Wildflowers are an Amelia Island Treasure

by Claudi Speed, Master Gardener

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Do you like to look for treasures?

Our area history is rich with pirates and their zest for treasures around Amelia Island. Even today, treasure ships are eagerly searching for hidden gold in our oceans. But you don't have to resort to such extreme measures. We have treasures of golden wildflowers waiting to be discovered everywhere, from sand dunes to ditches to vacant lots and highways and open fields.

The gold of the stately Goldenrod (Solidago) is caught by the breeze, the black glistening center of yellow black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) winks at you, and if you're lucky, you'll catch glimpses of bright amethyst Liatris (gay-feather).

How can one select a favorite? There are orange blooms of milkweed attracting monarch butterflies; asters (Asteracae) in shades of white, yellow and lavender; and in November and December, the reds of wild poinsettias (Euphorbia).

I have many wildflowers in my garden, and seem to always have room for more.

Firebush (Hamelia patens) grows outside my kitchen window. Within a few days after the exotic scarlet tubular blooms recently appeared, there were bright green hummingbirds lapping up the nectar. Firebush is a great plant. Even though the top may die back in winter, it reappears with vigorous growth. Firebush is also perfect for attracting butterflies and other wildlife.

Fourth-generation rain lilies from my family's home provide fond memories as they continue to multiply and bloom.

Rain Lily
Photo by Rebecca Jordi
Rain lilies such as this one flourish in Florida.

Passionflower vines (Passiflora) climb my pine tree, which hosts Zebra Longwing butterflies, and the purple blossoms of morning glories (Convolvulaceae) cover my trellis. Coreopsis, Florida's state wildflower, is planted among yellow crotons and black-eyed Susans, and their golden blooms produce small seeds that resemble insects, hence the flower's common name - tickseed. Tickseed, a favorite garden flower, can also be seen along roadsides.

A day at the beach yields more treasures growing in salty sand and air. Beach morning glories twine along the sand and Indian blanket flowers (Gaillardia) cling to the dunes. Spanish bayonets stand stiffly against the wind. Be careful, they're sharp. And be sure to also watch for the spines of innocent-looking, yellow prickly-pear cacti.

If you'd like to plant wildflowers from seed, we recommend the seeds be grown in Florida so they're already acclimated to our soil and climate.

True wildflowers have adapted to harsh conditions such as wet soil or dry areas, so it's important to find the right location and not over-water or fertilize. Otherwise, they'll lose their natural ability to withstand insects or will overgrow their natural area.

Fall brings a wonderful assortment of perennial wildflowers at local garden centers. Do your homework and check the origins, temperature requirements and correct locations for the plants. You'll be rewarded with your own treasure of wildflowers, year after year.

Master Gardener Claudie Speed lives in Fernandina Beach and is an active volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service. For information on the Master Gardener program and application requirements, contact Becky Jordi at 548-1116 or rljordi@ufl.edu.





Claudie Speed

Claudie Speed lives on Amelia Island and is an active Master Gardener volunteer.