The Florida Wildflower Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich lives with Florida’s native wildflowers. With donations made with the sale of the State Wildflower license plate, the Foundation funds research, education and planting projects statewide, supporting projects that build awareness and knowledge of native wildflowers and plants and their roles in Florida’s ecosystems. Learn more at www.FlaWildflowers.org.
Learn how growing wildflowers saves water, creates sustainable landscapes, feed and shelter wildlife, and attract beneficial insects, reducing the need for pesticides.
Many gardeners are aware of the urgent need to help insect pollinators, including the iconic Monarch butterfly and the native and honey bees responsible for every third bite of food we eat. But they’re often surprised to find that, by using their region’s native plants and wildflowers, they can support more pollinators than ever before.
The healthy balance of many ecosystems throughout the world revolves around wildflowers. Native wildflowers evolved with insects, birds and animals over thousands of years, and many of our flower and insect species are interdependent, relying on one another in symbiotic relationships. Wildflowers provide nectar for butterflies and act as host plants for emerging larvae. Small birds relish those juicy caterpillars as well as wildflower seeds. Bees, wasps, flies and other insects visit wildflowers for nectar and pollen. Some even use hollowed wildflower stems as nesting sites.
Wildflowers can create a mosaic of colors, shapes and sizes in landscapes. Though not all species adapt to home gardens, many are suitable for shady or sunny sites, and wet or dry soils. Some wildflowers naturally reseed at the end of their growing cycles, while perennial species fulfill a gardener’s need for seasonal variety and beauty.
Using native wildflowers in your garden or landscape helps to create a sustainable environment. When the right plant is established in the right place, it can require little supplemental irrigation and virtually no fertilizer. A garden with native wildflowers also will attract a variety of beneficial insects that will prey on destructive bugs, which can lessen the use of insecticides.
Native flowering plants grow to various heights and have many leaf patterns and flower shapes and sizes, adding interesting structural forms to gardens. Narrowleaf sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), for instance, can grow from 6 to 8 feet tall, while diminutive milkworts (Polygala spp.) may reach only a few inches in height.
It is important to use locally grown wildflowers or native ecotypes whenever possible. Nurseries that specialize in native plants, as well as local native plant societies, can help gardeners with species selection and planting guidance. The internet offers numerous other resources. For instance, you can find information on the selection and care of Florida and Southeastern wildflowers on the Florida Wildflower Foundation’s website, www.FlaWildflowers.org. And the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, is a national depository of wildflower information; see its resources at www.wildflower.org.
Preserving and providing habitat for our pollinators not only will help ensure healthy ecosystems, it contributes to the “sense of place” that is unique to your corner of the world. Take time to observe and enjoy the natural beauty of native wildflowers around you, and bring them home to your garden!