Native Plants

The Benefits of Native Plants and Flowers

Coreopsis the Florida state wildflower
Photo- Anna Sarich

Native vegetation evolved to live with the local climate, soil types, and animals. This long process brings us several gardening advantages. Native plants provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife, while contributing greatly to healthy soil and water in urban and rural areas. Native plants attract a variety of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife by providing diverse habitats and food sources.

In the U.S., approximately 20 million acres of lawn are cultivated, covering more land than any single crop. Unfortunately, there are very few benefits to native wildlife from a manicured lawn. Likewise, gardens that mostly feature non-native species of plants are often of little benefit to wildlife.

Natural landscaping is an opportunity to reestablish diverse native plants, thereby inviting the birds and butterflies back home. By creating a native plant garden, each patch of habitat becomes part of a collective effort to nurture and sustain the living landscape for birds and other animals.

A native plant garden or large planting with a diversity of trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses provides food and shelter for insects, birds, amphibians, and mammals throughout the growing season.

Leaving seed heads and plant structure throughout winter provides continuing food and shelter for many creatures and provides opportunities to observe nature up close. To underscore the importance of native plants to birds, virtually all terrestrial birds feed their young insects. Native plants provide food for insects, and insects provide food for birds. With no insects, we would have no birds.

Photo -Anna Sarich

Native wildflowers, flowering vines, shrubs, and trees offer a wide range of colors, textures and forms to create dynamic seasonal displays. Grasses and sedges have interesting flowers and seed heads and yellow–orange fall color. Shrubs and trees have fall color and berries that persist into the winter. Choosing a wide assortment of plants ensures seasonal interest, with the bonus of attracting colorful birds, butterflies and insects.

Eastern Swallowtail

Some of the many benefits of native plantings are:

  1. Save Water:
    Once established, many native plants need minimal irrigation beyond normal rainfall.
  2. Low Maintenance:
    Low maintenance landscaping methods are a natural fit with native plants that are already adapted to the local environment. Look forward to using less water, little to no fertilizer, little to no pesticides, less pruning, and less of your time.
  3. Pesticide Freedom:
    Native plants have developed their own defenses against many pests and diseases. Since most pesticides kill indiscriminately, beneficial insects become secondary targets in the fight against pests. Reducing or eliminating pesticide use lets natural pest control take over and keeps garden toxins out of our creeks and watersheds.
  4. Wildlife Viewing:
    Native plants, birds, butterflies, beneficial insects, and interesting critters are “made for each other.” Research shows that native wildlife prefers native plants.
  5. Support Local Ecology:
    As development replaces natural habitats, planting gardens, parks, and roadsides with native plantings can provide a “bridge” to nearby remaining wild lands and wetlands.

Learn more by coming back to

Native Gardening - Goffle Brook Farms

Volusia County Restrictions

Summer Water Runoff Restrictions

Here in Volusia County, summer is approaching, and we know there’s nothing quite like summer fun—so our flamingo flock is helping us take the summer off—from fertilizing, that is!  Let’s hear it directly from them: Here are the top ways to
Be Floridian Now this summer!

Read more about Volusia County’s fertilizer ban at or

1.  Skip the Fertilizer:  The first thing you can do to protect our fun, and our water quality, is to skip the fertilizer during the summer rainy season, from June 1 through September 30. Summer rain showers wash fertilizer into our waterways, causing toxic algae blooms and fish kills. Volusia County has a fertilizer ban on nitrogen and phosphorus—the first two numbers on the fertilizer bag—from June 1 through September 30. During this time, residents and lawn care companies may not apply nitrogen or phosphorus to lawns or landscape plants.

2.  Twice is Nice:  Use at least 50% slow-release nitrogen, once in the spring and once in the fall. This will carry your plants through the rainy season, without posing an extra risk to our water bodies. And don’t forget to skip the phosphorus year-round without a proven deficiency. For more information on how to read a fertilizer label, go to or

3.  Be on your Guard:  If you choose to fertilize with 50% or more slow-release fertilizer, make sure there is a deflector shield or edge guard on your fertilizer spreader so you can spread it only where you need it. If you do make a mistake, brush any stray granules back onto your landscaping. Driveways, sidewalks and streets lead to storm drains, which lead to water bodies.

4.  Get Buffer:  Keep your fertilizer at least 15 feet away from any body of water, as required by Volusia County’s fertilizer ordinance. While you’re giving your waterways some distance, why not plan for a low-maintenance buffer zone around your waterfront? Whether they’re on the bank or in the water, low-maintenance zones can include native or Florida friendly plants, which require NO fertilizer or irrigation once they are established in the right place. They can even help protect your waterway from excess fertilizer runoff.  For more information about Florida friendly plants for pond shorelines, see the UF/IFAS Extension’s webpage on the topic here:

5.  Floridify your Yard:  When the Right Plant is in the Right Place, it can reduce or eliminate your need for fertilizer and irrigation. It can also require less overall maintenance, cost less in the long-term, and benefit local wildlife. Native and Florida friendly plants can be sustainable turf alternatives. As you plan, you can call a nursery near you and ask about availability of native or Florida friendly plants. For some common native plants for Florida yards, check out these resources:

6.  Raise the Blade:  When you mow your lawn, raising the blade on your mower makes the grass that is in your landscape stronger and more capable of finding its own nutrients and water in the soil. Remember, grasses are plants, too! Mowing too short stresses the grass and makes it more vulnerable to disease and pests.  For more information about good mowing practices, visit the UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions site at

7.  Keep the Clippings:  Keep grass clippings on your landscape, because they contain nitrogen! Nitrogen can contribute to nutrient pollution if it runs off your lawn, but clippings left on your landscape will break down and feed your lawn. It’s free fertilizer! For more information about “grass-cycling,” and for recommended mowing heights, see the UF/IFAS Extension webpage on the topic:

8.  Save the Water (bill):  Only water your landscape if your plants are showing signs of stress, like if the leaves of your plants are curling, or you can see footprints in your lawn. Otherwise, keep your distance! You may be surprised to find that they might not need your help as often as you think they do, especially if you have the Right Plant in the Right Place!  IF YOU MUST water, do so efficiently. Be sure that it has not rained in a while, and that rain is not scheduled in the forecast. Keep an eye on your system, and make sure your sprinkler heads are pointing in the right direction – not watering the sidewalk!

Know your watering day/s, and know where your shut-off valve is, in case you need to get involved in the process.  See this link for more information about watering days in Volusia County:

Shared courtesy of

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails

When you see a large, showy butterfly flitting around your garden, a roadside, fields or woodsd, take a closer look. It may be an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail(Papilio glaucus), which is a native in eastern North America.  It’s at home in Florida, except the Florida Keys.  

From February to November, these butterflies feed on nectar from sturdy plants, particularly those that have “red or pink” flowers.  Look for adults with a wing span of 3.1 to 5.5 inches. Males are yellow with four black stripes on their forewings.  Females may be yellow or black.   The yellow females have a band of blue spots along their hind wings.  Black females do not have distinguishing markings, they are just dark. 

These dark females may be a species preservation mechanism as some predators will avoid them, thinking they are another form of swallowtail that is poisonous.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – Yellow

Adult Eastern Tiger Swallowtails live about a month.  They are loners and are frequently observed flying above the tree tops.   Males pursue females by frequenting areas that contain the kinds of  plants on which females prefer to lay their eggs.  To attract or tempt the females, the males  release a pheromone that encourages mating.  While courting, the butterflies engage in a ritual mating dance, fluttering their wings around each other before they land and mate.

Two to three broods may be produced each year in our area.  Trees and shrubs of the Magnoliaceae (magnolia) and  Rosaceae plant families are the favorite host plants on which the females lay their green eggs. 

As the young caterpillars develop, they are brown and white.  Then change to green with black, yellow and blue spots on the thorax. The caterpillar then goes into a resting stage, forming a chrysalis from which the butterfly will emerge

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