Wild coco (Eulophia alta) is a terrestrial orchid found in hydric hammocks, hardwood swamps, wet flatwoods, marshes and open disturbed sites in Central and South Florida. It blooms from late summer through winter, with peak flowering in fall. Its species epithet alta is from the Latin altus, meaning “tall,” and refers to the tall flower spikes.
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
Flaxleaf aster (Ionactis linariifolia) is a petite perennial wildflower that occurs in the sandhill and pine flatwoods communities of Florida’s Panhandle. It blooms primarily in October and November, but may bloom as early as September. The flowers attract a variety of pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies.
Florida has 11 native Goldenaster species, eight of which are endemic; several are listed by the state as rare or endangered. Maryland goldenaster (Chrysopsis mariana) is found in pinelands, sandhills and sandy roadsides. Native butterflies, as well as a variety of native long-tongued bees – including green metallic, sweat, leafcutter, bumble and mining bees – are attracted to the plant’s nectar. The flowers bloom in spring, summer and fall.
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.
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.