While it may be chilling down and even snowing a bit in the states north and west of our sunny region, here in the land of flowers everything is bursting with color. Named by Ponce de Leon, our state’s moniker is derived from a Spanish word that translates to full of flowers. It could not be more descriptive because right now Florida is in bloom.
A hike in any of our native upland habitats is one that will be celebrated in bold hues of abundant wildflowers. From blazing stars to golden asters, wireweeds and flowering grasses, our region is alive with color and beauty. Pollinators are out in force taking advantage of the bounty before them. From bees to flies and beetles, the woods are droning and offer a great opportunity to learn more about native species.
Take for example the deep purple of our native blazing stars, pineland chaffheads and vanillaleafs. With numerous species of found across various habitats, some like Scrub Blazing Star, are endemic and occur nowhere else but Florida. Tall or short, these showy, bright-colored purple, pink and magenta flowers draw butterflies like a magnet. Cultivated varieties of the blazing stars are favorites in the cut flower world and research on mass production of these beautiful “gayfeather” flowers is ongoing.
Sunny yellow is a fall floral color in abundance as well this time of year. From honeycombheads, tickseeds and asters to silvery silkgrasses, this hue dances in the breeze among the waving stems of native grasses. Goldenrods bow heavy with flowers and are abuzz with pollinators in striped yellow and black or glittery metallics. Daisy-like beggarticks, named not for their white petaled, yellow-center beauty, but for the barbed seeds that stick to socks, pet hair and pant legs are blooming like mad too.
Mixed within this abundant flower show are leggy grasses which defy identification and burst with winged seeds soon to take to the afternoon breezes on little tufts of fuzz. Some like the glowing pinkish Muhlygrass are nearly as delightful as the flowers surrounding them. My personal favorite though is Lopsided Indian Grass. Named for how it flowers on only one side of the stem, it is a larval food source for several of our skipper butterflies. Its flowers drape like a string of colorful beads dancing in the wind, making it a gorgeous component of our pinelands this time of year.
Next time you are out driving past any of our abundant natural areas, take another look and see what you have been missing. This floral extravaganza only lasts a little while and then it will be a whole year until we can enjoy it once more.