What is the difference between a wildflower and a native plant?
By Dara Dobson
Florida’s flora includes more than 4,100 kinds of spontaneous occurring plants. Of those, 2,800 are considered true Florida natives. A true Florida native plant is a plant species whose natural range included Florida prior to European contact according to the best available scientific and historical documentation (about 1500AD).
Florida’s 2,800 native plant list includes trees, shrubs, vines, ferns, grasses and flowering herbaceous species. Generally when people refer to wildflowers, they include not only true Florida native herbaceous species, but many other naturalized flowering species and other non-native garden species that have escaped into the wild and are occurring spontaneously. But a true Florida wildflower is the class of flowering herbaceous plant species included in the total of 2,800 Florida native plants.
Conservation of soil and water is the main goal of native plant landscaping. 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, these natives will thrive with a minimum of 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 being commercially grown for sale. Each plant featured in his book has a list of naturally occurring companion plants, which makes it much easier for you to choose the right plants to create sustainable naturalistic landscape groupings.