Whether from commercial harvesting or loss of habitat, Florida has quite a few plant species listed as threatened or endangered. The state created the Florida Plant Conservation Program, whose job it is to restore and maintain any populations of these protected plants on both public and private lands. As of 1998, the program listed 11 plant species as threatened and 44 species as endangered. They also monitor the reintroduction of these threatened and endangered plants back into their Florida habitat for future generations to enjoy their beauty.
The Geiger tree (Cardia sebestena) grows wild throughout the southern portion of the state. Considered threatened due to loss of habitat, consumers can still find this tree grown in some native nurseries in the state. Trees grow 25 to 30 feet tall and have a high tolerance to salt, wind and drought. The tree produces a canopy filled with bright orange flowers year-round, which are a host and nectar source for butterflies and hummingbirds. Geiger trees are not tolerant to cold conditions.
Scrub plum (Prunus geniculata) considered endangered due to loss of its habitat, is found growing wild in the sandy scrub areas within the counties of Orange, Osceola and Polk. Plants grow approximately 4 feet tall and have thorny branches zigzagging throughout the plant. Pink/white flowers bloom in early spring, followed by green, plum-like fruits in late spring throughout early summer. The edible green fruits are sweet and are an important food source for wildlife. Some native nurseries within the state cultivate the scrub plum as it grows well in cultivation. Plants prefer growing in full sun and sandy soil and are drought tolerant.
Sandlace (Polygonella myriophylla) is a shrub growing wild in the Lake Wales Ridge area of Florida. It is an evergreen groundcover resembling creeping juniper, but has proven difficult to cultivate. Native nurseries no longer cultivate the plant for selling to the general public. Sandlace, considered endangered and protected, is unlawful to collect unless you have the specific landowner’s permission to remove it from the property. The plant produces clusters of white/pink flowers throughout springtime.
Pygmy fringetree (Chionanthus pygmaeas) is a shrub considered threatened do to loss of habitat and occurs naturally in the Lake Wales Ridge sandhills. Related to the American fringetree, pygmy fringetree grows to approximately 10 feet in height. Clusters of white, fragrant flowers bloom in springtime. Some native nurseries within central Florida have cultivated pygmy fringetree and have it for sale. The shrub makes a maintenance-free addition to native gardens throughout the entire state, as it is quite drought tolerant.
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