Here in Florida, we are known for our year-round beautiful weather, breathtaking beaches, and scenic golf courses. However, you might not know about the more delicate parts of Florida. There are over 130 endangered wildlife species including fauna and flora that call Florida their home. From panthers to sea turtles and coral reefs to mangroves, Florida hosts a number of wildlife species unique to our state. Here are a few of the most notable wildlife species in South Florida:
Fragrant Prickly Apple
Found in almost exclusively St. Lucie County, Florida, the prickly apple is listed as a federally endangered species by the United States. Although its name is apple, this plant is actually a cactus that grows in coastal hammock habitats. You can find these unique cacti at the Savannahs Preserve State Park near Port St. Lucie.
Down in Southern Florida, the Florida panther lives around swamps and pinelands and is closely related to other Southeastern species like the puma and cougar. As the official state animal, the Florida panther resides in a number of national wildlife parks and preserves including the Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
Great Florida Reef
The only living coral reef in the continental United States lies along the Southeastern coast of Florida. Beginning at the Florida Keys, the reef stretches over 170 miles up the coast and extends out four miles. The coral reef is an amazing wildlife attraction, especially for those interested in snorkeling or scuba diving. You can view the Great Florida Reef at a number of parks such as Biscayne National Park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Every year tens of thousands of loggerhead turtles nest on Florida’s coast. A majority of loggerhead nesting occurs between Brevard County and Broward County on Florida’s southeast coast. There are numerous places to view female turtle nesting including beaches in Jupiter, Stuart, and North Palm Beach. For more information on sea turtles and viewing places, visit the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission website here.