Living in the Land of Flowers

by Kathy WarnerMy Nassau Sun logo
Nassau County Master Gardener

Special/Nassau County Extension --

Named by Ponce de Leon in 1513, La Florida means “Land of Flowers” — and indeed it is! Florida has more than 3,600 native and naturalized flowering species. Wildflowers are plants that grow in their natural state with little or no interference from man. Florida has 170 species of endemic wildflowers, which mean that they grow naturally in a certain area, and nowhere else. Because of this restriction, many are threatened, living on the verge of extinction. It is illegal to pick wildflowers from public property.

Including wildflowers in your landscape will add color and beauty, but they are also beneficial to wildlife. Butterflies and hummingbirds drink their nectar. Finches, pine siskins and buntings eat their seeds. Mockingbirds, jays and cardinals enjoy wildflower berries.

Special/Nassau County Extension -- Milkweed blooms at the UF/IFAS Nassau County Demonstration Garden in Yulee. Milkweed is known for its medicinal uses as well as being a food source for bees and monarch butterflies.


Milkweed, named for its milky juice, is an important nectar source for bees, and a larval food source for monarch butterflies, as well as beetles and moths. The milkweed genus was named for Asclepias, the Greek god of healing, because of the many folk-medicinal uses for the milkweed plants.

A group of charming bulbs known as rain lilies, or Zephyranthes, is a native and can be planted year-round in North Florida. In the wild, the flowers bloom after a rain. They produce lush clumps of foliage in the fall, and can be mistaken during the winter for liriope. Spectacular effects can be achieved with mass plantings.
Most members of the genus Passiflora are tender evergreen tropical vines which prefer a frost-free climate.

Special/Nassau County Extension -- Rain lilies, like this one at at the Nassau County Demonstration Garden in Yulee, are native to Florida and can be planted year round in North Florida.

Passiflora incarnata is an exception in that it is deciduous and can survive winter freezes. This beautiful flower is native to the Southeastern United States and is commonly called maypop. It is a fast-growing perennial vine that uses its tendrils to attach to fences, trees, or other supports, usually reaching heights of 10 to 20 feet. Winter frosts will kill it back to the ground, but it will happily reappear in the spring, earning its name “may pop.” Maypop is a wonderful addition to a butterfly garden. The gulf fritillary, zebra heliconia and checkered fritillary butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves. After the eggs hatch, caterpillars eat the leaves.

The Gaillardia, or blanket flower is a North American native and forms attractive, 12- to 24-inch tall, rounded clumps of soft, hairy, divided leaves and single, semidouble or double flowers held on long stems above the foliage. Appearing throughout the summer, the 2-inch to 3-inch-wide flowers are available in yellow, orange, red or bi-colors, and make excellent, long-lasting cut flowers. The brilliant blossoms are quite attractive to butterflies, and these annual flowers will normally reseed themselves quite readily.

For a firsthand look at rain lilies, milkweed, blanket flowers and passion vines, stop by the UF/IFAS Nassau County Extension Garden at the James S. Page Governmental Complex in Yulee where these specimens grow among the other plantings. Visit the Demonstration Garden Web site at


Master Gardener volunteers are trained by County Horticultural Extension agents and are required to serve 75 volunteer hours in year one of their accreditation and 50 volunteer hours annually in all subsequent years to maintain their certification.

Nassau County master gardeners serve under the direction of Rebecca L. Jordi, UF/IFAS Nassau County Horticultural Extension Agent. For information on the master gardener program and application requirements, contact Jordi at 548-1116 or



Kathy Warner

Kathy Warner is an Amelia Island resident and an active master gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.