Identifying Florida Trees and Shrubs in My Backyard

My Florida yard is very small but I have wild growth on two sides. A vacant lot behind the house is full of trees, brush, and vines and it’s where I set up my bird feeders for the Painted Buntings. I have identified some of the growth thanks to a good site I finally found.

Searching for photos online has proven difficult because often there is no image of the leaves. The whole tree or bush is not really helpful without some up close images.

I’m adding photos from my yard to this page to help me remember what is what. I have to know what to keep and what to destroy as I clean up.

Unknown Tree or Shrub – Laurel Fig?

This plant was uncovered as I cleaned up for a small garden space in January. The leaves are widely spaced and are dark green and oval in shape. The bark is very light gray. Possibly the Laurel Fig and if so, it is an invasive tree. I was hoping this was a nice bush to save, but it seems that I may have to cut it out.

Dark green small leaves tree type?
No name for this yet.

Read, and see amazing photos, on this interesting page on Strangler figs and how the roots cause havoc.

The Brazilian Pepper Tree is an Invasive Species – Non Native

I have a group of Brazilian Pepper trees just over my lot line. During the winter months loads of red berries appear which bring robins and other birds to feed.

It is an attractive tree, but is an invasive species and not a Florida native. In fact, the trees should be destroyed when possible according to many articles I have read. This clump of trees is huge, with a large root system. It is also not on land I own but the branches arch over my yard.

  • Dahoon holly tree with red berries
  • red berries dahoon holly
  • Robin on branch of a Dahoon holly tree
  • backyard
  • Multi-trunks of the Brazilian Pepper tree

Florida Maple Trees

The Florida maple trees lose their leaves during the cooler months. This photo was taken in February. Soon new leaves will form. I saved this little tree which is growing on the edge of my property when it was covered in potato vines (see below) and unable to grow. Now this maple tree is thriving and has tripled in size.

Leafless maple tree in winter
The Maple tree loses leaves in winter

The Elderberry Shrub – Florida Native

I’ve included a new volunteer Elderberry with a photo of the larger Elderberry in the woods. The tree has pretty white clumps of flowers and dark berries during the warmer months. The berries are toxic to humans when raw, but edible when cooked. Many animals and birds can eat the berries, but I think I will pass!

  • White flowers of the Florida Elderberry
  • flowering Elderberry in woods
  • Elderberry leaves and flower head
  • Elderberry flowers
  • Florida Elderberry
  • Elderberry white flowering tree
  • Elderberry flowers

The Beautyberry – Florida Native

When I came across this stem of berry “bubbles” I took some photos not knowing what it was. The Beautyberry bush is a Florida native plant and this one is located in my backyard.

  • Long beauty berry stem with purple berry clusters
  • purple berries
  • purple beauty berry
  • purple berries

FYI: UF Plant Directory Page for Native and Non-native plants, with photos

The Annoying Potato Vine / Air Potato

There are many obnoxious and non-native vines in Florida. Most were purposely brought here for some reason and then they grew out of control. The potato vine is one. See my photos below and more photos at the UF site.

Because of the long months of agreeable weather for growing, vines can easily take over a landscape. The potato vine creates loads of potato-looking things of all sizes that become more vines. Native trees and shrubs can become smothered.

  • air potato vine leaves
  • large air potato in Florida
  • Hanging flowers on air potato vines
  • Potato vines smothering vegetation
  • Potatoes dropped along the edge of my yard
  • Florida air potatoes
  • potato vines
  • bags of air potatoes

Thorny vine – unknown

Leaves and thorny vines
Unknown vine with thorns

Pink Wood Sorrel – Clover

I call this pink wood sorrel plant a “clover” because of the leaves. I don’t know if it is a relative to clover, but it blooms with the prettiest little dark pink-purple flowers. I’ve had it pop up in my front garden bed all on it’s own, but this plant below I photographed along the shrub line out back.

It does die down and disappear, but comes back.

  • clover flowers pink wood sorrel
  • dark pink clover flowers pink sorrel
  • Flower cluster of pink wood sorrel

Elephant Ear – Non-native / considered invasive

I was surprised to see that the Elephant Ear plant is not a Florida native. I always associated it with this tropical climate, but it came from South America. An interesting note: The tubers of this plant can be eaten.

  • flower of the elephant ear plant
  • banana trees and elephant ears

Muscadine Grape Vine – Native (no photo)

The Muscadine Grape vine is not unwanted like the other vines mentioned here. It is a Florida native and grows all over the state.

Bottlebrush

Along the back of my lot an overgrown shrub border contains a couple of bottlebrush trees.

Lantana?

I photographed these little flowers without knowing what they were. Possibly they are Lantana, which is also an invasive plant here in Florida. It is listed as a non-native plant at the UF site.

  • pink flowers
  • Lantana

Unknown Flowering Vine – Probably the Invasive Japanese Honeysuckle

I took this photo of what I think was a vine with white flowers resembling the honeysuckle. I’m not sure if it is the invasive Japanese Honeysuckle or not. I will look for it again in the side yard when plants begin to flower. Unless….

I have been pulling out long vines with leaves similar to this vine. The description is that it grows over everything blocking out light and killing smaller plants, and the vines are definitely long enough to do that. Some of the vines I pulled have black berries, which can be seen in a photo at the link above. I’ve been dealing with the vines while cleaning up a space for my new backyard garden.

So not be tempted to plant this as it is a real pain to remove. It is NOT a Florida native, so choose a vine that is.

Florida invasive species Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese Honeysuckle?

In Closing

Once I began to add photos and identify the growth around my yard, I have found that many of them are invasive and unwanted. Trees, shrubs and vines are labeled “invasive” when they block out native growth by taking over spots where native things should grow.

When shopping for yard plantings look for “native” plants. I will have to remove as best I can the plants that should not be allowed to grow. The new garden area I am creating already has a small Brazilian Pepper tree which is small enough to cut down.

Once I have cleaned out the vines, I’ll look for native plants to add to the landscape.