Falling for Florida Flora

Happy autumn, everyone! The *feel* of fall doesn’t get in full swing here in Florida quite so early in the season, but I am starting to see subtle hints that it is on the way.

Lilium catesbaei growing in my neighbor's natural area, but touching my fence
Lilium catesbaei growing in my neighbor’s natural area, but touching my fence

One sure sign?  The Pine Lilies (Lilium catesbaei) are blooming.  They begin their show during September in my section of Central Florida. This beauty is listed as a Threatened Plant according to the Preservation of Native Flora of Florida Act.  I see them around my neighborhood each year and the first year I lived here I even had one bloom ON my property. Alas, that was before I knew about native plants and I moved it to get it away from the pine tree and out in the open where I could see it better…and of course, it never came back.

Dumb!  How far I’ve come since that time in 2006. Certain plants don’t transplant well and you need to learn to be happy with Mother Nature’s design.  It is important to realize that not every plant is a “bedding plant” and we need to learn that the manmade design looks consisting of bedding monocultures is often counterintuitive to the health and real purpose of plants, which is to feed fauna and keep air clean.

It’s not only ok to let the plants intermingle and grow together; it is Mom Nature’s design plan and a smart idea.  A sure way to notice insect activity and chew damage is to only provide one plant species in a given area.  Since every plant serves as a host for something, if you only have one variety surely your garden will look chewed upon.  Plant many different species together based on their soils and water needs and chances are they will all be hosting their insects at varying times so the entire area won’t be barren at once.

I spotted this one blooming right across the street next to the culvert
I spotted this one blooming right across the street next to the culvert

In a way, the Pine Lily has played an important part in my beautiful wildlife gardening education. Because I had that one single bloom appear on my property years ago, my curiosity was piqued when I spotted a newspaper notice for a meeting of the Florida Native Plant Society.  The name of the chapter in my county is “Pine Lily”, named after that very same flower.  I had no idea what native plants were back when I went to my first meeting. Thus began my journey and learning experience on the importance of native plants to their ecosystem and the delicate balance of nature between plants, insects and animals.

Fall Webworms
Fall Webworms

Another sure sign of fall? Fall Webworms (Hyphantria cunea) have arrived and are munching. This year they chose an Elderberry (Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis) as their cafe.  Last year they thought Bald-Cypress (Taxodium distichum) was the way to chow down.

They sure do poop a lot, that's what all the black dots are
These caterpillars sure do poop a lot, that’s what all the black dots are

I clipped one of the affected branches off and placed it in the water of the pond to let the fish dine.  I left the other group on the plant so the wasps can provide food for their young and to hopefully entice a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) to stay a day or two before their flight to winter to South America.

Hairy caterpillars when they get a bit bigger
Hairy caterpillars when they get a bit bigger

The Pine Lily in one of the photographs was in my neighbor’s natural section but leaning on my fence.  I’m hoping that some seeds drop on my side so in the future I have a plant to call my own, once again.  I certainly won’t try to bully it into a different spot ever again. 😉


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

University of Florida Publication Number: EENY-81; E.E. Grissell (retired), Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry; and Thomas R. Fasulo, University of Florida


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