Gallery of Florida Wildflowers, insects and other creatures,
some recommended books about nature, and a new camera

Florida Wildflowers
was established as a site in 1995 when the World Wide Web was just beginning to be used by the public. Pictures had to be reduced in quality to be viewed in good time. The pictures on our site today are of higher resolution and best viewed at a monitor width of 1280 or more pixels. Recommended books are listed at the bottom of the page. We also have information on a new camera, the Nikon D40x, which we can endorse without hesitation for wildflower photography. Many of our photographs have been provided by contributors. All pictures are copyrighted. Thanks for visiting.

Michael E. Abrams, Tallahassee, Florida, USA.

Events of Interest
in Big Bend including
trips by nature groups
on land and water
and the

an essay
We help reveal

that a "Mystery Artist"
altered painting
of grand master
Free Desktop
Art  made
from Wildflowers

and Mathematics
photos by
Genus and

Movies of Natural
Florida and
Harry Levin's
fabulous flowers
of all kinds from
all places


Rare petunias
in profusion

A miraculous field of perhaps 2,000 endangered night blooming wild petunias (Ruellia noctiflora) was found by Native Plant Society member and photographer Virginia Craig near Hosford in late July. The flower dies after only a few hours. She captures their beauty here.  Thanks, Virginia.

Passiflora shows
summer finery

The most difficult pictures to take are those of flowers which show great beauty. Ron Pagano of Sanford, who also provided a picture for our front page, found this passion flower, Passiflora incarnata,
at the Rock Springs State Preserve in Sorrento, Florida. He used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 Digital camera. ISO 80, 4.1 mm, f/5  1/400, which tells us that Nikon and Canon are not the only ways to go.

Passion flowers were discovered in the New World by the Spanish and the fruit had been used by the natives for food and for medicinal purposes. The Spanish called the small round fruit "granadillas."  The word came from "granada" which is the larger Old World pomegranate which has fleshy seeds, like the passion flower fruit.

We have many articles about the mysterious history of the passion flower linked to our story of a Renaissance painting with a counterfeit passion flower.

Thanks, Ron Pagano, for sharing these pictures with us. His other picture can be found on the main page. 

incarnata alba

This flower was found along Lake Jackson in Leon County in early May, and is quite different from the purple fringed passion flowers. We have written extensively about the 500 year history of the passion flower and this is the first time we have noticed the variety incarnata "alba" which apparently grows wild in the the Southern United States. Perhaps soil conditions affect the color of this strain.  The native Americans in the South used the mellow fruit of the passionflower as part of their diet and the Aztec codices apparently refer to a history of medicinal uses, probably long before Columbus visited the New World. The flower was renamed "passion flower" by the priests who saw in its parts a symbol of the passion of Christ.

Small's skullcap
thrives in N. Fla.

This flower of inky purple lip, a perennial herb and member of the mint family, grows in the Southeastern United States and is found in northern counties in Florida. Although listed in Florida herbariums, little other information was found for Scutellaria multiglandulosa. We photogaphed it in late April in Gadsden County, in a wooded area along a stream, at the same time as the silky camellia and the variegated milkweed. The flower ID is attributed to Thomas Henry Kearney Jr. (1874-1956). However, he is known to have received many specimens of various plants from A.W. Chapman, J.K. Small and others.


The attractive milkweed Asclepias variegata with its red ring at base of anthers lures the monarch butterfly and bird and insect pollinators including the fly at the side. Growing from Florida all the way up to Canada, it is considered endangered in three northeastern states. It was known to Linnaeus in 1753. The flower inhabits woodland areas in North Florida, and blooms in late April. It appears also to be a popular plant for gardens.  The milkweed plant, known for medicinal properties, was named in honor of the Greek god of healing, Asclepias. There are some 140 species of milkweed,  some thought to be potential sources of rubber and others whose fiber has been used in rope by natives. Milkweed oil from seeds has been used as sunscreen.

Bee drills shortcut
to find the nectar

A visitor pokes a hole to steal the nectar of the red buckeye or Aesculus pavia. Its red spikes beautify the north Florida woods in March. The first red tubular flower of spring provides food for the hummingbird which probes  the corolla with its long bill and laps nectar with its tongue. Often found near bluffs and streams, the plant can exceed 10 feet.  Seeds are poison to humans, but theCherokees tell of other medicinal uses.

'Go, little flower,'
wrote the poet

Inspiration abounds for writers.
Violets, an inch wide if that, are big subjects for poetry including the verse from Robert Burns. The USDA lists an incredible 125 species of Viola in the US. To the left probably Viola floridana, the common blue violet, is a yearly backyard visitor. Below, decorated leaves identify Viola walteri, brightening Torreya State Park in early March.


Leatherwood, a
tough customer

Dirca palustris is so supple you can tie branches in knots, say experts. Endangered in Florida, it shows bell-like lemon-lime blooms in March. Native Americans made baskets. Reaching 3 meters in wet habitats in Eastern US, it prospers at Torreya Park. Youngest leaves are hairy and flowers twinned,  but these seem to be in triplets. 

Redbud decorates
North Florida

The redbud is in flower and ready for business in late February at the Torreya State Park west of Tallahassee. Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is native to North America and extends from Ontario to N. Florida. A mature tree is usually about 10-15 feet tall. It is the state flower of Oklahoma and it is said that Native Americans ate the flowers raw and roasted the seeds.

    This photo Courtesy
    National Park Service

A rare trout lily (Erythronium umbilicatum) prospers at a Northwest Florida location on a fertile hillside bathed in water from
underground streams which flow nearby. It's one of the early flowers and its green mottled leaves are food for insects and
mammals searching for a snack in the cold weather. The purple anthers are laden with a rust red pollen. The flower
opens as the late morning sun begins to cast light through the trees, and the honey bees become active. This large
population is a Florida treasure and may be viewed in mid-February at the Angus Gholson Nature Park in
Chattahoochee. It was first described by Dr. Roland M. Harper and collected by the late Robert Godfrey
according to Cifford R. Parks and James W. Hardin in  Yellow Erythroniums of the Eastern
United States
Brittonia, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Jul. 15, 1963), pp. 245-259

A rare orchid thrives
after prescribed burns

We drove down to forest road 123 near Sumatra in mid-June, notified of this miraculous flower by friends in the Florida Native Plant Society.  This fragile orchid, each bloom about an inch wide on a spike about 8 inches to a foot high, is Calopogon multiflorus which we had not seen since we began taking pictures of flowers almost 20 years ago.

 It is a miniature tuberosus sharing the same form, but many more blooms.  Perhaps more than a hundred plants grew in earth blackened by a recent prescribed burn. The soil chemistry conspired with the seeds and a wet season to inspire one of many terrestrial orchids we have seen in North Florida over the years. 

Nearby earlier in June we found Calopogon pallidus, the equally small but ubiquitous 'pale grass pink,' growing in the savannas in Liberty County.

'Queen of the Night'
blooms, disappears

Sometimes called 'the most beautiful flower in the world,' the night-blooming cereus, a cactus flower, has intrigued the sleepless for centuries. Blooming only once at night, each flower lasts only until sunrise. Each flower descends from its long leaflet edge on a stalk, fascinating to see.  Flowers of this particular plant were about 8 inches wide across the tips of the petals. The deep, enchanting fragrance of this flower attracts pollinators, with bats predominant in many areas, including the desert, where the flower may have originated. It is growing wild in South Florida according to a source on the web, but the flower is popular among gardeners and is sold commercially. It will grow indoors. In North Florida, we grew ours from a piece of a leaf which generated a new plant. We missed the first year's bloom, but the second year provided a real show. We believe this species is Dutchman's Pipe Cactus or Ephiphyllum oxypetalum and can be found at Dave's Garden.  


Sweet and
and ouch

In mid - May, it holds a beautiful flower, a luxurious frolic for bees. The pricklypear that ripens six months later in October presents a handsome pink and red fruit. But please take the time to slice off the short hairlike needles, barely visible. They will lodge in the hands and even in the lips and tongue (ouch) of those who are not careful. We know.

The fruity seeds and red juice are a rare sweet treat. Below is the flower from a May trip to Wakulla County.  Above, the ruby-colored fruit in late October. We think this is Opuntia stricta, its fruit more rounded at the top than humifusa.

lily thrives
in savanna

This lily with hues of lemon and raspberry grows in Liberty County amid the savannas in Wilma and Sumatra.

It was named for Mark Catesby (1682-1749), a British naturalist who roamed the South and published a natural history which was the first published account of flora and fauna in North America.

Talented as a painter, his watercolors adorn his work. Some 263 of them, not in the book, were discovered and shown later.

While he never visited what is now known as Florida, the flower was named for him some 40 years after his death. Much about Catesby's fascinating life can be learned from Gail Fishman in her book Journeys Through Paradise (2000, the University Presses of Florida).

This photograph was taken with an old Yashica D twin lens reflex camera with Fujichrome 100 film in it. This camera makes a larger slide than the 35 mm normal size slide, and therefore the picture can be printed much larger, if necessary.

lily surprise

We are used to seeing the red Lycoris radiata or hurricane lilies sprouting up in September, but a few golden lilies caught our attention among the red ones in a neighbor's yard.

We had never seen this flower.

It is not native to Florida, but seems to prosper in the climate.

Both red and gold grow wild in China, and this one may be Lycoris aurea, or golden spider lily, which likes limestone sites in China.
It looks similar to a flower named the Lycoris chinensis which has a more ruffled petal. The bulbs, according to our neighbor, were purchased at a nursery. Because it is so similar to the red Lycoris, we felt it should be added to our pages.

We appeal to more knowledgeable people to help us out on naming this flower.

Readers can learn a lot more about the genus Lycoris. which has many varieties and hybrids in a range of colors, from a website at The Pacific Bulb Society.

It is a member of the Amaryllidaceae. It won't be long, we guess, before the golden flowers will spread out into the wild through seed or bulb. 

 Lycoris is sometimes called the "naked lady" because it has no leaves on its stem.

Meanwhile, the Lycoris radiata (the red one) is listed by Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle as growing in Leon County, having been introduced from Asia as an ornamental. These were growing in the same yard.

Orchid at

Racing against the sundown along Highway 65 in Liberty County the third week in July, we spotted the unmistakable plumes of popsicle orange.
The orange sun was making its exit and lent a matching fiery backdrop. The terrestrial Platanthera orchids spring up all over the South in the summer. We've seen them along roadsides in North Georgia near Clayton in the mountains. Prolific rains helped these orchids. Three orange - colored species flourish - cristata, chapmanii and ciliaris,  fringe ranging from shortest to longest. We believe this was chapmanii. Down the road we found  cristata,  a deeper yellow.


The larkspur wears a snappy dress of disco blue sepals and preppy purple petals. This species carolinianum, one of 73 of the genus Delphinium,  grows on limestone bluffs in Gadsden County in May, and from Florida to Oklahoma. It is of the buttercup or Ranunculaceae family. Bumblebees apparently seek nectar by grasping and perhaps puncturing the spur. The family is important in the large number of ornamentals including Anemone, Aquilegia, Helleborus and Thalictrum, among others, wrote George H.M. Lawrence in his Taxonomy of Vascular Plants.

This pest
from Asia
has secret

Considered an invasive weed, the Japanese honeysuckle or Lonicera japonica  is seen in North Florida from April to August in parks, forests and yards, and is one of four flowers locally in the family Caprifoliaceae.

This vine is alien and invasive up through Illinois and Michigan. It was brought in as ornamental from Japan in 1806,  and was not common until the 1900s.

The Japanese honeysuckle  out-competes native plants  blocks the sunlight from natives, thus killing them.

But this perennial has the sweet fragrance of wild azalea and what is equally sweet on the tongue is the nectar.

Pluck a flower, grasp the end of the corolla and pull the stigma through, and it will usually deliver a drop of nectar that is purely delicious to taste. We don't suggest that this vine be planted in your yard, but we do say that if it is there, you miss a treat by not tasting the nectar. Digging up the rhizomes or chemical treatment may be next in order.

Wild blue
phlox, sunset

A setting sun sends its last rays to warm and dry the wild blue phlox that have been washed by rain all day along the highway from SR 20 to the Ochlockonee River State Park. It's almost June, late in the year for these flowers. They may be Phlox divaricata but there are a lot of different species of phlox in Andre F. Clewell's Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle and we will have to go back into the forest and take our handbook and a closer look to make sure. Right now we will just exult in the beauty we see.

Swamp rose
adorns the road

Pink petals of Rosa palustrus attract pollinators  along floodplains and cypress swamps from Jackson to Dixie Counties. It decorates the road to St. Marks Lighthouse in late May. Sharp thorns warn those tempted to (illegally) clip from the tall shrub. It blooms from Nova Scotia to Florida, and west to Arkansas. Says the Illinois State Museum, "birds and other wildlife eat the fleshy swamp rose hips (fruits), and the Cherokee used an infusion (a tea) made from the bark and/or roots from swamp rose to treat worms, diarrhea, and dysentery."

Ant visits the
'soft greeneyes'

"Soft greeneyes" is Berlandiera pumila, dis- covered by Michaux in 1803. It grows in dry pinelands and  sandhills, says Gil Nelson in East Gulf Coastal Plain Wildflowers. Seen on a late May evening on Smith Creek Road near Ochlockonee State Park in the Apalachicola Forest, it gives off a chocolate scent, says the Herb Society of America.   It has overlapping bracts and whitish hairs along the stem and toothed leaves which are clasping. Ants scurried about the plants. 

in the sandhills

One rare, one fairly common, both  a melody of pink and green. On the left is bell-shaped Clematis reticulata of the family Ranunculaceae or buttercup family. Among its spring relatives are the larkspur, the rue anemone and the columbine. The delicate flower dangles like a solitary bell and one has to slide underneath with a flash to find the anthers which are yellow with pollen.

To the right is the endangered Spigelia gentianoides found in the sandhills of Jackson County in May. Related to the marilandica or Indian pink, this member of the Loganiaciae has anthers  protected within the corolla tube which opens only slightly. The only known population in Florida is located in Jackson County near Three Rivers State Park, where we found it along with members of the Native Plant Society.

small, exquisite

Summer and autumn in the sandhills brings the hidden treasure of flowers that are inconspicuous but exquisite in color and form. Such is dayflower of the family Commelinaceae, which includes the spiderwort.

There are five species of dayflower in the North Florida area, says Clewell. The species erecta was thriving in Jackson County at the Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Flower lore says the great taxonomist Linnaeus, with a sense of humor,  named the genus for three brothers, all botanists, two of whom rose to fame. Thus, the third inconspicuous white petal recalls the third brother.

Gaudy pink
month of May

Exploring North Florida leads nature-lovers on journeys through rainbows of color. Native Plant Society members went on such a trip in early May.  North of the small town of Sneads near Three Rivers State Park is the Apalachee Wildlife Management Area in Jackson County. It's comprised of sandhill and pine-oak-hickory woodlands.

Among the beautiful flowers blooming in early May is the Penstemon australis, or beardtongue, a member of the family Scrophulariaciae.

It grows in sandhills, flatwoods and cypress pond margins, according to Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. Some 270 species of penstamon are said to be found in North America.

Coralroot splendid
in its spring profusion

This rare spring perennial orchid Corallorhiza wisteriana or Wister's coralroot was found along the Phipps Park in February in Tallahassee by Robin Kennedy, Pat Stampe and Virginia Craig pf the Magnolia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. It likes rich damp woods. It is two to eight inches tall and the flower is perhaps a third of an inch wide. With no chlorophyll, it relies on a relationship with fungus which draws nutrients from decaying organic matter.

The small snow white - purple spotted lip glows like crystal under the light, and the photographer has captured this miniature world for us. Its rhizome, branched, looks like coral, from which it gets its name. It ranges to the northern United States and to the mountains in the west. There are several related species. It was also seen recently in the Wolf Creek area south of Cairo, Georgia, on 140 acres of rare plants and beautiful trees that is a goal of preservation efforts.

Photos by Robin Kennedy.

Is it a trillium
or a quintillium?

The new Lake Jackson trails
off Timberlane Road offered
a floral paradise in mid - January, but we noticed that some trillium had four leaves and one featured five. This one was nearby, in the woods near a funeral home. This monocot and member of the lily family can sometimes be found in genetic mutation. In the area were blooming early violets, and yellow jessamine could be found fallen on the forest floor. White oak, hickory, swamp chestnut oak, spruce pine, magnolia and beech grow along the ravines which dip down to a stream. Violets and assorted lichen and fungi (one we identified as yellow brain jelly) made for a delightful hike.

Petunia lends
to wildlife
management area

Dew still clinging, the fresh purple wild petunia greeted the morning in an upland pine forest on the western side of Lake Seminole in Jackson County, just north of Three Rivers State Park in the Apalachee Wildlife Management Area. The flowers accented an abundance of asters in September. This petunia, with hairy stem, is lised as Ruellia cilosa in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle by Clewell. Petunias always add vibrance to the forest. They were seen by the Magnolia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society which meets the first Wednesday nights at 7:15 p.m. at United Church of Tallahassee, 1834 Mahan Drive, east of Magnolia Drive, west of Blair Stone, on north side of road. Come join the fun.

Rare Treats discovered in North Florida . . . .

The Big Bend seldom sees the Carolina lily Lilium michauxii, but watchful Native Plant Society member Virginia Craig found it in full regalia at Angus Gholson Jr. Nature Park in Chattahoochee in the understory in late July. And while banana plants can grow in N. Fla., few bear fruit. This plant enjoyed a mild winter and a hot, damp summer in Tallahassee, against protective brick wall in NW Tallahassee - and shows off.

Ritual of the Mayfly

A city of mayflies emerged miraculously from Lake Seminole in N. Florida on a July day and covered a large cypress tree where they molted. Mayflies may live years in water with a short perilous time on land to reproduce. The males die shortly after mating. The mayflies also draw a host of predators. The National Geographic ran an article with incredible pictures from Serbia in 2007. The 2,000 species of mayflies are indicators of unpolluted water. Sadly, much of their habitat has vanished.

Chanterelles in
the back yard

Known as a gourmet delicacy
is the chanterelle. Growing in loose moist soil throughout North America in the summer, this mushroom with fluted edges is nutty and sweet and we like them with scrambled eggs. They have a fruity smell like apricots and cost upward of $24 a pound. First, take some to your ag agent or a mycologist to be sure. Soak well to get the grit off. There are a number of good websites discussing the right way to pick, wash, cook and store these mushrooms. These were growing under pines in our shady backyard in Tallahassee. Advice is they can be stored in the a paper bag for a few days in the refrigerator.

At a landing
on the river

Found as far south as North Florida, and west in the prairie states as Kansas, Missouri and Iowa, it's a native to the U.S. and called Campanula americana.

This striking blue flower is at home at Aspalaga Landing in Gadsden County on the Apalachicola River, growing in late July on a fern-shrouded hill near a stream in a landscape that looks much like North Georgia. It is also called the tall bellflower, and likes damp, shaded woods. It has five stamens with anthers that are curled beyond the petal plane, and is the only species of campanula with petals that spread out widely.

It is said that the deer eat its leaves. The plant can grow two to six feet high and the flowers, on elongated racemes, look about the size of a half-dollar. The unusually long, curving style juts out in the fashion of an elephant's trunk.  Flowering from July through September, the bellflower finds a home in rich woodlands, river and stream banks and in somewhat elevated places in floodplain forests, according to Godrey and Wooten in Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southesastern United States - Dicotyledons. The seeds are offered for sale by nurseries and it is popular with gardeners.

Flowers down
by the riverside

On the muddy shores of the Apalachicola River in late July we found the purple Mimulus alatus or "monkeyflower" of the family Veronicaceae but others say Scrophulariaceae. Growing four to six feet high, it first reminded us of a mint. It grows in Florida's panhandle and is widely distributed across the nation and in some species leaves can be used in salads. A similar flower, species ringens, is more northerly and has oblanceolate leaves, write Godfrey and Wooten. The yellow flower is in the St. John's wort  family or species Hypericum. This plant had short leaves at the top and lanceolate leaves beneath, and was about four feet high.  It is one of about 25 species in the North Florida area. St. John's wort has become well-known as an herbal remedy for depression. Identification needed here.

Butterfly finds
a button bush

The pearl crescent butterfly is a "generalist" and one of the most successful butterflies, nectaring on many flowers, write Cech and Tudor in Butterflies of the East Coast. "Common to abundant" on the Eastern coast of the United States, it favors asters, but, like a generalist, finds a home here on a button bush, competing for nectar with the bees in late July along the Apalachicola river.  One of the questions raised by Cech is how the butterfly is so successful without a host providing a toxic chemical defense. It is suggested that the butterfly synthesizes its own toxicity. Its flight is low and rapid, and males spend most of the day looking for mates. Variations in color add to the challenge in identifying sex. The orange hues and decorative markings brighten up the summer landscape and make us pause and wonder at the beauty of creation.

Bee dusted
by wood sage

Flowers have amazing tricks of survival. The Teucrium, a member of the mint family, distends its anthers to paint the head of this unsuspecting nectar - seeking carpenter bee near Hosford, Florida. The bees fly around with these odd-looking orange stripes to bring the pollen to the next flower. Flowers of this genus lack the upper lip associated with mint. The family is said to be rich in essential oils.  Teucrium canadense, or wood sage, blooms June through July in floodplains, brackish marshes, hammocks, coastal flatwoods and pond margins, writes Andre Clewel in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle.

the birds

Reaching up to five feet,  Lachnanthes caroliniana  thrives in the savannas in mid-July. It is known as redroot for its red tuber and roots. It grows from the Southeastern United States to Nova Scotia, in wet ditches, bogs, and near swamps and lakes. Each flower has three stamens. Its name comes from "lachne" or wool in Greek, and "anthos" or flower. Note the woolly look of these pubescent (covered with soft hairs) flowers. The related Lophiola americanus or goldcrest has six stamens. Both grow abundantly near Wilma and Sumatra, Florida and are in Haemodoraceae.

Redroot is said to be a favorite food of sandhill cranes and a traditional source of red dye for Native Americans in Florida, says Dave's Garden.  Daniel Austin in Florida Ethnobotany cites the importance of this dye for Native Americans. The plant was once called "tinctoria" for its dye, produced when the roots are fried in oil. A tonic was thought by the Seminole Indians to promote fearlessness and boldness. The Cherokee and Catawba used the root for medicinal purposes, writes Austin. The seeds are known to provide part of the diet for wintering ducks in South Carolina.  Farmers consider it an invasive plant in pastures. It does spring up in large quantities along the roadside of Highway 65 in Liberty County. It is also a source of nectar for butterflies.

Roots contain red dye

Magnolia flower
digitally enhanced

The vacuum tube could amplify sound and color; the computer has the power to recombine the object itself. The magnolia with its silvery leaves is the message. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem "Flowers" about 1840:

Gorgeous flowerets in the sunlight shining,
 Blossoms flaunting in the eye of day,
Tremulous leaves with soft and silver lining,
Buds that open only to decay;

Brilliant hopes, all woven in gorgeous tissues,
Flaunting gayly in the golden light;
Large desires, with most uncertain issues,

Tender wishes, blossoming at night!

azaleas were
good exports

While other azaleas have long gone to seed, the swamp honeysuckle or Rhododendron viscosum appears in the woods, titi and bay swamps from Santa Rosa to Leon and Wakulla counties from June to September, according to Clewell. The long stigma is surrounded by lower stamens, which in flowers makes self-pollination less likely and thus enhances chances for survival. It is said this species was the first successful azalea grown by the European gardeners amid the heady discovery of New World flowers. These flowers were growing in mid-late July along road 123 in the Apalachicola National Forest west of Sumatra, Florida, near the tall eupatorium known as Joe-pye weed. Blooming around the forest three weeks into July were plenty of St. John's wort, wild hibiscus or comfort root and button bushes. The fall orchids in the savannas were waiting to bloom, as we expect to see the orange platanthera as days go by.

Orchids and
pitcher plants
grow together

The bright white 'snowy orchid' Platanthera nivea is a threatened species in Florida but was in unusual abundance out among the pitcher plants in Liberty County in early July. This glistening terrestrial orchid grows in wetlands along the east coast and to Tennessee, and is endangered in several states. Growing in moist acid bogs, it is also known as the 'bog torch.' The flower is so luminous in the sun that a photographer has to either wait for the shade or stop down the lens of the camera. What is needed is a painter to capture this scene. Summer rains portend an abundant orchid season. The University of Florida herbarium has a specimen collected in 1860 by the noted botanist Dr. Alvin Chapman.

is home
in the wild

The varieties of wild hibiscus are numerous, and this one can be identified by its palmate leaves and maroon throat. Hibiscus aculeatus is "harshly scabrous" according to Clewell, which means it has very stiff hairs on its stems. The opposite of scabrous is "glabrous" which means a flower has no hairs. This hibiscus with its leaves edged in red is found in many environments in North Florida from June to September. We could find no reason why it is also known as "comfort root." It is also sold for gardening and its flowers range from pale yellow to cream and to tan, according to Dave's Garden Website, one of the best websites around for more information about home gardening and how to care for flowers. It is one of 35 rosemallow species in the United States, and 15 are found in the northern part of Florida, according to IFAS at the University of Florida. Colors of the various species of rosemallows range from white to pink to yellow to red. These were growing west of Tallahassee. Photo was taken in July with Fujichrome 100 Velvia as we had our Nikon FE2 along to accompany the Nikon D40x, and we often shoot with both.

A 'rain lily'

This amaryllis is a native of Central America and has spread into the U.S. Gadsden County is now a home to the "rain lily" or Zephyranthes grandiflora. It has been officially found in Franklin and Marion Counties. The related white Z. atamasco is one of the first flowers of spring. Hues of popsicle pink and vermillion bring this flower into nurseries. It blossomed at the woods' edge in the early July rains that refreshed the earth during the hot summer.

Pretty flower
with big name

Among the fanciest mallows in the summer is the pink and yellow of the salt marsh mallow or Kosteletzkya pentacarpos shot in late July by Robin Kennedy and Patricia Stampe a day before the mowers got to it, down by Live Oak Island near Shell Point in Wakulla County. This flower is widespread in Florida. Apparently known also as K. virginica, It can be found in salt marsh areas from Florida to New York, and west to Louisiana. It was named in honor of botanist V.F. Kosteletzky (1801 - 1887) who taught medicinal botany at the famous botanical research school in Prague. It is unclear to us whether this is the same flower as the reported and threatened Kosteletzkya pentacarpos  which is found in the western Mediterranean in Northeast Spain. If the plant is indeed native to the U.S., it must be that rare exotic in Europe.

Clover gives
gifts to world

Clovers up close are actually many smaller flowers, each capable of reproducing. The beauty of the clover can be discovered as it is magnified. Essential to the life of the bee, the clover is at the source of the food chain that provides nourishment to animals and increases fertility of soil for the farmer by nitrogen fixation. The red clover is naturalized from Northern Europe.
Trifolium pratense is not only the national flower of Denmark but the state flower of Vermont. This wildflower thrives all over Florida. Picture was taken in June or early July. It is a member of the pea family and each petal has the familiar design of that family with wing and keel.

Foxglove puts
up with some
fair impostors

The 'false foxglove' comes in species both mellow pink and yellow, and this one seems the rarer of the two colors. It takes in the sun in a lush understory in Gadsden County in June or early July. The Aureolaria flava is a favorite lunch for insects. It thrives in pine -oak- hickory woods, dry bluffs and secondary woods, according to Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. UF says it is a member of the Orobanchaceae and sometimes placed under Scrophulariaceae. It is hemiparisitic on white oak. Taxonomy, an activity once or twice derided as scientific stamp collecting, is a contentious activity. What's in a name is the name of the game. The flower was known as Gerardia flava by Linnaeus in 1753. USF plant database finds it in the Panhandle of Florida and some other counties.

Evasive butterfly,

Summer flits by quickly. The 'common wood nymph' flew low and erratically and seemed to disappear into the foliage at the Wilma savanna in Liberty County. But it always ended up in the vicinity of its mate. It finally rested for thought on a palmetto frond. The wildflower  Macbridea alba, known as "white birds in a nest," grew near a forest road in Sumatra in July. Endangered in Florida, and threatened in the U.S., the rare flower is pollinated by the bumble bee. It grows in Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Liberty Counties. It is a member of the mint family.


Polygala ramosa is sometimes called "low barren milkwort" and is found in colorful lemon-yellow clusters in bogs, usually close to the water. It occurs from Delaware south along the coast to Texas. The plants named "milkwort" were thought to have milky juice, but they don't. Some species were thought to increase the milk production in cows. These flowers populate the savannas in Wilma in the summer and brighten the scenery considerably. They are about six to 12 inches high and the branches are relatively flat at the top. A species which looks somewhat like this, Polygala cymosa, grows one to three feet tall and has a compound corymb of spikes.

Larkspur's wild
and inky colors

The endangered Delphinium carolinianum is found in many states but only in Gadsden County in Florida. It thrives in the limestone outcroppings in the chalky glade habitat. It's poisonous to cattle, but used as an herbal remedy in small doses. Its juice, mixed with alum, gives a blue ink, according to Wikipedia. The plant was named Delphinium by the ancient Greek botanist and physician Dioscorides who lived from about 40-90 A.D. and whose books were used up to the 1600s. He thought the shape of the bud looked like a dolphin.  The five petals end in a spur, thus the name "larkspur." Many varieties are found in gardens. The fetching sea of inky blues was being visited by large bees in the third week of May near Chattahoochee.

Champion Torreya Tree in Madison, Florida

This tree
is Florida's champion Torreya taxifolia at 47 feet high and a girth of 67 inches. It was recognized as champion on January 31, 1984,  by the Florida Department of Agriculture on the property of S.L. Brothers of Madison, Florida.
Publisher Tommy Greene of Madison measured the tree recently. It seems to be prospering. Because of a fungal blight, Florida lost its great torreya trees. Even Torreya State Park has no remaining torreya this large. To combat the decline, scientists in Florida and Georgia and a group associated with the Biltmore Garden in Asheville, N.C., are working to re-establish the torreya. Two good-sized young torreyas are growing in McCord park in Tallahassee. These have a Christmas tree shape. Smaller trees can be seen in Liberty and Gadsden Counties along the Apalachicola River ravines. We have learned that  Norlina, N.C., boasts an even larger survivor of the fungus that has left saplings or sprouts where these big evergreens grew. The species was named for New York botanist John Torrey by Hardy Bryan Croom, a North Florida planter of the 1830s, whose tragic story we tell. In return, Torrey named the "Croomia" to honor Croom. Madison, about 50 miles east of Tallahassee,  boasts many historic sites, great antiquing and arts downtown, and feels much like old Florida. Thanks to David MacManus, Dan Miller, Wilson Baker, Tommy Greene of Madison, and Gerald Grow who all helped us find the right tree, a story in itself.

the light

Florida can't boast great meadows of Indian paintbrush and bluebonnet, but our state shows a rainbow of colors along Interstate 10 in Madison County. The Indian paintbrush was named for botanist Domingo Castillejo (1744 - 1793) of Cadiz, Spain. One of 200 species, Castilleja indivisa came here from Texas or Oklahoma, says Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. He cited it only  in Taylor County at that time, 1985.  Perhaps highway beautification took root. It is hemiparisitic and requires a host plant, like lupine.

 The Florida Atlas of Vascular Plants  says Castilleja indivisa  can be found from Leon south to Citrus and Hillsborough County. Parasitic on grasses and herbs, it has been moved from the figwort family to the broomrape or
Orobanchaceae. Most of the species are in the western U.S., with several in the East, some in Central America and South America, and species in Asia.  

One is the state flower of Wyoming. Potentially toxic, one species
has a few medicinal uses for Native Americans as a weak tea for rheumatism, a secret love charm in food, and as a poison, according to Peterson Field Guides Medicinal Plants. A black and purple swallowtail butterfly flitted among the flowers.

Depths of forest reveal herbs of many varieties, colors

Exploring the late April woods can bring hidden treasures to light. The fragile Dutchman's pipe, Aristolochia serpentaria, offers a tiny, camouflaged flower beneath its long green leaves.  The plant is said to be a stimulant and an emmenagogue. False Gromwell, above, Onosmodium virginianum uncurls its furry leaves. It is said to be a diuretic and tonic.  They are rewards to the eye in the spring forests. Virginia Craig of the Native Plant Society captured the lighted gromwell.

Wild azaleas give the scent of springtime . . .

 . . . and
woods, parks

The wild azalea sometimes carry red tints, such as the, Rhododendron austrinum planted at McCord Park in Tallahassee. Its strong fragrance compares to the frangipani. It is well worth venturing outside for.

Most of the austrinum is near and west of the Apalachicola River, while the white canescens blooms  closer in the eastern Big Bend of Florida. These flowers are pollinated by bees, butterflies and moths. We once saw a green and red hummingbird moth hovering around the azaleas at Angus Gholson Nature Park in Chattahoochee.

At left, it was April in Gadsden County along a stream near Chattahoochee. 

Further down in our website, isa closer view of these flowers in more of a golden coloring at the  Gholson Nature Park, and the alabamense and the canescens.

Residents purchase these trees at nurseries and plant them in their yards with good success. They can also be enjoyed at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee.

These photographs and all photographs on flwildflower
pages are copyrighted and may not be used without
permission of the photographer and the editor of Florida Wildflowers.
A field of bloodroot springs up and
shows herb of many medicinal uses;
sap was once used for warpaint

Bloodroot, or Sanguinaria Canadensis, is an herb of many dimensions. It has a leaf stem and a flower stem, and red roots. The flower has a great range, from Canada, to Florida, and west to Nebraska. This plant above has flowered and the pod will be going to seed in a remarkable field of thousands of bloodroot tucked away in a North Florida location.  
While warning of its toxic properties (it is not edible and can cause many problems) herbalists say its constituents have other values including anesthetic, diuretic, febrifuge, sedative, stimulant, cathartic and tonic.

Native Americans called it puccoon and its red sap was used for warpaint. This was described by Capt. John Smith in Jamestown, along with other uses.

 It is a member of the poppy family and blooms on bluffs and in hammocks, from Leon to Jefferson Counties in North Florida, February through March, writes Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle.  USDA county distribution shows seven counties in North Florida. The family has four to 12 petals and many stamens.

We have seen it growing in Jackson and Gadsden Counties, at the Marianna Caverns and at the Chattahoochee Nature Garden and recently discovered a profusion on isolated acreage near Tallahassee. The owners say they have no current plans for development. The plant should be protected wherever it occurs as it is rare to see.

Yellow Jessamine petals fall to the forest floor
The fragrant Gelsemium sempervirens and the odorless rankinii bloom in North Florida in early spring. Jessamine is a vine, sometimes growing on limbs a hundred feet high. On forest trails, one steps on fallen yellow petals, but nowhere is there a yellow flower to be found, except far above. Also called the Carolina jessamine, its petals glisten crystalline in the sun. This is species rankinii, whose flower has no smell, growing in March along the roadside in Liberty County. Much caution is advised. Loganiaceae is a source of drugs and the poison strychnine as well as curare.

Dogwood blossoms enchant forest
with snowy cascade and speak
of the 'little people' of the Cherokee

 As its leaves unfurl, the flowering dogwood brings a cascade of white into the landscape, with its bright sepals or bracts that will last for two to three weeks. The flowering dogwood's actual flowers are blooming in the middle, small and yellow, almost unseen. This tree grows to 30 feet with lower branches giving great width. Its red berries are favored by birds. Dogwoods bloom in Central Florida and work their way up to Massachusetts, and head west to Texas.

The Cherokee have a legend that Little People  or "brownies" who are helpful to others live among the dogwood trees. When you hear rustling in the forest, it could be them. A 'legend,' begun in the 1950s opines that the cross of Christianity was dogwood, and the regretful tree was miraculously altered by Jesus Christ so that it could not be used in this manner again. No dogwood existed in Israel, however. Cornus Florida is one of many species. It is said to be called "cornus" because the wood is as hard as a horn.  A beautiful desk screen was provided by a reader in Orlando.

Trout lilies have many visitors at
Wolf Creek site

A honey bee makes its rounds on the trout lilies at Wolf Creek, a unique habitat for the lilies and wild orchids near Cairo, Ga. The 140 acres are focus of a preservation effort by the Magnolia Chapter of the Native Plant Society. You can help with your tax-free donations.

Billy Boothe, a naturalist and superb nature photographer, captured this bee. President of the Society of Nature Photographers of the Panhandle, he tells stories about his photos at  and they are also for sale. Try his puzzle page for fun.


Rarely seen

To the left is a white and yellow orchid, Zeuxine strateumatica, known as soldier's orchid and lawn orchid. Seldom seen in N. Florida, it was photographed in a group of about 40 plants at Wakulla Beach Road in Wakulla County by Virginia Craig, and found by Robin Kennedy, two members of the Magnolia Chapter of the
Florida Native Plant Society. Originating in Southeast Asia, it apparently spread through Florida with imported centipede grass and occurs in Georgia, Texas, Lousiana and Hawaii. Wrote Carlyle Luer in The Native Orchids of Florida (New York Botanical Garden, 1972), "The glistening mass of little white flowers with their protruding lips turn from orange to yellow as they age. When viewed through a strong [magnifying] glass, the lip appears to be composed entirely of a microscopic mass of sparkling beads." Above left is the male flower of  the rare corkwood; at right,  female, photos by Kennedy. Threatened in Gulf coast areas of Florida, its flowers are borne in catkins and sexes are usually on separate plants. Leitneria floridana is the lone species in this family, writes Linda Chapin in Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida.

Sorrel both
sweet, sour

Sheep sorrel leaves have an interesting tart taste. 'Sour dock' reminded us of oxalis. A folk remedy, Rumex acetosella is a garnish, can help curdle cheese, but for livestock, can be toxic. We tried a tasty leaf picked by an expert. It was growing in spring in Madison. Since then, we have seen many plants that look like this. Please don't nibble unless you are sure of the identity.

Spring up

A mottled leaf of ginger left and the fresh trillium provide food for animals and insects in North Florida. We found many sweet ginger leaves nibbled at the Alum Bluff trail. The second week of February brought purple violets.  Leaves of beech and swamp chestnut oak litter the forest floor. The trail was beautiful and quiet. The trail has a new water fountain. After a 3.75 mile hike for four hours, the water tasted so refreshing. 

It blooms
in acid bog

As we wandered through the acid bog in late March, before the orchids had bloomed, we noticed trees ranging perhaps up to 10 feet tall, with bright white flowers. The titi (pronounced as 'tye-tye') was attracting the bees with its clusters of white flowers. Cliftonia monophylla or black titi, is described by Andre Clewell. The flower has ten stamens, grows in terminal racemes, and the trees, often growing densely, have elliptically shaped leaves. This tree is found in acid swamps and bogs and we saw it and others in a bog west of Hosford. It blooms from Escambia to Jefferson County in March and April, and can be found up to Virginia and west to Texas. A second species, racemiflora, leatherwood, has five stamens, and can be found in acid swamps, bogs, and floodplains. Bears, bees and butterflies like the nectar of these flowers which are showy and fragrant. Titi can grow 25 to 35 feet high.
They are a popular source for honey which has been described as leaving  "a slightly bitter after - twang."


A trip down to South Florida must include Fairchild Garden. The critically endangered 'mandrinette' - Hibiscus fragilis - occurs only on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. It cannot regenerate there because of invasive competition, so   scientists are working to grow seedlings. We observed a problem -  the cotton stainer insect - Dysdercus suturellus - which destroys cotton bolls in the South and attacks  the mallow family.

We saw a green iguana, three feet long, rush into a pond, swim underwater, then clamber onto a branch. The Garden crawls with them. Iguanas originated in South America and there are 17 species. Naturally herbivorous and popular as pets, escaped iguanas luxuriate in the foliage of subtropical Florida. They may live to age 35, and the record is said to be 69 years. They can bond with their owners. See the cited entry in Wikipedia and follow the footnotes to the scholarly research.

'If you lichen me
like I lichen you'

Apologies Rodgers and Hammerstein, but what more appropriate sign for Valentine's day than this heart - shaped red lichen? It comes in many shapes, of course, and is called the Christmas lichenCryptothecia rubrocincta is one of about 15,000 species of lichen. A lichen combines fungus and algae. This one likes dry woods. In Brazil, it makes red dye. It thrives on oaks in sandy areas of the the Alum Bluff trail in Liberty County. It might as well be spring! Oh no, are we still stealing from composers? We'll stop while we are ahead.

Lizard basks
on pine cone

This lizard blends in wonderfully on a pine cone. We think it is an Eastern fence lizard, the only native lizard to Florida and Georgia with rough scales. Scleroporus  undulatus is a
tree dweller ranging throughout the Southeast.  We found it basking in the winter sun on the ground on a large pine cone at the Alum Bluff trail in Liberty County, near Bristol, Florida where it posed for several minutes even while we held the cone in our hand. It grows four to 7.25 inches long, and during mating season, the male boasts blue patches on its abdomen. The lizards lay from three to six eggs twice a year.

Swamp chestnut oaks abound
in acorns

These stately trees of the white oak family are known by their large  distinctive leaves and their acorns which are more than an inch long and supposedly sweet, were one to soak and cook them. We tried. After boiling several times to remove the tannin, we found the acorns a little less than sweet and somewhat gritty, but could see how the native Americans might be able to grind them into fine flour. We left December's uncooked acorns sitting in the bowl for a couple of weeks and noticed one day that round holes had appeared in them. It was then that we discovered that larvae from nut weevils had eaten their way out of the acorns, and had gathered at the bottom of the bowl. Not so good!

pretty but

Mistletoe is celebrated in myth and history. The Druids worshipped this parasite as holy "because it grew nearer to heaven than any other plant" says UF Extension Service. It held the promise of spring. Scandinavian myth saw a symbol of peace. Its seed roots in the bark of deciduous trees, stealing water and nutrients. Its berries become a glassy white. Kissing under the mistletoe is a Christmas tradition, but be careful.  Eating the berries resulted in 1,754  accidental poisonings over a seven year period in the U.S., says UF.  Phorandendron serotinum had fallen from a tree at the Indian Mounds park in Tallahassee. Wash hands after handling this plan


The really cold weather has not yet appeared in North Florida, although it is three weeks past Thanksgiving.
Yet, it's still bracing to be outside in the cooler air. At the historic Indian Mounds State Site in Tallahassee
one can walk a path strewn with leaves from hickory, sweetgum, magnolia and swamp chestnut oak. Along
the trail is found hickory nuts and the large acorns from the swamp chestnut, and smaller acorns from other
oaks. Spring violets are beginning to leaf, and soon the year will begin its new cycle.


The Rattlebox moth
and Crotalaria have
a most intriguing
natural partnership

This spectacularly dappled moth, sometimes called the bella moth, or the calico moth, has found a safe place to deposit her eggs, with the bright yellow Crotalaria along Highway 20 near Tallahassee providing a lifelong insurance policy.

This ornate species of moth is called Utetheisa bella in The Moth Book, A Guide to the Moths of North America by W.J. Holland, (1968 Dover Books) first published in 1903. It has been combined into 'Utetheisa ornatrix' with forms 'bella' and ornatrix.'  This farspread genus has been photographed in Sudan, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Borneo, the French Antilles, French Guyane, Portugal, Turkmenistan and the Grenadines, and seen in India. 'Bella'
and its host Crotalaria participate in this ageless autumnal ritual.

To the left, the moth begins to place her eggs upon a leaf. The white, spherical eggs are visible in the picture. Scientists say that the female obtains a defensive chemical in mating and that the male procures alkaloids by eating the plant.
Scientists at Cornell found that the female seeks the male with the highest potency of the alkaloids which are found in the plant leaves. The alkaloids protect the eggs and the caterpillars. The caterpillars may offer the plant a defense against certain rapacious varieties of ants.

Spiders, after one taste, will cut these moths loose from their webs, wrote Cornell researchers in a fascinating article. Moths raised without the defensive chemical were eaten by the spiders.

Full wings display a stunning broad orange-pink expanse beneath the art-deco orange, a strong warning to birds and other animals to keep a distance. It flies in the daytime, so its habits are different from most other

The Crotalaria is a member of the pea family, and shares the name "rattlebox" with the moth. This species is Crotalaria spectabilis. It is poisonous to livestock because of its alkaloids. Its name comes from the same Latin name that rattlesnakes have. When the pods of the plant are ready to seed, one can shake the pod, which has changed from green to brown, and hear the seeds rattle around. Below, one of the mature pods was spilt open to show its seeds.


Photographs were taken with a Nikon D-40x using a manual Nikon 55 mm 2.8 macro lens, with focus and fstop adjusted by hand. Shutter speed and white balance were adjusted on the camera at the wheel and menu.

Red flowers in
autumn months

The difference between the 'red morning glory' and the wild cypress vine can't be seen from a distance, but a closer look shows that the quarter-sized star-shapped cypress vine flower on the right has filiform leaves that look like the teeth of a comb. The red morning glory on the left, which is also called "scarlet creeper," is cup-shaped and exends from Georgia  to one parish in Louisiana, writes Gil Nelson in East Gulf Coastal Plain Wildflowers (2005, Falcon Press). Both are members of the genus Ipomoea, the cypress vine species quamoclit and the red morning glory hederifolia which has three-lobed leaves. A third look-alike is Ipomoea coccinea which has a yellowish tube and leaves seldom lobed, according to Nelson. The middle of those flowers is, indeed, lighter orange from what we can see on the Web.


The inedible Dioscorea bulbifera or air-potato was introduced as ornament from Asia, writes Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. However, another authority says it was introduced from Africa during the slave trade, although native to Asia. It seems to have found a home in San Luis Park in Leon County. This is about the size of a small tangerine, and is of the yam family.  It is depicted as being similar to kudzu in taking over large trees in Florida, and is more and more common. The University of Florids suggests eradication measures be taken.

used in

Flowers of this genus Carphephorus, sometimes known as wild vanilla,  are members of the composite family, and six species grow in the Southeast, area, according to Godfrey in Aquatic and Wetland Plants of (the) Southeastern United States (1981, University of Georgia). These flowers were growing off forest road 106 in the Apalachicola National Forest and we caught them in the setting sun.

It was written years ago that tons of leaves of the species odoratissimus were being collected and sold for flavoring smoking tobacco. That's what Duncan and Foote said in the early 1970s in Wildflowers of the Southeastern United States which was one of the first handy guides to wildflowers in this area of the country.

This is species paniculatus, and was growing along with the odoratissimus which has broader leaves at the bottom and pseudoliatris with very narrow leaves. Such flowers grow in pine savannas and flatwoods from North Carolina through Florida's peninsula.


Sipping nectar from a daisy in Liberty County is one of the many species of sulphur butterflies on the Eastern seaboard. There are 300 species worldwide and 37 in North America and Canada, according to Rick Cech in Butterflies of the East Coast: An Observer's Guide (2005, Princeton University Press). Hibridizations are many. A butterfly's feet have chemical receptors that react to sweetness and the proboscis uncoils. Nectar is drawn up by suction created by action of muscles in the head, according to Cech. Only a small part of a butterfly's life is spent as an adult.

for the

Autumn sunsets in the Big Bend area of Florida are distractingly beautiful especially if you are out in the open and away from the power lines.

We were trying out our new Nikon D40x digital while the sun made its exit over the forest near Sumatra.

The camera allows for sepia tones, which accounts for the picture at the top. With the bright background, it was not possible to retain the colors in the foreground. The human eye can do this, but can't focus on the sun for long.

The second sunset was colorized with a change of hues on the computer

It became a sunset for hummingbirds whose attraction for the red colors sends them to the red flowers,

How would an insect or a bird view a sunset, with some limited capacity, perhaps, to see the colors?

Lake Jackson
still retains
its flowers

While the lake waters are depleted by drought, sunlight brings out shades of yellow in the lotus blossom in Lake Jackson in Leon County in mid-June.

The lake, which used to be one of the premier fishing spots for bass in the country, has suffered from years of low waters, and development has hedged around it. A recent zoning decision by the Leon County Commission, against all expert advice, showed a willful and pathetic ignorance of the natural value of the lake

The yellow lotus, Nelumbo lutea, is the only lotus native to The United States. The starchy tubers were used for food by native Americans. Considered by some a weed, it is endangered in New Jersey, eliminated by development in Delaware, and threatened in other states. Lotuses are linked to the Hindu goddess of prosperity, Laskshmi. Writes an anonymous scholar, "in esoteric Buddhism, the heart of the beings is like an unopened lotus: when the virtues of the Buddha develop therein, the lotus blossoms; that is why the Buddha sits on a lotus bloom."

 Also beautifying the lake were the white water lilies Nymphaea odorata which occur in lakes, cypress ponds and coastal pools, writes Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. They float like bright white candles on the water.

a jewel

This orchid blooms in June on hardwoods in hammocks, sinks and gum swamps, writes Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. It grows in Jefferson County where we tied the camera to a magnolia tree and pointed it toward the flower. We've also seen it in Falling Waters State Park. The light passing though the petals shows the fragility of the plant, which often hides amid resurrection vine. We've spied it on magnolia trees above streams, where a micro climate exists. The orchid is the only arboreal orchid growing north of Central Florida, and it grows in the Southeastern states. The  name is now Epidendrum magnoliae. It was once Epidendrum conopseum before the taxonomic change. It is said to give off a sweet scent at night.

is unusual

Along the St. Marks Bike Trail in Tallahassee one may see a lot of flowers, and some of them are unusual. Common spiderwort, of the family Commelinaceae,  is usually blue. This is probably Tradescantia ohiensis which blooms April through November throughout North Florida. The color of a flower is less important than the sum of all of its other parts to botanists. Soil conditions, for instance, might have caused the plant to grow as a white flower.
The plant is edible, and we took this seriously and once washed and chopped some in a household blender and made some biscuits out of it. It was sort of a slimy emolient, in our estimation. Well,  no one much liked the green biscuits because they were excessively chewey. If one wanted cellulose, however, there would have been nothing finer to munch on. It is said that spiderworts detect radioactivity and were used by Native Americans in a medicinal way.

the dunes
at St. George

The beach morning glory or Ipomoea imperati is an important part of the dune life on barrier islands. It criss-crosses the dunes and helps to keep them stable, along with such plants as the sea oats. This flower is widespread in the United States, growing as far west as Texas and up to North Carolina on the coast. It has also been found in Pennsylvania.

The plant curls up in the early evening when it has had enough sun. The leathery, shiny leaves reflect the sun, and thus keep the plant from burning in the heat of the day. This flower was growing in abundance on the dunes at St. George Island accompanied by other flowers such as fogfruit and yellow asters.

We went to the beaches to learn about the importance of barrier islands in a class at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Reserve which safeguards 247,000 acres and was established as a federal/state partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Florida Department of Enviromental Protection.
Their program of estuarine education is multi-fold and open to the public. It was a great learning experience.

twists upward

This unusual green flower, penny-size, is a beautiful climbing milkweed threatened in Florida.  Alexander Krings of North Carolina State University, a molecular researcher, identifies it as Gonolobus suberosus. Studies have shown it distinct from Matelea, as it was formerly known as Matelea gonocarpus as well as Matelea suberosa. Found in many counties in North Florida in rich woods, it twists through the forest and up tree trunks. Linda Chafin in the Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida also lists the endangered Florida spiny pod or M. floridana with purple-black flowers,
Carolina milkvine or M. flavidula wth green or yellow net-veined flowers,  M. balwiniana with white flowers, and sandhill spiny pod or M. pubiflora with dull brown-purple flowers. The last is a trailing vine. A photo below by Robin Kennedy is of the rare  Matelea flavidula.



These rare variations grew along US 27 near Attapulgus, Ga., in May 2007, just north of Florida. Passiflora incarnata usually has only three stigma, or female parts. These flowers have four stigma. The arrow points to one of the four stigma and its style, or tube, which goes to the ovary. The stigma, which receives pollen, is on the outward end of the style. The leaves of these and the regular flowers in this patch were were edged in red, the tendrils were red -- quite atypical -- and fruit was ripe two months earlier than in N. Florida. Passiflora Society members say that four styles sometimes occur in incarnata. One grower found four styles from seeds he originally got from Georgia. Variability of flowers is a secret of success where natural selection favors the flower with better reproductive adaptation.

to 'fend
the lave'

Reaching out for a thistle can be painful if one encounters the spiny bracts first, but there is a lot of beauty to see. Of  family Asteraceae, they grow everywhere. This one was aptly named Cirsium horridulum by Michaux whose book with this flower came out in 1803. Thistles attract bees, butterflies and other insects who navigate easily into the flowerhead when it opens like the universe expanding. Horridulum are either yellow or purple.

This grew in a limestone glade in Gadsden County, and it seemed to be thriving. They grow in flatwoods and ruderal areas April through August, according to Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle
The thistle is the national emblem of Scotland. The poet Dunbar wrote Thistle and the Rose, about the wedding of Margaret, daughter of Henry VII, to James IV of Scotland. 'Dame Nature' is seen naming the flowers in the fields:

Then called she all flowers that grew in field,
Discerning all their fashions and properties;
Upon the awful Thistle she beheld.
And saw him keeped by a bush of spears;
Considering him so able for the wars,
A radiant crown of rubies she him gave,
And said, 'In field go forth, and fend the lave.'

Thistle from
a bug's eye

Coming in for a landing on a thistle, a katydid may not see what we see. This abstraction of a thistle was accomplished through undisclosed means, but it was the thistle above to begin with.

Those who study insect physiology report that many insect species can distinguish colors. Their compound eyes not only have photopigments sensitive to different frequencies of light, but give them an additional advantage in being able to see behind themselves, something humans cannot do without mirrors.

It is reported that butterflies are able to see colors better than some other insects. Insects can see especially the ultraviolets, greens, and blues.  Even a caterpillar can distinguish images.

'Tiger, tiger
burning bright'

From a distance, the saprophytic orchid, Hexalectris spicata, is simply a purple spike with flowers the size of a strawberry. Up close, we see the beauty. This flower dapples the woods on rare occastions in Florida.

"Hexalectris" mean
s six cock's combs for the furls in the lip. Spicata means "spiked" for its spiked inflorescence, observes Carlyle Luer in The Native Orchids of Florida.

The red violet lip's fleshy ridges loll forward. In the center "reigns the arching white-winged column with an orange anther." The plant grows from tubers, thick and closely jointed which appear to be food for rodents, writes Luer.

These delicate flowers were seen near Chattahoochee. 

On the fringes
of existence

The delightful and exquisite "fringed campion" or Silene polypetala can be found both in central Georgia and North Florida in a few sites. This perennial herb is a federally endangered species. It grows in wooded ravines with rich soil, alongside magnolias, tulip trees and beeches. Daniel Ward of UF suggests the correct name of the plant should be Silene catesbaei for Mark Catesby, the pioneering botanist. North Florida replicates the special more northerly conditions under which this and some other flowers, like the mountain laurel, grow. It is found near Chattahoochee, a city along the Apalachicola River known for being in or near one of the nation's botanical hotspots for diversity. The flower, about three inches wide, is of the Caryophyllaceae
. Related rarities are the fire pink Silene virginica with red notched petals with only one known location in Florida in Bay County, according to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory,  Silene regia with notchless  red petals, and Silene caroliniana with white or pink flowers, in Jackson and Okaloosa counties, respectively.

makes visit

This flower is called in Latin Lonicera sempervirens and was spreading its colors along the roadsides in North Florida in April and May.

We spotted it in Leon County. It is not an invasive species, as is the Japanese honeysuckle, which tends to take over large areas, and therefore the red honeysuckle is popular as a garden plant.

We do not know the trick of getting the nectar out of this flower, but growing up we used to enjoy pulling the nectar from the  Japanese honeysuckle.

It's hard to for us to consider the white flower invasive, but those more knowledgeable are quick to point out its tendencies to take over small areas. 

The petals of the red flower open up in many shades of yellow and red, making a rainbow of color for anyone examining it closely. It grows up into the Great Smokies where it is known as the trumpet honeysuckle. It is a climbing vine with paired, oval leaves which are white or whitish beneath, according to Gupton and Swope in Wildflowers of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains.

Indian pinks,
Rose pogonia
with visitor

The Indian pinks on the left, or Spigelia marilandica, are mid-spring visitors along the forest footpaths. The deep red and chartreuse flowers stand out like bright crayons. They enjoy shaded areas, and we found these as we walked along a park trail in Gadsden County.

On the right is Pogonia ophioglossoides, pogonia meaning 'bearded.'  It is also called the rose pogonia and some call it 'the snakemouth orchid.' It is said that the orchid may have the scent of raspberries. This beautiful terrestrial orchid blooms in mid-spring in the Big Bend of Florida and is found throughout the state.  It is related to the ribbon orchid below. Dangling and waiting for prey is the inevitable spider. It was found along Highway 65 in Wakulla County.

shows off

This colorful orchid was seen in Wakulla County in early May 2007. There is scarcely a more beautiful welcome for a pollinator, but beware of the spider. Delicately veined in a blend of crimson, green and chartreuse, with sassy sepals, this orchid is related closely to the rose pogonia. It ranges from the Southeast to Texas. Luer writes of "a bluish green color with a fine frosty white coating reminiscent of a plum." Cleistes divaricata is the old name for the larger "spreading pogonia or rosebud orchid." That orchid is now known as Pogonia divaricata. The smaller flower is mostly white, while the larger one is pink, says Gil Nelson in Atlantic Coastal Plain Wildlowers. We think this is the smaller Pogonia bifaria.

Munch a
colic root

This katydid has found a meal in the colic plant that grows profusely along Highway 65 in Liberty County. It was captured in our flash on slide film. How well the insect can climb is evident from the hooks on the end of its forelimbs. The rotating antennae and the small wings for guidance make the member of the grasshopper family as truly efficient a plant predator as can be imagined. There are some 6,800 species of katydids known, and probably many more undiscovered. Only 255 live in North America. Some feed only on leaves and such, which others are predatory on their fellow insects, snails, or even snakes or lizards, say our sources. It is of the family Tettigoniidae and these are more closely related to crickets than grasshoppers.

Lady lupine
brings purple
to the woods

This is the lady lupine, or Lupinus villosus, a member of the pea family. This silky-leafed species grows nicely in scrub and sandy soil, and provides great food for caterpillars. It is common in the Southeast, but is always a pleasant surprise to see. The lupine is the state flower of Texas, and the species known as buffalo clover sprouts oceans of blue.  It is also known as the Texas bluebonnet. The Florida species pictured here shares the characteristic flowers in terminal racemes with a two-lipped calyx and erect standard. There are characteristically 10 stamens with alternately long and short anthers.  There are 150 species of lupines described for North America, according to the popular  Wildflowers of North America: A Guide to Field Identification by Golden field guides. We used a Vivitar 19 mm wide angle lens on our Nikon FE  to capture this plant growing along a forest road.

Tulip tree
flower falls
into stream

This is the colorful flower of the Liriodendron tulipifera, the American Tulip Tree, which ranges from the mountains to central Florida and can grow more than 100 feet high. It is said that a specimen, 450 years old, is the oldest living thing in New York City. The flower is a plentiful source of nectar from which bees produce a dark reddish honey. The tree, which is mistaken for a poplar, is noted for its soft timber. This magnificent flower fell to earth in the middle of a stream in Gadsden County.  The blunt leaves are an easy identifier for this tree.

Harper's beauty
is one of a kind 

Why and how this flower has survived over millions of years in such small numbers is one of the secrets that nature keeps. It's the only species in its genus.

Harperocallis flava can be found along Highway 65 in Liberty County and a few other places. It is threatened and endangered, with perhaps only a few thousand of these flowers in existence.

Discovered in 1965, this  member of the lily family grows in wet prairies and roadside ditches. Spring mowing practices along the road are monitored to protect the plant.

Agencies are working together to try not to destroy the plant's chances to reproduce. It is a rhizomatous, perennial herb and grows from 5 to 21 centimeters tall, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It flowers in May with one flower per stalk and is leafless except for tiny bracts, writes Linda Chafin in the valuable Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida printed by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory.

Field of pink sparkles on
the savanna

Coreopsis nudata or swamp coreopsis is the tall beauty in the Wilma savanna in the Apalachicola National Forest.

Swaying in the breeze, these flowers paused to allow a picture with an old but reliable Contax SLR with a 24 mm Sigma lens on it that has a close focus. The film was Fuji slide film, which normally intensifies the natural colors.

Stopping the lens down, we were able to get some good depth of field. 

It's pleasant to be out on the quiet savannas. There is a song sung by the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

"I could while away the hours,
Conferrin' with the flowers,
Consultin' with the rain."

on the brink
of extinction

Two treasures are the orchid Platanthera flava, left, which is seldom seen and was found and photographed at Wakulla Springs by Virginia Dell Craig, a member of the Magnolia Chapter of the Native Plant Society. She also found the extremely rare and U.S. engandered species Spigelia gentianoides, or pinkroot, at right. The delicate white flower with pink highlights is cousin to the red and yellow Indian pinks that color the forests in May. This flower, less than a foot high, grows in Three Rivers State Park, two miles north of Sneads. The spigelia is a member of a family with powerful medicinal properties. This plant produces a powerful toxin, but is yet to be tested for medicinal properties, according to the Center for Plant Conservation http://www.centerforplant
The flava, left, can be found in the Southern U.S., according to Luer in The Orchids of Florida. 

Indian cucumber,
wild camelia

Both of these beautiful and rare-for-Florida springtime plants boast purplish filaments and were blooming in late April near each other in sloping forests near Chattahoochee. 
The cucumber-root at left
or Mediola virginiana, herbacious, has two whorls of leaves with a greenis hyellow flower held beneath the leaves at the top whorl. It grows from one to three feet high. It was taken with flash beneath on slide film in daylight. The tuber of this plant is "crisp, wax-looking and cucumber-flavored" says Peterson's Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. The blue berries are not edible. The silky camelia at right, or Stewartia malacodendron, is a shrub or small tree, growing sometimes to about six meters, says Gil Nelson in The Trees of Florida. It is rare in Florida and grows on the slopes of ravines. The mass of royal purple filaments and creamy flowers give the tree a distinguished look. At first sight, it looks like the dogwood, but the flowers have purple rather than green centerparts. This is the first time we have seen either plant, and this made our day.

looks fancy
up close

This fancy-looking endangered vine, much enlarged, Matelea flavidula, is found in limited numbers in North Florida. These flowers are actually only a little wider than your finger, they grew on their vine in a stream bottom/edge.

Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle writes that the plant gows on bluffs in Gadsden County and blooms in July.  Alexander Krings at North Carolina State University says this flower has a well-developed gynostegial corona and its corolla lobes are plane, not wavy, differentiating it from Matelea alabamensis.

Robin Kennedy took the picture with a Nikon digital SLR,  accompanied by other members of the Magnolia Chapter of the Native Plant Society. It was growing in a mixed pine/hardwood forest that had been logged several years ago. The ground cover was predominantly grass, and other neighboring plants were Indian Pink, buckeye, dogwood, Robin reports.


laurel is a
treat here

One of the treats of springtime is the mountain laurel in March through April from Escambia County to Leon County on bluffs and in creek swamps. Considered rare in Florida, some of the evergreen plants grow as high as 10 feet. Their branches are full of blossoms. The mountain laurel has a hidden trick. The anthers are set in pockets and spring loose to dust visiting pollinators that go after the nectar, thus propagating the species. It has a high drought tolerance, which puts it in good stead in the current drought in 2007 in Florida. We did not need to go far to find this flower, which was blooming in thousands at the Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee. It is a native American plant first recorded in 1624, named after Pehr Kalm who sent a sample to Linnaeus many years later. It is said that native Americans made spoons out of the wood, and there were other uses for it.

more than

Stachys floridana
, a member of the mint family. has a long list of purported uses as an herbal remedy. It is said the roots are edible in salads, but don't take our word for it. Betony was a remedy "for all maladies of the head including hysteria." Worn as a necklace, the plant wards off evil spirits, ancient writers believed, according to our sources at A physician of the Roman emperor Augustus said it cured 47 diseases and dispelled evil -- as well as protected the wearer from "visions and dreams."  This, at The flower is a weed to many people. It provides a nice landing place for insects. Hundreds of plants were growing in moist soil near Lake Hall at Maclay Gardens. It is found on disturbed or ruderal ground throughout Leon and other counties. Gil Nelson in East Gulf Coasal Plain Wildflowers writes that the related Stachys crenata is critically imperiled in Florida.

in the key
of gold

No flower as appeals to our senses as does the golden azalea. We  breathe deeply and they are more fragrant than honeysuckle. We sit beneath the azalea branches on a hill above the small rippling stream at the Angus Gholson Nature Park.
Perhaps it is possible to live up to the challenge of John Muir who wrote - "'Most people are on the world, not in it -- having no conscious sympathy of relationship to anything about them- undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.' Nature furnishes the opportunity for everyone. Florida flame azaleas are found from Escambia to Leon County, although we haven't heard of them growing wild in Leon County since 'progress' took over.  Native Nurseries in Tallahassee is a great place to look for wild flowers, including  Rhododenron austrinum.

but keeps

Rhododendron alabamense or the Alabama azalea, is identified by the lemon-yellow petal at the top, differentiating it from the similar pinkster flowers. Many people  in the the region just call wild azaleas "wild honeysuckle." This species grows in hammocks in Leon and Jefferson Counties in April, writes Clewell.  It may also be found as far north as Tennessee and west into Mississippi. First described in 1883, the flower is said to have a lemony scent, and we did note that it  shared the distinctive flavor of several of the other members of its family. It takes an insect to tell the difference. We found these flowers in abundance at Maclay Gardens. We are eager to find them growing outside of a garden.

recalls a tale
of fated love

It's a small flower steeped in legend and tradition. Medieval legend tells that a knight and his lady strolled by the water. He picked a posy of flowers, but because of his heavy armour he fell into the river. As he was drowning, he tossed the posy to his beloved, shouting "Forget-me-not!" The flower is also worn in memory of those killed in wars, and as a sign of faithfulness. It is said to have a Christian religious connection also. Myosotis macrosperma is a member of the Boraginaciae with 100 genera and 2000 species, 19 indigenous to the United States, writes Lawrence in Taxonymy of Vascular Plants. Myosotis is cultivated for ornament. This plant was thriving in Gadsden County in March in forest shade and is common in the eastern U.S.
It is relished by caterpillars. 

found this
forest fern

Usually smilax is a pest with sharp thorns and tendrils, but Smilax ecirrhata (at left) greenbrier or upright carrion flower is an exception. This plant is a widespread member of the lily family, but was not in bloom. The fern is Phegopteris hexagonoptera or 'broad beech fern.' Fronds are up to two feet long. These ferns are widespread, growing as far north as Canada. One ignores the forest floor at peril of losing sight of its richness. Each plant contributes to the forest. The famed French botanist and brave adventurer Andre Michaux found the fern on his journey to America to find trees to replenish France's forests.  He explored Spanish Florida in a dugout canoe. A friend of William Bartram, he could find plants that Bartram overlooked, to Bartram's amazement. 

seem to
chat away

They seemed to be talking away on a road near the Arvah Hopkins Power Plant in Tallahassee. Strewn through the hair of a tree, these flowers on a vine were decked out for church and full of the latest news. Turns out the crossvine or Bignonia capreolata likes the floodplains and hammocks and will bloom from March through April. Its corolla is yellow-orange to red, described by Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. This native vine is widespread. It's terminal leaflet is modified into a tendril.

The stem is separated into four equal longitudinal segments which can be seen as a cross section, according to Richard D. Porcher in Wildflowers of the Carolina Lowcountry which is an excellent supplementary book for Florida.

While they weren't growing in a floodplain, they were along a ditch and a stream that appeared to be taking water from the power plant. It was a good place for them, and they were prospering. The related trumpet vine or Campsis radicans will appear in floodplains and disturbed areas later, and the Catalpa bignonioides will also flower.

Rare violet
shows off
in Gadsden

rare Viola hastata was prospering in solitary splendor  near a remote creek in Gadsden County, amid trilliums and other spring flowers. In Florida, the flower is known only in Gadsden County, according to Daniel Ward in Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida.

This flower is considered endangered. It is the only violet in Florida with a yellow flower, according to Ward. It is known also as the
halberd-leaved yellow violet. It was found along the Flat Creek area near Chattahoochee, amid lance leaved trillium and other uncommon species.
It was photographed with a Nikon FE using Fuji Velvia 100. We digitized on a Coolscan V at 130 million pixels before being reduced to 72 dpi. The flower, which usually blooms in April, is apparently blooming several weeks early, not unlike many plants adapting to what scientists say are global warming changes.

Florida violets
remind of
life's renewal

Pushing up through the leafy debris the purple violets sing a song of rebirth and renewal, a gaudy camouflage over the decay of the year gone by,  whether in meadow or graveyard or our front lawns. They are buttons on the earth's overcoat,  We see an abundance of violets this spring, all marked with a fancy landing path for insects that will carry the pollen from one violet to another. No larger than a nickel, this violet dwarfs the small plant to the left which grows under the protection of the leaf.  This particular violet was growing somewhere in Jefferson County at the Letchworth Indian Mounds park, and we suspect the violets were growing when the native Americans lived there from 200 to 800 A.D.

Orchid makes
its own meals
without the sun

Spring coral root, or Corallorhiza wisteriana, is a native perennial orchid that can be found in almost every state of the union, but it is little seen because it is often hidden away in the shade. A saprophyte, not a parasite, it depends on mychorrizal fungi in its roots to help it produce nutrients. Vast network of fungi underlie the soils upon which the plant grows. Its flower is smaller than a dime, and glistens in the sun. Purple dots adorn its lip. The flower was discovered by the American botanist Charles J. Wister and was named in 1833 by Rafinesque. It blooms in rich mixed hardwood forests and usually near trunks of trees, in bunches.  Whether the underground rhizomes bloom every year may be a function of how much water was available over winter. This coral root grew along Thomasville Road in Leon County, Florida, off a a side road in a wooded lot.

'Cherokee rose' grew where
tears fell

This rose with pure white petals grows along The Trail of Tears from Florida to Oklahoma, says Indian Legend, and sprang forth from the tears of mothers who could not help their children.
It was a sign the elders prayed for, and gave the mothers hope. The center, a cluster of yellow stamens, represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, says the Cherokee Messenger on the Internet. It drapes the trees along roadsides in springtime Leon County. We climbed through a briar patch right off Monroe Street, a couple of miles north  of the Capitol. Scratched up, but delighted to get the picture. Georgia has deigned it the state flower there. Rosa laevigata originated in China and Taiwan, and was brought to the U.S. about 1780, where it thrived in the Southeastern U.S. , although it is reported that early explorers saw it in Indian villages.

Trout lily
the eye

The Angus Gholson Nature Park is an incredible place to enjoy the early spring flowers, and these include colonies of trout lilies which spring up with their mottled leaves the colors of the brook trout. Considered endangered in Florida, they bloom about the same time as the trilliums. This flower is also at River Bluff Park on Highway 20. along a ravine leading to Lake Talquin.

Erythronium umbilicatum
grows as far north as Canada. A member of the lily family, it has three petals and three sepals that look like petals. Picture was taken with Fuji Sensia 100 slide film and Nikon FE2 wih 50mm 2.8 macro lens. Digitized at 130 million pixels and reduced to 72 dpi in
Adobe Photoshop on our Mac G5. We have not yet run out of slide film, but occasionally look out over the new digital cameras that are coming out

Cat and mouse,
frog and lizard,
owl and pussycat

There are some noted pairs in the literature of nature and of poetry. In real life, Darwin wrote of cooperative behavior among animals. Some of this is evident in the warning calls that some animals give when predators are near.
When Gerald and Christl Grow went out to look at a table on their deck, they found that something had waddled through "a mist of pine pollen" and left suspicious tracks.
Detective work revealed that a tree frog and a lizard had found a comfortable perch in the pocket of their patio umbrella. They share the warmth, however humble the abode. At the same time, they probably keep an eye out for scrumptious insects that may pass by unsuspecting beneath the canvas. Whatever the reason, the behavior appears to be of mutual benefit for the parties involved.
Photographs by Gerald Grow.



spring forth

Two North Florida Counties, and probably others, play host to the delicate and threatened twayblade orchids, so small that they are easily overlooked.

These, of course, are some of Florida's terrestrial orchids.

Left was photographed in  Gadsden County near Chattahoochee in early March; right was contributed by Gerald Grow, author of Florida Parks.

He found it growing in February in Jefferson County. Both flowers grew amid fallen leaves where the soil is rich. Listera australis blooms from January to July, writes Carlyle Luer in The Native Orchids of Florida. He writes that its "secretive habits" and "tiny stature" make it rarely seen by people.

Further down in the page are some wonderful macro pictures of this orchid taken by Patricia Stampe and Robin Kennedy under  "Twayblade Orchid Is Threatened."

pushes up

This early flower, with three leaves and bracts, can be found on the bluffs in Gadsden County in February and March. It was growing amid the atamasco lilies near the Angus Gholson Chattahoochee Nature Park. Its full name is Trillium lancifolium  and it is considered threatened in Florida according to Andre Clewell's Guide to the Vascular Plants of The Florida Panhandle, an essential book for anyone who has a strong interest in things botanical in North Florida.

It is accompanied by large groups of Trillium underwoodii, whose rounder leaves are also considered choice nibbles for animals and insects.  Normally, the underwoodii bloom in late January or early February, to be followed by the lancifolium.

Peterson Field Guides say that trilliums are edible in salads, but we will have to warn you that you can be arrested for taking them out of their natural habitat for those or other purposes.

Slime inches
its way along
along fallen
tree limb

"Slime" is actually neither a plant nor an animal, and is the least studied of the five kingdoms of living things - plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, and slime. Scientists know it is not a fungus, and that it eats bacteria and other forms of slime. It seems to be from an alien world, and, indeed, inspired the old horror thriller "The Blob" which came out in 1958 starring Steve McQueen.
This Gadsden County slime is some of the likeliest slime we have ever seen.

Coming in hot pinks, oranges and yellows, slime oozes its way across vegetation. It was dripping its way down to the ground. Slime molds are called "myxomycetes" in the Kingdom Protoctista. Slime shows intelligence, and chopped up, seeks its other parts and then go looking for food. For more on this, please go to http://www.smithson

Fern was in
space shuttle

The "resurrection fern" enjoys a niche on the limbs of oak and cypress trees throughout the South. It is crinkled and brown when there has been no rain, but springs to life in the dews and damps. Here, a frond of Polypodium polypodioides, perhaps six inches long, catches the rays of the evening sun at the Lee Vause Park in Leon County. It can survive for many years without water. At the suggestion of a science class,  it was taken on the space shuttle where it bloomed aboard the craft.
It is an epiphyte and gets  nutrition from the air and rain and from bark. You can see the sori or clusters of spores. Spores will  float in the air and attach to other trees, including dead trees. Great clusters of these ferns drape entire limbs.

Solving the
'Love Bug' Problem

Shaking out this pitcher plant
Sarracenia lutea in a bog near Hosford, one found it had devoured a
nice handful of love
bugs, those pestiferous insects that have become motorists' nightmare in Florida. 

Plecia nearctica
  blind drivers by spattering windshields, cause mechanical problems by clogging radiators, and pit the finish on cars unless they are washed off.

They swarm in April and May, and August and September. Among natural enemies are birds and some insect larvae. If the roadsides in the state were planted with carnivorous pitcher plants, the sum of happiness might increase for motorists and the plants.  Whatever attracts the bugs to the pitcher plants ought to be investigated.

Clathrus has
own insect

Sprouting on the winter
shores of Lake Jackson
in Leon County, this oddly-shaped fungus
is a species of  Clathrus.

The mushroom guides tell us it is probably Clathrus columnatus, known as a "stinkhorn." It has a very powerful smell,  somewhat like cow manure,
attracts flies and other

This fungus is common
in the Gulf Coastal region.
It was the only bit of
color springing up from the ground along the lake,
which is resuscitating from many months
of water depletion. It used to be one of the best bass fishing
lakes in Florida.
Development has sprung up around it, and pollution has taken its toll.

The plant was about 4 or 5 inches high, and "edibility is not officially known," but it is hard to say who will hold a fork to it.

Last tango
in Sumatra

There is no good way to die,  but it has been said that the most fortunate in death are caught doing what they love best. As if frozen by the camera, this bee or bee fly is perched on the petal of a purple lobelia, gathering that last bit of nectar for the day's rounds, somewhere out in Liberty County. When we became suspicious, we brushed it off, and it fell to the ground, mummified. Perhaps it had been caught by a spider and poisoned, or maybe it had reached old age, which can't be long for most insects. Well, the cold weather is coming and the eternal timekeeper has put out the warning signs for all creatures, great and small.



not on
our menu

The Fly Amanita is also known as the  American fly agaric, or more popularly --  the classic fairy toadstool. As we drove along the road to Bristol from Sumatra, we saw it was thriving along the roadside. These mushrooms are sizeable, and one often sees a group of them. These were shaded by large trees, and scattered around were others that had spread their caps.

The mushroom springs up in several shades of orange and its cap, when spread full, is wider than an observer's hand. Noted by the scales on its cap, and pale flesh, the mushroom is known from Alaska to Florida to Siberia.

We found that this mushroom has no detectible smell, and we learned that it is poisonous. Its Latin name is Amanita muscaria.

A rule is never to eat any mushroom until it is identified as safe to eat by a mushroom expert.

Two good beginner's books for Mushrooms are the Eyewitness Handbooks Mushrooms by Laessoe and Lincoff by DK Publishing
and the Simon and Schuster's Guide to Mushrooms, edited by Lincoff.


It is a delight to see this freckled, splashy, handsome flower in the woods and roadsides.

The Agalinus (spp) or false foxglove comes along at the end of the year. There are many species in our area, all of them a delightful pink or popsicle purple. This flower has been considered a member of the Scrophulariaceae or figwort family.

The true foxglove is also a member of this family, which includes snapdragons, speedwells, beardtongues, monkey flowers. coral plant and wishbone flowers, among others.

Most of them are garden ornamentals. Probably the most noted of the species is that of the drug plant Digitalis which comes from the true foxgloves. 

Lawrence in Taxonomy of Vascular Plants says there are 210 genera and almost 3,000 species in the family.

Gil Nelson in East Gulf Coastal Plain Wildflowers says there are 20 species in our area, and because some are parasitic, they have been reclassified into the broomrape family.

marks the

Biglowia (spp) basks in sunlight near  Sumatra, Fla., south of Hosford, on a forest highway.

This flower prospers in wet meadows  and along ponds and ditches and is found along the Gulf and East coasts up to the Carolinas. 

This species is most probably Biglowia nudata, which is known as rayless goldenrod. The setting sun causes the lens of the camera to bring a cascade of reflective light bubbles down from the sky.

We used our new standby Fuji Velvia 100 slide film, that now has supplanted the old Velvia 50 speed film. The picture was taken with a Nikon FE2 set on automatic, using a short macro lens, and the slide was digitized using a Nikon Coolscan V.

The amount of glass in the Nikon 2.8 macro probably helped cause the reflection that is seen in the picture. But shooting into the sun with any camera sometimes does bring some strange effects.


Duck Potato

North Florida is enjoying its autumn of butterflies. This skipper extends its proboscis and is sipping nectar from Sagittaria latifolia, the duck potato, wapato or common arrowhead. When not in use, the proboscis is coiled up and not easy to see.

These plants are prolific along the roads in St. Marks in Wakulla County. Godfrey and Wooten in Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southeastern United States count 13 species of Sagittaria in the Southeastern wetlands.

The plant with starchy tubers  can become invasive in our swampy areas. This plant has a three-petaled white flower . According to  Peterson in Edible Wild Plants, the butterflies are not the only creatures that can  enjoy this plant. The potato-like tubers "are delicious when cooked" and can be eaten just like potatoes.  

With separate male and female flowers, this appears female, as illustrated in Godfrey.  Foster and Duke in the Peterson Medicinal Plant book write that Indians used tuber tea for indigestion and poulticed wounds with the tubers, and also used leaf tea for rheumatism.

Queen of
the Night

The lavish night-blooming Cereus comes into flower for one brief night a year.  A tropical cactus flower, it climbs upwards into trees in South Florida, and is also a popular garden flower. It has been called the most beautiful flower in the world. The cereus has a perfume as pungent and perhaps as pleasant as jasmine. It's a flower that can grow more than a foot wide. Usually one may see many blooms on this cactus, but each one lasts only until the morning hours. The next night, others bloom.  Vicki Cole, of Tallahassee, an enthusiastic gardener, brought her outstanding cereus cactus to our attention. We illuminated the flower with battery lanterns and used Fuji slide film. Another excellent view of a cereus can be seen on Harry Levin's flower page.


The question of how insects might look at a flower is always puzzling, but it is known that color plays a role.

We're purists about flowers, but there are days when imagination takes us to some other places. What if every tinge and shade of one color became another color? We recall Dan Ackroyd's great line from the first Ghostbuster movie. Total protonic reversal!

Doused with color through a set of computer algorithms and then placed into Photoshop for more cosmetics, the night-blooming cereus eventually becomes the Scarlett O'Hara of the garden.

"A species of passion flower is common, reaching back into
Tennessee. It is here called 'apricot vine, has a superb
flower, and the most delicious fruit I have ever eaten.

 -John Muir,
environmentalist, walked along the Savannah River in 1867. 
A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf
  (First Mariner Books, 1998) 


The discovery by the Spanish of a 'marvelously stupendous' flower in the New World was met with disbelief by the Church, but it was soon adopted to represent the Crucifixion. Each part of the flower was seen as vital to the story and used to convert the Indians of South America, where the sweet fruit of the grenadilla is now part of the economy. The tasty fruit of our Passiflora incarnata, growing in a field in Leon County, is about the size of a lemon, but those in Latin America can be as large as a football.

Incarnata is one of 500 species. A must-buy is the beautifully illustrated Passon Flowers by John Vanderplank, MIT Press. 
See a marvelous site at http://www.

We also offer a new view of this flower, related to the mystic writings of Kabbalah.


The petite wild yellow passion flower blooms in Tallahassee in mid-July, a few weeks later than its larger relative.

Enlarged here (it is about an inch wide), the Passiflora lutea was growing in a tangle of smilax and grape vines in northeast Tallahassee.

The vines were fruiting, but not yet mature. The fruit, an achene, is about the size of a small  blackberry. Nearby, between about 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., bloomed two beautiful purple  incarnata. They had not been there in the morning.

The lutea prospers from Pennsylvania to Illinois and Kansas, and south to Texas and Florida, writes John Vanderplank. It is one of he hardiest passion flowers and the northernmost of all species of passionflower.

Not useful as an ornamental, it is "an excellent candidate for hybridization" according to Vanderplank. It could give its cold tolerance to the new flower.

lutea grows in at least 20 counties north of Kissimmee, says USF's Institute for Systematic Botany. The leaves are three-lobed and rounded. The three excellent close-ups were taken by Robin Kennedy using a Nikon D100 digital camera,  and the top right in a setting is by M. Abrams. Click on any of these for a larger picture.

A passion
for the flower
brings the bee

A carpenter bee, covered with pollen, brushes the anthers a passion flower in Leon County. The bee wants the nectar and the nectaries are located below the anthers. But the secret is that in order to reproduce, the flower must have pollen from another flower reach its stigma, and so the bee unwittingly serves to transfer pollen. One can see that the three stigma of this flower, attached to the round green ovary at top,  have reflexed themselves downward in a reproductive mode.

These bees are sometimes seen on leaves, grooming and trying to brush pollen away,  The carpenter bee does the work of the missing honey bee.  They are solitary bees, and do not produce honey. Only the female stings if her nest is disturbed. These bees will mostly avoid a flower with another bee of its species who got there first. But we have seen a very large bee take over a flower and the smaller one take a hint.


Spider lily
confused but

The graceful spider-lily is a member of the Amaryllis family. Its fragile translucent membrane stretches to form a hexagonal corona from which spring six fancy gold-tipped anthers and a longer green style.

The lily thrives in wetlands and meadows. The number of species of Hymenocallis is confusing, but three species had been described in the Panhandle up to 1985, Eminent botanist Robert K. Godfrey spoke of taxonomic confusion among experts, but is pictured standing amid a species named for him.

Author Gil Nelson reports seven species in the Gulf area, but cites "many synonyms and imprecise names."

Richard Porcher, in Wildflowers of the Carolina Low Country, sees "confusion in the literature." This flower, nevertheless, prospers on the James Gadsden Highway nea
r Sumatra in Liberty County.     

lily was not

Photographed along a rural
road near Quincy in Gadsden County, these flowers are called 'hurricane lilies' by the local people, says botanist Loran Anderson. Their pungent sweet fragrance attracts many insects. An exotic species of Crinum, this plant gets naturalized from Florida to Texas.

It originated in tropical Asia. The species is C. zeylanicum, also known as the "milk and wine" lily.

In bunches like the amaryllis, they are beautiful to see and a surprise for anyone who comes across them in the wild. Now, we know of at least two species of flowers called "hurricane lilies."  The year 2006 was not prophetic for the hurricane lilies.

Sunset paints lady's tresses
with a glow

Twisting and turning in a spiral of small white flowers, Spiranthes orchids grow throughout the northern hemisphere in temperate zones. One may even be growing in your yard, and you may have mistaken it for a weed. 

Usually growing a little more than a foot high in North Florida, these land-bound orchids share the characteristics of one of the world's largest families of flowers. Spiranthes is Greek - "spira" meaning coiled, and "anthes" meaning flower. Carlysle A. Luer's The Native Orchids of Florida has many beautiful pictures of the species of these flowers.

Luer cites Darwin as explaining how the flowers procreate. The flowers open first at the bottom of the spike, and insects work their way upward. A bee collects nectar at the bottom and becomes laden with pollen as he progresses along the immature flowers to the top. At the visit to the next spike, the bee deposits the pollen on the bottom mature flowers, and works his way up, collecting more pollen for the next spike.

and thrives

Flaming red and yellow flowers were growing along a lake east of Tallahassee. The escaped gladiolus reverts to its original colors in the wild, according to Loran Anderson, FSU botanist emeritus.

The gladiolus originated in Southern Africa and is one of the most widely used ornamentals. The name gladiolus comes from Latin meaning "sword" because of its long stem. Say florists, gladiolas tell the receiver that "he or she pierces the the heart." These are close to the Florida State University team colors, garnet and gold.  Flowers once placed in gardens are always ready to escape. It is well to keep in mind that all flowers were once wildflowers.

Moths keep
a home in
pitcher plant

Hidden in the white topped pitcher plant, Sarracenia leucophylla, were two moths, safe from everything except a photographer. This carnivorous plant, which drowns and then dissolves its prey, also serves as a home and a refuge for insects smart enough to figure a way to cling to its slippery sides without falling into the digestive juices.

One of the moths flew out, and posed on the ground for an instant, before flying away in a series of zig-zags which made it impossible to follow through the air to its new destination.

Tom Miller, a professor at FSU who studies these plants, says the moth is probably an Exyra moth. This would also explain the bent leaf, writes Miller.  

"The larva of this species "skeletonize" pitcher plant leaves, which often results in a rather misshapen leaf." he writes.  "It is sometimes even called the pitcher plant moth. Only larva hurt pitcher plant leaves -- the adults seem to just hang out in leaves."

Prof. Miller finds adults down the throat of Sarracenia flava, although they are perhaps best known for attacking Sarracenia purpurea. He points out there  is also a picture of this moth at  http://natureinfocus.
  -- which, we add,  is a page at Billy Boothe's incredible nature site. 
Thanks, Prof. Miller

of privacy
in the bog

A solitary katydid nymph
finds a perch on the blossoms of
Dionaea muscipula, the Venus flytrap, transplanted years ago from coastal Carolina to a bog in Liberty County, where it grows in profusion.

This bug posed for a
few pictures. While we
don't want to attribute human characteristics to insects (though Spiderman and The Fly allow insect and spider characteristics to be attributed to humans) we must say that this katydid does look a bit disturbed about being photographed.This is a meadow katydid (that is, a small nymph of a species of the subfamily Conocephalinae) according to University of Florida entomolotist Thomas J. Walker.

Meanwhile, the plants have survived. New pollinators have apparently arisen to insure the flytrap's success
in Florida. Insect pollinators include the leaf beetle  below identified by UF entomologist Lyle Buss as a member of the family Chrysomelidae.

This species of beetle
could be seen on many of the flowers. Dusted with pollen, it is certainly of benefit to the plant.

Insects must tread carefully, as it must be observed that one tumble from the petal can result in a cataclysmic death. The leaves of the plant close in upon the the spider or ant, and don't open until the creature has been digested.

We have a movie on this website showing how the plant traps insects. The insects provide the nitrogen missing from the acid soil in which these carnivorous plants thrive. They inhabit a peculiar niche. How they evolved over eons to depend upon trapping and devouring insects is a question that we have not yet seen answered.

dressed up

The customary cloak of scarlet of Rudbeckia graminifolia takes on a new look through the magic of computer algorithms. Who is to say what this flower would look like to an insect? Rudbeckia grows along roadsides of The James Gadsden Highway in Liberty County and throughout the Apalachicola National forest from spring to summer. It is robed in royalty and is a gem of the woods. Click on the real picture to enlarge.

the forest

The meadow beauty proclaims its presence as eight golden anthers wait to
brush a pollinator, usually a bumblebee, Such a bee vibrates the pollen from the anther. Ten species of Rhexia bloom in North Florida in spring and summer, colors ranging from white to pale pink to rose purple -- and also yellow. 

Leaves and tubers of at least one species, Rhexia virginica, can be used in salads and for nibbling, writes Lee Allen Peterson in Edible Wild Plants. The ovary is shaped like a pitcher and when the flower fades away, what is left looks like a little red jug.
This flower is probably Rhexia alifanus so named after a town in Italy distinguished for its jugs, writes Gil Nelson in East Gulf Coastal Plain Wildflowers.

orchid is

  "Progress" and development in Florida have endangered the Listera australis or Southern twayblade, shown here with stunning clarity. Patricia Stampe and Robin Kennedy found this orchid blooming at the Marianna Caverns "in a leaf littery kind of area," he writes. "They are almost impossible to see unless you know where they are. It was afternoon on a sunny day. There is black cloth in the background for the closeups to make the flower stand out from the leaf litter." A Nikon digital camera was used. Patricia took the picture to the far left.


is ancient

The ashe magnolia with flowers the size of a dinner plate, prefers the rich hardwoods and dry ground. The tree or bush grows up to 30 feet tall, writes Linda Chafin in her Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida. It thrives in the wild in North Florida in ravines and on slopes, in the understory.

The ashe is endemic to the Florida Panhandle, blooming several weeks before the Southern magnolia. Splashed with purple, the plant has a fragrant smell. Magnolias are primitive plants with fossil remains of 58 million years ago having been discovered. The University of Florida IFAS says magnolia flowers are primarily pollinated by beetles of the Nitidulidae family because magnolias evolved long before bees and other flying pollinators.

A sugary substance subs for nectar.  This plant was doing well in the garden at the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science -- the old "junior museum." It is found in about 90 sites in Florida, writes Chafin.  Magnolias were named for Pierre Magnol, a French botanist.

Invasive iris:
Is it original
'Fleur de Lis'?

The invasive Iris pseudacorus  or yellow flag, the only yellow iris in the United States, thrives and outcompetes wetland plants. Spring sunset lights up a flecked golden sepal at the pond at San Luis Park in Tallahassee.

And what a story there is behind this yellow flower.

The plant originated in Britain and a heraldry website says the yellow iris  "is probably the origin of the French 'Fleur de Lys.'" and some others agree. Legend has it that the lily sprang from tears of Eve as she left Eden,  or from the tears of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross.
Hay and Synge in The Color Dictionary of Flowers and Plants with imprimature of the Royal Horticultural Society agree.

How coincidental that it was blooming at the time of the large Napoleon exhibit at the Gray Museum in Tallahassee!

This beautiful flower was  has proven quite useful in that it absorbs metals from waste waters and is planted around holding ponds. However, its invasive properties pose a danger, experts write.

Florida Wildflowers Supports New Orleans & The Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort
Click Here
to get your own

Wild blue
irises have
a good year

A number of species of blue irises can be found in North Florida, and it is not unusual to find what look like different species growing within a few yards of each other. In iris lore, the large and colorful "falls" are actually the sepals.

There is some taxonomic confusion in the iris world. Clewell found five species in the North Florida area,  Iris brevicaulis, hexagona, tridentata,verna and virginica. Take his book, Guide to the Vascular Pants of the Florida Panhandle,  and a centimeter ruler to be sure.

Gerald Grow, author of Floida Parks:  a Guide to Camping and Nature found a profusion of irises growing along Wakulla Beach Road.

Sedge thrives
in moist soil

Bursting out like a star, the white top sedge or star rush thrives in colonies along wet roadsides in the southeastern United States, and is most welcome in bog gardens. It is prolific along roadsides in North Florida. Our sources say that plants in this family usually are wind pollinated, but star rushes attract insect pollinators. There are two similar species, Rhynchospora colorata and R. latifolia. These are sometimes sold in nurseries. Michele Haro of Palm Bay, south of Melbourne, noticed the beauty of this often overlooked white top sedge and captured it nicely with her Nikon D-50.

Wild azaleas
greet spring

Nothing is more exciting to us than to see wild azaleas coming out.  Rhododendron canescens or Florida pinxter azalea is certainly not confined to Florida -- this shrub which grows up to 15 feet high can be found throughout the South. This sweet-smelling flower also called the swamp azalea, the Piedmont azalea, the bush honeysuckle, and more. We have heard it simply called honeysuckle in North Florida.

A golden species, austrinum, blooms west of the Apalachicola River  This flower was found in Jefferson County by Gerald Grow, using a digital Nikon camera. These beautiful flowers often grow along streams.

A moment of time is frozen

For just a few seconds, a swallowtail butterfly finds nectar in Aquilegia canadensis, the beautiful wild columbine, near the caves at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. These prolific red and yellow flowers grow from west Florida into Texas and up through North Dakota, in all states to the east, and are found from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan in Canada. This flower is also a favorite of the hummingbird.  It thrives in slope forests and calcareous woods in Jackson, Washington and Liberty Counties.

The columbine is grown as far south as Orlando as an ornamental, writes Walter Taylor in Florida Wildflowers in their Natural Communities. He says that American Indians chewed the root for stomach ailments, but that it is potentially poisonous.


This pungent flower and shrub grows in ravines and along creeks in the Big Bend area of Florida. When the leaves are crushed, the Illicium floridanum releases a rosin-like aroma which has hints of mint and licorice. It is also called the "purple anise."

It was growing in the ravines of Alum Bluff, which are described further down on the page.

Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle says it grows from  Escambia County to Gadsden County,  with one station in Wakulla County.

Gerald Grow, author of the popular Florida Parks: A Guide
to Camping and Nature
was able to capture the red glow with a Nikon digital camera.

Tate's Hell
not so bad

Visitors come, lured by the hundreds of acres of mysterious dwarf cypress, 300 years old but only 6 feet high. Bought by the state to restore part of the watershed of Apalachicola Bay, Hell had been ditched and drained for pine trees. Now, a wonderful high boardwalk beckons visitors. Take the James Gadsden Highway (SR 65) south from Hosford into Franklin County. Go left at the Tate's Hell entrance sign saying "boardwalk." Bring water, a cellphone, first aid, mosquito spray and, please, a trash bag.

We took Hwy 98 home, and were saddened by risky development which the first hurricane will demolish like so many toys. Have Franklin and Wakulla commissioners forgotten the awesome power of nature? 

in Tate's Hell

The images of the cypress trees shimmer in the bluish-black water of Tate's Hell. This water is rich with aquatic life, including crayfish and grass shrimp. The crayfish are bait or a delicacy, depending on your plans. They are netted by dragging the banks. The grass shrimp are less than two inches long and thrive throughout Florida. We used to catch them in South Florida, put them on hair hooks, and wait for bass and bream to strike. Below, an authentic Liberty County crayfish. Pictures by
Gerald Grow.


As the song goes, we found our thrill on Blueberry Hill! Species of vaccinium grow everywhere in Florida -- in flatwoods, scrub, sandhills, sinks, swales, dunes, hammocks, swamps, on hills. They may be called sparkleberries, highbush blueberries, shiny blueberries, farkleberries, huckleberries or  deerberries.

They provide food for a large number of mammals and birds, and, of course, who does not like to go out and pick them? Blueberries now have a reputation as one of the heart-healthiest foods around.

They are a member of the heath or Ericaceae family, which includes the rhododendrons.


Bugs, watch out! The threatened Pinguicula lutea or butterwort is a sticky sort of flower whose basal leaves trap small insects and digest them, thus providing nutrients not found in the acid soil in which these plants thrive. It is a member of the Lentibulariaceae or bladderwort family. It is threatened in Florida, according to Walter Kingsley Taylor in Florida Wildflowers in their Natural Communities. 

These beautiful flowers are springing up along roadsides such as the James Gadsden Highway (SR 65) in Liberty County. Several related species are also in bloom. They bloom throughout the State, but there are 16 counties that do not have them, according to Taylor. As we viewed them, they were about a foot high and their corolla was about two to three inches wide, as large as the coreopsis we see along the roadsides.


You can just call them hog plums, and probably be done with it. These plums are springing out everywhere in North Florida as spring comes along. They appear a few weeks before the wild azalea and about the same time as the yellow jessamine. The  prunus family includes the wild plum, the chickasaw plum, the laurel cherry, the peach, the black cherry and the hog plum, common names listed by Clewell. They are of the family Rosaceae, which means they are related to roses and apples.


and mom

This rare scene was captured by Pam Anderson of Bristol. She has spent thousands of hours in the National Forest, but only three times has had the experience of seeing bears, and this is a first for baby bears. The day was May 1, 2005, south of Sumatra.  Defenders of Wildlife say there were once 12,000 black bears in Florida and parts of Georgia and Southern Alabama, but now fewer than 1,500 exist.

Conservation areas of Florida are threatened with encroachment. Paved roads are a huge factor in mortality. Only in the Apalachicola National Forest is there enough acreage to provide the habitat required for Ursus americanus floridanus. Scrub pinelands provide berries,  acorns, sable palm, saw palmetto for food for the bears.

Maintaining a healthy bear population insures survival of many other species. Write your legislators. Contribute to the Nature Conservancy. You can
help save these animals.

Gum trees
and pond

The Leon Sinks area in the Apalachicola National Forest is just a few miles down the road from Tallahassee. It's a gorgeous hike and provides bridges over ponds and a natural limestone bridge under which flows Fisher's Creek, adorned in early March by wild azaleas. This is an enhanced sunset view from the long boardwalk across Center Swamp. The black gum thrive in the water, and, like cypress, possess the wide trunk. We enjoy short hikes and along with the Indian Mounds near Lake Jackson, the sinks provide a beautiful time in the woods and a commune with nature.


We've marveled at Fairchild in Miami. Atlanta also has such a wonder. On our first visit we saw hundreds of spectacular orchids and the came to know about Dale Chihuly, the famous glass sculptor.  Here is his interpretation of the genus Nepenthes, the tropical carnivores -- hanging pitcher plants.  This work, probably 6-8 feet in length, hangs from the roof of a glass enclosure, and is a memorial piece.  The gardens feature a botanical library. We walked the glass rooms on a rainy day and could have spent hours more. We want to walk the outdoor paths next time.  The garden also has some growing Torreya trees, as part of an experiment.  Scientists hope to be able to replace the once giant trees that were almost all destroyed by disease. 

False Rue

Among the early mayapple and the bloodroot, this fragile flower finds its home in colonies along the trail. It is one of the buttercup or Ranunculaceae family.

It  is labeled Isopyrum biternatum and grows around limestone ledges such as we found at the Marianna Caverns in late February. It is considered rare in Florida, says Clewell.  Its family Ranunculaceae is one of the most primitive, according to authorities.

  The true Rue has more petals and deeply divided leaves, and these flowers often bloom in the same place at the same time -- and is of the same family. 

a primitive

Shaped like the human liver, these plants were once thought to cure liver diseases.

We are informed of 9000 species of liverworts, so one might make a career of it. These were growing on rocks along the cave park trails in Marianna. It's a primitive plant, with two stages, a gametophyte and sporophyte. Liverworts have star-shaped female sex organs. These are closely related to the mosses, such as sphagnum moss,  or at least one talks of liverworts and mosses in the same breath.  No wonder. By the book, there are 14,000 species of mosses.

Both are the most primitive of land plants. Their outer layer or epidermis prevents them from drying out.


We walked along trails of rich, crunchy leaves of oak and beech and gum and listened to the trickling streams calling to us. From the damp earth life was awakening in North Forida, where spring begins in the United States. When the trout lilies and trillium begin to push up, we know that a new year has begun.  At the Gholson Chattahoochee Nature Park, the yellow Erythronium umbilicatum, or dogtooth violet, with its mottled leaves, is beckoning to insect pollinators. Endangered it Florida, it is listed in only Leon and Gadsden Counties by the Atlas
of Florida Vascular Plants

The name "trout lily" is said to come from the pattern of the leaves, like the sides of the fish.

of Trilliums

The unseen blush of the Trillium brings us to the forest. Stop by, its says, and discover how many of us there are this season. And so we nominate and photograph this trillium. This we believe, is Trillium underwoodii or "Little Sweet Betsy." 

It is the earliest of the trilliaceae or "wakerobins" to bloom in North Florida.

It's exciting to see the rebirth of these flowers every year. They provide color to the forest floor as well as food for the creatures of the forest who like to munch on the leaves.  Clewell lists four species in the North Florida area - decipiens, lancifolium, maculatum and underwoodii.

the violet

by Robert Herrick

Welcome, maids of honour,
You do bring
In the Spring;
And wait upon her.

She has virgins many,
Fresh and fair;
Yet you are
More sweet than any.

You're the maiden posies;
And so graced,
To be placed
'Fore damask roses.

--Yet, though thus respected,
By and by
Ye do lie,
Poor girls, neglected.



While walking along the Apalachicola River below the Gregory House in Torreya Park, we noticed these diminutive flowers blooming on the moist and sandy shore. They cling close to the earth, and are about 1.5 cm wide. These are called Mazus japonica and migrated to this country from Asia, the point of origin. They are found in basal clusters everywhere from Thailand to Oklahoma.

A member of the Scrophulariaciae, the form reminds us a little of toadflax. Flowers are pollinated by insects, and used commercially as groundcover. Medicinal uses, which we cannot vouch for, are many. This amazing plant is listed as having edible leaves and as an  "aperient, emmenagogue,
febrifuge and tonic"

Bluffs and

  Fall colors decorate the preserve in Liberty County in North Florida. A "paleorefugia" for ancient flora and fauna, the 6,294 acres are protected by The Nature Conservancy. Tall hardwoods grow out of the steep ravines or steepheads, with spring-fed streams at the bottom. A 3.75 mile round trip hike, over marked trails, is
fairly strenuous and takes about 3 hours to complete. Halfway is an incredible view on a bluff 130 feet above the Apalachicola River.

 Bring water and insect repellent. An excellent kiosk has brochures and even walking sticks. The "Garden of Eden" trail just north of Bristol, Florida on SR 12. Bristol is 30 miles west of Tallahassee.

   The fall flowers include a mint, at the left, whose aromatic leaves are fragrant when crushed. It blooms in the sand pine scrub surrounding the ravines areas.  This is Calamintha dentata, and not Conradina canescens, as we first thought. Our sources tell us Calamintha still blooms in November. 

A secret
world to

Descending into a ravine over steep trails, the hiker enters a unique environment, rich with diverse plants and animals, some found only in this area, including the Torreya tree, the Croomia plant, and rare salamander and crayfish species.

Branches of the Florida anise stretch over a stream. The buds of this flowering plant are beginning their cycle, and by spring the red flowers will decorate the steepheads. Trails are graced by beech, magnolia, Florida yew, hickory, white oak, sparklewood, witch hazel and many other varieties - and some trees have explanatory markers.

The giant Torreya trees have all but disappeared from North Florida, wiped out by disease, and what are left are sprouts a few feet tall,  which are watched closely by scientists. You can find these along the trail.

This photograph was taken from a wooden bridge over one of the steephead streams.

Phantom of
the forest

The ghostly Salvia azurea was photographed in the Apalachicola National Forest by Robin Kennedy. Blue sage blooms in sandhills, flatwoods, pine-oak-hickory woods and secondary woods in the fall, writes Andre Clewell in "Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle" (University Presses of Florida).

   Labiatae - the mints - boast 200 genera and 3,200 species - a source of prized culinary herbs such as marjoram, basil, thyme and savory. Then, there are oils such as sage, lavender, rosemary, mint and patchouly. The family is a dominant species in the Mediterranean, writes George H.M. Lawrence in Taxonomy of Vascular Plants (Macmillan).  Localized subfamilies include the Prostantheroideae in Australia and Tasmania, the Prasioideae in Malaya, India and China, and the Catopherioideae in Central America



Blues for

Finding elusive wildflowers is what physicists like to do on their days off.  Patricia Stampe and Robin Kennedy discovered this incredible blue flower in the Apalachicola National Forest in November. Gentians are late bloomers.

It was tentatively identified as Gentiana saponaria by Dr. Loran Anderson. There are 800 species of the family Gentianaceae around the world, according to George Lawrence in "Taxonomy of Vascular Plants" and a number are cultivated for ornamentals. This is also the time of year for the wiregrass gentians which are white with purple marking. Having never seen one of these ourselves, we thank the two professors for bringing them to our pages.

Fresh petals
mark Bidens

Bidens pilosa is a popular plant with butterflies, but its petals seem to wilt or dry out quickly. This flower was growing in a park near Lake Jackson in Tallahassee one evening.  It seems to have more surviving petals than we've seen on Bidens, or Spanish needles, as they are called.

It's a prolific "weed." But one person's weed is another person's wildflower. Its happy pedigree goes back to Linnaeus, the  father of plant taxonomy. "Pilose" means densely covered with stiff hairs.  A related species was used by the Indians for a medicine, but it was also an irritant, writes Peterson. We felt lucky to find one in as handsome a shape, without the wind blowing, and so we captured it on Velvia 50, before the sun went down.

A fast sip and
a toxic feast
at St. Marks

This skipper butterfly finds nectar in the abundant and colorful lantana growing in Wakulla County. At  St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, monarchs flocked to the goldenrod, saltbush, and even the deadly oleander around
the lighthouse.

Click on picture to view some lighthouse variations.

Toxicity serves to repel
predators. The monarch
caterpillars eat  poisonous
milkweed leaves. The poisons, it is said, give color to wings. And so poison also seems tobe a craving for adult

Monarchs are distasteful
to birds, but yummy
to spiders. Some species
have adapted that safe
monarch coloration.


reigns as

We don't know how these incredible butterflies make it to the Mexican mountains, but they migrate by the millions. This is one of nature's miracles. Many of the monarchs in Mexico come from the central United States. Very few butterflies tagged in on the Atlantic coast of the U.S.
have been found in Mexico, according to Glassberg, Minno and Calhoun in Butterflies
Through Binoculars (Oxford University Press, 2000).  Many of the Atlantic coast monarchs apparently overwinter along the U.S. coast, while some may go to the West Indies or Yucatan, say the authors. The major foodplant of the monarch is the milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, according to the authors, along with tropical milkweed, or Asclepias curassavica. This butterfly was among thousands at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in late October.


Here is one of our favorite spots in the Apalachicola National Forest, with cypress, pine, and pitcher plants by the thousands.  This particular scene can be discovered near Sumatra, Florida. If you've been to Sumatra, you know it's not much more than a few homes and a country store.  All we can tell you is that it's south of Wilma on the James Gadsden Highway (SR 65) If you enter Franklin County, you've gone too far.

The serenity of the forest allows escape from the noise and clamor of the city. 

We like to explore the many roads in the forest, to get out of our car on foot, and to walk into the savannas and open fields.  Each hour toward sunset, the colors change, giving new insights and a new chance for a photographer to find the perfect light and composition.

The only thing we can suggest is to bring some insect repellent, lots of film, and some waterproof boots if you want to go into the grass. And please, don't forget your tripod. Anyone who comes back from the forest is going to itch, and we suggest a quick tubful of hot water and a thorough inspection for ticks. We also think this helps with chiggers, although we haven't found a way to stop them entirely. We'll pass on some advice if you have it. Some say to dust your socks with sulfur. 

This scene was captured with a Nikon FE and Velvia 50 slide film which was digitized on a Cool Scan V scanner.

Leaves of
three, let
them be

The worst nuisance anywhere is poison ivy. It comes in many shapes and forms, but a creeping vine is common. For some reason, we are just as allergic to Virginia creeper.  If you come into contact with it, rinse with rubbing alcohol immediately, then soap and water. If you get a rash, Calamine lotion will help ease the pain, but count
on two weeks of itching.  

Hydrocortizone cream my help. We have used a product called Zanfel, available at drugstores, but expensive. It is a gritty cream that rubs away the itch and its chemical cause.  If that doesn't help, you may want to see a physician. 

blazing star

The evening sun in autumn casts an orange glow on nature throughout Florida's big bend area. As cooler air begins to come to the red hills of Florida, butterflies may be seen in abundance.  Swallowtails, both black and yellow,  feast on the blazing star which proliferates along the highways near the coastal areas.

We saw sulphur butterflies, skippers, orange butterflies which we took for gulf fritillaries, and several kinds of bees and moths.  Rather than compete, these creatures landed on the same stalks and side by side extracted the nectar. Hungry bees would land across from huge butterflies. A hummingbird moth zoomed into view and was gone.  We took many pictures, but couldn't get these creatures to stay still. We noticed that some were missing tail sections from close scrapes with birds, perhaps, and so no wonder they were wary of us.


Vernonia angustifolia, thin-leaved ironweed, thrives in open shade. The woods are brightened by this summer flower, its roots once used by Indians as a "blood tonic" to regulate the menses and for pain of childbirth, says Peterson's Guide to Medicinal Plants.

It was discovered by Andre Michaux, a French botanist and author who first spoke to President Jefferson about the need to explore the west, inspiring the Lewis and Clark expedition. He rambled across the world, from Persia to the swamps of what was to become South Florida.

He sent 60,000 plants to the old world, wrote Charles Kurault who paid him tribute for his botany in North Carolina, where Michaux climbed Grandfather Mountain, near Linville, N.C. Kurault refers to a book, Lost Heritage, by Henry Savage Jr.

Easter in August

A female fork-tail bush katydid (Scudderia furcata) enjoys a Phillipine lily. These lilies grow up to six feet tall. Exotic, yes, invasive – we see no complaints, except from parts of Australia. But the potential is there. Originating in Taiwan,
it has escaped from gardens. While bees are a major pollinator, the katydid can play a role. Katydids, unlike grasshoppers, have antennae longer than their bodies. This species is spread across the nation. It spent some time licking  its 'forelimbs' as it rested on this lily along Highway 65 in Sumatra, Fla. We thank Thomas J. Walker  of UF Entomology for the ID on the katydid.

in swamp

This sabatia, Bartram's Sabatia or Sabatia bartramii, is in the gentian family. It's in wet pine flatwoods, bogs, cypress swamps, pond margins and ruderal areas, writes Walter Kingsley Taylor in Florida Wildflowers in Their Natural Communities. It has 8-12 petals. These were growing in a watery area. Who has not read  of  William  Bartram's journeys? "O thou creator supreme, Almighty," he wrote. "How infinite and incompre- hensible thy works .. most perfect, and every way astonishing." In the late 1700s, Indian tribes inhabited Florida. Along the St. Johns, large orange groves were being destroyed to plant indigo and cotton. Who would believe that wolves once roamed Florida? Bartram liked the savannas, and these are where the sabatia bloomed. Although we did not see mention of this flower by its present name,  he surely noted it.

Bee-like fly
dines on

This fancy creature finds a landing pad in the savannahs. The closest identity we can find for an insect looking like this is a "snipe fly" in the Audubon Guide to Insects and Spiders. It was dining on pipewort, the polka-dots of the swamps and marshes. The fly wouldn't move, even in a brisk breeze.
The pipewort is a member of the plant family Eriocaulaceae. Folk call these plants bogbuttons, hatpins and the like. They are  white flowers on solitary green stalks, punctuating a sea of sedge and grasses. What looks from a distance an undifferentiated small white flower is a complex rest station for pollinators who specialize in showing us worlds within worlds. For some reason, we don't see many spiders hiding on these plants. The plants are examined in Godfrey and Wooten's Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southeastern United States.


Dressed to party in its fancy orange corona and red corolla, Asclepias lanceolata or "fewflower" milkweed resembles the mostly-orange butterfly weed, its handsome cousin.  Experts say 24 varieties of milkweed grow in Florida, two of them endemic.

Seen in floodplains, acid swamps and coastal flatwoods, it blooms from May through August in
North Florida, says Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of The Florida Panhandle. Monarch butterflies are specific to milkweed. Caterpillars  absorb protective substances from the plants. History tells of medicinal and food use of roots, but a chemical in these plants is poisonous. Indigenous peoples twined the fibers of some species into cord or rope.


Suddenly, the brightest white flower that we know of strikes our eye from the roadside. To take the picture, we must stop down the lens. Too much reflection will ruin the detail. Platanthera nivea blooms in the entire Southeast, says Carlyle Luer in The Native Orchids of Florida, who tells us that the name comes from the Latin "niveus" which means "snowy" or "white as snow." Many have sprung up in early August along the James Gadsden Highway (SR 65) near Wilma in Liberty County. It blooms through September even as far north as Maryland.

We used Velvia 50 with our trusty Nikon FE2, and scanned the slide on our Nikon Cool Scan V.

The flower is really a blinding white,  and the crystalline petals and sepals intensify the effect.  We stopped down two f-stops, and then brightened it a bit in Photoshop. Were it presented as dazzling white as it is naturally, detail would be lost.

The flower was found in the moist roadside in July, buffeted by breezes from cars and trucks detoured by Hurricane Dennis. 
Just down the road we found Platanthera chapmanii, and then Platanthera cristata.


Like sentinels on a vast grassy plain, radiant pine lillies have sprung up again to watch over the windy solitude. We found this speckled flower on a savannah near Sumatra. Freckles of raspberry red trace a pathway of lemon yellow. It faces the fierce summer sun head on, unlike the drooping lillies of colder climes.

Mark Catesby, British botanist and artist, came to Charleston, S.C., in 1722. His book Natural History (first volume 1729) 'signalled the dawn of wildlife art' writes Gail Fishman in her chapter on Catesby in Journeys Through Paradise. The pine lilly, lilium catesbaei, was named for him. There is, as well, the bullfrog Rana catesbeiana.  Of the lily, writes Fishman, "It's eye-catching apricot-colored flowers peer above tawny grasses of pine savannahs from southern Virginia to Florida."

Catesby apparently never explored what is now Florida, but this species, threatened in Florida, forever ties him to those who would preserve nature's beauty in our state.

Georgia on
our mind

  Floridians like to cool off in the mountains. Sylvan Falls Mill Bed and Breakfast near Clayton, Ga., boasts a waterfall, friendly hosts, beautiful garden, and a working mill with a magnificent old wheel. These raspberries grown by Linda and Mike Johnson made breakfast special. Rubus parvifolius is progenitor of the cultivated Dorman red "Red Raspberry." It is native to China says Harry Swartz of The U of Maryland. There are 210 species of raspberries in China. Please enjoy berries as a screensaver or desktop art. Copyrighted and intended for private use.

Off on a

"Getting and spending we lay waste our powers; little we see in nature that is ours" wrote the poet Wordsworth.

This is the result of some computer enhancement with one of the programs we are experimenting with,  called

The wild azalea provides its own magic of natural form in this symphony of colors. One wonders how the flowers appear to the spiders, the birds, the

The attraction of humming-birds to red flowers is a case in point. Some insects seeinfrared, we understand.

It was late in the evening and time to find some sleep. Imagining this flower in the mind's eye,  one might seek to find peace and refuge in fields crazy with coreopsis, with a million yellow, blowing daisies, beneath an azure canopy.

  Such is the imagination.

of Phlox

A splash of color draws the hiker to this blushing flower. It's the annual garden phlox or "Phlox drummondii." Common, and perhaps unappreciated. This plant was named for frontier naturalist Thomas Drummond, who lived from 1780 to 1835.

He was a Scotsman who explored from Florida to Texas and western Canada, and was "part of a team looking for the Northwest Passage" writes Walter Kingsley Taylor in  Florida Wildflowers in their Natural Communities. This wildflower is apparently a transplant from Texas, where he made his reputation.

For a larger picture which can also be used as a screensaver, just click on the picture.

Phlox goes

The flowers we see may look a little different to insects, and so we took some pictures of the pink Phlox drummondii  to see how these flowers might appear to creatures who see in ways we don't precisely know. The flowers were enhanced in various ways by a computer program that we are using to put life in a new perspective.  With a choice of mathematical algorithms and some sense of where to stop the process, and some changes in Photoshop, one can pretty much discover new visions.

We ask your pardon for not portraying nature scientifically here, but we've become fascinated with the options we have in our computer programs. Real flowers are below.

Orchid is
a sweet

The lovely Calopogon tuberosus or "grass pink" blooms from April to June in North Florida. A widespread terrestrial orchid, it thrives in bogs and in meadows.

The "calopogon" deriving from a Greek word for "beard," was first collected in the 1730s by John Clayton in colonial Virginia, according to Carlyle A. Luer in The Native  Orchids of Florida.  Like many flowers, it is a sweet deceiver. Writes Luer, "A bee is deceived by this patch of hairs which mimics a cluster of stamens. Upon alighting, his wiggling weight causes the lip to fold forward, as if in a hinged trap, placing him squarely upon the stigma of the column with
outstretched arms waiting below. Thus, propagation is perpetuated as the unsuspecting gyymnast deposits pollinia and obtains more for the next flower."

Venus flytraps

This unfortunate spider made one false step. Trapped by the Venus flytrap, it was slowly digested. We took some time to count the cilia on Dionaea muscipula, which thrive in Liberty County and in the Carolinas. Most (but not all) we counted featured more clasping cilia on the left half-leaf than on the right. Why? Perhaps by natural selection, the plants with more cilia on one side were able to dine better and survive. If you clasp your hands together, you will see that if you had six fingers on one side, you would have a tighter bond. We are still pondering this. See three carnivorous plants in our  Quicktime movie .

To the side, at top, left-handed closing leaves have more cilia than the right-handed part at the bottom. So we have 17-15, 16-15, 20-18, 20-18 and 19-18.  These were a convenience sample from thousands aof plants in a bog in Hosford in Liberty Count. We think it will stand up statistically.

This odd phenomenon ought to be investigated by botantists, mathematicians and others who may be interested in the history of plants, genetics, physics and other fields.

We do know that more cilia on one side means a tighter seal, but why the left-handed side of the leaf?

Bella, bella!

The tiger or rattlebox moth,  Utetheisa bella (it's described in The Moth Book by W.J. Holland) rests on an equally beautiful  Gaillardia pulchella. Our correspondent Langley has relayed a stunning picture. Bella and pulchella are words for "beautiful." This scene was captured at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Arctiidae family is known as "tiger moths" and caterpillars of some species are called "woolly bears." Holland quotes Keats in
The Eve of St. Agnes, where lovesick Porphyro describes a casement in his lady's chamber.

"All diamonded with panes of quaint device,
Innumerable of stains
and spendid dyes,
As are the Tiger Moth's
deep damask wings
. . "

Orchids and
Pitcher Plants

We've never seen so many rose pogonia orchids in one place. These frame some glowing pitcher plants along a road in the Apalachicola National Forest.
Robin Kennedy discovered these pogonia along on FR143. There was a group of about 30 in a ditch all within about a 2 foot diameter circle.

A talented photographer, Kennedy has contributed many pictures to our pages.

His camera is a Nikon D100.

We go wild
over our

Lilies, Dogwood,
and others below

This herald of Springtime began blooming in March in the woods of North Florida.

How delightful to find these colorful flowers along Fisher's Creek in the Leon Sinks area of
 the Apalachicola National Forest.  Rhododendron canescens is the white and pink variety. The yellow or gold azaleas, or austrinum, can be found further west, near the Apalachicola River, and always grace the Angus Gholson Nature Park in Chattahoochee.  The only austrinum we have seen this year were domesticated, but that's because we weren't out in
Gadsden County at the right time.

Rein Lilies

Guarded by encircling trees is an abundance of white zephyr lilies or "rein lilies" in the picture to the left. We have heard them called "rain lilies," too, and our expert Dr. Loran Anderson says they are known as both.

These are Zephyranthes atamasco --  although there are two similar varieties, the second being Zephyranthes treatiae, according to Andre Clewell's book, Guide to the Vascular Plants of the
Florida Panhandle. The two species differ by the width of the leaves.

It is the Atamasco lily that populates Chattahoochee nature park area.

The smaller treatiae is found along highways to the east of Tallahassee.

flits by

Early spring flowers we have seen are attracting the butterflies. The North American Butterfly Association's local "Hairstreak" chapter held a walkabout in Chattahoochee, and there spied many species, including a variety of swallowtail known as "pipevine."

We learned that there are 160 species of butterflies in Florida, and that there are hardly any people you can meet who are as friendly as the butterfly enthusiasts. Between the butterfly enthusiasts and the local Native Plant Society in these parts,  anyone with an itch to learn about nature is in the best company in the world.

The national organization's

Harry Levin's Scientific Essays, Fabulous Flowers

I'd like to point wildflower enthusiasts to some scientific innovation. Harry Levin, who holds a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in engineering, has written ten essays which challenge scientists to reconsider the date of the origin of the flowering plant. He fixes the origin at least 200 million years earlier than previously thought by scientists, and solves the problem described by Darwin. He writes a tale of prehistoric flora and fauna and takes a new look at the results of plate tectonics. Dr. Levin's essays are at and I think you might enjoy browsing it.

Dr.  Levin is also an accomplished naturalist and an excellent photographer of flowers. He uses film to record these images and his prints have been exhibited. His work is far-ranging and includes flowers that grow in every part of the world.  It is remarkable that his working career was in the field of chemical engineering and that he was actually a rocket scientist. We've added his page of flowers and we hope you will browse through them and see his unique vision.  Just click here.

History of This Site

We are pleased that Florida Wildflowers receives 2 million hits a year. Our site has been up since 1995.  Julie Hauserman of The Tallahassee Democrat wrote on July 24 that a certain Florida A&M professor wanted people to know that "there's a wildflower page on the internet."  In those days of slow modems, picture resolution was hard to achieve. Relying on the Supercomputer Computations Research Institute (now defunct) at Florida State University, our early URL was Nowadays, the much faster and more capable Internet is a superb vehicle for nature photography. This site would not exist today without fast connection. We use DSL in our home for a combination of macs and PCs. Wildflower photography has been a rewarding hobby. We have met so many wonderful people along the way. Many have asked to use our pictures, which have appeared in books and magazines. We're pleased to help out when we can, but the pictures may be used only with our permission. Michael E. Abrams, Tallahassee

Beautiful Background/Screensaver

This beautiful picture of the flowering dogwood was taken by Ronald F. Opfell in Orlando, using an Olympus D560 3.2 megapixel camera. It was raining, and you can see the drops on the white sepals of the flower. He had just gotten out of his car, and stood a little more than 8 inches away. He uses this picture as a screensaver. We would like to credit him, and invite you to use this wonderful picture also. Commercial use is prohibited, but use as a screensaver on your personal computer is invited. If you click on this picture, it will take you to an 18 inch-wide version which you can download to your site, however you know how to do it through the web page.  We know that with a Macintosh, all you have to do is hold the mouse down once you have the picture on the screen, for download options. We are not sure how this works with Windows.

Here's looking
at you, kid

   We were excited to encounter the early blooming St. Peter's wort in the savannas in Liberty County. But it was also a thrill to run into this friendly grasshopper who posed unpaid for a series of photographs with our trusty old Nikon FE2. I believe we had the 55 mm micro lens for this.

     This insect is a longheaded toothpick grasshopper, Achurum carinatum, so far as we can determine. Common in Florida, but uncommon for posing. Not in the Audubon insect handbook or its Field Guide to Florida. Our contact in South Florida, Roger Hammer, author and botanical expert, says he's seen them around. This grasshopper, as my uncle Harry points out, is "dolichocephalic." This means his head is longer than it is wide.

   We're still using a relatively inexpensive but dependable PrimeFilm 1800u scanner and we put our scans of Kodak Elite chrome 100 film through Adobe Photoshop for any necessary touches. We use a Mac G5 -- we've been happy Mac users since day one. No spyware, few (if any) viruses.  We used Elite chrome for this picture, but also use Velvia, Sensia and K-64, depending on sunlight, wind and other variables.


Not everything is bursting into color, but we shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree (not original). The unadorned trees are still beautiful. At Cotton Landing in the Apalachicola National Forest,  about four miles upstream from the Apalachicola River, we found a restful combination of grays, blues and blacks. This is a very popular place to launch your boat.

 We also have some work from Susan Trammell, a very talented maker of originals and giclee prints who calls her site Watercolour Botanical Illustrations

It's at

She is also an excellent photographer. She also has designs for tee shirts for fundraisers and blank stationery which can be viewed on her site. She does her work in Archer, Florida, which is near  Gainesville.

Having tried to take a decent picture of the Florida anise, Illicium floridanum, at the Alum Bluff Nature Conservancy area in Liberty County, we know how hard it is to get some contrast out of a red flower, which always bends into the shade. And so we offer her picture, and below, some of the features of her watercolors.

Below is a part of her painting of Hamamelis virginiana, or witch hazel, which is found in the bluff area, too.  Next to it is Sagittaria latifolia, the  Duck potato, which finished blooming in the fall. There is a suble beauty in the most common of flowers, and it often takes an artist to catch it.

We're not normally commercial, but when we see special work, we're going to mention it.

-- Mike

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We don't know how we caught up with this tiny frog in the bog, but he or she sure was fast.  About a half-inch in length, the frog sat still long enough to have a picture taken.  To survive in a bog, an animal must be fast, because there are so many predators, snakes included.  These small frogs blend in with the muddy bog so well that all you hear is a plink and they are come and gone before you know what has happened.


As summer began to make its way into the Big Bend area of Florida, we've seen polygala springing up in the wild areas. Orange, yellow and purple, each are a different species.  We understand the orange species is mistakenly called "lutea" or yellow because it turned yellow over a short time in the botanist's collection, pressed between paper.

Among the many unusual plants is the Lithospermum tuberosum (Boraginaceae) which blooms in the springtime around this part of North Florida. It is a relatively rare plant of hairy character. It is related to the heliotrope, the wild comfrey, the viper's bugloss, the forget-me-not, and the hoary puccoon, Lithospermum canescens, which we don't think grows around this area. We're glad we stopped to photograph this unpretentious plant, and we think it must hold some secrets that science is waiting to plumb.


We spent an hour photographing the magnificent Japanese magnolia (Magnolia X soulangeana (M. denudata X M. lilliflora) in the yard of a neighbor, and marvel over the variety and adaptability of the tree. We spotted a Southern magnolia blossoming on the snowy white sand dunes at Grayton Beach, Florida, near Destin in the Panhandle. The magnolia is more adapatable than we thought. In the woods it is tall and gracious, but on the salty dunes, this ancient plant takes on the character of hardy, low and wind-proof vegetation, much like the mangrove. Gil Nelson in The Trees of Florida, (Sarasota: The Pineapple Press, 1994) explains that the southern magnolia grows "along hammocks, on slopes and ravines, in floodplain woods, and on coastal dunes." This plant is native to the Southeastern United States. In 1678, minister and plant collector John Bannister sent specimens of Magnolia virginiana to England to the Lord Bishop of London, the Rev. Henry Compton. "The magnificent Southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora," reports the Botanical Timeline "flowered in August 173 at the London home of Charles Wagner, First Lord of the Admiralty."

We learned further that "the artist Georg Ehret immortalized this event with a sumptuous and justifiably famous illustration."  Ehret was an apprentice gardener who learned illustration from his father in Germany, says the Timeline. We were curious and found that Ehret's prints may be seen and purchased on the web in many places, including  His magnolias have much more flair than his palms, at least to our novice eye.


This is a picture we took of wasps mating on a lobelia at the bog in Liberty County, Florida. 


Please excuse us while we stray into the field of pteridology. We wandered through a hammock at Tosohatchee Nature Preserve west of Cape Canaveral and, to our delight, spotted this example below of a hand fern, growing at about the six-foot mark in the fertile lattices of a trunk of a sabal palm. We have also photographed a side view

This fern, listed as endangered in Florida, has three Latin names. Nelson lists it as Cheiroglossa palmata, (Linnaeus) while the  botanist Linda Chafin lists it as  Ophioglossum palmatum in her book Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida (FNAI, Tallahassee, 2000). A third name occurs in the genus Ophioderma, says Nelson. We'll let the taxonomists argue this one. The fern thrives in Mexico and Central America, and as far away as Madagascar and Vietnam. The species was discovered in Florida, writes Nelson, by Dr. A. W. Chapman in 1875 along the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. The species has declined in number through destruction of habitat.

The is certainly a fern with character. It's enough to inspire "fern fever." It reminds us in a way of the ghost orchid. Sadly, both endangered plants have inspired plant thievery.  Such plunder is illegal. These plants die when taken out of their environments. One can only hope people who are reckless and moronic enough to steal plants are eventually arrested, like the poacher in the riveting and educational book Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Her original article appeared in The New Yorker, Jan. 23, 1995. We highly recommend the book and the spinoff movie "Adaptation" with Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep -- for those interested in amazing character portrayals amidst rare plant intrigue in Florida. Back to the ferns: 58 of the 123 species of ferns native to Florida are threatened. writes Nelson in his comprehensive field guide, The Ferns of Florida (Sarasota, Pineapple Press, 2000).


     Our pages feature more than 200 original pictures, some news, and some interesting movies,  accompanied by old time mountain music that we have found enjoyable. We pledge to strengthen our commitment to this site, other obligations notwithstanding. We want the site to reflect the changing seasons and we want to list the many activities that go on in our neck of the woods, even if we can't possibly attend everything. 

     At Grayton Beach, which we hope does not become a target of even more hasty development (leave it alone!) we also saw a beautiful milkweed  near the dunes-- and photographed the threatened Gulfcoast lupine, Lupinus westianus, which is falling prey to development along Florida's coast, according to Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida, Volume Five, Plants  (University Presses of Florida, Daniel B. Ward, editor). 

       We spent a few days near the Canaveral National Seashore and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. At the seashore we found bees at work on the endangered inkberry, Scaevola plumieri. This succulent shrub was named for the French monk Charles Plumier (1647-1704), according to botanist Walter Kingsley Taylor in Florida Wildflowers in Their Natural Communities (University Press of Florida, 1998). 

       We also saw a tall yellow polygala  at Merritt Island, which we believe to be Polygala rugelii as described by Godfrey and Wooten in Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southeastern United States/Dicotyledons (University of Georgia Press, 1981) in the woods in the refuge, and what we believe are white flowers of mangrove plants along the dunes of the Canaveral seashore.  A fast butterfly with an anterior that looked like another insect was also photographed. It is Strymon melinus,  called the Gray hairstreak butterfly , also depicted in the National Audubon Field Guide to Florida (Chanticleer Press, 1999).


    Florida hosts the largest variety of orchids in the nation.

    It is our good fortune that North Florida and points north share some of these classy lookers. It is speculated that orchids migrated from the ground to the trees, adapting through the eons.  It is perhaps 200 million years since the advent of the first flowering plants. All but one of our North Florida orchids are terrestrial, and so we are looking at some primitive plants, requiring exacting climate, soil and water conditions for their own survival.

  We explored one of our favorite North Florida bogs in April, as the sun was setting and cast its special glow on the countryside west of Tallahassee, near Hosford.  At least three species of orchids were in bloom - the Calopogon tuberosus, the Calopogon pallidus, and the beautiful Cleistes divaricata or ribbon orchid. Among the other jewels were the endangered Sarracenea leucophylla or white-topped pitcher plant. 


    We've posted a Quicktime movie of the famous insect-eating plants and their victims. The Dionaea muscipula or Venus Fly Trap has flourished as a transplanted North Carolina native in areas west of Tallahassee for 25 years. We also show the sticky landing pods of the Sundew (Drosera sp.) and the jellied spikes of the Dew-Thread, which genus and species we believe to be Drosera tracyi.  We also have a still picture of the Fly Trap with a victim, and the handsome white flower of the plant. 

   On roadsides in Liberty County, we spotted even more Cleistes, this time a little pinker, some of the tall, thready Spiranthes orchids, and the red parrot pitcher plants. As the sun descended on the savanna near Sumatra, the light favored a yellow colic root and the Pleea tenuifolia or rush-featherling,  for which the savanna is noted. The featherling is leaning on the colic root in this photograph.


Central Florida gardener Debbie K. Rhodes has a wonderful site for Florida butterfly gardening  at While visiting north of Panama City in a place called Bayou George she took a picture of what Dr. Loran Anderson retired of the Florida State University herbarium in Tallahassee identified as Alstroemeria psittacina, a member of the Amaryllis family known as a parrot lily and a native of Brazil. It is very pretty, but an extremely invasive species. John Scheper at his very interesting website has a description of Alstroemeria. 

   She also sent us a welcome picture of another Florida plant we haven't seen, taken on Sanibel Islandon.  It is of "White Vine" Sarcostemma clausa.  It is in the same family as the milkweed, but is not classified as Asclepias.  The picture was taken along the roadside in J. D. Darling Wildlife Preserve. The bug on it is called "Milkweed Bug."

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