As you drive along the highway look out the window at the blooming roadside wildflowers. Fall is the season of yellow and purple, with splashes of red.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum spp.), many different “daisies” (Aster spp.), tall and short Goldenrod (Solidago spp.), and “sunflowers” (Helianthus spp.) brighten up the landscape with the many shades of yellow. Spikes of Blazing Star (Liatris spp.), clumps of False Rosemary (Conradina canescens), and carpets of Moss Verbena (Verbena tenuisecta) add the purple hues. Here and there clusters of Red Basil (Calamintha coccinea) grab your attention with their fiery color.
Scarlet calamint, also called Red Basil, with its brilliant red flowers, offer a dramatic contract against the backdrop of scrub, sandhill and coastal dunes where the plant naturally occurs in Florida. They bloom sporadically throughout the year, peaking in the fall with as many as 100 flowers on a single plant. It is the only Florida native Calamintha species with red flowers, and its flowers are the largest.
When the Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the eastern shores in 1513 he immediately noticed the vast wealth of wildflowers and promptly name his new discovery the “Land of Flowers”, which is the translation for Florida. Habitats throughout the state vary greatly. Changes in elevation by only a few inches can change the soil and impact the types of plants growing there. Associated birds, butterflies, and other pollinators change as the wildflower species vary. Florida has one of the highest biodiversity in the United States.
Learning to identify the roadside wildflowers is the topic of the next Okaloosa County Master Gardener Lecture Series. Join Dave Gordon on Monday, October 23 at the Okaloosa County Extension 3098 Airport Rd. Crestview, FL 32539 from 10 -11 am CDT to learn about what is blooming along the road right of way and how they may be utilized in the landscape. For more information go to: