Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) – A small deciduous tree that bears orange-colored fruit, which is delicious when completely ripe but will pucker the mouth if eaten before it gets soft and falls from the tree. The young bark is orange in fissures, later breaking into square, scaly thick plates reminiscent of charcoal briquettes (very unique). The tree is ideal for erosion control on hot dry slopes such as our red bluffs. Persimmons are a favorite of the opossum, our only native marsupial. The leaves are a food source for the larvae of the luna moth.
Water Oak (Quercus nigra) – A semi-evergreen tree that can grow up to 60 feet tall. Bark is dark—smooth when young and later developing wide, scaly ridges. Acorns are eaten by birds, deer, squirrels and other wildlife. The White-M hairstreak butterfly lays its eggs on this tree. The spreading, rounded, open canopy is weaker than most oaks and subject to wind damage.
Florida Rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides) – This smaller ornamental shrub is not related to the edible herb rosemary, although they are similar in appearance. It grows only in a scrub environment along with sand pines and scrub oaks (dry, sandy soil) and is hard to transplant. Tiny yellow berries are not edible to humans, but are a favorite food of ants. The rosemary releases an herbicide that only dissipates when exposed to fire, which allows just one seedling to sprout and take root in place of the parent plant.
Bracken Fern (Pteridium acquilinum) – A large deciduous fern that grows everywhere in the world except for the hot and cold deserts and Antarctica. As ferns, brackens do not have seeds or fruits, but the immature fronds, known as fiddleheads, are edible. Plants send up large, triangular fronds and may form large thickets. Spore cases form along the underside edge of the leaflets. Evolutionarily, bracken may be considered one of the most successful and one of the oldest ferns, with fossil records dating back 55 million years.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) – A small fan palm that grows up to 6’. The fruit is a large reddish-black drupe (a fleshy fruit with thin skin and a seed). Cherries, almonds and dates are examples of drupes. The plant is used as food by the insect order Lepidoptera, which includes many species of moths and butterflies. It has a sprawling trunk and grows in clumps or dense thickets in sandy coastal lands or as undergrowth in pine woods or hardwood hammocks. It is hearty, extremely slow growing and long-lived, with some plants in Florida as old as 700 years. While the saw palmetto has been used for many purposes by humans, an entire industry developed around its use in the past few decades; palmetto products have become popular due to their effectiveness in treating prostate problems.
Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera) – This small tree or large shrub is adaptable to many habitats, growing naturally in wetlands, near flowing bodies of water, sand dunes, fields, hillsides, pine barrens, and in both needleleaf and mixed broadleaf forests. Easily grown as a specimen plant because it can thrive in most conditions and is salt tolerant, it can be pruned or shaped into a hedge. Thirty species of birds thrive on the fruit of the wax myrtle. Other names for this plant are the Southern Wax Myrtle, Southern Bayberry, Candleberry, Bayberry tree and Tallow shrub. We use it not only in the garden, but for candlemaking (bayberry candles) and as a medicinal plant. The Native Americans used it as a pain killer, diuretic, tonsil gargle, for stomach aches, worms and dysentery.
Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) – This magnificent evergreen tree grows up to 80 feet tall with its shiny green leaves and dinner plate-sized fragrant white flowers. An excellent shade tree for gardens and streetscapes. It’s fruit-like cone contains many red seeds which are spread by birds and
mammals. Squirrels, opossums, quail and turkey are known to eat the seeds. The magnolia is found in different ecological areas that are shady and contain well-drained soil, but it is also found in hummocks, along ravines, on slopes and in wooded floodplains. Can also be found on the edges of water bodies and swamps in association with sweetgum, water oak and black tupelo.
Sand Pine, Scrub Pine (Pinus clausa) – An evergreen that grows from 25-40 feet tall. Shorter needles than the longleaf pine (2-3 1/2) and small cones grow in clusters. Grows best in sandy, undisturbed soil.
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) – A woody, prolific climbing vine, the creeper may kill other vegetation by covering it and cutting the other plants’ ability to photosynthesize. Dark blue berries appear in clusters and contain oxylic acid, which is moderately toxic to humans and other
mammals, but provide birds with a vital winter food source.
Winged Sumac (Rhus copallinum) – A small tree or shrub that grows best in open areas, along roadsides or disturbed ground. It is prized for ornamental planting because of its lustrous dark green foliage which turns a brilliant orange-red in the fall. The tiny greenish-yellow flowers borne in compact, terminal panicles (loose, branching clusters) are followed by showy red clusters of berries which persist into the winter and attract wildlife. The sumac grows well in sandy, infertile soil.