To the surprise of many, Florida isn’t just home to swaying palm trees and orange groves. In the northern part of the state, one can find fruit-bearing hardwoods like cherry and apple trees. Scrub pines and slash pines are common throughout the state, particularly in the midsection, and that stereotypically Southern tree, the sweet magnolia, is also prevalent. Along the coastline, especially the northern Gulf coast and in the Florida Keys, mangroves are quite prevalent, and black mangroves can soar up to 50 feet in height.
Some unique native Florida trees include West Indian mahogany trees, which can be found in southern Florida and the Keys, and pond apple trees, which grow in the state’s swamps. Florida is most commonly identified with palm trees, but even though they are common throughout the state, the massive coconut palms that say “tropical vacation” to so many people are not a native species. The true Florida palms are the equally tall if somewhat less glamorous Sabal palm trees.
The official flower of Florida is the orange blossom, and for the early part of the 20th century, a drive through the orange groves of central and southern Florida as the fragrant flowers bloomed was one of the high points of a vacation. Of course, the tropical and subtropical climate throughout most of the state means an abundance of gorgeous flowering plants can be seen almost year-round. Invasive species like bougainvillea, jasmine, gardenias, birds of paradise, and oleander have taken their place alongside native beauties like mistletoe and the puffy-flowered sweet acacia to make Florida one of the most beautifully—and naturally—landscaped parts of the country. Note that although they are somewhat common throughout South Florida, wild orchids cannot be collected as they’re protected by law.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition