Florida’s climate makes possible a wealth of beauty and variety
In Florida, there is no time when nothing is blooming.
Even in the dark of December, tickseed and Spanish needles can be found here. More than 3,000 native and naturalized plants grow on the peninsula, the result of the land’s shape, location and climate — temperate in the north, subtropical in the Keys.
Not every plant grows everywhere. Commoners such as thistle are weeds to the world, but scrub lupine and scrub balm — once sprinkled throughout the central ridge of Florida — are now the rarest of the rare. With natural habitats being lost to development, plants become opportunists. Pine hyacinths thrive on a trash-laden lot along a busy highway. A bouquet of yellow bachelor buttons pops up on a sandy roadside.
As any gardener knows, plants have their preferences. Some like it wet; others, dry. Iris and pickerelweed can be found along rivers and streams, and in ditches. Prickly pear cactus thrives in desert-like conditions. Some species, such as blanketflower, can handle full sun; others, such as dayflower and scrub morning glory, dissolve in the heat of noon.
Though the Earth’s warming is changing the game plan, many plants bloom on a schedule. Southern dewberry and yellow jessamine herald the arrival of spring. Pawpaw, another early bird, is scattered throughout pastures. Coral bean attracts migrating ruby-throated hummingbirds in April. Around that time, irises flourish along creeks and ditches. When the rains start, pink Sabatia and yellow bachelor buttons spring up in the fields. In fall, acres of flattop goldenrod billow across the pine flatwoods.
In nature, nothing is alone. Butterflies, bees, flies, ants and birds depend on plants for food and shelter. Landfills attract birds who “plant” seeds. In turn, the birds transport pollen, ensuring the next generation.