Native Plants / Florida
Florida Native Plants
A plant is considered native if it has occurred naturally in a particular region or ecosystem without human introduction. There are many benefits in growing native plants. First, these plants are better adapted to soils, moisture and weather than exotic plants that evolved in other parts of the world. They need less fertilizers, pesticides or use less water. Second, they are unlikely to escape and become invasive, destroying natural habitat. Third, they support wildlife, providing shelter and food for native birds and insects, while exotic plants do not.
Prized for its highly fragrant flowers, Acacia farnesiana (Sweet Acacia) is a semi-evergreen multi-trunked shrub or small tree with a naturally spreading, vaselike shape. Its zig-zag stems are fully armed with sharp thorns and clad with feathery, finely divided leaflets of a soft green color. Clouds of small, bright golden-yellow, puff-like flowers, 1/2 in. (1 cm), appear in clusters in late winter to early spring, then sporadically after each new flush of growth, providing a long-lasting floral display.
Hardy and fast-growing, Acer negundo (Box Elder) is a suckering, vigorous, deciduous tree of upright habit with an irregular rounded canopy of widely spreading branches. The opposite, pinnately compound, light green leaves are composed of 3-7 leaflets, 6-15 in. long (15-37 cm), which turn a dull yellow in the fall.
Noted for its lovely fall color, Acer rubrum (Red Maple) is a relatively fast-growing deciduous tree of pyramidal habit when young, becoming rounded to oval at maturity. In early spring, tiny red flowers, borne in erect clusters, appear before the leaves and are followed by red fruit. Emerging red tinged in spring, the leaves change to dark green with whitish undersides and often develop dazzling yellows and red in the fall. This Red Maple also provides some winter interest, with its attractive, smooth gray bark, often ridged and furrowed with age.
Noted for its spectacular fall color, Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple) is a large, deciduous tree with a straight trunk, wide-spreading branches and a dense, oval to rounded crown. Its foliage of five-lobed leaves, 3-6 in. (7-15 cm) ranges from medium to dark green in summer, and changes to a brilliant palette of yellows, oranges, and reds in the fall.
Adiantum capillus-veneris (Southern Maidenhair Fern) is a slowly spreading, semi-evergreen fern forming a mound of gently arching or pendant, twice divided, delicate fronds adorned with wiry, black stems.
Aesculus pavia (Red Buckeye) is a large deciduous shrub or small tree of rounded habit with a dense canopy of brilliant dark green leaves, each divided into 5 narrow leaflets. In mid to late spring, erect panicles, 6 in. long (15 cm), of rich red flowers appear above the foliage for a cheerful display.
An excellent substitute for spinach, Amaranthus viridis (Slender Amaranth) is a vigourous, erect annual or short-lived perennial with a slender branched stem and deeply veined leaves, up to 6 in. long (15 cm), with a long leaf stalk. Occasionally eaten as a cooked vegetable, the leaves are diuretic and purgative and used in poultices to treat inflammations.
Early-flowering, Amelanchier arborea (Downy Serviceberry) is a large deciduous shrub or small tree of rounded habit boasting a profusion of 5-petaled, showy, slightly fragrant, white flowers in early to mid spring. Borne in drooping clusters, they appear before the leaves emerge.
Native to North America, Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo Bush) is a vigorous deciduous shrub of upright-spreading habit with bright green leaves composed of up to 35 spiny-tipped, oval leaflets. In late spring to early summer, showy racemes, up to 6 in. long (15 cm), of small, scented, purplish blue flowers with protruding stamens and orange-yellow anthers are on display.
A widely celebrated North American native species, Amsonia ciliata (Fringed Blue Star) is a clump-forming perennial with early-season blue flowers, handsome summer foliage, and golden fall color. Fringed Blue Star features loose clusters of star-shaped, pale blue flowers with five lobes and white centers, in early spring to early summer. Blooming for 3-4 weeks, they attract butterflies and other pollinators.