The more you know about Florida’s native wildflowers, the more you’ll enjoy your trip and understand what you see on the roadsides. Read how Floridians – then and now – recognize the importance of native flora and its natural beauty.
Some like it hot
Almost all Florida ecosystems have a history that includes occasional fires set by natural forces like lightning. Even swamps may burn up to the edges of water. Fire reduces organic matter accumulation and prevents succession by shrubs and trees. That “sweeps” nature’s floor, making it a better habitat for wildflowers.
Although plant vegetation may burn, seeds and roots survive. Pineland grasses and flowers respond to spring and summer fires with rapid vegetative growth and increased flowering.
Fire increases nutrient cycling rates, raises soil pH and stimulates nitrogen fixation. Some wildflowers and grasses even are dependent on heat and smoke from fires to break seed dormancy and begin a new life cycle.
Plants and animals have evolved together in Florida to form unique and distinct ecosystems. Plants form the first level of the food chain for herbivores, such as deer, rabbits, squirrels and mice. Some birds eat flower seeds, and others feast on the insects that visit wildflowers. But it’s not all about who’s eating who. Insects use wildflowers as food and nectar sources. These plants also serve as shelter, platforms for eggs, and places to overwinter.
- The Florida Museum of Natural History’s searchable database of butterflies and wildflowers www.flmnh.ufl.edu/wildflower
- USF Atlas of Florida’s Vascular Plants www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu
- Florida Native Plant Society www.fnps.org
- Florida Association of Native Nurseries
- Wildflower Seed and Plant Growers Association, Inc. www.floridawildflowers.com