Introduction

Florida is one of the most botanically rich areas in the United States. The number of our native plant species–over 3600–exceeds that of each of the other lower 48 states except for Texas and California. Florida has the less fortunate distinction of having a high percentage of its native flora listed as endangered, threatened, or rare. Fifty-five species are listed as endangered or threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and another 154 species are candidates for listing or are considered of management concern. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services lists 528 plant species as endangered or threatened and another 8 as commercially exploited. The Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI), as part of its mission to collect, interpret, and disseminate ecological information critical to the conservation of Florida’s biological diversity, tracks the status of 479 rare plant and lichen species.

While numerous technical guides, manuals, and “picture books” exist for different subsets of Florida’s flora–each containing information on some rare species–no single field guide to Florida’s rarest plants has been available. The Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida is the first to provide identification, habitat information, and management guidance for the rarest of Florida’s plants in a single, field-oriented volume.

In writing and producing the Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida, FNAI has drawn upon many decades of botanical research and upon the many botanical researchers who continue a centuries-long tradition of commitment to the preservation of Florida’s rare plants. This Guide is dedicated to all those botanists, past and present, professional and amateur, who have contributed so much of their time, intellect, and enthusiasm to the identification and preservation of Florida’s native plants.

The Guide is intended to increase field recognition of rare plant species, encourage awareness of their distribution and ecological significance, and provide guidance regarding management and protection of these species. We hope that the Guide will be useful to field biologists, public and private land managers, private consultants, environmental decision-makers, and public educators who will use this information in environmental planning, natural resource management, and environmental education. We also hope that readers will contact FNAI with additions (especially new county occurrences) or corrections to the information in this Guide; such information will be incorporated into FNAI’s database and into future updates to the Guide.