22 Native Florida Flowers: Discover a Biodiversity Hotspot

Florida is home to a number of native wildflowers. You can find North American stalwarts like purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), and blazing star (Liatris spp.) growing throughout much of the state.

In this article, I’ll be taking a closer look at the vast array of Florida flowers that are uncommon and in some cases nonexistent outside of the southeast coastal region!

Some of these flowers can be easily grown in the garden if you have the right climate. In many cases, doing so will help support native pollinators and other wildlife species that rely on diverse flora for habitats.

Types of Native Habitats in Florida

The entire state of Florida is part of a recognized global biodiversity hotspot — the North American Coastal Plain. These hotspots, of which there are currently 36 scattered around the world, boast uniquely high levels of biodiversity under threat from human activity. 

Of Florida’s approximately 3,000 native plants, many are generalists that can grow almost anywhere. Others are specialists, confined to very specific environments and the most at risk of extinction.

Here’s a brief explanation of Florida’s most dominant ecosystems and how each supports various plant species:

Coastal Areas

The southern part of Florida is surrounded by saltwater via the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. These ecological conditions create unique habitats like sand dunes, salt flats, and tidal swamps that line Florida’s peninsula.

Plants in these areas have a high tolerance for salinity in the environment and thrive in nutrient-poor, sandy soils. It’s common for these flowers to grow close to the ground to avoid strong coastal winds.

Prairies and Grasslands

Several native prairies and grasslands extend across Florida’s panhandle and peninsula. These habitats are characterized by flat topography and an abundance of grassy vegetation.

Prairies and grasslands support a significant portion of the state’s wildflower species. Some wet prairies — those with perpetually damp soil — host large populations of carnivorous plants like pitcher plants and sundews.

Freshwater Wetlands

Inland wetlands in Florida mainly consist of marshes, swamps, and floodplain forests. Freshwater lakes, ponds, and streams are also scattered across the landscape.

These biomes host various aquatic plants. Numerous moisture-loving wildflowers can be found along their perimeters.

Woodland Areas

Florida’s hardwood forests, often located at higher elevations and consequently relatively dry, contain trees like oaks, hickories, and magnolias. These species provide a shady environment for woodland wildflowers to flourish.

In the American Southeast, small clusters of hardwood trees surrounded by other habitats are known as hammocks. Some native flowers only appear in these isolated areas.

Scrublands

Scrublands feature low-nutrient, fast-draining, sandy soils that support hardy shrubs and other drought-tolerant plant types. Flowers growing in these habitats are rarely showy but still play vital roles in Florida’s overall biodiversity.

22 Florida Flowers That Support Wildlife and Biodiversity

The diversity of Florida’s wildflowers is a direct reflection of the many different biomes found throughout the state. This list should help you ID a number of the flowers you’ve seen out in nature as well as reveal some interesting native specimens worth adding to your garden!

Throughout this list, I’ve highlighted some key information like when each flower tends to bloom in Florida and where you’re most likely to find it in the wild. These details will help with identification. You’ll also find insight into the various wildlife species that rely on these native plants for food or habitat.

1. Florida Yellow Bladderwort

Florida Yellow Bladderwort

Utricularia floridana

  • Bloom Time: April to August
  • Habitat: Freshwater wetlands

There are nearly 1,000 known species of carnivorous plants in the world. Bladderworts, a genus of rootless, aquatic flora, make up almost a quarter of them.

The Florida yellow bladderwort is endemic to Florida and its neighboring states. In other words, you won’t find this species growing anywhere else in the world.

Like other bladderworts, this plant grows submerged in bodies of water. It uses suction traps on its underwater leaves to feed on tiny organisms like water fleas. The buttercup-colored flowers stick out of the water and attract pollinating bees, flies, butterflies, and moths.

2. Eastern Purple Bladderwort

Eastern Purple Bladderwort

Utricularia purpurea

  • Bloom Time: All Year
  • Habitat: Freshwater wetlands

With a keen eye, you can find the eastern purple bladderwort growing in freshwater along North America’s East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and around the Great Lakes (including into Canada). It may even be found growing right alongside its yellow cousin, U. floridana, in some parts of Florida.

This aquatic plant is visited by many native and introduced bees, wasps, and other flying insects that pollinate the purple flowers. 

Rest assured, these pollinators have no chance of falling prey to the bladderwort’s carnivorous ways. It solely feeds on water-dwelling organisms that are small enough to be almost invisible to the human eye.

3. Scarlet Rose-mallow

Scarlet Rose-mallow

Hibiscus coccineus

  • Bloom Time: May to September
  • Habitat: Freshwater wetlands

This is a species of hardy hibiscus native to Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. It is commonly used in rain gardens or as a statement shrub around ornamental water features throughout the Southeastern United States. 

The bright red flowers can grow up to 6 inches wide. In other words, the scarlet rose mallow is extremely hard to miss when it’s in bloom!

It should come as no surprise that pollinators love this showy wildflower. Keep an eye out for the native hibiscus bee (Ptilothrix bombiformis), which feeds exclusively on this and other hibiscus species. Scarlet rose-mallow shrubs may also play host to a number of caterpillars, including those of the io moth (Automeris io) and grey hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus).

4. Chapman’s Rhododendron

Chapman’s Rhododendron

Rhododendron minus var. Chapmanii

  • Bloom Time: March to April
  • Habitat: Scrublands

Azalea and rhododendron shrubs are a dime a dozen in many landscapes. But the Chapman’s rhododendron, a variety endemic to just a handful of Florida counties, is one of the rarest in the world.

This flowering shrub is so incredibly rare because it’s a bit of a ‘Goldilocks’. According to an article originally published by the American Rhododendron Society, Chapman’s Rhododendron only has about 400 acres of habitat that meet its very specific requirements.

The good news is that some Florida nurseries cultivate this variety and offer it for sale to local homeowners. While this won’t replace the shrub’s loss of natural habitat in the wild, it will at least keep the genetic line from going extinct in the near future.

5. Florida Tickseed

Florida Tickseed

Coreopsis floridana

  • Bloom Time: All Year
  • Habitat: Prairies and woodland areas

There are at least a dozen Coreopsis species native to Florida. In fact, the genus is officially listed as the Florida state flower.

Coreopsis flowers are usually bright yellow and grow to be a few feet tall. The common name comes from the seeds’ resemblance to the blood-sucking pest.

While Florida tickseed is undeniably the rarest Coreopsis in the state, it’s also the only species that you won’t find growing anywhere else. Its preferred habitat is a damp woodland with plenty of native pines growing nearby.

Planting (or preserving wild-grown) Coreopsis is a great way to support native pollinators, including butterflies and moths.

6. Purple Passionflower

Purple Passionflower

Passiflora incarnata

  • Bloom Time: July to September
  • Habitat: Widespread

If you like to spend your free time browsing gardening-related forums, there’s a good chance you’ve seen this flower posted under the headline “What am I?” at least a time or two. I know I have!

The purple passionflower is certainly unique-looking, especially if you’re from a colder climate. But it’s incredibly widespread across Florida and much of the southeastern United States.

After the flowers fade, this purple flowering vine plant produces edible berries that look and taste a lot like passionfruit. True passionfruit, however, is the product of a different species within the Passiflora genus (native to South America).

This and other native Passiflora species are vital host plants for gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) and Julia butterfly (Dryas iulia) caterpillars.

7. Corkystem Passionflower

Corkystem Passionflower

Passiflora suberosa

  • Bloom Time: All Year
  • Habitat: Widespread

The corky stem passionflower is another native vine that prefers warmer weather than its purple cousin. This species is typically only found growing in Florida and south Texas.

Admittedly, the flowers of this species aren’t as showy as the purple passionflower. If you fail to look closely enough, you’ll actually miss the blooms entirely since they’re almost the same shade of green as the foliage.

Again, the fruit of this vine is edible and very reminiscent of passionfruit. Both flowers and fruit may develop year-round in the right climate.

8. Ashe’s Calamint

Ashe’s Calamint

Calamintha ashei

  • Bloom Time: January to April
  • Habitat: Scrublands

While the leaves resemble succulent needles from a distance, and although it may look like a white flower weed, Ashe’s calamint is a deciduous shrub (meaning that it loses its leaves during part of the year). The leaves themselves are incredibly fragrant, a clue that this plant belongs to the expansive mint family.

Ashe’s calamint is endemic to Central Florida and parts of Georgia. It’s a scrubland plant, so you’ll most often find it growing in dry, sandy areas.

A whole host of native bee species visits the pink flowers when they’re in bloom. Other pollinators like butterflies and moths also love this plant. It would work very well in a regional xeriscape garden.

9. Partridge Pea

Partridge Pea

Chamaecrista fasciculata

  • Bloom Time: June to October
  • Habitat: Widespread

While the partridge pea is native to much of the eastern United States, it’s particularly fond of dry prairie habitats found throughout Florida. It tolerates extremely poor soils (partridge pea has historically been used for erosion control in hard-to-plant areas) and attracts a range of insect species.

Bees are the most frequent visitors of the partridge pea’s flowers. It also hosts caterpillars of the sleepy orange butterfly (Abaeis nicippe) and the caucus blue butterfly (Hemiargus caucus), among others.

Other names for this Florida flower include ‘sleeping plant’ and ‘sensitive plant’, in reference to the leaves folding response to being touched.

10. Florida Greeneyes

Florida Greeneyes

Berlandiera subacaulis

  • Bloom Time: All Year
  • Habitat: Coastal areas, prairies, and woodland areas

Florida greeneyes have bright yellow flowers that are extremely attractive to a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. This is an excellent plant for gardeners looking to increase biodiversity with a naturalized landscape.

This plant is very easy to establish in the home garden. Propagation by seed is recommended, but you can also source transplants from select native plant nurseries.

This wildflower is most easily identified by its green center (hence the name ‘greeneyes’). You can also sniff the plant, as Florida greeneyes have a slight chocolate scent.

11. Woodland Poppymallow

Woodland Poppymallow

Callirhoe papaver

  • Bloom Time: March to August
  • Habitat: Woodland areas

This endangered wildflower is easily mistaken for a type of poppy, despite the two plants having practically no relation. Its magenta flowers measure up to 3 inches across and are found in only a handful of areas in the Florida panhandle.

Bees frequently visit these flowers in search of nectar and pollen. The woodland poppy mallow is a key host of the common checkered skipper (Burnsius communis) caterpillars.

Despite their rarity in nature, woodland poppy mallows can be easily grown at home. Allow them to naturalize in the sun or partial shade. Once established, these flowers are quite drought tolerant.

12. Florida Paintbrush

Florida Paintbrush

Carphephorus corymbosus

  • Bloom Time: September to November
  • Habitat: Coastal areas, prairies, and scrublands

Florida paintbrush is a favorite among pollinators. It’s a member of the aster family that boasts bright violet flowers somewhat reminiscent of milkweed. 

This native wildflower is readily available from local nurseries and makes a great addition to the home butterfly garden. Florida paintbrush plants are incredibly tough and drought-tolerant once established.

There are several closely related wildflower species found throughout the state of Florida, including vanillaleaf (C. odoratissimus) and pineland purple (C. subtropicanus).

13. Scorpionstail

Scorpionstail

Heliotropium angiospernum

  • Bloom Time: All Year
  • Habitat: Coastal and woodland areas

Scorpionstail is an annual or short-lived perennial found primarily in the southern tip of Florida. Rest assured, this small shrub is far more sweet and dainty than its common name suggests. 

The white panicle flowers look very similar to some varieties of veronica or speedwell and provide an abundance of nectar for native butterflies. Plant scorpionstail in your own garden to attract Bahamian swallowtails (Heraclides andraemon), Florida whites (Appias drusilla), Miami blues (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri), and more!

14. Snow Squarestem

Snow Squarestem

Melanthera nivea

  • Bloom Time: All year
  • Habitat: Prairies and woodland areas

Snow squarestem is well-regarded as a pollinator magnet. In the garden, it’s best used as a Naturalizer that will support all kinds of local insect populations.

Snow squarestem is highly adaptable and found throughout almost the entire state of Florida. 

Note that snow squarestem can have a somewhat unkempt appearance and readily self-sows. This is great news if you want to let it run wild but can be a nuisance in more formal landscapes.

15. Beach Morning Glory

Beach Morning Glory

Ipomoea imperati

  • Bloom Time: June to October
  • Habitat: Coastal areas

You can find beach morning glories creeping along sand dunes and similar habitats all along Florida’s coasts. This vining habit helps control the erosion of high-risk coastal soils.

The flowers typically open first thing in the morning but close up again by the afternoon. Hummingbirds are frequently observed visiting the tubular, white blossoms.

Though nowhere near as attractive as the flowers, beach morning glory seed pods are a vital food source for all kinds of wildlife, including endangered beach mice (Peromyscus polionotus ssp.). Some varieties – such as Blue Morning Glory – produce flowers that grow year round in Florida.

16. Railroad Vine

Railroad Vine

Ipomoea pes-caprae ssp. brasiliensis

  • Bloom Time: June to October
  • Habitat: Coastal areas

Railroad vine is another type of beach-loving morning glory native to Florida. The key difference between this and its relative I. imperati is the color of the flowers.

Outside of its pinkish-purple flowers, railroad vine and beach morning glory are incredibly similar. You may even find them growing side by side in the same environment.

(Railroad vine may also be mistaken for saltmarsh morning glory, or I. sagittata. This species has pinkish-purple flowers but is more commonly found in Florida’s saltwater marshes and floodplains.)

17. Zephyr Lily

Zephyr Lily

Zephyranthes atamasca

  • Bloom Time: January to June
  • Habitat: Widespread

The Zephyr lily is endemic to the southeast region of the United States. It prefers floodplains and damp grasslands but can pop up almost anywhere in its native range.

This small-statured bulb forms colonies that typically bloom in late winter or early spring. The white flowers often turn pink with age.

Another name for this Florida wildflower is ‘rain lily’. It gets this name because the right sequence of dry and rainy weather can trigger flowering at other times of the year.

18. Pine Hyacinth

Pine Hyacinth

Clematis baldwinii

  • Bloom Time: All Year
  • Habitat: Coastal areas and prairies

This is not a hyacinth at all but rather a type of clematis vine. Pine hyacinth flowers range from light pink to lilac in colour and boast a distinctive down-turned bell shape.

Pine hyacinth is endemic to the Florida peninsula but is relatively easy to find at plant nurseries and greenhouses specializing in native species. It attracts a wide range of pollinators, including hummingbirds.

19. Dimpled Trout Lily

Dimpled Trout Lily

Erythronium umbilicatum

  • Bloom Time: February to May
  • Habitat: Woodland areas and freshwater wetlands

Dimpled trout lilies are small bulbs that prefer shady areas with plenty of moisture. Each plant features two mottled leaves and a single bright yellow flower. They’re usually found growing in colonies.

Though native to much of the North American Coastal Plain, dimpled trout lilies aren’t widely distributed in Florida. They’ve only been recorded in a handful of damp, wooded areas in the northern panhandle. 

Stumbling across this spring ephemeral out in the wild takes a good bit of luck. However, gardeners in the upper portion of Florida can still try their hands at growing dimpled trout lilies at home. 

20. Longbract Wakerobin

Longbract Wakerobin

Trillium underwoodii

  • Bloom Time: February to April
  • Habitat: Woodland areas

Florida has four native species of wakerobin, or Trillium, growing in its wooded areas. These spring wildflowers like cool weather and deep shade, and often form dense colonies when the growing conditions are ideal.

Longbract wakerobins have speckled leaves and dark maroon flowers. Everything about these plants comes in a set of three.

According to the Florida Wildflower Foundation, the longbract wakerobin is notable because it’s the only native Trillium species available as a cultivated garden plant. You should keep in mind, however, that these flowers are very picky about their environment and are unlikely to thrive in most landscapes.

21. Beach Sunflower

Beach Sunflower

Helianthus debilis

  • Bloom Time: All Year
  • Habitat: Coastal areas and scrublands

Beach sunflowers sprawl along sand dunes and other dry, beachy areas, offering natural erosion control and valuable habitat for small critters. Unlike the giant sunflowers most of us are familiar with, this variety rarely grows more than 10 inches tall.

The yellow blooms of beach sunflowers attract pollinators of all sorts. Once the flowers themselves are spent, birds and other wildlife will happily eat the seeds. 

Beach sunflowers spread along the ground and produce many seeds. This is a good candidate for any naturalized landscape with low-quality soil and high salinity.

22. Mangrove Spider Lily

Mangrove Spider Lily

Hymenocallis latifolia

  • Bloom Time: March to October
  • Habitat: Coastal areas

The highly fragrant mangrove spider lily is found along the Florida panhandle’s southern coast. It tolerates a wide variety of environments in this region, including sand dunes, brackish swamps, and coastal strands.

Mangrove spider lilies are the most common Hymenocallis species in the state of Florida. The bulbs are relatively easy to transplant (but shouldn’t be taken from the wild) and will grow in almost any damp landscape.

All spider lilies are predominantly pollinated by moths. The large, white flowers of the mangrove spider lily attract a number of different sphinx moths.

FAQ Florida Wildflowers

What is a Florida ghost orchid?

The ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) is an epiphytic species native to select parts of Florida and Cuba. It’s relatively famous because it is so rare, with only about 100 wild specimens believed to still exist. The locations of these specimens are kept top secret to protect the unique flowers.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.