Florida is a state with many ecosystems. Growing seasons and soil conditions differ from the panhandle to the Everglades. The coastal regions have the additional hazard of salt spray from the ocean and Gulf. Native wildflowers have adapted to the special conditions of the area they grow. Some thrive on sand dunes and along beaches, while others grow only in the marshes. But no matter the area and climate conditions, there is a wildflower waiting to be spotted and enjoyed.
Some wildflowers simply tolerate the wet habitat found in the wetlands, while others, like the pond apple or water lily, require it to survive. Native wildflowers like loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus) and lizard's-tail (Saururus cernuus) can be found growing in wet ditches, along streams and ponds, on the wet prairie and the floodplain forests of Florida.
Clay hardpan causes poor drainage in the pine flatwoods of Florida. During wet periods, the lack of drainage causes some areas of standing water. Wildflowers found in these areas include the tarflower ( Bejaria racemosa).
The savannas or sandhills of Florida are sandy ridges and hills. These well drained areas usually have trees growing widely spaced that allow sunlight to reach the wildflowers that thrive in this habitat. The beautiful bluestar, sometimes called blue dogbane (Amsonia ciliate), flowers in the sandy sites of Florida from April to November. The sandhills are also brightened by the yellow lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata).
Most of the hardwood forests in Florida have a closed canopy, but enough light filters through to harbor a large variety of wildflowers. Sometimes called hammocks, or simply the woods, the hardwood forests consist of rich, moist, well drained soil. Turk's-cap lily (Lilium superbum), blue phlox (Phlox divaricata) and Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica) all grow in the hardwood forests of Florida.
Wildflowers in the developed areas, or ruderal areas are usually called weeds. They grow along the roadsides, in pastures and fields, vacant lots, and yes, lawns. Lyreleaf sage, sometimes called cancer weed (Salvia lyrata), and lanceleaf tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata) are native wildflowers that people consider beautiful additions to the natural areas of Florida, but call a nuisance when they decide to live in the areas humans consider their own.
Wildflowers that grow on the beaches along the barrier islands and coastline of Florida must withstand both drought and salt spray. The marlberry (Ardisia escallonioides) shows dainty blossoms against its rubbery leaves before the fruit appears. The beautiful butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa L.) is another of the variety of wild blooms along the shell middens and dunes that show how native plants adapt to their environment.