Florida flora and fauna
The flora of Florida can be divided into seven distinct zones: grassy swamps, scrublands, salt marshes, savannas, hardwood forests (hammocks), flatwoods, and pinelands. While the swaying palms and orange groves define Florida’s landscape, you can also find hardwoods like cherry and apple trees. The Southern tree, the sweet magnolia is also widely found as is scrub pines and slash pines. Along the coastline, especially in the Florida Keys and Gulf coast, mangroves are commonly found with black mangroves soaring up to 50 feet in height.
In case of trees, some of the trees unique to Florida include West Indian mahogany trees and pond apple trees, which grow in swamp regions of the state. The coconut palm trees which define the state and give Florida a reputation of being a tropical vacation destination are not a native species. The true Florida palm trees are somewhat the less glamorous Sabal palm trees.
The official flower of Florida is the orange blossom. The tropical and subtropical climate of Florida ensures an abundance of blooming flowers throughout the year. Species like bougainvillea, jasmine, gardenias, birds of paradise, and oleander share space with native species such as mistletoe and the puffy-flowered sweet acacia and give Florida a naturally beautiful landscape. Orchids are also common throughout the state but cannot be collected as they are protected by law.
Florida was once home to more than 80 land mammals. Of these, the white-tailed deer, wild hog, and gray fox are still found in the wild. Other small mammals like the raccoon, eastern gray and fox squirrels, and cottontail and swamp rabbits are also very common throughout the state. Florida also has an enviable bird population. The Arctic tern makes a stop here during the annual migration between the North and South poles.
Florida is home to two unique and endangered mammal species, the Florida panther and the tiny Key deer. The bobcats, which are smaller than the panthers can be seen in the hardwood swamps and hammocks found across the state. Two mammals that you are most likely to see are armadillos and opossums.
Reptiles found in Florida include the diamondback rattler and various water snakes. Some endangered species are also found here such as the American crocodile, shortnose sturgeon, six species of sea turtle, red-cockaded woodpecker, and Florida panther.
Given that most of the state of Florida is set amidst the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Straits and Atlantic Ocean, there is no dearth of opportunities for viewing sea creatures. Dolphins are easy to spot from the shore and further out into the sea, you can see pilot whales, coral reefs and colourful tropical fish. The most famous of all sea creatures found in Florida is the West Indian manatee. These gentle ‘sea cows’ can be found throughout Florida’s waterways, and the state’s warm waters. Crystal River, on Florida’s Gulf coast is a fantastic place to see manatees in the winter while the rivers of South Florida are also home to a large number of manatees.