21 Plants Completely Native to the Florida Everglades
Looking to learn more about the beautiful plants that are native to the Florida everglades areas? There are many plants that are native to the area. In this article, we examine 21 different plants that grow naturally in this state. You'll learn about what kind of climate each plant functions best in, so you can decide if you'd like to test your hand at growing one in your state.
The Florida Everglades make up 1.5 million acres of wetland in the southern part of the state. According to the United States Geological Survey, the Florida Everglades has nine different primary habitats. These habitats include freshwater sloughs, coastal lowlands, and hardwood hammocks. So what plants are native to the Florida everglades?
Hardwood hammocks are characterized by thick shade trees with overlapping leaves. Coastal lowlands feature plants that can withstand saltwater and tend to resemble shrubs. Freshwater sloughs are low in elevation but help shape the rivers and marsh many people associate with the Everglades.
- 1 Bromeliads
- 2 Succulents
- 3 Sawgrasses
- 4 Muhly Grass
- 5 Lichens
- 6 Ladies’ Tresses
- 7 Butterfly Orchids
- 8 Seagrasses
- 9 Coral Bean
- 10 Climbing Aster
- 11 Prairie Milkweed
- 12 Purple Thistle
- 13 Spatterdock
- 14 Swamp Lily
- 15 Wild Petunia
- 16 White Water Lily
- 17 Duck Potato
- 18 Devil’s Potato
- 19 Purple Bladderwort
- 20 Winter Dropwort
- 21 Buttonbush
These are a family of plants that typically grow in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Bromeliads are considered part of the pineapple family due to their similar appearance but consist of two different types. Some bromeliads thrive on other nearby plants while others grow from the ground and establish root systems.
The majority of bromeliads that are present in the Florida Everglades are those that establish root systems in the ground. Bromeliads that tour guides will likely point out are wild pine. Some people refer to these as air plants because they do not need soil to grow.
These plants have a bright green color and tend to grow in groups. Bromeliads can flourish in all types of habitats found in the Everglades. Some varieties are actually native to the state.
The wormvine orchid or vanilla barbellata is a succulent that’s common in the Everglades. Although some people believe that succulents only live in desert and arid climates, the wormvine orchid flourishes in wetlands. The plant has a handful of small leaves and stems that hold on to water.
During periods of drought or inclement conditions, the plant’s stems can change to an orange color. This is similar to what happens to some northern grass species during severe weather. Homeowners often notice their lawns begin to take on a brownish hue during the winter months or when there are hot and dry spells.
This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with the grass or that it’s dead. The brownish hue often indicates the grass is in dormancy, something the plant does to preserve itself. Likewise, the wormvine orchid can do this when environmental conditions are not favorable to growth.
Officially known as cladium jamaicense, sawgrass is very common in the Everglades, and is also native to the area. The plant is also quite prevalent, lining much of the waterways and rivers in the area.
If visitors to the park look closely, they’ll notice the top of sawgrass blades resemble sharp teeth. The name of the plant is actually a misnomer, as sawgrass is not considered actual grass.
This type of grass tends to grow in the coastal prairie habitats of the Everglades. Locals and visitors will see the grass growing in patches or small groups. The color of the grass changes to purple during the harvest months. These are actually the flowers that bloom. Muhly grass grows to a maximum height of 4 feet.
Lichens are either fungi or algae. These species can be seen growing on trees or the roots of trees. Many of them are mistaken for being part of the tree or bark. In terms of appearance, the color and sizes of lichens can vary widely.
For instance, some lichens resemble moss while others look like small lines. Some lichens are more prominent and appear to be crusted scales that resemble scabs. The National Park Service’s lichen project has pinpointed 550 species growing in the Everglades.
Ladies’ tresses fall under the orchid family. These plants are rooted in the ground and typically have white flowers. The stems are long and thin, and the petals are somewhat delicate and small. These orchids can grow and survive in a variety of habitats, including hardwood hammocks.
Ladies’ tresses belong to a subspecies of the orchid family. They are part of the range of terrestrial orchids seen in Florida. Terrestrial orchids can grow in northern and southern climates. However, ladies’ tresses in the Everglades are as far south as they can go. This particular type of orchid tends to have a more northern climate range for ideal growing conditions.
Butterfly orchids are also part of the orchid family but are considered to be in the epiphytic subspecies. This subspecies grows in tropical climates that maintain high humidity and temperature levels. Butterfly orchids can live on trees, especially in wetland areas like the Everglades.
During periods of drought, the plant can soak up large amounts of water. The water stays within the roots and stems to sustain the plant’s life until precipitation returns. A butterfly orchid’s appearance typically consists of 5 open leaves. The center of the flower can hang from the base of the open leaves. A mix of white and purple hues is common.
These grasses grow underneath the water and must remain that way. However, seagrasses do not grow too deep underwater since they also need a reasonable amount of sunlight. Shallow streams and bodies of water in the Everglades feature seagrasses.
These plants not only provide shelter for other forms of water life but also keep the water clean. Seagrasses look slightly thicker than some of the lawn grasses seen in Florida, such as Bermuda grass. These grasses don’t always resemble the look and feel of seaweed but can be easily destroyed by boating activities. This is why boating activities are restricted or banned in various portions of the Everglades.
The coral bean is one of the wildflowers commonly found in the Everglades, and is also native to the area. True to its name, it is coral in color. The stems or stalks tend to be high, and the leaves have a tube-like shape. These plants are usually active from the spring to the fall.
Although disturbing wildflowers is prohibited in the Everglades, the seeds of the coral bean plant are poisonous. This is something to keep in mind during the fall months when the plant’s pods start to open to reveal the seeds. Coral bean plants can tolerate salt and saltwater and do not need a lot of water once they’re rooted in the soil.
These wildflowers can grow more than 12 feet tall! The stems and leaves of the flower are both thin. Climbing asters are pink and purple in color with a striking resemblance to a lavender shade.
Climbing asters belong to the perennial family. The flower tends to have a small center that looks like a smaller, lighter version of a sunflower’s center. Blooming typically occurs in the fall, although this may differ in subtropical climates like the Everglades.
Prairie milkweeds also grow in more northern climates but can produce tropical colors. The reds, oranges, pinks, and yellows typically seen in sunsets are part of the range of a prairie milkweed’s color palette.
Prairie milkweeds produce a lot of fragrance that attracts bees and butterflies. Hummingbirds also flock to these wildflowers. At the top of a single stem, you’ll often find a cluster of small flowers. These flowers tend to establish a deep and extensive root system once they’ve grown. This can make them more difficult to relocate or replant.
Purple thistle is another wildflower native to the Everglades. This purple flower is actually considered a weed. The petals are wire-like in appearance and have a soft purple hue. Purple thistle’s blooming activity usually occurs during the summer and fall. However, some of these flowers keep blooming regardless of the season.
This wildflower is more likely to be present in the coastal prairie habitats of the Everglades. The flower’s stem is tall in length, and the stem can ooze a sap-like substance when cut or injured. Some people describe the petal’s appearance as “spiky”, while others liken it to that of an artichoke.
The spatterdock plant is also called a yellow pond lily. It looks like a string of bright, green leaves somewhat randomly strung together. The plant sits on top of the water, similar to a frog’s lily pad. Spatterdock plants can grow up to 10 inches wide, and sometimes people can see yellow flowers blooming from the stems.
The flowers themselves can be up to 1 inch wide and tall. They have a round shape and can appear to cave in toward the center. Spatterdocks usually grow in shallow bodies of water, including lakes and streams. These plants also produce fruit that is shaped like eggs.
Some other little-known facts about spatterdocks are that the leaves can either be slightly immersed in water or completely underwater. Those leaves that sit on the water or are slightly submerged grow in an upward direction. They can be up to 1 foot long and are oval in shape.
The leaves that are completely underneath the water can be see-through. These leaves are thinner or slender in composition. Stalks and stems submerged underwater also have a thin and smooth appearance.
The swamp lily has the familiar white petals of regular lilies. However, the petals are droopy and thinner than the types of lilies available at your local flower shop. In the United States, this plant is only found in the southeastern region and needs a wet and humid environment to thrive.
In the Everglades, the swamp lily can be found near marshes and water sources. The petals and leaves can open out in a spider-leg type look. Swamp lilies are a part of the perennial family and are actually considered to be a perennial herb.
Some people mistake swamp lilies for spider lilies because of their similar appearances. However, swamp lilies have six separate petals, and spider lilies have petals that are connected. Swamp lilies also produce a lot of fragrance.
Don’t let its name fool you! The wild petunia does not belong to the petunia family and technically is a different flower altogether. Instead, the wild petunia belongs to what is known as the Acanthaceae family. It grows in much of the eastern half of the United States, including Florida and the Everglades.
The flower blooms in a purplish, lavender color. It is known for attracting bees and butterflies. The plant’s seeds can travel up to 10 feet when it is in its blooming season, and the flower is in its mature stage. Many gardeners note the wild petunia can grow aggressively, taking over any open spaces.
White Water Lily
The white water lily grows and lives in water. Like lily pads, the flower appears to float on top of the water. The leaves of the plant have a green color on top, and on the bottom, they have a red-purple hue. When opened, the flowers are white and surround a yellow center.
The white water lily’s flowers open during the morning hours and usually close back up by midday. Petals on the plant tend to be longer and wider on the outer edges, becoming more narrow and close together as they move toward the center.
These flowers can be as large as 10 inches wide and can produce a fragrance. The white water lily is a member of the lily or Nymphaeaceae family. Another thing to note about the flower’s petals is that they become pointed at the very top or tip.
The duck potato is a wildflower that has a unique look and name. It tends to grow in shallow wetlands and got its namesake because ducks will use the plant as a food source. Ducks that live in shallow wetlands tend to eat the plant’s seeds, tubes, and “stems”.
The duck potato plant can grow and establish roots in water or muddy, damp soil and thrives as long as the ground is somewhat thick and deep (up to 2 feet). Growing to heights between 2 and 4 feet, this plant is also a feast for geese and muskrats. When the flowers are open and blooming, they are white and surround a green bulb.
The devil’s potato is somewhat similar in appearance to the duck potato. However, the white petals fold completely open and droop downward. There is also the noticeable absence of a green bulb in the center.
The devil’s potato is considered a perennial vine. In the United States, it only exists in Florida. No other state can claim the devil’s potato grows there. However, the plant also exists in nearby tropical and subtropical regions, including the Caribbean and Mexico.
One of the reasons the plant has a “devil” in its name is because it produces a poisonous sap. The sap is white in color and must be avoided by both humans and most animals. A second characteristic is the plant’s root system. Since the roots are thick and take on the appearance of potato spuds, this is where the “potato” portion of the name comes from.
The purple bladderwort grows in shallow waters, such as ponds and lakes. It does not form a root system and instead floats on top of the water. While the plant has a long stalk, the top consists of a small, purple flower. The center of the flower’s connected petals can be a mix of yellow and white.
People who examine the purple bladderwort closely will find that all of the plant’s leaves exist underwater. Because the plant only thrives in wetlands and swampy areas, it only exists in certain U.S. states. These include New England, the Florida Everglades, Texas, and the Southeast.
This is a delicate-looking wildflower reminiscent of a dandelion’s white spores. The plant is also known as water hemlock in regions of Florida, including the Everglades. While it does grow well in wetlands, humid, and swampy areas, the plant is harmful to humans.
When it comes into contact with humans, the winter dropwort is poisonous. The flower does attract butterflies, bees, and wasps. It is considered part of the parsley or celery family because its stalk is similar to celery.
The buttonbush is a quirky-looking plant. Its center is round like a golf ball, and it has multiple spikes extending from its center. Several “spiked balls” can exist on separate stems that branch out from the plant’s main stalk. Besides single stems, a buttonbush can exist as a tree-like shrub.
The buttonbush plant is part of the perennial family. It can bloom in white and pink colors, usually during the summer and early fall months. The shrub itself can grow between 6 and 12 feet. Spiked blades can extend up to 8 inches in length and width.