Natural beauty blooms at Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area
Spring is in full effect and it’s the time of year when Florida puts on a wonderful display of flowers, from the tickseed growing across the Panhandle to the firebush shrubs of south Florida. Most of us see our state’s visual bounty from the car or out our office window, or as we get in those strolls in city parks before the start of the summer heat. As Floridians we are also fortunate to enjoy a great many public lands where wildflowers and other native plants and animals thrive.
One of the best ways to see Florida’s fantastic native wildflowers is to visit a wildlife management area. In these natural areas you will find beautiful floral displays growing along dirt roads and trails or springing out of wild forests and swamps. WMAs are managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its partners with the goal of maintaining Florida’s wild lands in their natural and beautiful state.
Visitors and residents of Orange County will find stellar wildflower viewing just a short distance from East Orlando at Tosohatchee WMA in Christmas. This 30,701-acre conservation area boasts a wildflower tour where visitors can view different seasonal blooms throughout the year. Visit Tosohatchee during springtime and look for these stunning native flowers:
The yellow flowers of this perennial wildflower run up a single stalk that rises from pointed leaves found close to the ground. These plants love a good amount of water, so check for them along the edges of wetlands and flooded pine woodlands. Take some time to observe these short-lived flowers and see how many types of butterflies and bumblebees stop by!
You can’t help but notice these showy plants as they stand out in sandhills, wooded areas and along roadsides. They are called “manyflower” for a reason. Each stalk of puts out several white- or lavender-colored, tubular flowers that open into five lobes. The name “beardtongue” refers to the long fuzzy structure within the flower. You can find many pollinating insects buzzing around these flowers and will sometimes even see hummingbirds visiting them.
It’s hard to miss these bright yellow flowers with a dark center as they grow in bunches alongside highways and into pine forests. From afar you may confuse tickseed flowers with daisies but take a closer look at our state wildflower and notice the scalloped edges of its petals. Named for their tick-shaped seeds, these wildflowers attract all kinds of butterflies, including the endangered Miami blue, a butterfly that once fluttered around the Tosohatchee area and will hopefully one day return.
Largeflower rose gentian
Look closely at the center of these rose-colored flowers and you will find a surprise: the base of each petal creates a bright yellow star-like pattern outlined in red. Various bees and butterflies love these showy flowers; you might even see a golden green sweat bee paying a visit to collect pollen. These plants love moisture, so check for them near wet prairies and bogs.
These wildflowers and more bloom at Tosohatchee WMA for a good reason: Past thinning of pines and ongoing management including controlled burning help maintain open forests, allowing sunlight to reach wildflowers and other plants growing on the forest floor.
After taking the wildflower tour, make sure to check out the other recreational activities that Tosohatchee WMA has to offer. The area offers great hunting opportunities, including excellent hog, deer and turkey hunting. Anglers will enjoy the fishing platform at Lake Charlie as well as the various ponds, canals and creeks on the area. Hikers and cyclists will find unique wildlife viewing opportunities on Tosohatchee’s 60 miles of trails and unpaved roads. There is even a scenic equestrian route for horseback riders!
Looking for a great way to get familiar with Tosohatchee WMA?
Join the FWC for a unique scavenger hunt event on our extensive wildlife management area system. From May 1 to May 9, 2021, Florida WildQuest invites players of all ages to join a scavenger hunt and complete exciting missions while learning about the plants, animals and history of Florida’s wildlife management areas. Several featured wildlife management areas, including Tosohatchee WMA, will have their own specialized scavenger hunts. Visit FWC’s Florida Nature Trackers website for more information and to join in the fun!