On a recent Florida spring road trip up I-75 from Tampa to Ocala, the explosions of magenta, white, purple and pink Florida wildflowers lining the highway and medians nearly caused me to lose my concentration at the wheel.
It had been a while since I’d taken this route at this time of year, and I’d forgotten how our highways and byways, sand dunes and pastures absolutely erupt in a riot of hues that might make you want to rename the Sunshine State the Wildflower State.
Beaches, bikinis and beach bars, yes. But people don’t tend to equate Florida with Florida wildflowers. But from red and gold Blanketflower (also called Indian Blanket, and non-native to the state) to colorful native coreopsis (the state’s official wildflower) abundant in the rural pastures in Florida’s north central reaches, this is a land of perennial flowering beauty that goes far beyond the manicured mansions with landscape crews on patrol 24/7.
After all, it was the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon who named the state La Florida, which means “flowery,” in reference to its bloom-rich vistas. And there’s no doubt he learned a thing or two about Florida wildflowers during his explorations in the state.
Wondering where to see some Florida wildflowers this spring, summer or fall?
Read on for a few of the most reliable places to get that perfect Instagram shot or–better yet–bask in the ethereal and supremely fleeting beauty of a field billowing with blooms with someone you love (or perhaps just your favorite book and a picnic basket–which sounds nearly as nice to me).
When is the best time of year to see Florida wildflowers?
From spring through summer and fall, and even into early winter, is a great time to travel around the state in search of Florida wildflowers. That said, spring, summer and fall are the most riotous-with-rainbow-color if you’re looking to capitalize on Florida’s rather subtle seasons.
Non-profit organization the Florida Wildlife Foundation is an invaluable resource for researching the kind of blooms you might see during different times of the year in different parts of the state.
And the website also posts seasonal bloom reports on its “What’s Blooming” map and has planting resources, too, in case you’re looking to liven up your own yard with a spray of colorful Florida wildflowers that are sure to be the talk of the neighborhood.
Are Florida wildflowers native to the state?
The Florida wildflower mix you may see driving down a highway is likely to be a mix of native and non-native species that thrive in our fine weather conditions. Among the more beautiful non-native varieties you might spot are pink wood sorrel, henbit (a delicate purple bloom) and blanketflower–but there are scores more.
Even though many of the species we have in Florida are non-native to the state, their presence here in areas that don’t get mowed down is important because they create micro-prairie ecosystems that allow pollinators to thrive.
Patches of wildflowers also create critical habitats for native species such as Florida bees, butterflies, dragon flies and moths. In other words, they’re a visual feast for your eyes–and so much more, too.
5 great spots to see Florida wildflowers blooming right now for spring and summer
Ocala National Forest is home to more than 300 species of Florida wildflowers. But you hardly need to be within the parklands to see them blooming in this stretch of Central Florida, north of Orlando.
Walking trails at the area’s natural Florida springs, including on the west side of Silver Springs State Park, are a great place to see colorful stands of wildflowers, including wild geraniums and skunk cabbage.
After a hike, snag a pretty spot for a picnic before perhaps taking gliding along on a boat cruise through the springs’ impossibly turquoise waters.
Base in a brand new Florida hotel while you’re in these parts, too, with a stay at The Equestrian. The luxury property that just opened in 2021 has views of a massive horse competition arena on the grounds of the World Equestrian Center and is home to a zero-entry pool and splash pad, excellent spa, fine dining restaurant, a cool pub, ice cream shop, killer toy shop and a ton more. It’s actually a destination of its own you’ll hear more from us about soon.
Suwanee River State Park
You know it’s springtime along the Suwanee River in northern Florida when rain lilies cover the river banks in Suwanee River State Park.
A threatened species in Florida, this delicate native Florida wildflower loves floodplains and river swamps and is colored the most delicate pinkish hue that looks like a lighter shade of bubblegum ice cream.
Look for rain lilies to do exactly what their name would imply–pop up in bloom after a nice spring rain soaks the scenery.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
From the spring into the winter months, too, treat yourself to some gorgeous Florida wildflower sightings in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, which also happens to be Florida’s first Dark Sky Park and has some of the most spectacular campsites in the state, surrounded by a unique prairie wilderness.
Despite the vast prairie views, keep your eyes trained on the ground to spot carnivorous Florida wildflowers including bladderworts and pitcher plants as well as sunflowers, asters and fragrant lady’s tresses orchids that have a scent that might remind you of delicate vanilla.
With all the Florida wildflowers blooming here, you can expect to see plenty of butterfly arrivals, too–including hairstreaks and swallowtails, among many others.
State Road Florida 65, Eastern Panhandle
It hardly needs to be designated a state or national park to be a hotspot for Florida wildflowers, as anyone who’s taken a Sunday springtime drive down a rural Florida road can likely attest.
And one of the prettiest roads for doing just that is State Road 65 in Franklin County, a stretch of mellow highway in Florida’s eastern panhandle.
This is one of many places in the state where you might get lucky and spot a veritable supermodel of native Florida wildflowers, the clumping perennial that goes by its much prettier common name–the Spider Lily.
Summer and fall is the best time to see the towering Spider Lily plant in bloom–it grows nearly three feet tall from a single bulb and has tendrils reminiscent of a sea creature.
Florida’s largest U.S. National Forest, Apalachicola National Forest, is also found in these parts, and its savannas are a good place to look for ground orchids and endemic wiregrass gentians, with their four snow-colored petals and fragile cross-like form.
Paynes Prairie Reserve State Park
Back when I was in college at the University of Florida is when I first fell in love with the state’s incredible nature and wild places.
When we weren’t partying or studying, my friends and I would head out from Gainesville to ride our mountain bikes and look for alligators and wild horses and bison in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, which was more or less a wild playground located right in our collegiate backyards.
This unique Florida environment of grasslands and marshes is also home to some spectacular wildflower viewing, too, that runs from spring all through summer and later into the year as well.
Fields of purple Pickerelweed could trick your eyes into thinking they were lavender. And head to the La Chua trail here (popular for gator spotting–some days you’ll spot hundreds of the lazing and lunging reptiles from the safety of a boardwalk trail) to see pale yellow American lotus.
These Florida wildflowers pop up during the late spring and summer in wet areas and make a picture perfect backdrop for your best reptile or wading bird snapshot.