Wildflower lovers are building a statewide profile of what can be seen along the highways and in gardens and natural areas. You can join in—all you need is a digital camera, a map or GPS unit and a field guide.
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Pollinators and the native plants that support them have come to the forefront this year. The showiest of the pollinators are the butterflies, which often are seen flitting around native wildflowers. While large butterflies like swallowtails (pictured above on Liatris spicata) can be seen along the roadside while traveling, the smaller ones likes skippers, hairstreaks, and blues are only seen when walking.
Many of our native wildflowers that bloom in the fall serve as nectar or host (larval, i.e., caterpillar) plants for our butterflies, and some even serve as both. Host plants attract females (which in turn attract males as one butterfly expert wryly noted) so wildflowers that serve as both would be expected to have a flurry of butterfly activity. The most common of these dual purpose native wildflowers is the oft-maligned beggarticks (Bidens alba). It is ubiquitous, very common in disturbed areas, and a “sure thing” if you want to see butterflies — especially monarchs in the fall during their annual migration south. Other common fall wildflowers that serve as host and nectar plants and that occur statewide include false foxgloves (Agalinis sp.), swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), narrowleaf silkgrass (Pityopsis graminifolia), pine barren goldenrod (Solidago fistulosa) and blazing stars (Liatris sp.), including the towering dense blazing star (L. spicata), which occurs in wet areas and always seems to have swallowtails fluttering about them.
And last but not least, look for butterflies in the vicinity of bluestems (Andropogon sp.) and lopsided Indiangrass (Sorghastrum secundum), fall blooming native grasses that are host plants and occur statewide.
For more information about Florida native plants that are butterfly nectar and host plants, see Butterfly Gardening in Florida by Jaret C. Daniels, Joe Schaefer, Craig N. Huegel, and Frank J. Mazzotta, or visit the Florida Native Plant Society’s web page Natives for Landscaping.
Photo by Jeff Norcini.
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Florida's garden clubs led the way in beautifying roadways with wildflowers. In the 1960s, the Florida Department of Transportation joined the effort. FDOT now has its own wildflower program, whichplants wildflowers and maintains natural populations along hundreds of miles of federal and state highways. Counties and cities can establish or care for wildflowers along roads and trails and in parks they maintain. They also can request that FDOT plant wildflowers and alter mowing practices within their boundaries.
Want more wildflowers along roadsides and multi-use trails near you? Learn about a resolution that is the first step to preserving and planting wildflowers in your county. Read more.
Many of our native wildflowers reproduce only by seed. Picking a flower reduces the ability of that plant to reproduce and for that population of wildflowers to sustain itself. Instead, use wildflowers in your yard or in containers. Seed packets are available in the Florida Wildflower Foundation Flower Shop and from the Florida Wildflower Seed and Plant Growers Association. Florida native wildflower seed packets also may be available at native plant garden centers.
More reasons not to pick wildflowers:
The Florida Wildflower Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization; contributions are tax deductible. A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION FOR THE FLORIDA WILDFLOWER FOUNDATION, A FLORIDA-BASED NONPROFIT CORPORATION (REGISTRATION NO. CH12319), MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE OR VISITING THEIR WEBSITE HERE. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.