Native Plants & Wildflowers
Just one of nature’s many inspirations, wildflowers spring forth and thrive without a gardener’s touch. Here’s a look at some wild and pretty purple blooms and berries that can be seen around Amelia Island as summer wanes into fall.
There’s lots of railroad vine, trailing from the dunes, seen around areas of this barrier island’s oceanfront. It’s easy to see how this native plant got its name. Railroad Vine adds pops of purple against the white sand, pictured above at Amelia Island State Park. Railroad vine is a dune stabilizer, and its blooms open in morning and close in the afternoon. According to the University of Florida/IFAS:
“Railroad vine (Ipomoea pes-caprae) makes a great ground cover for coastal gardens. Sometimes called beach morning glory, it has a high tolerance for salty air and sandy soils.”
The seashore at Amelia Island State Park, in an area that’s roped off to beach driving during bird nesting season, has sprouted railroad vine and other beach vegetation. It seems nature is taking back the beach at this Florida State Park, at least for a little while this summer, revealing a more natural seascape.
Wild Passion Flower, A.K.A. Maypop
A rather intricate flower with a delicate fringe, it’s one of the most interesting and lovely native wildflowers seen blooming summers into fall along trails in Egans Greenway. A flowering vine, it climbs by tendrils. Passion flower (scientific name, Passiflora incarnata), is a favorite host plant of the Gulf frittilary butterfly (Agraulis vanilla Linneaus). It’s an excellent native plant to teach kids about the life cycle of a butterfly. Learn more about passion flower and Egans Creek Greenway.
Spotted Bee Balm, A.K.A. Horsemint
Spotted bee balm is an option for those seeking to create yards that are more Florida-friendly. Beekeepers love it, and horsemint (Monarda punctata), attracts butterflies and birds, as well.
“Horsemint should be grown in full sun on a well-drained sandy soil with some moisture retentive capability. Provide occasional irrigation in drought if soil drains excessively. It is tolerant to some drought and is generally unscathed by freezing temperatures in Florida.” University of Florida/IFAS
A great pollinator for local gardens, learn more, “Plant Florida-Friendly Bee Balm.” Looking back through history, bee balm was used by Native Americans to make a “sweating tea,” for ritual ceremonies.
The vivid magenta-colored fruit clusters of American Beautyberry can be seen growing wild at Fort Clinch State Park and in Egans Greenway. The fruits of this native perennial plant, scientific name (Callicarpa Americana), ripen in August/September.
Birds love to eat American beautyberry. The clusters of fruit look like berry shish kebabs. For property owners who’d like to attract more birds, beautyberry is a good garden selection for “birdscaping” yards in the South.
Interestingly, “the roots, leaves and branches of the American beautyberry were used by the Alabama, Choctaw, Creek, Koasati, Seminole and other Native American tribes for various medicinal purposes,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Plant Guide. Learn more about beautyberry.