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La Florida: Florida's Floral Rarities

The Nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value. Theodore Roosevelt

Many of these rare plant species are found only in a few locales within the state, and some populations occur only in one location in a specific habitat. These habitats include forested uplands, wetlands, coastal, sand dunes, scrub, beach margins, savannahs, sandhills, and rocklands. Once a natural habitat is altered, native species may not be able to compete and survive with other weedier species that can quickly invade these now disturbed sites. Every year more and more natural habitats are lost to development, storms, and other natural disasters. Certain populations of plants can therefore be permanently destroyed. Some plants have even lost their natural pollinators, and populations of plants have diminished to such small numbers that they cannot reproduce in the wild.

We, as concerned professionals and amateurs, should support the preservation and conservation of native habitats and be more vigilant to what rare flora that may naturally occur around us. With such vigilance we can insure that future generations will have the opportunity to experience some of Florida’s rare flora that has existed prior to our births.

For more information about rare plants and conservation programs, visit these websites:

In Search of the Many-Flowered Grasspink Orchid

Many-flowered Grasspink Orchids

Very few people get to see the Many-flowered Grasspink Orchid (Calopogon multiflorus). This orchid appears only in very recently burned areas and blooms for just a few days. Until this year, my wife Marcia and I had only seen one batch of these beautiful orchids once before in central Florida, thanks to orchid expert Paul Martin Brown.

Earlier this summer, a friend of ours and another naturalist were actively searching recently burned areas in the Apalachicola National Forest looking for these elusive orchids. One morning, we received a call from our friend letting us know that they had found a few plants.

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Mrs. Henry's Spiderlily

Mrs. Henry's Spidelily

This beautiful spiderlily (Hymenocallis henryae) was one of several clumps that was growing in a flatwoods depression beside a highway in the Apalachicola National Forest. When we returned a few days later to show the lilies to other plant enthusiasts, one of the clumps had been dug up, leaving just a watery hole. I'm sure that the person who dug up the lily rationalized that they were doing no harm, but unfortunately this particular lily is endangered in Florida.

Many of our Native Plants are in Decline

As of 2010, almost 500 of Florida's plant species receive some type of federal and/or state protection.

  • 44 Federally endangered
  • 10 Federally threatened
  • 431 Florida endangered
  • 115 Florida threatened

Unfortunately, this number continues to grow as the pressures of development increase on Florida's remaining wildlands.

The Semaphore Cactus (Opuntia corallicola) is a species whose endangered status is easily understood. Less than a dozen individuals survive in the wild in a Florida Keys preserve. It has been extirpated from all the other Florida Keys. These plants appear to be all male. Fortunately, there is still hope for this species as captive-bred plants are being reintroduced to other protected sites.

Continue reading Many of Our Native Plants are in Decline