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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - August 20, 2012

From: Tallahassee, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: First flower of the year from Tallahassee FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, What is the first wildflower to bloom in the North Florida area each year? I appreciate your knowledge and attention to all the questions you are asked.

ANSWER:

We are going to teach you how to answer this question yourself. First of all, it must be quantified as  NATIVE flower because that is what the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants does. We are dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grow naturally.

First, go to our Native Plant Database. Using the Combination Search, select on Florida and Herb (herbaceous blooming plant) under Habit. Farther down the page, select January for Bloom Time. This gave us 27 results. Now, we have to figure out which of those January flowers grow in Leon County, and it gets a little tricky here. We went through that list of 27 and found three we liked. The first one we picked is Berlandiera subacaulis (Florida greeneyes). Follow the link to our webpage on this plant, scroll down to the bottom of the page to Additional Resources, and click on USDA :Find this plant in  USDA Plants.

So we did that, and got a map of the United States and Canada with the states where it is native in green (in this case, only Florida). We clicked on Florida and got a map of the state with the counties, including Leon, where it grows in green. Sure enough, there it was. So, here is our list , with links to each one's Plant Profile Map. Sometimes when you click on a green state, you don't get anything, because the USDA has not received information on that plant from Florida.

Berlandiera subacaulis (Florida greeneyes)

Eclipta prostrata (False daisy)

Helianthus debilis (Beach sunflower)

Now, if you really want to get picky, go back to the webpage on each one, and see if any of them bloom in December. If they bloom in December AND January, that may be the first bloomer. So, we did that. Shoot, all three of them bloom 12 months of the year. There probably is no precise answer to your question. When a plant blooms depends on the health of that plant, the weather and soils. You might try the Florida Native Plant Society. That is probably a question they get a lot. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Florida greeneyes
Berlandiera subacaulis

Pie plant
Eclipta prostrata

Beach sunflower
Helianthus debilis

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