These five plant species are endemic to Florida. You may have seen them in various parts of the state but not have realized it. We personally find the saw-grass to be the most interesting of these five plants. Its natural defenses are the scourge of all beach goers.

Cladium jamaicense

The cleverly named saw-grass is a large sedge, the dominant plant of the Everglades. It also occurs throughout the southeastern U.S. growing in fresh- and brackish-water wetlands where it provides food and shelter to water birds and other animals. Two species of Cladium exist in Florida.


From rhizomes; stems hollow, 4-10 ft. tall, 3-angled but not sharply so; leaf blades large, stiff, from the base, flat to V-shaped, relatively narrow, to 3/4 in. wide, to more than 3 ft. long, margins and underside midribs have small sharp sawteeth, inflorescence large, tall, complex, often extending several feet above the leaves, branches and branchlets numerous; spikelets light reddish brown; nutlet a tiny wrinkled ovoid.

Giant foxtail
Setaria magna

This is Giant Foxtail


Setaria magna is frequently found growing in swamps and wet, disturbed sites from the peninsula west to the central panhandle of Florida. It blooms year round and occurs almost always (estimated probability 99%) under natural conditions in wetlands.

It might first be noticed as a large spike or “foxtail” on top of a very large grass, growing in a deep ditch. Giant foxtail produces large seeds, which are valuable wildlife food.


Giant foxtail is a very large grass. Stems to 12 ft. tall, to 1 in. wide; leaf blades to 20 in. long, to 2 in. wide, usually rough to the touch; inflorescence large bushy spike, on stem tips, sometimes drooping, densely hairy, to 20 in. long; spikelets with 1 or 2 long bristles.

This is possible an rare encounter of the elusive Giant Foxtail

Yellow water lily
Nymphaea mexicana

Yellow water lily is native to Florida. It is a different species from the fragrant water lily. It sometimes occurs in other southern states (extirpated in Mississippi); but is considered a “state-level noxious weed” in California.

In Florida, yellow water lily occasionally is found in ponds, lakes, streams and rivers of the peninsula and Wakulla County. It flowers in the spring and summer.


This yellow star shaped flower has triangular petals ranging from large to small. It has a green stem that emerges from the water.

American lotus
Nelumbo lutea

The grand American lotus is an emersed native. Its leaves may be emersed above the water or floating on it. The plant can be found in muddy, shallow waters such as lake margins, or in water as deep as six feet. Two species of Nelumbo occur in Florida. American lotus can be located in California, also throughout the eastern half of US and Canada.


This large plant is very easy to identify. Its flowers are extremely large, typically six inches wide. Flowers are bright yellow with many petals and stamens. American lotus leaves are circular, and do not have a “cut”, as do water lily leaves. The lotus leaf is on a long, stiff stalk that is connected to the leaf at the very center of the leaf, umbrella-like.

Brasenia schreberi

Watershield is a floating-leaved plant, but the long leaf stalks reach all the way to the bottom where they attach to a long creeping root that is anchored in the mud. This plant is occasionally found in lakes, ponds and slow streams from the northern counties of Florida, south to the central peninsula. It prefers water up to six feet deep. There is just one species of Brasenia in Florida.


Watershield leaves are oval and shield-shaped. Its leaf stalks are attached at the centers of the leaf blades. Its submersed parts and undersides of leaves are covered with a viscous jelly-like substance. Its flowers are small, dull purple, and emerge from the water on a stalk.

Source: Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants


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