This vibrant wildflower is found throughout the coastal regions of Florida, from the panhandle to the Keys. It is tolerant of salty and flooded soils. These plants are annuals and require open soil to spread and reseed. Depending on the conditions, the Rose of Plymouth can grow from 6 inches to 24 inches tall. The flowers are 1 to 1-1/2 inches wide and the plant creates many blooms. Flowers peak in the summer but can be seen blooming all year long. Rose of Plymouth can be grown from seeds and cuttings in wet to moist soils.
The Orange Blossom from the sweet orange tree, Citrus x sinensis, was made Florida’s state flower in 1909. The sweet orange tree that bears this flower was introduced to Florida by the Spaniards in the 15th century. The orange tree is not endemic to Florida but has been naturalized.
Orange Blossom flowers have waxy petals that are small and white. Each flower has 5 petals with 20 to 25 stamens in a compact spiral. In the spring flowers grow in clusters of 6 flowers per cluster. Each flower is a point of where an orange will grow in the spring. Orange Blossoms have a strong citrus scent and are an incredibly fragrant flower. The scent of the blossoms has been described as creamy, sweet and rich, with a hint of a tart, citrus essence.
A full sunlight location and soil with a mixture of sand, clay, and organic matter is needed to produce these vibrant flowers. The orange tree begins to bloom at 2 to 5 years and blossoms can appear while there are oranges on the tree. The Orange Blossom is the only state flower used to make perfumes, colognes, toiletries herbal teas, and the ever-popular Orange Blossom Honey.
Did you know?
Throughout history, the Orange Blossom has come to symbolize good fortune and brides often include the fragrant blossoms in their bridal bouquets.
Photo credit: Aymee Laurain
Cattails are important to our water since they continuously filter the water where they grow and thrive. They are capable of filtering arsenic, pharmaceuticals, and explosives. Cattails also store algae-producing nutrients in their leaves while their roots stabilize the water edge and prevent erosion.
Cattails are a great haven for protective nesting areas for animals and birds. Cattail seeds can remain in a dormant stage for up to 100 years. Once established, cattails grow up to 8 feet tall and multiply from thick, underground rhizomes.
Cattails are used as a buffer between sugar farms and the Everglades where they remove phosphorous from the water before it flows into the Everglades. Unfortunately, cattails love phosphorous and can grow out of control and block out the sun while outcompeting the native sawgrass. Spraying herbicides to kill them have a negative effect on the water quality and local wildlife. Of course, any plant given the right conditions, albeit unnatural conditions, can become invasive and will need to be thinned out at times.
Cattails can be used to prevent excess methane emissions in an effort to slow global warming. Currently, scientists are exploring the possibility of using cattails as a biofuel.
Other fun facts – Cattails can be woven into baskets, hats, mats, and beds. The dried seed heads attached to their stalks can be dipped into oil and used as torches. The honey-like substance of the plant near the root has been used as an antiseptic and for toothaches. The roots and cattails themselves can be cooked and turned into a sweet flour that has gluten similar to wheat. The sap in between the leaves is an excellent starch and can be used to thicken stews and soups.
So the next time you see a cattail remember, some may call it a super plant.
Sea Oats are an important species to coastal sand dunes. The dunes provide housing and food to a variety of wildlife. The Florida beach mouse is an endemic species isolated to coastal dunes. Roseate terns, least terns, loggerheads, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, and Black skimmers rely on dunes for nesting. Piping plovers and southeastern snowy plover spend the winter in Florida where they breed in coastal dunes. American oystercatchers feed on small invertebrates and breed on sand dunes (U.S. Fish and Wildlife).
Reconstruction of coastal dunes is a common method of fighting climate change. In an effort to determine if this approach was offering a benefit to vertebrates, a study was conducted between June 2015 and June 2016 to compare natural coastal dunes and reconstructed coastal dunes. After collecting 2537 photos, 33 species were recorded. Common species overlapped both natural and reconstructed dunes. Differences were a result of rare species that were isolated to one area. Overall, the two types of dunes attracted similar types and numbers of vertebrates (Martin et al 2018).
Sea oats may not be endangered but they are protected under Title XI Chapter 161 Section 242 of Florida Statute due to their ability to stabilize sand in coastal regions and protect coasts from erosion. Can you think of any beautiful spaces with sea oats?
Martin, Scott A., Rhett M. Rautsaw, M. Rebecca Bolt, Christopher L. Parkinson, and Richard A. Seigel. 2018. Estimating the response of wildlife communities to coastal dune construction. Vol. 161.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Beach Dune, Coastal Strand and Maritime Hammock. Multi-Species Recovery Plan for South Florida. 3:72-76
Photo credit: Aymee Laurain
Named after a settlement in the 1840s, Old Miakka Preserve contains four miles of trails including scrub habitat, pinewood flatwood, and wetlands. The preserve is abundant in flowering plants with numerous pollinators and occasional gopher tortoises. One of the trails is named after Horticulturalist Tim Cash who spent years studying plants within the preserve. If you are looking for a calm trail with lots of sunshine and flowers, visit Old Miakka Preserve in Sarasota, FL.
Have you visited any interesting preserves lately? Message us with your pictures and some fun facts about your visit. Imagine Our Florida will feature your story as a Saturday saunter contributor.
Photo credit: Aymee Laurain
Imagine spending a day at the seashore, a day free of condos, hotels, and tourists. A day where you can be one with nature in a place where you feel the power of the ocean, hear the pounding of the waves and share all of that glory with only your friends and the wildlife who make their home there.
There is a little known gem in Florida known as Playalinda Beach. It is a part of Canaveral National Seashore. Take a trip to Titusville, go east on Garden Street and continue driving east until you reach the beach. The ocean is not visible from your car. As you drive parallel to the ocean, you will see sand dunes on your right. There are 13 parking areas, each with its own boardwalk. Any of the boardwalks will lead you over the sand dunes where the ocean in all of its magnificence will appear before your eyes.
There you will meet some of the 310 species of birds found at Canaveral National Seashore, including migratory birds, who will enjoy the beach with you. If you are lucky, you may meet a loggerhead, green or leatherback sea turtle who makes her nest in the sand or hatchlings as they make their way to the ocean. Enjoy your day swimming, surfing, sunbathing, fishing, and bird watching.
Stop along the way to or from the beach and explore by car or on foot, some of Canaveral National Seashore ecosystems. These include a barrier island, offshore waters, lagoon, coastal hammock, and pine flatwoods. Outdoor experiences include canoeing, kayaking, boating, hiking, camping, and historical trails.
There is an abundance of wildlife and wildflowers at Cape Canaveral National Seashore. Keep your eyes open for bobcats, raccoons and more. Look for beautiful flowers and the pollinators among them. We hope you encounter some of the threatened species who make their homes there. You may see Florida scrub jays, Southern bald eagles, wood storks, peregrine falcons, eastern indigo snakes, and manatees.
Take a day, or two, or three, and immerse yourself in the beauty of natural Florida, the way nature intended it to be.
The Florida jujube once occupied sand scrubs as well as longleaf pine and wiregrass savannahs. Much of these areas have been lost to citrus orchards and residential development. Jujubes are drought and fire tolerant. They can resprout vegetatively following a fire. Fire suppression has undoubtedly contributed to its rarity as broad-leafed trees shade them out.
The Florida Jujube has small, rounded leaves and orange fruits. The branches all have sharp, distinctive thorns. The fragrant blooms are pale yellow and are attractive to bees, butterflies, and birds. Jujube fruit is similar in taste and texture to an apple when ripe and similar to raisins when they dry. The bush-like tree is a heavy producer of fruit which ripens from December to March.
Sadly, this interesting native plant is listed as endangered by the U.S. and state of Florida. This status is due to habitat destruction of the remaining and rare scrub habitat it needs to thrive. Efforts are being made to protect Florida jujube and the rare scrub habitat it is found in. Because Extinct is Forever.
The Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii,) is rare and endangered. There are only an estimated 2000 left in Florida. This orchid is prized for its long, white delicate petals. It is leafless and its roots attach to the host tree. The mass of green roots clings tightly to the trunks. It is distinguished from other species of orchid by the presence of thin white markings dotting its roots.
The Ghost Orchid gets its name from its ability to move at night. It appears as if it’s floating, like a ghost.
The Ghost Orchid is pollinated by the Giant Spinx Moth, whose long tongue can reach the nectar that is not accessible to many insects. The swamps of cypress, pond apple, and palm trees are its preferred environment. The orchids specific habitat requirements are high humidity, mild temperatures, and dappled shade.
The Ghost Orchid does not flower reliably. It will typically flower one to two weeks once a year. It requires a specific fungus (mycorrhizal) to be able to thrive. because it is leafless, the orchid relies on its roots to produce sugars from sunlight. The Ghost Orchid has a symbiotic relationship with the fungus as it gathers nutrients from it in exchange for extra sugars.
Habitat destruction and development, as well as over collecting, have been responsible for the decline of ghost orchid populations. The Ghost Orchid is a protected species in public land areas.
With gratitude to Jay Staton for his patience and perseverance in capturing this rare sight.
JAY STATON -Published on Oct 20, 2014
“A ghost orchid’s flower takes, on average, 2 days to fully open. This short video shows the remarkable beauty of the most sought-after orchid in the world, including background sound that gets you in the mood.”
Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris).
Muhly grass is naturally found in Florida’s pine flatwoods, coastal uplands and even along its highways. This grass produces clumps that can reach 2 to 3 feet tall and up to 3 feet wide. In the fall, muhly grass produces fluffy pink to purple flower stalks, that can reach up to 5 feet tall and give the plant a distinctive and attractive appearance. This grass is resistant to heat, drought, humidity, and salt tolerant, as well as deer and rabbit resistant. Consider planting this native grass in your yard and garden. Native plants typically are adapted to native soils and climate, which also means they thrive with natural rainfall levels. Pink Muhly grass needs little attention and is definitely low maintenance.
Lyonia lucida, the fetterbush lyonia, was blooming away in Wekiva Springs State Park. Their flowers can be white, pink, or red. This is an evergreen shrub and reproduces both by rhizome or by seed. If the soil is very poor, it will reproduce only by rhizome. They like acidic, damp soil and can be found in swamps, wet savannas, and saw palmetto prairie habitat. The white one was seen in a hardwood swamp and the pink one was seen in a damp, saw palmetto prairie.
Also known as the balsam apple, balsam pear, bitter melon, bitter gourd, or bitter squash, is a Category 2 invasive plant species in Florida. People have used this plant for medicinal purposes and this has contributed to its spread. The bright red seeds are attractive to birds, who then spread this vine outside of cultivation. The red seeds can be toxic, especially to children.
This is a common invasive plant in Florida. You will often see it showing up along your fence lines. As of 2017, it was still considered a Category 2 invasive. Let’s all do our part to stem the spread of this invasive, non-native vine in our beautiful state.
Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) is a common flower throughout the U. S. and is found in most counties in Florida. This little wildflower is also used for landscaping. It prefers damp conditions near wetlands. The roots were used by Indigenous people for tea and to help soothe an upset stomach. These little flowers should be appearing as we enter the spring months.
This is the flower of the Lizard’s Tail, Saururus cernuus. They can be found across most all of Florida. They typically bloom in the summer and can be found in natural wetlands, often partially submerged. You will often see them in small colonies where they spread by sending out runners.
Post your photos today for all of us to enjoy and remember to get outside and enjoy Florida!
Florida False Sunflower, Phoebanthus grandiflorus. This is a Florida endemic species occuring in the central part of the state. It blooms in June and July and occupies sunny, well drained areas. This individual was photographed in Wekiva Springs State Park this week in a beautiful longleaf pine and wire grass ecosystem.
The Florida Golden Aster is a perennial herb that has been on the Endangered list since 1986. This plant grows approximately 1 to 1-1/2 feet tall and has yellow daisy like blooms about 1 inch in diameter. The Florida Golden Aster lives a short life and reproduces by seeds which are dispersed by the wind.
The Aster can be found growing in open sunny places. They thrive in vegetation areas that have highly drained, fine white sand and can be found in pine-oak scrub areas. Hardee, Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas county are where this plant can be found in Florida.
This plant continues to be endangered due to habitat destruction caused by over development (commercial and residential), mowing, grazing, and competing grasses and plants.
Recovery is a slow process. Natural and controlled burns help the Aster produce more seeds and bigger blooms. Continued help from volunteers, officials, and preserves like Golden Aster Scrub Preserve will give this plant a good fighting chance to make a comeback.
Golden Aster Scrub Preserve is located at 12181 East Bay Road Gibsonton FL, 33534. It is home to 2 miles of Golden Aster and the Florida Scrub Jay,
Scientific name – Nolina brittoniana
Britton’s Beargrass is found in central Florida counties including Marion, Lake, Orange, Osceola, and Polk.
It is a perennial herb with long, stiff leaves and a bulbous stem rising out a grass like a clump. They can grow 3-6 foot tall with a large cluster of small white flowers.
The plant loves scrub, sandhill, flatwoods and xeric hammock areas.
90% of Beargrass has been destroyed by agriculture including orange groves, and development.
This plant is not difficult to propagate because the plants bear abundant seeds which are easily germinated. Some native plant nurseries are producing this species for sale.
If you would like to help this endangered species, search out a Florida native nursery and purchase a few plants for your yard. Let’s bring the Britton’s Beargrass back to its grandeur.
Once numbering over 600,000 during the early 1800’s, their popularity as fence posts, shingles, river boat fuel and Christmas trees reduced the number down to a mere 200 individuals. Because if its extreme rarity, there is a major effort underway to save this species of tree. The Florida Park service along with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, are taking seeds from individuals growing in Torreya State Park and growing new trees that are being replanted inside Torreya State Park to help increase their numbers.
Despite their low numbers, it is quite easy to see this tree for yourself. Torreya State Park has a nice planting of these trees along their brick walkway leading to the Historic Gregory House. there are also trees planted along the nature trails in the park. The park is also a wonderful place to spend time hiking. When there, you may forget your even in Florida. The ecosystems there are unlike most of what you’ll see in Florida and the hiking is amazing!