How to Identify Flowers & Plants in Florida


Florida native trees and flowers are those that existed in the area before European settlement. From flowering trees to tall palms, the native plants provide colorful and lush foliage to landscapes. More than 3,100 plants, including 300 species of native trees, are considered native. Florida's natural areas where plants grow wild are also home to more than 1,000 exotic (non-native) trees and plants that have gained a foothold in the state's ecosystem.


Step 1

Note the habitat. Florida has 14 different types of habitats from marshes to coastal strand. Certain plants such as the bald cypress and pond cypress are only found in the wet plains habitat. Red, black and white mangroves thrive in areas south of the frost line, near the coast in both fresh and saltwater habitats. Florida also has three distinct climate regions. The northern portion of the state has colder temperatures. Cherry, apple and other hardwood trees grow well in that region. The central portion of the state is warmer. Shorelines provide ideal growing conditions for mangrove trees and seagrapes. Southern Florida's mild climates are native habitats for the saw palmetto and sabal palm.

Step 2

Use a Florida native plant reference guide. Go for walks with the book, stopping to examine different plants. Use your observations to identify plants. For example, a native Sabal palm is short as compared to the tall native Royal Palm.

Step 3

Examine leaves to identify plants. Native Florida plants tend to be very distinctive. For example, the seagrape tree has dark green broad leaves about 8 to 12 inches in size. The leaves are almost round in shape and red veins. Sea lavender, an endangered Florida native perennial shrub, leaves are linear, succulent and greenish-gray. The saw palmetto leaves have sharp spines on the edges that resemble saw teeth, thus its common name.

Step 4

Compare and note the color and shape of plant flowers or blooms. Many of Florida's native trees and shrubs produce blooms. Consult the reference guide to help you identify the flowers. For example, the native groundsel shrub produces stalked, white to greenish-white flowers in early fall. The seagrape tree produces ivory-white flowers on racemes that grow up to 30 inches long. Herbaceous flowers, such as the alligator lily, blooms in the summertime. The alligator lily produces distinctive white flowers on tall stalks that shoot out from the main plant. Others such as the swamp lily, with its 4-feet long leaves produce clusters of fragrant six-petal, tubular flowers in white or pink all year round.

Things You'll Need

  • Florida native plants reference guide


  • Florida's Nature: Florida's Native and Exotic Plants
  • "Native Florida Plants: Low Maintenance Landscaping and Gardening"; Robert G. Haehle; 2004
  • "Florida's Wildflowers and Roadside Plants"; C. Ritchie Bell and Bryan J. Taylor; 2007
Keywords: native Florida plants, identifying florida plants, exotic plants, native plant identification

About this Author

Carmel Perez Snyder is a freelance writer living in Florida. She attended the University of Missouri and has been a journalist for more than 12 years. Her work has appeared in the AARP Bulletin, the Oklahoma Gazette, the Amarillo Globe-News, and eHow.