Stop and Smell the Wildflowers at CREW!

by Nan Mattingly, CREW Trust Volunteer

Here in southwest Florida we have the luxury of enjoying wildflowers year-round. October is a good time to bask in the colors and elegant shapes of all kinds of wildflowers. Look at this stunning October standout:

photos of pine lily

You’re likely to see this two-foot slender stalk topped by a single bloom in pine woods and savannas. It grows from a bulb that can lie dormant for years and suddenly appear after a fire. Its vivid color will draw your eye to it as you walk many of the CREW trails. Last year was a particularly good year for pine lilies – we had a wealth of them at the CREW Marsh Trails. Please don’t be tempted to take one home – leave it for others to enjoy.

photos of Chapman’s blazing star

Another striking flower that will catch your eye with its light-lavender colored blooms is one of the many varieties of liatris, a member of the aster family found in North America. In southwest Florida, there are a few varieties of liatris, but you’re mostly likely to find “Chapman’s blazing star” at CREW, a plant that typically features five or six spiky blooms on one plant. It’s another flower that blooms well after a fire, and it makes a great pollinator food source, attracting a profusion of butterflies, bees and even hummingbirds. 

photos of Florida paintbrush

photos of green lynx spider

This showy violet-colored flower resembles an artist’s paintbrush. Its large flat-topped blooms are incredibly attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. If you’re lucky, you might spot amongst its fluffy clusters a green lynx spider, who prey on the insects attracted to the bloom.

photos of lopsided indiangrass in bloom

photos of a skipper butterfly

When you visit one of the four CREW trails, don’t overlook the grasses. Lopsided Indiangrass is not very distinguished in summer but in fall it produces tall, dramatic flower spikes that last a few weeks. It’s called “lopsided” because the tufts grow on only one side of the stem. Look for this grass in sandy soil and dry flatwoods. Its soft yellow appearance attracts several species of skipper butterflies.    

photos of sugarcane plumegrass

photo of clouded skipper butterfly

Another tall grass that blooms in fall, sugarcane plumegrass is topped by golden plumes. It can reach 30 feet in the open but it’s more typically no more than eight feet tall on any of the CREW trails. Sugarcane plumegrass likes our trails that border the sawgrass marsh habitats. It’s also a favorite host for the clouded skipper butterfly.     

In October, Brenda Thomas, director of the University Colloquium at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), will share her knowledge of and love for wildflowers on a special tour at the CREW Marsh Trails. Unfortunately, that tour is already sold out, but you can visit any of the CREW trail systems in October to experience your own wildflower walk. Take photos of your favorites and share them with us on Facebook and Instagram! 

Wildflower photos taken throughout CREW this Fall

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