The Florida Wildflower Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s Viva Florida Landscape Demonstration Garden grants. Five grants were awarded for the following projects: Cutting Horse Eco-Center, Bonita Springs (Lee County); Folly Farm Nature Preserve, Safety Harbor (Pinellas County); Orange County UF/IFAS Extension, Orlando; Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens (St. Lucie County); and Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (Lee County).
In the same genus as Monarchs, Queen butterflies share many characteristics with their royal cousins. Queens and Monarchs are similar in appearance, rely on milkweed as a host plant and carry a toxin from milkweed in their bodies into adulthood. Queens do not participate in the same migration as Monarchs, however, and have distinguishing physical differences.
Look for spring’s wildflower displays in wet areas and ditches, thanks to the heat. Dry-adapted wildflowers also may do well. Read our Bloom Report to find out more about what to expect.
Green antelopehorn (Asclepias viridis) is an herbaceous perennial wildflower found in pinelands, pine rocklands and disturbed areas in a few Florida counties. It flowers winter through summer, with peak blooms in spring. Like many members of the milkweed family, Green antelopehorn is a larval host plant for Monarch, Queen and Soldier butterflies. Their caterpillars have adapted to feed on the plant, which contains a milky latex that is toxic to most animals. The flowers are also an important nectar source for bees and wasps.
Kim and Peter Connolly have been active members of the Florida Wildflower Foundation and have attended various Foundation field trips and events for the past three years.They are both Florida Master Naturalists, with Peter serving his third year on the board of the Space Coast Chapter. Their free time is spent documenting local flora and fauna for iNaturalist. To date, they have added 907 observations of unique species to the site.
Originally named for the Delaware tribes of Native Americans near where this butterfly was discovered, the Delaware skipper is now found throughout the eastern United States. This small, bright orange butterfly is attracted to grassy meadows and wet areas. As part of the Grass skipper subfamily of skippers, its larval hosts are grasses and sedges.
Join us on our Jan. 25 service project as we visit and help protect Seminole State Forest’s Warea Tract. We will be removing invasive Natal grass and learning about the importance of the tract from Forester Mike Martin and Todd Angel. The Warea Tract holds many threatened and endangered species we may have the opportunity to see, including Florida bonamia (Bonamia grandiflora), Lewton’s polygala (Polygala lewtonii), Sweet-scented pigeonwings (Clitoria fragrans), Scrub plum (prunus geniculata) and Scrub buckwheat (Eriogonum longifolium var. gnaphalifolium).
You might find one of these creatures hanging upside-down, but it’s not a bat (or a vampire). It’s a Silver-spotted skipper!
The Silver-spotted skipper is one of the largest, most widespread and recognizable skippers. It has a quick jerky flight that is typical of skippers. This type of butterfly is common and can be found from northern Mexico to southern Canada, as well as most of the continental United States.You can find Silver-spotted skippers throughout Florida. These butterflies enjoy a disturbed habitat, open woods, foothills, stream sides, prairie waterways, edges of forests, swamps, brushy areas and other open areas with nectar plants.
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.
The Gulf fritillary is sometimes known as the Passion butterfly — so named because of its ardor for Passionflower. You will find so much to love about this unique pollinator!
Gulf fritillaries are medium-sized butterflies with elongated forewings that live in the extreme southern United States. Outside of the U.S., they are a broad-ranging species, found throughout Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and into South America.Gulf fritillaries enjoy a variety of habitat including sunny roadsides, disturbed areas, edges, fields, pastures, woodlands, second-growth semitropical forests and urban areas like parks and yards. You may even find them blithely floating around your butterfly garden.
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.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ranger Scott Davis has been working on the milkweed restoration initiative since 2015, when he started with a single greenhouse table of seedlings. Since then he has been scouring the state for native milkweed populations and bringing seeds back to the refuge to propagate. He estimates that 300,000 plants have been grown there, which have been planted as part of restoration projects at state parks, state forests and national wildlife refuges across the state. It is no easy task to grow these plants, either.
Read about Escambia County’s new wildflower program, Santa Rosa County’s mowing challenges, spectacular blooms in Jefferson County, Leon County’s City Nature Challenge and much more news from around the Panhandle in the PWA Summer 2019 newsletter.
Gabriel Campbell-Martinez is a graduate research assistant at the UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center in Milton, Florida, and the 2019 recipient of a graduate assistantship from the Gary Henry Endowment for the Study of Florida Native Wildflowers. The Florida Wildflower Foundation established the endowment to provide scholarships for graduate students studying wildflowers within the University of Florida’s Plant Restoration and Conservation Horticulture Consortium of the Department of Environmental Horticulture.
You might not see very much of the Oak hairstreak butterfly, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t around. They are usually just hanging out in the trees above your head!
Oak hairstreak butterflies prefer the tree canopies of oak woodlands, wooded coastal areas, and oak hammocks. You can find them throughout much of the eastern United States, stretching as far west as New Mexico. They can be identified by the two tails on each hindwing, and have greyish-brown undersides with a blue tail-spot and orange coloring above.