38 Florida Native Plants – Identification Guide (With Pictures)

Florida Native Plants - Identification Guide (With Pictures)

Do you want to incorporate native plants into your Florida garden? Native plants in Florida are well-suited for planting across the Sunshine State. From flowers and shrubs to vining plants and trees, these species thrive in the hot and humid conditions that define this southeastern region.

This guide to native plants in Florida will help you discover low-maintenance ground cover plants, flowering tropical shrubs, and large shade-providing trees that thrive in Florida’s abundant sunshine.

Whether you reside south of Lake Okeechobee, in central Florida between Orlando and Tampa, or in northern Florida spanning from Jacksonville to the Panhandle, these native plants offer excellent landscaping solutions.

Native Florida Flowers (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Native Florida flowers are a great way to add color, texture, and floral aromas to your garden. The good news is that there are plenty of native flowers that thrive in Florida’s subtropical and tropical climate.

Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis)

Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis)

Native to coastal areas of Florida, the beach sunflower is a fast-growing perennial with yellow sunflower-like blooms and triangular leaves. This sun-loving plant blooms from spring through fall and is perfect for beach or coastal locations throughout the sunshine state. The sprawling flowering plant also cascades over walls or is useful for edgings.

Ideal for flowering ground cover in full sun, beach sunflower thrives in USDA zones 8 to 11.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Beach sunflower is a spreading perennial plant ideal for Florida’s coastal areas with yellow flowers 3” (7.5 cm) across and deltoid leaves measuring 4” (10 cm). The ground-hugging perennial grows 1 to 2 ft. (0.3 – 0.6 m) tall and 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide.

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

The black-eyed Susan is a native wildflower of Florida, perfect for gardens and natural areas. This perennial is easily identified by its daisy-like yellow flowers growing on tall upright stems. The bright yellow petals surround a dark brown central disk. Its rough, hairy, lanceolate leaves grow on tall, upright stems measuring 3 ft. (1 m) high.

Black-eyed Susan flowers bloom throughout summer until fall from North Florida and south to Miami. They thrive in sunny outdoor spots in USDA zones 2 through 10.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Black-eyed Susan flowers are bright golden yellow, measuring 3” (7.5 cm) wide. The sparse linear leaves grow 3” to 7” (7 – 17 cm) long.

Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

Gelsemium sempervirens

Carolina jessamine is a flowering vine native to the southeastern United States. It is known for its masses of fragrant yellow trumpet-shaped flowers. Ideal for all regions of Florida, this twining evergreen climber blooms from late winter until spring and again in the fall. This showy yellow-flowering vine is perfect for covering trellises, arbors, pergolas, and chain-link fences.

Carolina jessamine flowers grow in full sun in USDA zones 7 to 10. You can prune it to grow as a flowering shrub, let it scramble over garden structures, walls, or fences, or grow as yellow-flowering ground cover in full sun.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Identifying features of native Carolina jessamine are its clusters of funnel-like butter-yellow blooms measuring 1.5” (3 cm) across and its pointed, glossy green leaves 1” to 3” (2.5 – 7.5 cm) long. The climbing vine grows 10 to 20 ft. (3 – 6 m) tall and 6 ft. (1.8 m) wide.

Climbing Aster (Symphyotrichum carolinianum)

Climbing Aster (Symphyotrichum carolinianum)

The showy climbing aster is a native vining plant in Florida that grows in full sun. The sprawling vine thrives in wet areas where its showy lavender, purple, or pink flowers decorate the banks of lakes, ponds, and streams. Climbing aster with its daisy-like flowers also attracts pollinators, bees, and other native Florida wildlife.

This purple-flowering climbing plant performs best in USDA zones 8 through 10. It is intolerant to salty wind or sea spray, so the flowers must grow well away from coastal areas in Florida.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Climbing asters grow 12 ft. (3.6 m) tall and 2 to 4 ft. (0.6 – 1.2 m) wide. The pinkish-purple ray flowers have slender petals forming a disk shape. Its small gray-green ovate leaves grow densely on the spreading stems.

Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)

Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)

Crossvine is a spectacular native Florida flower ideal for landscaping gardens in North and Central Florida. The vigorous woody vine produces vibrant clusters of trumpet-shaped blooms in shades of orange, yellow, and red. Its large leaves, colorful blossoms, and self-clinging habit make crossvine ideal for covering fences, arbors, pergolas, or unsightly garden structures.

Growing easily in the sun or partial shade, crossvine can be an ideal way to brighten up a backyard in USDA zones 6 through 9. In colder areas, the dense foliage turns reddish-purple in the fall before falling. In Central Florida, the vining plant is evergreen.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Crossvine is identified by its large orange-red clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers with up to five flowers per cluster, each measuring 2” (5 cm) long. The tendril stems grow quickly 30 to 50 ft. (9 – 15 m) long and 9 ft. (2.7 m) wide.

Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans)

Red Trumpet Creeper Vine (Campsis radicans)

The trumpet creeper is a beautiful native flowering vine for Florida gardens that adds a vibrant splash of orange and red colors to a southern landscape. Ideal for regions north of Lake Okeechobee, this long-blooming orange-flowering vine quickly covers walls, fences, trellises or spreads over bare ground. In addition, its attractive flowers, foliage, and showy bean pods give the vine huge ornamental value.

Trumpet creeper vines are easy to grow, drought tolerant, heat, and cold-resistant. The self-cling woody climber thrives in USDA zones 5 through 9, making it an ideal native Florida flower for the northern and central regions of the Sunshine State.

Florida Native Plant Identification

The trumpet creeper vine is identified by its bright orange-red trumpet-shaped flowers measuring 3” (7.5 cm) long. It also has pinnately compound leaves with seven to 11 leaflets measuring 4” (10 cm) long. The vine grows 20 to 40 ft. (6 – 9 m) tall.

Scarlet Salvia (Salvia coccinea)

tropical sage (Salvia coccinea)

Also called tropical sage, scarlet salvia is a stunning native flower that grows in Florida landscapes from the Panhandle to the Keys. This attractive vibrant crimson-flowering tender perennial has dark-green heart-shaped leaves, making these low-maintenance flowers ideal for beds and borders in subtropical landscapes.

Scarlet salvia is tolerant of drought and thrives in full sun and sandy soil. Perfect for USDA zones 8 to 11, you should give the perennial some afternoon shade in South Florida. Its long blooming period extends from June through October.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Identification features of scarlet sage are its bright red two-lipped tubular flowers growing on flowering spikes 12” (30 cm) tall. In addition, the plant has pea-green, hairy leaves with scalloped margins.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple coneflower is a sun-loving herbaceous perennial with rose-purple daisy-like flowers featuring drooping rays surrounding a spiny cone-like center. These showy blossoms grow at the top of clumping, erect stems that can form a spectacular border or back-of-the-bed planting. The attractive, hardy flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators, making them great for wildlife gardens.

Purple coneflowers grow 3 to 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall in clumps 2 ft. (0.6 m) wide. Tolerating drought, humidity, and heat, these native flowers are suitable for growing in Central and Northern Florida (USDA zones 4 to 9).

Florida Native Plant Identification

Native to Florida, purple coneflowers are identified by their radial purple, pink, or orange disk-shaped flowers containing seven to 20 linear petals. The large daisy-like blooms with a domed central disk and drooping rays measure 5” (13 cm) across.

The most common varieties are pink and purple flowers. But native echinacea plants also have white, yellow, red, and orange blooms.

Orchids Native to Florida

ghost orchid

Ghost orchid

Over 100 orchid species are native to Florida, where they thrive in the hot and humid climate. These tropical flowers are some of the most colorful and exotic flowers to grow indoors or outdoors. Here are some details on Florida’s native orchid flowers:

Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii): This rare type of orchid is only found in the wild in Collier and Hendry counties. The white-flowering tropical plant has large white petals with two long thin dangling petals.

Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis): This showy native orchid species has small flowers in green, orange, copper, and yellow colors. The plant’s name comes from the flowers looking like exotic butterflies. The cold hardy orchids grow from northern Florida and south to Miami and the Keys.

Spider Orchid (Brassia caudata): Native to southern Florida, the spider orchid has spindly flowers, slender greenish-yellow petals, and brown smudges.

Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

The Indian blanket is a tropical native flower that grows in the wilds of Florida. The vibrant, eye-catching daisy-like blooms have bright red petals with yellow tips. These long-blooming flowers provide bright color to gardens in the south from spring through fall. This short-lived perennial thrives in warm, coastal areas.

Vibrant red blooms with yellow accents grow on upright stems 1 to 2 ft. (0.3 – 0.6 m) tall. Suitable for all regions of Florida, the wildflower tolerates sun, heat, and humidity.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Indian blanket has red and yellow ray flowers with linear petals surrounding a large brownish-red center disk. The flowers measure 2” (5 cm) across, and the pointed lanceolate leaves are 3” (7.5 cm) long.

Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

Ohio Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

Ohio spiderwort is a beautiful native wildflower that is perfect for adding color to Florida gardens. The plant’s attractive features are its purple three-petaled flowers and clump-forming grass-like foliage. Although the flowers only bloom for a day, its prolific blooming means the plant has flowers for six weeks from late spring.

This herbaceous perennial thrives in Central and North Florida in USDA zones 4 to 9. The flowering plant is ideal for adding interest to any flowerbed or container garden in full sun or partial shade.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Ohio spiderwort is identified by its grass-like foliage and purple flowers. The plant’s long, narrow leaves are 6” (15 cm) long. The purple-blue flowers measure up to 3” (7.5 cm) across, with six showy yellow stamens in the center.

Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

The swamp sunflower is a stunning, native wildflower with vibrantly-colored yellow flowers that brighten any Florida garden landscape. Each daisy-like flower head has 10 to 20 golden yellow petals surrounding a dark brown center. Its long-lasting blooms make it ideal for seasonal beds, borders, or pathways.

Swamp sunflower grows best in full sun and tolerates wet soils and salty air. The flowering stems, covered with narrow, willow-like leaves, grow 5 to 8 ft. (1.5 – 2.4 m) tall and up to 4 ft. (1.2 m wide). Blooming late in the season, swamp sunflower is ideal for adding a pop of color to fall gardens in the Southeast United States.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Identification features of swamp sunflower plants are their masses of bright yellow ray flowers measuring 2” to 3” (5 – 7.5 cm), tall, sturdy stems, and slender leaves measuring 6” (15 cm) long.

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

Coral Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera sempervirens)

Coral Honeysuckle is a native Florida twining climber with clusters of slender red tubular flowers. The vining plant blooms in early spring, and the flowers persist through summer. These showy flowers give way to bright red summer berries. This honeysuckle variety is described as one of the showiest vining plants for Florida gardens.

Coral honeysuckle is a fast-growing evergreen climber for gardens in Florida north of Fort Myers and Lake Okeechobee to Jacksonville. The twining stems grow 8 to 15 ft. (2.4 – 4.5 m) tall and up to 6 ft. (1.8 m) wide. The red-flowering vine is a great choice to add a splash of color and interest to your landscape while attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. It grows in full sun or partial shade.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Coral honeysuckle’s identifying characteristics include its clusters of 2” (5 cm) red tubular flowers, bright red berries, and evergreen foliage. The twining stems are covered in small oblong blue-green leaves that stay green in warm winter climates.

Native Florida Shrubs

Native Florida shrubs are an important part of the state’s natural landscape. These sun-loving plants are perfect landscaping solutions for outdoor spaces. In addition, flowering shrubs and evergreen shrubs provide year-round color and texture to gardens in Florida. Let’s look at some of the most popular shrubs to plant in the Sunshine State.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Native to Florida, Beautyberry is an eye-catching shrub known for its magenta or bright violet berries. Beautyberry clusters of pink, white, or purple flowers grow on arching stems among large, light green leaves. This native shrub keeps its showy purple berries throughout winter after the leaves have dropped.

Beautyberry thrives in USDA zones 6 to 11, making it suitable for planting in all of Florida’s regions. The attractively rounded shrub grows 3 to 6 ft. (1 – 1.8 m) tall and wide. Landscaping uses for the shrub include a decorative screen or hedge, back of the border shrub, or specimen plant.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Beautyberry is a deciduous native shrub, identified by its arching woody branches. It has clusters of pink, white, or purple flowers, lush green foliage, and vibrant purple berries. Some beautyberry shrubs produce spectacular pure white berries.

Coontie (Zamia integrifolia)

Coontie (Zamia integrifolia)

Coontie is a type of cycad with large feather-like evergreen leaves growing in large clumps. The attractive feature of coontie is its pinnately compound large leaves growing up to 3 ft. (1 m) long, each having up to 30 pairs of slender leaflets. It is tolerant of salt air and drought, making it ideal for coastal gardens.

Coontie is unique because it’s the only cycad native to North America. This Florida plant forms a multi-branched cluster that makes it perfect for evergreen landscapes. You can grow the fern-like plant in the sun or shade as a foundation planting, low-growing hedge, or to add structure to your landscape.

Suitable for growing in all regions of Florida, apart from the Panhandle and near the Georgia border.

Florida Native Plant Identification

The identification features of coontie are its large, leathery evergreen leaves that look like palm tree leaves. The cycad has a distinctive clumping habit and grows 1 to 3 ft. (0.3 – 1 m) tall.

Florida Hobblebush (Agarista populifolia)

Florida Hobblebush (Agarista populifolia)

Florida hobblebush is a native evergreen shrub with masses of fragrant white flowers appearing in late spring and summer. The white tubular flowers contrast beautifully with green lanceolate leaves growing on arching branches. After the bell-shaped flowers finish, small round brown seed pods appear.

Also called tall fetterbush, this flowering shrub is suitable for landscaping in North and Central Florida (USDA zones 7 to 9). With its weeping habit, the large shrub grows 8 to 12 ft. (2.4 – 3.6 m) tall and up to 6 ft. (1.80 m) wide.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Florida hobblebush is a multi-stemmed, suckering shrub with eye-catching clusters of white tubular flowers and leaves resembling laurel leaves. New foliage emerges with copper red tinges before turning rich green.

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

Oakleaf hydrangea is a white-flowering deciduous shrub native to woodlands in the southeastern United States. This hydrangea shrub has several ornamental features. These include its large conical flowering blooms with four-petalled white flowers, deeply lobed leaves that turn russet in the fall, and cinnamon-brown exfoliating bark.

Oakleaf hydrangea is a hardy and versatile shrub that is easy to grow in USDA zones 5 through 9. The flowering shrub grows 6 to 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.5 m) tall and wide. Landscaping uses for the plant are as a hedge, foundation planting, screening, shrub border, or accent plant. Grow in full sun or partial shade.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Characteristics of the oakleaf hydrangea include its large cone-like creamy-white flowers, dense foliage of maple-like leaves, and striking fall colors. The magnificent flowering cones measure up to 12” (30 cm) tall.

Firebush (Hamelia patens)

Firebush (Hamelia patens)

Firebush is a beautiful, fast-growing shrub that thrives in Central and South Florida. This large native shrub produces gorgeous forking clusters of bright red or orange tubular flowers. These spectacular flowers bloom throughout the season and contrast nicely with glossy green foliage, followed by black, glossy berries in the fall.

Also called the firecracker shrub or Mexican firecracker, the sun lover is drought-tolerant in USDA zones 9 to 11. You can grow the large shrub as a flowering hedge, foundation planting, or specimen plant. It’s an ideal choice for adding displays of vibrant color to your garden or landscape all year round.

Florida Native Plant Identification

The identifying features of firebush are its bright red or orange tubular flowers measuring up to 1.5” (4 cm) long, glossy green lanceolate leaves growing 6” (15 cm) long, and clusters of black berries. The large shrub grows 2 to 15 ft. (0.6 – 4.5 m) tall and wide with an upright habit.

Chapman’s Azalea (Rhododendron chapmanii)

Chapman’s azalea (Rhododendron chapmanii)

Chapman’s azalea is the only rhododendron species native to the Sunshine State. This attractive evergreen azalea shrub grows naturally in the Panhandle and Clay county. Chapman’s azalea has an upright, erect habit with masses of showy pink flowers on display in spring. The shade-loving shrub thrives in USDA zones 7 to 9 and tolerates wetlands.

Endemic to Florida, Chapman’s azalea grows 3 to 6 ft. (1 – 1.8 m) tall and wide.

Florida Native Plant Identification

The identifying features of Chapman’s azalea are its showy pink, funnel-shaped flowers growing in clusters of 4 to 12 blooms. The five-petaled flowers measure 4” (10 cm) long.

Scarlet Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)

Hibiscus coccineus

Also called American scarlet rose mallow, this red-flowering perennial shrub is known for its crimson red flowers, palmately divided green leaves, and upright habit. Suitable for growing in all Florida regions from the Panhandle to Fort Myers, this long-blooming shrub grows 3 to 6 ft. (1 – 1.8 m) tall and 3 ft. (1 m) wide.

Scarlet hibiscus shrubs are ideal for USDA zones 6 to 9. In addition, the hibiscus shrubs are ideal for decorating shrub borders, foundation lines, or backyards with showy summer blooms.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Scarlet hibiscus is identified by its five-petaled large crimson red flowers measuring up to 3” to 5” (7.5 – 12 cm) across. The large shrub has palmately divided green leaves growing up to 8” (20 cm) long and wide.

Privet Senna (Senna ligustrina)

Privet Senna (Senna ligustrina)

Native to Southwest Florida, the privet senna evergreen shrub has outstanding bright yellow flowers and attractive foliage of lance-shaped leaves. Privet senna grows in full sun and moist, well-drained soils. The Florida shrub blooms from fall to spring and sometimes through summer—filling yards with yellow and green colors.

Privet senna grows 4 to 8 ft. (1.2 – 2.4 m) tall and 6 ft. (1.8 m) wide. The native shrub thrives in all areas of Florida south of Gainesville. It even tolerates the tropical conditions of the Florida Keys.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Privet senna is a low-maintenance landscape plant. It is identified by its five-petalled flowers growing in clusters of five to ten brightly-colored yellow blooms. After flowering, thin, 5” (12 cm) long slender seed pods appear among the dark green pinnately compound leaves.

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

Saw Palmetto Palm Tree (Serenoa repens) 

Saw palmetto is a native Florida palm with shrub-like growth. The fan-shaped evergreen palm leaves have 18 to 30 pointed segments and can grow up to 3 ft. (1 m) in diameter. The fan leaves grow on the ends of spiny petioles. In addition to evergreen foliage, this shrubby palm plant has creamy-white flowers followed by yellow berries.

Native to peninsular Florida, saw palmetto is a shrub-like palm that grows 5 to 10 ft. (1.5 – 3 m) tall and wide. Its tolerance to salt and drought makes it ideal for ground cover, mass plantings, or a security barrier in seaside and coastal landscapes.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Saw palmetto is easily identified by its characteristic fan-shaped leaves growing on thorny stems, creating a large mass of spiky evergreen foliage.

Wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa)

Wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa)

Wild coffee is a tropical shrub native to Florida. It is known for its glossy dark green evergreen leaves and brilliant red berries. The attractive ornamental feature of the shrub is its puckered leaves giving the shiny foliage a unique wavy appearance. In addition, the shrub has clusters of small whitish tubular flowers followed by shiny edible red berries.

Wild coffee shrubs are the most widely cultivated of Florida’s native shrubs. Ideally suited for the Sunshine State, the shrub thrives in USDA zones 9 to 11 and is tolerant of drought and coastal sea air. In addition, wild coffee plants are one of the few native Florida shrubs that thrive in the shade.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Wild coffee is a popular native shrub due to its large glossy green, obovate leaves measuring 6” (15 cm) long, clusters of white star-shaped flowers, and vibrant red berries. The large shrub grows 2 to 10 ft. (0.6 – 3 m) tall and 5 ft. (1.5 m) wide.

Native Florida Trees

Native Florida trees are suitable for growing in USDA zones 8 to 11 and are vital for shade, privacy, and greenery in residential landscapes. From majestic live oaks to attractive maple trees and fragrant magnolias, there is a wide variety of native trees that thrive in Florida.

Florida Maple (Acer saccharum subsp. floridanum)

Florida Maple (Acer floridanum)

The Florida maple is a large, leafy deciduous tree perfect for shade in southern states. A Florida maple tree has a rounded crown with characteristic maple leaves with three to five rounded lobes. The tree’s outstanding decorative feature is its stunning red, orange, and yellow fall colors.

Additionally, this species of maple has light gray bark, clusters of yellowish flowers, and two-singed papery seed pods. The Florida maple is a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant tree in USDA zones 6 through 9.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Identifying features of the Florida maple are its rounded crown of dense foliage, dark green leaves that turn into warm autumn shades, and light gray bark. It grows 20 to 60 ft. (6 – 18 m) tall and 25 to 40 ft. (7 – 12 m) wide.

Native Florida Pine Trees

Several species of pine trees are native to Florida. Native southeastern pines tolerate the warm, humid climate and thrive in sandy soils. Surprisingly, some native pines will perform well as far south as the Florida Keys.

Here are the identification features of four popular species of Florida pine trees:

loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)

Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)

Loblolly Pine Tree (Pinus taeda): This fast-growing pine has clusters of yellowish-green needle leaves, conical pine cones, and grayish bark. The loblolly pine grows 90 to 100 ft. (27 – 30 m) tall in USDA zones 6 to 9.

Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii)

Slash pine (Pinus elliottii)

Slash Pine Tree (Pinus elliottii): This native Florida pine thrives throughout the state, including areas south of Miami. The pine has dark green needles 5” to 11” (13 – 28 cm) long and long brown, egg-shaped cones. The pine tree grows 60 to 100 ft. (18 – 30 m) tall in USDA zones 8 to 11.

Sand Pine (Pinus Clausa)

Sand pine (Pinus Clausa)

Sand Pine (Pinus clausa): This small native coniferous tree has distinctive twisting branches, cylindrical brown pine cones, and needle leaves growing in pairs. The heat-loving native pine grows 16 to 33 ft. (5 – 10 m) tall in USDA zones 9 and 10.

Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris)

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris)

Longleaf Pine Tree (Pinus palustris): The distinctive feature of this pine tree is its exceedingly long pine needles. The tall, elegant native conifer has needle leaves 18” (45 cm) long and pine cones 10” (25 cm) long. It thrives in USDA zones 7 through 10 and grows 120 ft. (36 m) tall.

Native Florida Oak Trees

Oak trees are some of the most elegant hardwood trees to thrive in the Sunshine state. The majestic oaks are identified by their wide, spreading crowns, gray bark, and oval leaves with deep, rounded, or bristle-tipped lobes. Here are descriptions of three of the 19 oak trees native to Florida.

live oak tree (Quercus virginiana)

Live oak tree (Quercus virginiana)

Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana): This evergreen oak tree is identified by its leathery, dark green oblong leaves and egg-shaped black acorns. Southern live oaks are easily recognizable in the landscape due to their sprawling canopy and twisting branches. The live oak grows 40 to 80 ft. (12 – 24 m) tall and up to 100 ft. (30 m) wide in zones 8 to 10.

Quercus phellos

Willow oak tree, leaves and bark

Willow oak (Quercus phellos): This native Florida oak tree has long, narrow leaves, brown acorns sitting in a greenish-tan cap, and rough, gray, furrowed bark. The fast-growing willow oak tree grows 65 to 100 ft. (20 – 30 m) tall in Northern and Central Florida (USDA zones 5 to 9).

Shumard Oak Tree (Quercus shumardii)

Shumard oak tree (Quercus shumardii)

Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii): Ideal for growing in North and Central Florida, the Shumard oak has large leaves with pointed lobes, large dark-brown acorns, and reddish-brown bark. The native red oak tree grows 50 to 70 ft. (15 – 21 m) tall and up to 40 ft. (12 m) wide in USDA zones 5 to 9.

Native Florida Palm trees

The Sunshine State is home to several palm tree species. Many of these native palms are characteristic of the skylines of Miami, Naples, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa. In addition, these tropical plants thrive in coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Here are two popular varieties of native Florida palm trees:

Florida Royal Palm (Roystonea regia)

Florida Royal Palm (Roystonea regia)

Florida Royal Palm Tree (Roystonea regia): This exotic native palm has a tall, slender trunk with smooth gray bark and a huge crown of large, feathery fronds. The enormous bright green leaves grow 13 ft. (4 m) long. This palm is one of the most beautiful palm trees in the world. It grows 65 to 100 ft. (20 – 30 m) tall in zones 10 and 11.

Florida Silver Palm (Coccothrinax argentata)

Florida Silver Palm (Coccothrinax argentata)

Florida Silver Palm (Coccothrinax argentata): This small palm is native to Southern Florida and is identified by its fan-shaped leaves, white flower clusters, and purple-black palm fruits. The native palm thrives in zones 10 and 11 and grows up to 5 to 20 ft. (1.5 – 6 m) tall.

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)

Aesculus pavia red buckeye 'Splendens'

Also called the Florida buckeye, this native flowering tree is easily recognizable in spring due to its conical clusters of rich red blossoms. The small deciduous tree has large leaves consisting of five leaflets and smooth brown capsules containing one or two buckeye seeds.

Red buckeye grows 12 to 15 ft. (3.6 – 4.5 m) tall and wide. Ideal for growing in Central and Northern Florida, you can plant the small ornamental shrub-like tree as a flowering screen, hedge, or specimen tree. It thrives in USDA zones 5 to 9.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Identifying features of the red Florida buckeye include erect clusters of red tubular flowers growing 6” (15 cm) long, palmate leaves, and gray-brown bark with scaly patches.

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Cercis canadensis

Are you looking for a native flowering tree to produce masses of pink spring flowers in your Florida landscape? If so, the eastern redbud is an ideal choice. It’s famous for its stunning spring blooms that cover bare branches. After flowering, attractive heart-shaped leaves appear, followed by dangling ornamental brown seed pods.

Native to Florida, the ornamental tree, with its twisting branches, grows 20 to 30 ft. (6 – 9 m) tall with a spreading crown up to 35 ft. (10.5 m) wide. Suitable for USDA zones 4 to 9.

Florida Native Plant Identification

The eastern redbud landscaping tree is identified by its heart-shaped leaves, clusters of pink flowers, horizontally growing branches, and rounded crown.

Gumbo-Limbo Tree (Bursera simaruba)

Gumbo-Limbo Tree (Bursera simaruba)

The gumbo-limbo tree thrives in areas of Florida south of Lake Okeechobee. The tropical tree’s decorative features are its reddish bark that peels off in thin strips and white spring flowers followed by diamond-shaped red berries. An unusual feature of the tree is its turpentine aroma when the leaves are crushed.

Thriving in USDA zones 10 and 11, the gumbo-limbo tree grows 25 to 40 ft. (7.5 – 12 m) tall and up to 30 ft. (9 m) wide. Grow in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soils.

Florida Native Plant Identification

The gumbo-limbo semi-evergreen tropical tree is identified by its bronze exfoliating bark, pinnately compound leaves with three to nine leaflets, small triangular red berries, and clusters of drooping white flowers.

Southern Red Cedar (Juniperus silicicola)

Southern Red Cedar (Juniperus silicicola)

The southern red cedar is a magnificent coniferous tree with evergreen foliage consisting of soft scale-like feathery sprays. Native to Florida, the southern red cedar’s dense foliage makes it ideal as a privacy screen, windbreak, or specimen tree for southern landscapes. Additionally, the versatile tree thrives in various soil conditions.

The southern red cedar grows 30 to 45 ft. (9 – 13 m) and thrives in USDA zones 8 through 10. Its tolerance to sun, humidity, and heat makes it ideal for all areas of Florida, apart from the Florida keys.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Identifying features of the southern red cedar are its conical habit, dense evergreen foliage, scale-like sprays of needles, and reddish-brown bark.

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

One of the most attractive flowering native evergreen trees in Florida is the southern magnolia. The sun-loving tree has creamy-white fragrant, cup-shaped flowers, tough, leathery leaves, and cone-like seed pods. This long-lived, fast-growing tree is a popular ornamental and shade tree in the South and subtropical climates.

The southern magnolia thrives in USDA zones 7 to 10 and grows 60 to 80 ft. tall and up to 50 ft. wide. The low-maintenance white-flowering tree is a stunning specimen plant in the Southeast.

Florida Native Plant Identification

Identifying features of the southern magnolia tree are its pyramidal, rounded crown, glossy dark green leaves, fragrant white flowers, and cone-like seed pods. When the pods open, silky rose-red seed dangle from the tree.

Related: The Best Magnolia Trees for Florida

How to Choose Native Plants to Grow in Florida

Choosing the right native plants for your Florida garden can be challenging. Florida has humid tropical conditions and warm winters in the south. However, in the northern regions, temperatures can dip below freezing during the coldest months. Therefore choosing the correct USDA hardiness zone is crucial for front or backyard landscaping in Florida.

Other considerations when identifying the best native Florida plants include soil type, sunlight exposure, proximity to the sea, and the size of the plant. For example, small native plants are ideal for compact garden landscapes. However, salt and drought-tolerant plants may be necessary for hot, coastal regions where they deal with sea spray or dry conditions.

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