Category Archives: Wildflowers

wildflowers

Wildflowers in Florida

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Florida is home to thousands of wildflowers that give color and beauty to the gardens, parks,  preserves, roadsides and beaches of our state. I became interested in plants and wildflowers after I moved to Florida because I realized that they were an integral and important part of the culture, history and economy of the state. Florida was named by its first early Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, in 1513, who named it “ La Florida” or “The Flower”.

There are many flowers and plants that are native to Florida or ones that have existed here for over 500 years and many which have been brought here from other countries. There are also many that have also been hybridized or changed to enhance their color and characteristics. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, wildflowers grow in several geographic localities in Florida including Coastal Uplands, Hardwood Forests, Pine Flatwoods, Ruderals, Sandhills and Wetlands.

I have made a hobby of learning about the names of these wildflowers and taking pictures of them. I have had to use a field guide and internet resources to identify them. There are many companies and nurseries who sell these flowers and help gardeners keep their yards looking beautiful. There are also some non-profit organizations such as the Florida Wildflower Foundation and Florida Native Plant Society whose mission it is to preserve, and enhance the native flower communities in Florida and to educate the public about the importance in keeping these wildflower populations healthy and growing. The Florida Wildflower Foundation actually made a license plate tag which it sells through the Dept. of Transportation and has raised over $3 million dollars so far. The mission of the Florida Native Plant Society is “ to promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plant communities of Florida. They have chapters throughout the state and people can join and participate in conservation and educational programs.

The pictures that I took which are shown above were in parks and roadside areas in Ft. Myers, Sanibel Island and Naples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Orchid

Ghost Orchid

Ghost Orchid

 

 

 

 

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The Ghost Orchid is very rare and has been spotted in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary by a visitor who was probably looking for birds in the swamp. She told others about her sighting and the staff of the sanctuary has been recording and observing it’s growth and flowering blooms over the past few years. The Ghost Orchid use to be found in other wetlands in South Florida including the Fakahatchee Strand, and Big Cypress National Preserve but they have largely disappeared. Their disappearance has made the remaining ones more valuable and sought after by collectors and poachers. The Ghost Orchid needs a special moth called the giant Sphinx Moth to pollinate it’s flowers before they bloom. The destruction of the swamps in South Florida by urbanization, development of farms and canal construction to dry out the land has probably reduced the number of these moths.

Orchids are epiphytes or types of plants that do not have a normal root structure but instead grow and attach themselves to trees and other plants and derive their water and moisture by water running off these plants. The picture of the orchid above is an artificial replica that is located in the visitor center at the Calusa Nature Center in Ft. Myers. You can learn more about the Ghost Orchid by visiting the website of the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary or the ghostorchid.info website.

 

 

 

 

Gallery of Florida Wildflowers

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The gallery of Florida Wildflowers I have pictured here are only a small sample of the thousands of wildflowers in Florida. Our state got its name from the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513 who named Florida  “La Florida” because of it’s beautiful colors and landscape.

Florida has 20 million people now ( 3rd most populous state) who call this peninsula  home and we almost double in population during the winter with tourists. I think our state officials could improve the looks of our interstate highway system such as I-75 and I-95 by planting large beds of wildflowers along these roads. I’m disappointed by having to look at large billboards and some other unsightly things while I’m traveling through Florida. One of the best display of wildflowers I have seen was along a highway was in North Carolina.

I would  like to mention one of our former first ladies, Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson and actress Helen Hayes who were concerned about the loss of natural landscapes and wildflowers  throughout the U.S. and so they started a foundation in 1982 to preserve wildflowers. Their foundation also educates the public about the variety of plants and flowers that exist, their biological richness and and their benefit to the environment.  Visit Lady Bird Johnsons’ website wildflower.org to get more information about her foundation.  To register your garden that has natural pollinator plants, go to the Million Pollinator Gardens website and it will be listed in a national database.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since the first European contact was made in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León – who named it La Florida ([la floˈɾiða] “The Flowery”)

Wildflowers of Florida

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Wildflowers of Florida are soft stemmed flowering plants that grow each year in many places including roadsides, forests, open grassy fields, along rivers, wetlands and other undisturbed areas. They add a colorful and pretty addition to a barren landscape or one  that is often devoid of color. Wildflowers come in many different shapes and sizes but they are usually in the color groupings of white, yellow, orange, green, red, pink, purple and blue. The wildflowers I have photographed were taken near my home and in parks and preserves I have visited in S.W. Florida. The ecological benefits of wildflowers is the food they provide bees, insects and birds which keep them alive and thriving.  Many of our food crops depend on bees to pollinate them which is necessary for them to grow and reproduce. Wildflowers also provide an important ecological benefit of producing oxygen for humans and animals to breathe and taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

The United States Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Forestry created a website devoted to promoting wildflowers and educating the public about their importance. The Dept. of Agriculture also created the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge to promote the development of gardens that have plants and flowers that have nectar and pollen. The challenge is an effort to help stop the decline in pollinators such as bees and  butterflies.

 

http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/index.shtml

 

 

http://millionpollinatorgardens.org/

 

 

 

Morning Glory – Floridas’ Wildflowers

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

 

 

 

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

 

 

The Morning glory wildflower is a name for a flowering plant which has over 1,000 species within the family Convolvulaceae. The Morning glory blooms each day in the morning in full sunlight. I came across a bunch of these flowering plants in the Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel.  Everybody was busy taking pictures of birds and I thought the prettiest thing I saw that day was this wildflower. The flower also known as the Railroad Vine can spread by growing on stems that grow along the ground. The Japanese have cultivated many varieties of this flower. More information is available on Dave’s Garden.com website.

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Large Flower Rose Gentian

Sabatia grandiflora

Sabatia grandiflora

Sabatia grandiflora

Sabatia grandiflora

Large Flower Rose Gentian – (Sabatia grandiflora)

I saw this group of wildflowers while I was walking along the bank of the Ten Mile Canal in Ft. Myers. I was actually trying to find a neat turtle that I had seen the day before. These very pretty wildflowers were in an area of a rocky ledge near the water. I had a hard time identifying the scientific name of the flowers and they were not in my field guide book. I came across them after searching on the internet. Apparently the flower is one of 20 species of the flowering plants in the family Gentianaceae. The flower is an annual, grows by dropping seeds and appears in early Spring. It has a yellow star like pattern in the middle with a reddish outline. From what I read, this species grows only in Florida and South Alabama.

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Pickerelweed – Floridas’ Wildflowers

Pickerelweed

Pickerelweed

Pickerelweed – (Pontederia cordata)

The Pickerelweed plant is native to Florida and is a freshwater plant that grows on the edges of lakes, ponds, marshes and other freshwater habitats. It has tall violet-blue and sometimes white flowers that grow from its stem. It can grow in heights from 2-4 feet but part of this is underwater. It spreads by its root structure or rhizomes which grow and extend underground and sends up other stems nearby. I saw this clump of Pickerelweeds on the edge of a small lake in my neighborhood and was impressed by its pretty violet-blue flowers. The plant is perennial which means its flowers and stems die after they are eaten but the rhizomes stay alive and spout new leaves and flowers the following year. The University of Florida Dept. of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) has some good information about plants and ecosystems.  The nectar of the flower on the Pickerelweed is eaten by insects, bees and butterflies. It produces a fruit or a seed after it is pollinated which is eaten by muskrats, white tailed deer and other animals. I have read that the Pickerelweed is helpful to our wetlands by filtering out excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous which helps to prevent algae blooms and excess plant growth in freshwater systems which can block out sunlight and kill off organisms on the lake or stream bottoms which are necessary for its health and diversity. Another website to visit is Island Creek Elementary School in Fairfax County Virginia which shows the Pickerelweed Plant in large and colorful displays

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Calliopsis – Florida’s State Wildflower

Tickseed Wild Flower

Tickseed Wild Flower

Calliopsis or Tickseed

The  Calliopsis Wildflower or otherwise known as the Tickseed flower is the state wildflower of Florida. I saw and photographed this one on the sandy edge of a lake on Six Mile Cypress Pkwy in Ft. Myers. The Calliopsis is part of the Coreopsis genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae. They look like daisies with their yellow flowers. The Calliopsis can grow 2-4 ft tall and is native to several states including Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Louisiana. It is an annual plant and grows in well drained soil and thrives in hot weather. It has bright yellow flowers but can be several colors including pink and red. It was used in Florida’s highway beautification project years ago.

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Arrowhead Wildflower – Floridas’ Wildflowers

Arrowhead Wildflower

Arrowhead Wildflower

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Arrowhead Wildflower ( Saggitaria latifolia)

The Arrowhead Wildflower also known as Duck Potato is a common food for aquatic animals such as ducks and muskrats. It also provided food from its starchy rhizomes to Native Americans. Its name comes from the arrow shaped leaves on its stems. The three petal flower is white, crepe-liked in appearance and has a yellow stamen. It is found in the shallow water edges of ponds, marshes, swamps and other wetlands areas. I photographed this Arrowhead on the edge of a large pond in my neighborhood and was impressed by its large petals that looked almost paper like.

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