UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail: edayen@ufl.edu 

July 19, 2006

Feature Article - for immediate release.

FYN Program Assistant Ed Ayen

Incredible Edible Native Plants of Central Florida

This is another in a series of articles written about the new area urban conservation program called Florida Yards & Neighborhoods. 

You may not realize it but some of those carefree native Florida plants and trees are edible; at least parts of them are.  So if you are thinking of replacing some of your lawn with plantings of native plants, shrubs and trees why not put in something you can eat. 

Red Mulberry fruit turn from green to red to dark purple.   Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS


Common Purslane. Photo by Roger Hamner, Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. For photos of non-native cultivated Purslane, click here.


Gallberry looks like a shrubby holly with black fruit. Photo UF/IFAS IRREC

Flowering Dogwood has many uses besides a valuable ornamental and wildlife food plant. Photo UF/IFAS Leon County

American Persimmon trees do well as a rootstock for cultivated Oriental Persimmons. Photo: Will Cook, Duke University

The Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) has edible berries that may be eaten fresh from the tree or you can make mulberry pie, sauce, jam or jelly.  The Mulberry tree is deciduous so it will lose it leaves during the winter months.  It is a medium size shade or background tree with large, rough textured, showy leaves and it fruits in the spring.  The delicious fruit also attracts birds and other wildlife. 

We usually think of Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) as a weed, but remember a “weed” is only a plant out of place.  Purslane or fatweed makes a wonderful ground cover and its’ succulent leaves and stems may be eaten raw in salads or steamed.  The flavor is said to be similar to green beans, watercress or spinach.  It has been cultivated as a vegetable, and is also grown as an ornamental

Gallberry (Ilex glabra) is an evergreen shrub whose leaves may be used to make great tea without caffeine.  Gallberry is a member of the Holly family that grows from 3 to 7 feet in height and can be used as a screening or background plant.  The showy black fruit provide food for birds in the wintertime.  To prepare the leaves for tea, dry them and then roast in an oven until golden brown.  Steep them in boiling water for two minutes and enjoy! 

The Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small tree, growing from 15 to 25 feet tall.  The tree was not used for food, however, the Indians stripped the young branches and chewed them to clean their teeth.  The juice of the twigs is useful in preserving gums.  Flowering Dogwood is a popular ornamental that does best in partial shade under pine or oak trees.  The beautiful flowers in the spring are followed by equally attractive, bright red berries in the fall.  The fruit is well liked by many birds and animals. 

The American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is a slow growing deciduous tree with delicious two inch orange fruit when fully ripe.  The tree can grow up to fifty feet in height when fully mature.  Two or more trees are necessary for pollination purposes.  Ripe persimmons are delicious eaten from the tree and can be made into puddings and cakes, while dried persimmons are like dates.  Enjoy!

The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program is being implemented through your local County Extension Service in Highlands, Okeechobee and Glades County and is partially funded from Clean Water Act Section 319 funding from the U. S. EPA through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Ed Ayen is available to address interested groups such as homeowners associations, voluntary organizations and clubs.  For further information he can be reached by calling the Highlands County Extension Service office.  If you are interested in having a Florida Friendly Yard please contact Ed Ayen at the Highlands County Extension Service office. Phone: (863)402-6540 or email: edayen@ufl.edu . His office location is 4509 George Blvd. in  Sebring, FL 33875-5837.

More information is available on  the Okeechobee web page,  http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu.  If you need additional information on Florida Friendly Yards, please email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469.  Local residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee, and visit our Okeechobee County Master Gardeners from 1 to 5 PM on Tuesday afternoons.    


Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida.  Larry A.  Arrington, Dean Last update: 08/21/2006 .  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert 


Knox, Gary,  et al.  Yard Certification Checklist.  Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Service, (1995). http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/fyn/certification.pdf 

Lofland, Billie,  et al.  Florida Yardstick Workbook. Gainesville: UF/IFAS Extension Service, (1999). http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/fyn/Florida-Yardstick-Workbook.htm