I have spent so much time discussing the many plants that I have growing in my personal garden, that I wanted to share some of the indigenous plants that grow throughout Pensacola. I found many of the varieties of these plants to be drought tolerant and well suited to this area. Amazingly, a few plants have been around since the first early settlers long ago trod upon these shores.
The City of Pensacola and the surrounding beaches are a fascinating blend of sun, sea, and white quartz crystal sands. The greenish – turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico beckon to vacationers and locals alike. This is the home of the Navy’s Blue Angels, and NAS Pensacola has a presence everywhere in the community. The area is diverse with water features; from the Gulf of Mexico to the many rivers, and bayous found throughout the Emerald Coast region. This unusual natural landscape produces many native plants that have adapted to the ferocious heat and humidity of the summers.
(Photo from “Your Pensacola Beach” Facebook page, 6/18/2014)
Yaupon Holly is native to the surrounding Pensacola Bay locale. Vibrant red berries appear on the plant when a male and female plant are in the same vicinity. According to the website, Texas Junior Naturalists, at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/junior_naturalists/medplants3.phtml, the berries are not safe for eating, so DO NOT attempt to try them. Interestingly, the leaves of this holly contain large amounts of caffeine. Both Native Americans and Civil War soldiers used the leaves to make a tea that was quite tasty.
An unusual plant native to Santa Rosa Island is Conradina, a type of mint, also called false rosemary. It is a low growing shrub that blooms with brilliant lavender flowers in the spring. It tolerates the full sun, high humidity, and the sandy soil, literally chocking out all the grasses in its vicinity. Visit Plantdelights.com at http://www.plantdelights.com/Conradina-for-sale/buy-False-Rosemary/Native-Plants/ for information on where you can purchase these native plants.
Another curious plant found around Pensacola, Florida are Muscadine Grapes. These grapes are well suited to the southern growing season. Favored by early Southerners, the grapes are still found growing wild in the nearby areas. Clemson Cooperative Extension at http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/small_fruits/hgic1403.html offers a wide array of information about growing the grapes.
(Photo from Southern Living at http://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/gardens/southern-plant-muscadines)
Elizabeth Barrow, in her blog entitled, “Papershell: Gardening Et Cetra,” at http://thepapershell.com/blackberries-or-dewberries/ details the next wild plant that grows in the Emerald Coast called the dewberry. Similar to the blackberry, dewberries are a deep purple and tend to grow in low brambles. Dewberry vines line many fields and swampy low lying areas around where I live. The berries are sweet and attract many of the local birds to my backyard.
Another fun cite to visit is Wild Floridian.com at http://www.wildfloridian.com/EdiblePlants.html. Here, a listing of all the edible wild plants that grow throughout Florida is available with links to the various plants and locations.
Anywhere you live, do not be afraid to try to integrate into your gardens some of the native plants that grow naturally in your area. No doubt you will be surprised by the results. Happy Gardening!