too, but their taste is bitter and acidic. They are best made into jam, jelly, pie or wine. The fruits are high are in antioxidants.
Florida loosestrife (Lythrum flagellare) is a state-listed endangered wildflower endemic to the west-central peninsula. This low-growing, creeping wildflower can be found along wet prairie edges, pond margins and moist roadsides. It typically blooms from February through June but is often overlooked because of its diminutive stature and tendency to blend in with the plants among which it grows.
Wild garlic (Allium canadense var. canadense) is a grasslike perennial with lovely clusters of flowers. It blooms primarily in late winter and spring and attracts many insects, including moths and native bees; honeybees tend to dislike it. Wild garlic has a strong, tell-tale smell of garlic or onion. All parts of the plant are edible and may be prepared the same as garlic or onions. Bulbs may be eaten raw, sautéed, pickled or roasted. Use the young leaves as you would chives.
Sea lavender (Heliotropium gnaphalodes) is an evergreen shrub found in dunes and thickets on the Atlantic coast of Central and South Florida. This state-listed endangered species typically blooms in fall and winter, but may bloom year-round. Its small but showy flowers emit a subtly sweet scent and attract many pollinators, especially butterflies. The common name “lavender” likely refers to the plant’s resemblance to true lavender or rosemary. Sea lavender’s leaves have no noticeable scent.