Using the Field Guide

The Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida is designed to be used in the field and to be customized by each user. The 3-ring binder format and unnumbered pages allow users to arrange the species accounts in any way that is convenient: by common or scientific name, county, flower color, water management district, etc. This format will also facilitate future updates and additions to the guide.

The Guide features 200 species, including 54 federally listed species, and an additional 146 species listed as endangered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Additional information, photographs, or drawings are included in the “Related Rare Species” sections for another 40 species that are closely related to the featured species. For each species featured in the Guide, the following information is provided.

A COMMON NAME is given for the featured rare species at the top of each page. Common names are not regulated by any official botanical organization and differ from book to book, region to region, and botanist to botanist. The common names used in this guide are taken from the Florida Natural Areas Inventory database, the University of South Florida’s on-line Atlas of Vascular Plants (Wunderlin and Hansen 2000), and other sources. Common names used in the habitat section are listed with their scientific names at the end of the natural communities descriptions.

SCIENTIFIC NAMES are subject to change as new or compelling taxonomic evidence is discovered. The names used here are primarily those given in the Atlas of Vascular Plants (Wunderlin and Hansen 2000) or in A Synonymized Checklist of the Vascular Flora of the United States, Canada and Greenland (Kartesz 1994); however, any errors in applying scientific names to the plants in this guide are FNAI’s responsibility.

SYNONYMS are scientific names that have been used in the past for a species or that may be in current use in another botanical source.

FAMILY names are provided for readers who are interested in a species’ relationship to other plants. Both the technical name (usually ending with “aceae”) and a common name (in parentheses) are given.

THE FLORIDA COUNTY DISTRIBUTION MAP is designed to show the general area of the state in which the species may be encountered. Counties in which the species has been documented within the last half-century or so, either by a specimen deposited with a herbarium or by a FNAI data record, are indicated by shading. It is important to remember that a species may have been found in only one or a few locations within a county; shading of the entire county does not indicate that plants are found throughout the county. Species that occur in the Keys portion of Monroe County and not on Monroe County mainland are indicated by shading of the whole county and a note stating “Monroe Keys only.” County distribution maps may not always be completely accurate; because of the rapid pace of development in Florida, plant populations documented only a few years ago may have been destroyed. Conversely, new populations may have been found recently and are not yet documented in herbaria or known to FNAI.

FNAI RANKS indicate the global (G) and state (S) rarity of a species: 1 = critically imperiled; 2 = imperiled; 3 = rare, restricted, or otherwise vulnerable to extinction; 4 = apparently secure; 5 = demonstrably secure. For example, a species with a rank of G5/S1 is globally secure but is critically imperiled within the state of Florida. A global rank with “T” followed by a rank number indicates that the plants belong to a subspecies or variety that is imperiled, rare, etc. For more information about the ranking system, contact Florida Natural Areas Inventory at (850) 224-8207 or visit our website (

LEGAL STATUS indicates if a species is listed as endangered, threatened, or of management concern by either federal (US) or state (FL) agencies. For more information about the legal and regulatory implications of listing, contact:

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, Florida 32216, (904) 232-2580.

    National Marine Fisheries Service, 3500 Delwood Beach Road, Panama City, Florida 32408, (850) 234-5061.

    Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, 1911 S.W. 34th St., Gainesville, Florida 32614, (352) 372-3505.

WETLAND STATUS is assigned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Reed and Cruz 1997) and by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Gilbert et al. 1995). The abbreviations used here–OBL, FACW, FAC, FACU, UPL–have specific legal definitions beyond the scope of this guide. Generally speaking, OBL = obligate species that almost always occur in wetlands; FACW = facultative wetland species that usually occur in wetlands but may be found occasionally in uplands; FAC = facultative species that are as likely to occur in wetlands as uplands; UPL = upland species that almost always occur in uplands. For legal definitions of these terms and their use in wetland identification or delineation, contact:

    Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Wetland Evaluation and Delineation Section, 2600 Blairstone Road, Tallahassee, Florida 32399, (850) 488-0130. To order a copy of The Florida Wetlands Delineation Manual or The Florida Wetland Plants, and Identification Manual, contact IFAS Publications, 800-226-1764.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wetlands Inventory Center, Suite 101, Monroe Building, 9720 Executive Center Drive, St. Petersburg, Florida 33702, 727-570-5400. (

PHOTOGRAPHS of plants–whole plants in their habitats or close-ups of flowers, fruits, or leaves–are provided for each of the featured rare species. Some of the accounts include photographs of related rare species that are briefly described in the same account. Where more than one species is depicted, the scientific name is given under all of the photographs. If no name is given under the photograph, the photograph portrays the featured species whose name appears at the top of the account.

FIELD DESCRIPTIONS are written with a minimum of technical terms, and measurements are given in English rather than metric units, to encourage use of this manual by people from a wide range of backgrounds. Most of the plant characteristics mentioned are visible with the naked eye. In the few cases where a critical characteristic is minute, the use of magnification is recommended in the text; a 10x hand lens, available from book stores or nature stores, is very useful. A glossary is provided at the end of the guide for technical terms that were unavoidable in writing the description.

SIMILAR SPECIES are common plants that look like or could be confused with the featured rare species.

RELATED RARE SPECIES are species, in the same genus or family as the featured rare species, that are also rare or are listed by the State of Florida. Identifying information and sometimes a photograph or drawing are provided for some of the related rare species. In other cases where space is limited, only a short list or brief mention is made of the related species. The reader may contact FNAI or check other sources, such as Dr. Nancy Coile’s Notes on Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Plants (2000), for further information on state-listed plants not included in this guide.

HABITAT is the vegetative or natural community type where the species will most likely be observed; the terms are largely derived from FNAI’s Guide to the Natural Communities of Florida (1990). Natural community types that support the majority of Florida’s rare plants are described in the following section. Common names of plant associates are sometimes given; the scientific names for these plants are provided in the list following the natural communities section.

BEST SURVEY SEASON for most species is the flowering and fruiting time. If the plant is recognizable all year, the features to look for, such as leaves or bark, are often noted.

RANGE-WIDE DISTRIBUTION lists the states and countries where the species occurs. County distribution within Florida is shown on the map. If the species occurs only in this state, it is described as endemic to Florida. Many of Florida’s rarest plants are species that are common further north and reach their southernmost point in the Florida Panhandle, or are species widespread in the West Indies or Central America and occur in the subtropical counties of south Florida.

CONSERVATION STATUS provides an estimate of the number of plants or populations in Florida and whether these populations are protected on conservation lands.

PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT recommendations summarize the management actions needed to protect or perpetuate the species. For more detailed management recommendations or referral to experts in rare species management, contact FNAI.

REFERENCES are the sources used in preparing the species account. A full citation is provided in the Bibliography section of this guide.

LINE DRAWINGS illustrate the featured species or, in a few cases, a closely related rare species. If the drawing depicts a related rare species, that species’ scientific name is given on the drawing in italics; if the drawing is not labeled with a name, it depicts the featured species whose name appears at the top of the account. Important identifying characteristics are labeled. No scale is given on the drawings; users should refer to the measurements given in the Field Description.