"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
We don't have a lot of lawn in My Florida Backyard - it provides little wildlife value and requires too much maintenance. The little bits of lawn we do have are speckled with what others might call weeds and try to eradicate, but we call wildflowers and treasure for their beauty.
We recently reviewed a new book by Jaret C. Daniels called the Wildflowers of Florida Field Guide. When flipping through it, we saw many of the wildflowers that grow in our lawn at different times of year, and decided to see how it could help us identify the ones growing there now.
On pages 172-173, we found the Florida Tasselflower (Emilia fosbergii), a non-native that has naturalized throughout the American south. This showy little flower is great for bees and butterflies, and incredibly beautiful up close.
Another find was Creeping Wood Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) on pages 304-305. This little yellow-flowered native is often confused with clover due to the shape of its leaves, which fold up in the mid-day sun. It's worth noting that during the recent drought, the patches of lawn colonized by Creeping Wood Sorrel remained an attractive green when the nearby turf grass turned brown and dry.
Tropical Mexican Clover (Richardia brasiliensis) was on pages 238-239, and is another non-native that's naturalized throughout Florida. Despite the name, it's not actually part of the clover genus (Trefoil), and isn't from Mexico - it's from South America. Regardless, the little starry white flowers are delicate and deserve some up-close admiration. It's shown in the picture below with an unidentified purple flower we'll discuss later.
We already knew the scientific name of the native plant on pages 284-285: Bidens alba. We've learned to call it Spanish Needle, although Daniels refers to it as "Romerillo". We have a real love/hate relationship with Bidens. It makes a wonderful nectar plant for butterflies, but the barbed seeds are really unpleasant to deal with. We generally allow them to thrive in a few areas of the yard where we don't need to walk too frequently.
One of the most wonderfully named plants is on pages 228-229: Arrasa Con Todo (Gomphrena serrata). Loosely translated from Spanish, it means "destroys everything", which seems a little hyperbolic. This non-native definitely invades lawns in Florida, though, and is generally considered a nuisance.
Of course, no field guide can ever provide all the answers. One of the prettiest little flowers in our lawn doesn't seem to be in the book. In the wide world of nature, we've learned that sometimes you just have to ask for help, so... do you recognize this tiny little flower? Let us know in the comments if you do.
So, the Wildflowers of Florida Field Guide was 5 for 6 in My Florida Backyard today. We consider this a pretty good track record, and look forward to taking it on the road with us to help us identify (and perhaps collect seeds from) wildflowers in the field. In the meantime, we're glad to have it as we put names to the little flowers that we refuse to call weeds.