Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Trees: Devils Walking Stick-Figs
blooming devils walking stick in FloridaDevils Walking Stick (Cephalanthus occidentalis)- Sometimes called Prickly Ash, or Hercules club, the devils walking stick is a large, few-stemmed shrub. An average height of 12-15 feet, it can reach up 20 ft. Each spring the devils walking stick shoots up a tall stem covered with orange prickles. Enormous, divided, spiny leaves at the top of the stem can be 3-4 feet long and just as wide. Topping the umbrella of leaves are 1-4 foot tall clusters of whitish flowers. Black fruits on bright pink fruiting stalks crown the plant in fall. The aromatic spicy roots and fruit were used by early settlers in home remedies, including a cure for toothaches. This shrub is important to wildlife, with seeds being favored by birds, the fallen leaves are browsed by deer and both birds and butterflies are attracted to it's nectar.

flowering doctorbush found in Texas and Florida areasDoctorbush
(Plumbago scandens)- The doctorbush is a  shrub vine of the genus Plumbago. Its duration is perennial which means it will grow year after year. Doctorbush’s floral region is North America US Lower 48, Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands, specifically in the states of Arizona, Florida and Texas. The doctorbush, or summer snow, as it is sometimes called, is a flowering shrub. The flowers have a long blooming season and attract butterflies. The leaves are dark green, simple, and oval-shaped. These sprawling, native shrubs grow in shaded canyons.

swamp dogwood found along river banks in FloridaDogwood-Swamp Dogwood (Cornus foemina)- Also known as the stiff dogwood because of its rigid upright branches, this plant gets far less attention than its famous cousin. Swamp dogwood  is a small deciduous tree, or, more often, a multi-trunked shrub that rarely exceeds 15 feet in height. Branches form off the main trunk close to the ground, and the crown is broad and rounded. Although not as showy as the flowering dogwood, swamp dogwood is an attractive plant. Large, open clusters of white flowers begin blooming in late March and early April. This is several weeks after the new leaves have formed. The individual flowers resemble those of the viburnums, but the clusters are larger, and they attract many pollinating insects. Swamp dogwood fruit is relished by a wide variety of songbirds and other animals. The broad clusters of bluish, žinch fruit ripen by midsummer. Although it is normally found in swampy areas or along stream banks, swamp dogwood is fairly adaptable when used in the home landscape.

blooming Florida fiddlewood(Florida) Fiddlewood (Citharexylum spinosum L)- Fiddlewood grows as an evergreen shrub or small tree in and around coastal areas of Central and South Florida and the Keys. It is native to Florida and the West Indies. Fiddlewood has heavy, very hard, close grained wood that has bright red heartwood and lighter colored sap wood. The tree has no commercial value other than as a landscape plant where it is often grown as a shrub, 6'-8' in height. Fiddlewood is salt tolerant and can withstand winds, making it an excellent landscape plant for coastal areas in warm climates. The small, five-lobed, white flowers of fiddlewood appear throughout the year. These flowers are quite fragrant and are an excellent nectar source for wildlife. The berries of the fiddlewood also provide a food source for wildlife.

Fig Trees-There are two types of native fig tress in the state of Florida. The strangle fig and the lesser known shortleaf fig. Among trees, the figs (Ficus spp.) have bizarre growth forms and unusual ways to produce fruit and seed.  Many have numerous snakelike, aerial roots growing downward from the limbs and aggressive growth habits that can strangle other trees. 

Florida strangler figStrangler Fig (Ficus aurea) - The strangler fig, also called golden fig, is a large and fast-growing tree with a fascinating life history. The tree is native to coastal areas of south Florida, the Keys, and the West Indies and has made its way into central Florida. Strangler fig begins its life as a parasite as its seed lodges in the cracks and crevices of the bark of a host. Cabbage palms are favorite hosts. The seed germinates and sends out air roots. These air roots take in nutrients and water from the air and host tree. Eventually the air roots grow to reach the ground and develop their own underground root system, independent of the host tree. Often during this process, the strangler fig may cover the host tree with its own trunk and strangle the host tree, hence the common name. New branches grow and if these reach the ground, they will send out new shoots and roots. Over time, this can create a compound structure of trees that covers a large area.

short leaf fig tree native to Florida keysShortleaf Fig
(Ficus laevisata) -The shortleaf fig grows in south and central Florida, the Keys, and the West Indies. The Shortleaf fig is similar in growth habits to the strangler fig but the shortleaf fig has broader leaves with a heart shaped base, larger fruits that are 1" long, and longer stems on fruits and flowers.
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