Florida's ecosystem has a vast and varied array of plant and animal life. With its warm climate, invasive species such as the water hyacinth have taken over waterways, pushing out native plant species and jeopardizing the local animal life. Knowing native water plants will help gardeners choose wisely for their own landscapes.
The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) thrives in sodden swamps and other wet areas throughout Florida. This tree grows to over 100 feet in height with a spread of up to and possibly over 85 feet. The bald cypress grows with an upright habit, producing finely cut, green foliage in the spring and summer which changes to yellow-brown shades in the fall. Though partial to wetlands, the cypress has the ability to grow in dry areas. Watering during the driest part of the year and a thick layer of mulch will help this plant adapt quicker after transplanting. This plant is hardy in USDA Zones 5 through 10.
Alligator bonnet (Nymphaea odorata), commonly called the fragrant water lily, is found growing in ponds and other still water areas. It prefers organic, rich soils found in muddy waterways. Its fragrant blossoms range in shades of white, yellow or pink and grow up to 9 inches across. It has rounded, notched leaves to 5 inches, which lay on the surface of the water. The stems, roots, young leaves, blossoms and seeds are all edible. The alligator bonnet is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 11.
Swamp mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) grows along marshes, ditches and other wet areas throughout Florida. When in full bloom, swamp mallow sports large, 6-inch blossoms in shades of pink or white. In the garden, this plant grows best in full sun with a thick layer of organic mulch under boggy conditions. Swamp mallow is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 10.
Golden club (Orontium aquaticum) grows in boggy areas beside ponds, streams and swamps. It prefers full sun and nutrient-rich waterlogged soils. Masses of yellow blossoms grace a spadix as long as 4 inches. Once finished blooming, green berries will follow. This plant contains calcium oxalate; these crystals cause burning in the mouth. Golden club is hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 11.