Alligatorflag (Thalia geniculata), also known as Fireflag, is a water-loving plant that can be found in marshes and other wet areas throughout most of the Florida peninsula and scattered areas in the Florida panhandle.
The genus nameThalia honors the German botanist Johannes Thal (1542-1583).
Its presence in marshes is revealed by large rustling papery leaves that tower over surrounding vegetation. Circular clumps of Allgatorflag plants that punctuate marshes often indicate the presence of "alligator holes." Since alligators keep the area surrounding their nests clear of competing vegetation, this allows Alligatorflags to become established in the open water. The plants' leaves are "flags" that often indicate the presence of alligator dens and give rise to one of the plant's common name.
Small purple flowers on tall stalks are actually quite beautiful when you inspect them up close.
Like nobles in older times that would geniculate or bend their knee to the king, the flower stalks have a zigzag pattern that is angled like a bent knee. The species name geniculata refers to this "bent knee" pattern.
You may see an evenly spaced line of circular holes in a leaf. These are made by Canna leaf rollers or Brazilian Skipper caterpillars. Although it looks like multiple holes, it is actually a single hole made by a caterpillar while the leaf is still rolled up. Once unrolled, it looks like multiple holes.