Creating a Pollinator Friendly Habitat without Toxic Chemicals

Pollinators are dying because of pesticides, which is why we encourage pollinator-friendly yards. Many pesticides are toxic to bees and other beneficial organisms. The long-term effects of exposing yourself, your family, pets, and wildlife to toxic chemicals are the risk of disrupting the natural ecosystem and your health. We are all learning as we go, and below are a few wildflowers and weeds you may find while creating a pollinator-friendly landscape in your Florida yard.

New River Bougainvillea: These purple flowers have a long bloom season and rapidly grow to provide shade. It's great for creating beautiful flowering fencing.

A 2017 paper showed that this plant decreased both sex hormones: testosterone and estrogen show a possible antifertility effect. The plant has been used as fertility control among tribal people in many countries.

Turnera Ulmifolia: This flower will pop up in shrub and reach about 2 1/2 feet in height. It has dark green leaves and the flowers are bright yellow. It is often found as a weed growing on roadsides and attracts butterflies.

A study published in May 2009 where they extracted this flower and tested it for antimicrobial activity and found that it increased the antibiotic activity against methicillin-resistant MRSA.

Also known as yellow buttercups, yellow alder, sage rose, and Cuban buttercup.

Spiderwort: Native to Florida and blooms in spring with three petals that come in either white, pink, blue, or violet. This flower is not only attractive, but it is also edible. Stems and leaves can be eaten raw, and leaves can also be cooked. The leaves are mucilaginous; the "juice" can be used to soothe insect bites in the same way one would use aloe.

A 1979 study found that the stamens in a spiderwort flower can detect radiation. Low-level exposure will turn the bluish filament hairs on the stamen pink.

Emilia Fosbergii: A common lawn weed that blooms in tropical parts of the world. They can reach 2-3 feet tall and produce many flowers. When ripe they produce many dandelion-type seeds and if you allow them to go to seed you will get many more each season. These draw pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

A 2019 study analysis revealed that E. fosbergii showed the highest antioxidant capacity and exhibited promising bioactive compounds that were capable of neutralizing free radicals.

Also known as Florida tassel flower, flora's paintbrush, cupid's shaving brush, and Florida tassel flower.

White Oldfield Aster: This beautiful wildflower forms in open fields, and blooming occurs in late fall. Hundreds of flowers open simultaneously and are a magnet for pollinating insects.

Also known as frost aster, symphyotrichum pilosum, and hairy white oldfield aster.

Sword Fern: The only fern of about 100 to make the state's invasive list. It almost looks exactly like a Florida native fern. This fern can take over.

A 2008 journal tested the Nephrolepis cordifolia for nutrition content and reported that children in Nepal eat the tubers raw. You can gently pull the fern root out and look for the tuber.

A 2019 research article says that Nephrolepis exaltation can be used as a herbal mask and was previously studied by NASA because it can absorb formaldehyde, xylene, trichloroethylene, and carbon monoxide from the air.

Nephrolepis (nef-roh-LEF-iss) is Greek and means kidney-shaped scales, referring to the shape of the spoor packets on the back of the fern's leaf. Also similar are Nephrolepis, tuberous sword fern, and Nephrolepis cordifolia.

Oriental False Hawksbeard (Youngia japonica): A tasty plant that has garnered much interest from medical researchers because of its antiviral and antibacterial properties. It is considered a non-native herb and, to some, an invasive plant.

A 2004 study showed that young japonica inhibited cell growth in all cancer cell lines to various extents. It also exhibited significant anti-RSV showing that the antiviral ingredient was likely to contain phenolic compounds, including tannins by chemical tests.

It may look pretty but Latana plants are invasive in warm climates. They are classified as shrubs and the fruit is a delicacy for many birds. Known for their rounded clusters of small, brightly-colored flowers (often colors are mixed within the same cluster, creating a bio-colored effect) their foliage qualifies them as fragrant plants.

Besides being invasive, katana plants are toxic and present a danger to children and pets. The leaves can cause a rash and eating the unripe berries can be fatal.

The plant thrives in disturbed areas, nutrient-poor soil, is toxic to herbivores, produces chemicals to deter other plants from growing too close to it, entices birds to spread its seed, and will often re-grow despite attempts at removal.

Gardenias: These creamy white flowers have a strong and sweet scent. All the blossoms have a wax-like appearance and yellow tint.

Some chemicals in gardenia might reduce insulin resistance and help prevent glucose intolerance. Gardenia extract might reduce swelling, lower blood fats and cholesterol, protect the liver, and help treat viral infections.

Beauty Berry (Callicarpa Americana): This is a Florida native plant with purple fruits that attract birds and squirrels. It's a small shrub with pale lavender flowers that mature into clusters of shiny purple fruits by September.

These berries are edible but not the best-tasting. However, you can make good jelly with them by boiling and straining them, and adding sugar.

There are chemicals in the leaves that scientists are trying to replicate for mosquito repellant that may be as effective as DEET, according to the researcher with the USDA.

Wand Goldenrod (Solidago stricta): Producing small clusters of bright yellow flowers that attract butterflies and native bees.

Goldenrods are wrongly accused of causing hay fever. They bloom at the same time as the real culprits such as ragweed.

A 2019 study demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties while a 2009 study on plant extracts showed antibacterial activity. There are multiple older studies suggesting other medicinal benefits of goldenrod too.

Gaillardia: A Florida native blanket flower with bright colorful petals that bloom throughout the summer and into the fall. These flowers do good in extreme heat, sun, sandy soils, and salt.

The seed is edible and can be grounded into a powder then kneaded into seed butter. This wildflower has also been used as a tea for gastroenteritis and applied to skin disorders.

Sida Acuta: It's called wireweed because if you ever tried to pull one out of the ground it's strong.

This weed has powerful medicinal uses according to a research article done in 2011 and a study in 2016 that investigated the antimicrobial activity of alkaloids of S. acute.

Also known as common fireweed, fan petals southern sida, side ulmifolia and is in the mallow family, Malvaceae.

Bird of Paradise: This flower resembles brightly colored birds in flight. This plant produces multiple large leaves sometimes 3ft or more in length. These plants are considered poisonous and should be kept from pets and children.

Also known as strelitzia reginae or crane flower.

Erigeron Vernus: A flowering plant in the daisy family. The outer white ray petals are thin and delicate and surround by a central yellow disc. This flower attracts the attention of small pollinators and is easily grown from seed in late spring.

Plants that attract pollinators: Alyssum, Aster, Beebalm, Butterfly bush, Calendula, Cosmos, Daylily, Delphinium, Dianthus, Fennel, Globe thistle, Goldenrod, Hollyhock, Lavender, Liatris, Marigold Musk Mallow, Nasturtium, Oregano, Phlox, Purple coneflower, Queen Anne's lace, Sage, Scabiosa, Shasta daisy, Sonecrop, Verbena, Yarrow, Zinnia

Plants that attract caterpillars: Borage, Fennel, Grasses, hollyhocks, Lupine, Milkweed, Nettle, Thistle, Willow.

Plants that attract hummingbirds: Ajuga, Beebalm, Begonia, Bleeding hearts, Butterly weed, Canna, Cardinal flower, Century plant, Columbine, Coral bells (heuchera), Glossy abulia, Hollyhocks, Impatiens, Iris, Lantana, Liatris, Lily, Lupine, Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Paintbrush, Penstemon, Petunia, Phlox, Sage, Salvia, Scabiosa, Scarlet sage, Sween William, Verbena, Yucca, Zinnia.

Plants that attract bees: Allium, Aster, Basil, Beebalm, Bee plant, Bergamot, Blanket flower, Borage, Cosmos, Flax, Four o'clock, Gaillardia, Geranium, Giant hyssop, Globe thistle, Goldenrod, Helianthus, Hyssop, Joe-Pye weed, Lavender, Lupine, Majoram, Mint, Mullein, Paintbrush, Poppy, Rosemary, Sage, Skullcap, Sunflower, Thyme, Verbena, Wallflower, Wild rose, zinnia.

The medicinal uses described are based on information found in the literature. The author may not have first-hand experience with the medicinal uses they describe, and it's strongly recommended you check references and perform your own research before using this plant for the above-post purposes. Do research and consult your doctor before using any of the remedies listed on this website.

Photography by Stel Bailey |

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