5 Spooky Florida Wildflowers

Meet the sunflower that rejects the stereotypical sunny disposition and embraces darkness. From a distance, stands of Rayless sunflower (Helianthus radula) may appear as the lifeless shells of past flowers – but take a closer look and you will find a steady hum of bees and butterflies enjoying the pollen-rich and beautifully intricate blooms.

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Straight out of the little shop of horrors, Sundews (Drosera sp.) are the tiny terrors of insects in bogs and wet savannahs. Their leaf blades are covered in tentacle-like glands that secrete a sticky, acidic substance in which insects become trapped. The leaves then fold in on themselves, ensnaring the insects until digestion is complete.

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Purple thistle (Cirsium horridulum) is a classic case of a sweet interior hidden behind a terrifying suite of armor. All parts of this plant are covered in sharp spines, but despite the thorny personality, it welcomes a variety of pollinators as a favorite nectar source and host plant.

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A deadly beauty, Spotted water hemlock (Cicuta maculata) is one of the most toxic plants known. It contains cicutoxin, a poisonous compound that can fatally disrupt the central nervous system. There is however one creature immune to its deadly properties: the Black swallowtail caterpillar, for which it serves as the larval host.

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Indianpipe (Monotropa uniflora) is a ghostly sight that emerges from the ground right around Halloween! This non-photosynthetic wildflower lacks chlorophyll, creating its white and translucent appearance. Nestled among the leaf litter and lichens on the forest floor, it relies on underground mycorrhizal fungi for its nutrients.   

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