Monday, March 23, 2015

Banner bloom ahead for Florida's spring wildflowers

It looks like a banner bloom ahead for Florida's spring wildflowers, thanks to our relatively warm and wet winter months. Here's a look at what's happening across the state. See the Florida Wildflower Foundation's What's in Bloom page for more blossoms and instructions on how to submit your own spring wildflower photos.

Lyreleaf sage on a Panhandle roadside. Photo/Jeff Norcini
Panhandle and North Florida: As spring begins in North Florida and the Panhandle area, wildflowers are beginning to make their appearances in abundance. Some of the most common species you'll see on roadsides include the blue Lyreleaf sage, yellow Lanceleaf Coreopsis, and drifts of white Daisy fleabane.

In the Apalachicola National Forest, drive County Road 375 (Smith Creek Road) from SR 20 in Leon County to Sopchoppy in Wakulla County to see stately purple Lady Lupine in sandy soil and a variety of carnivorous plants - such as the Parrot pitcherplant - in wet areas. You'll also find such beauties as the native orchid Grass pink. In the forest on State Road 65, you can see another of the carnivorous plants, the beautiful Rose or Gulf Purple pitcher plant, one of the first of the carnivorous plants to bloom. State parks also have wonderful flowers to see. Try Torreya State Park, where the striking Indian pink blooms near the visitor parking lot, and Florida Caverns State Park, which hosts abundant Columbine. For more of what's blooming in the Panhandle and suggested viewing routes, see www.flawildflowertrips.org.

Blue flag iris. Photo/Lisa Roberts
North and North Central Florida: Unseasonal warmth had wildflowers usually seen in March popping blooms in February, like the White star of Bethlehem, which forms mat-like colonies in lightly shaded to open areas.  Low-growing Blue-eyed grass is also putting on a show on roadsides, lending a low-growing haze of blue flowers to roadsides. Spiderwort also is coming on a strong. Look for it along such roads as the Beachline (SR 528) and Interstates 4, 75 and 95, and along rural roads, along with such favorites as Lyreleaf sage and Oakleaf fleabane.

Tropical sage, Leavenworth's Coreopsis and Lanceleaf Coreopsis are well into their blooms, while Dune sunflower rules coastal sands. Along sandy trails, keep a lookout for Prickly pear cactus, which is just budding in many areas and will soon be crowned with beautiful yellow blossoms. And don't forget the omnipresent Spanish needles. A favorite of pollinators, its white and yellow blossoms can be seen about everywhere, especially on roadsides. Another spring favorite, Carolina jessamine, can been seen trailing on the ground and hanging from trees and fences. The plant's yellow trumpet-like flowers are a favorite of bees.

On rural roads, look for red Coral bean and the tall, white plumes of White wild indigo along fencerows. If you're lucky, you might also spot the white flag-like flowers of Pawpaw in open fields and in natural areas, such as the Ocala National Forest's restored sandhills.  Two species seen are Narrow-leaf pawpaw and Flag pawpaw. Another white wildflower, Prickly poppy, is easy to identify - it is 3- to 4-feet high and has prickly dark-green leaves and bright-white 3- inch blooms resembling poppies.

Other great spring wildflowers to look for are the blue spikes of Lyreleaf sage, the daisy-like yellow flowers of False dandelion, Hastateleaf dock, which creates beautiful rusty-colored meadows in open fields. Another eye-catcher is Purple thistle, with its large  serrated leaves.  All parts of the plant have spines, which makes it unpopular.

In  wet areas, look for Blue flag Iris, which also makes a great garden addition (as do many of the plants named here). Atamasco lilies also like dampness, blooming around Easter, especially after rain - which is why they're also known as Rainlilies.

Oakleaf fleabane. Photo/Lisa Roberts
South Florida: It's this region's natural areas that steal the wildflower show in spring. "We did have a wetter than normal year, but the good news is that there were some areas in Jonathan Dickinson and at CREW Marsh that burned the previous season," says Roger Hammer, Florida wildflower expert and author. Burns open space and provide nutrients - things that many wildflower species thrive upon. Because of that, they're usually good places to see blooms in the seasons immediately following fire.

Recent sightings at Martin County's Jonathan Dickinson State Park's wet/damp areas and prairies include Manyflowered grass-pink orchid, the hatpin-like Tenangle pipewort, tiny Fringed yellow stargrass, Blue flag iris, and the small drumheads of Orange milkwort, as well as Wand goldenrod and Yelloweyed-grass. At CREW Marsh in Collier County, look for water-loving Blue waterhyssop, Leavenworth's tickseed, lavender-colored Bay lobelia, Rose of Plymouth and Yellow hatpins. In dry areas, look for the blue blossoms of Wild pennyroyal and Whitemouth dayflower.

 Everglades National Park is hopping with color, too. Beauties there include the threatened Pinepink orchid, elegant bouquets of white String-lily, and the butter-yellow blooms of Coastalplain hawkweed. Lanceleaved arrowhead thrive in wet locations, as do the delicate white spires of spring ladiestresses. In drier areas, look for the diminutive white-rose knobs of Capeweed blossoms, white clusters of Oakleaf fleabane, and the blue-purple blossoms of Thickleaf wild petunia, which is found nowhere else in the world but South Florida.

Need a Florida wildflower field guide? Visit our Learn web page for suggested field guides and other references.

Note: Common names as per Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants.

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