(News article for March 2020)
Spring wildflowers put on a spectacular show in the Florida Parishes. You have probably heard the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Well, the sentiment rings true in horticulture too. Depending on who you talk to, spring wildflowers might be considered weeds. Bull thistle has spiny leaves and buttercup will wreak havoc in cow pastures, but, when you stop to think about it, each plant has its virtues. A weed is defined as any plant that is growing out of place. Weed or wildflower? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.
Here are some spring wildflowers blooming in the Florida Parishes:
Lyreleaf Sage, Salvia lyrata, is in the mint family and has a very long stem with small tubular flowers. I normally see a pale blue or violet color in our area. The base of the plant has a rosette of wide, green leaves that sometimes have purple accents.
Daisy fleabane, Erigeron annuus, has an erect stem topped with a cluster of delicate white flowers with a bright yellow center. The name “fleabane” comes from an old belief that the dried flowers would ward off fleas.
Crimson clover, Trifolium incarnatum, is hard to miss with its vibrant red flower atop an elongated stalk. It is native to Europe but has naturalized in parts of the United States. I normally see crimson clover planted in wildlife food plots but occasionally see a stand along the roadside.
Hairy vetch, Vicia villosa, is a delicate, vine like legume with slender opposite leaves and dainty purple flowers. It is native to Europe and was originally introduced as a forage for grazing. Vetch tends to be invasive. I see it everywhere in the Florida Parishes and clumps of it are beautiful in the spring!
Bull thistle, Cirsium horridulum, isn’t always the first thing you think about when you hear “wildflower.” They are considered more of a nuisance plant, but bull thistle is very popular with bees and is a host plant for Little Metalmark butterfly larvae, Calephelis virginiensis.
Butterweed, Packera glabella, has a stout, tall stem topped with a cluster of yellow flowers.It is abundant in ditches around the Florida Parishes.
Buttercup, Ranunculus sardous, is a common flower in pastures and along roadsides. Cattle farmers consider it a nuisance because it causes sores in a cow’s mouth. Wildflower enthusiasts love it.
Cherokee rose, Rosa laevigata, is an evergreen climbing shrub with a large white flower seen in the woods during late February and early March. It is an invasive species from Asia but has been in the United states since 1780 and is the state flower of Georgia.
Cherokee Rose. Photo by: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Red buckeye, Aesculus pavia, is a great native tree in Louisiana. It has a unique palmate leaf and produces beautiful red flowers in the spring that are popular with pollinators.
Oxalis, Oxalis violacea, has a leaf that resembles clover and bright pink or purple flowers in the spring.
White clover, Trifolium repens, is abundant in the Florida parishes.It is very recognizable with its little white ball flower at the top.White clover is native to Europe but is abundant in North America. It provides winter and early spring forage for bees as well as color along our roadsides when nothing else is blooming.
All photos by Jessie Hoover unless specified otherwise.
Jessie Hoover is a County Agent with the LSU AgCenter covering horticulture in East Feliciana, West Feliciana, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa parishes. For more information on these or related topics contact Jessie at 225-683-3101 or visit the LSU AgCenter website.