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.
“Flower Friday” is a weekly profile of a different Florida native wildflower.
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.
Small butterwort (Pinguicula pumila) is a diminutive, insectivorous wildflower found in wet pinelands and prairies throughout most of Florida. It blooms winter through spring. The genus name Pinguicula comes from the Latin pinguis, meaning “fat.” It alludes to the viscous or greasy feeling of the leaf surface. The species epithet pumila is from the Latin pumilus, or “dwarf.”
Netted pawpaw (Asimina reticulata) is a deciduous flowering shrub found in pine and scrubby flatwoods, sandhills and coastal scrub habitats throughout peninsular Florida. It blooms late winter through spring, producing many flowers that attract a wide variety of butterflies. The plant is a larval host for the Zebra swallowtail and Pawpaw sphinx moth. The fruits, which appear in spring and summer, are a favorite of birds and small mammals. Humans can eat them, too* — if one can find a ripe one before the animals do!
Climbing fetterbush (Pieris phyllyreifolia) is an evergreen vine-like shrub found in swamps, moist pinelands, upland mixed forests and sandhills in the Panhandle and several peninsular counties. It blooms fall through early spring. Its typical habit is to ascend the trunks of cypress trees by creeping under the fibrous bark, although it is not parasitic. Climbing fetterbush is the only vine-like member of the Ericaceae family found in the United States.