By Claudia Larsen
All Florida gardeners look forward to fall and its invigorating cool breezes and bright skies. It’s also one of the best times to observe our beautiful Florida wildflowers. Take time to enjoy your garden up close and watch the changes of fall.
In your wildflower garden, the butterflies, bees and wasps are still busy gathering nectar and preparing for migration or dormancy. Goldenrods, asters, dotted horsemint, liatris, meadow beauty and Indian paintbrush are in their glory now.
Native grasses also peak this time of year, exploding with displays of white to pink seed heads. At different times of day the sunlight makes these grasses take on a special glow, and a gentle breeze is all it takes to create a dancing, swaying motion in the garden.
Ironweed blooms early in fall with its bright purple flower heads. Later, the flowers form seed heads (above right) that expand into white puffs. Look closely to see the feathery white pappus that will carry small, dark seeds to new homes in the dirt.
There are many such interesting seeds dispersal mechanisms to be seen in the fall – exploding capsules, interesting pea-like pods, papery husks and spiny seed globes. Think about what the flower looked like prior to forming its seed, and you will truly marvel at nature.
To collect seed from your wildflower garden (below right), check the flower stalk for seed development. Seeds are mature when they become dark brown and hard or are easily removed from their seed vessel. Dry seeds for several days in paper bags before sowing or storing.
Claudia’s wildflower garden is in Micanopy, where she grows many North-Central Florida wildflowers.