Black-eyed Susan blooms

When is a wildflower a Florida native wildflower?

Black-eyed Susan blooms
Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) by Dara Dobson

by Dara Dobson

Florida’s flora includes more than 4,100 kinds of spontaneous occurring plants, including 2,800 plants native to the state. When most people refer to wildflowers, they include true Florida native herbaceous species as well as naturalized flowering species and non-native garden species that have escaped into the wild.

However, a true Florida native is a plant species whose natural range included Florida prior to European contact, based on the best available scientific and historical documentation, which dates to 1500 AD.

Conservation of soil and water is the main reason to plant natives in your landscapes. Properly grouping native plants in their natural associations can provide you with a pleasing look of subtle natural beauty. Native plants can be left untrimmed, or they can be manicured if you desire a more formal look. After the initial establishment, they will thrive with minimal care. As a bonus, your naturalistic landscape will furnish food and shelter for birds, bees, butterflies and local wildlife.

Florida’s Best Native Landscape Plants by Gil Nelson lists 200 readily available species that are grown commercially. Along with each featured plant is a list of naturally occurring companion plants, which makes it easier to create sustainable naturalistic landscape groupings.

To find a native plant nursery near you, visit the Florida Association of Native Nurseries at