When Ponce De Leon arrived somewhere near St. Augustine, looking for gold and the fabled Fountain of Youth, he famously named it La Florida, and an early theory to why he did so was because in 1513 (or 1512 according to some early sources) he "discovered" it on Easter Sunday, which the Spaniards called "La Pascua de las Flores" (this is certainly the earliest theory, as I have found it is written down in numerous early 16th-century texts) But another famous, and perhaps likely reason why he called it "La Florida" was because of the abundance of flowers found on that great peninsula, untouched by any "White man" (as they would have said).

According to JSTOR Daily, the theory is written as thus:

Florida “received its name from the abundance of wild flowers that flourished upon its soil.” De León arrived in the middle of spring, when Florida, now famous for its botanical beauty, was in full bloom. Smitten by the abundance of plants, flowers, and colors, the explorer might have called the land not La Pascua de las Flores, but rather La Florida—“the place of flowers.”

From a mid-16th-century text on the New World:

This lande was named Florida,* in the yere 1512. by those that first dyd discouer it: for bicause that by the sea side it was flourishing with gréene trées, and with an infinite number of ••cures of diuers & sundry colour

My question is: hypothetically speaking, what flower-species might Juan Ponce De Leon and his fellow conquistadors have found when they arrived in the lower parts of Florida (so of course St. Augustine, and then also other parts of Florida around there.) In other words, what flowers were natively growing in Florida before the Spaniards arrived in those specific areas which the early Spaniards might have seen?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

For Bounty: It would be appreciated profoundly to be given distinct details on which flowers (exact names--and if possible, the names that these flowers would have been known as during the 16th century) which would, hypothetically, have natively grown during the Springtime in the area "on the coast of Florida at a site between Saint Augustine and Melbourne Beach" (near where Ponce De Leon landed) prior to the Spaniards arriving in 1513.

Map of De Leon's 1513 journey:

enter image description here

According to this article the areas which Ponce De Leon would have first landed on were:

in April of that year landed on the coast of Florida at a site between modern Saint Augustine and Melbourne Beach.


1 Answer 1


Well, there are hundreds of species of plants native to Florida. See here for a comprehensive state-wide list. Florida is an interesting state, horticulturally speaking, because it encompasses three complete USDA hardiness zones and contains a number of different environments. This is what makes the plant list so long - what grows in the Panhandle is not necessarily likely to grow in southern Florida.

If you visit the link I included above and select the "Find Plants (or refine your last search)" link, you can select the counties that you're interested in and get a list filtered only for those counties. For example, if I select the county containing St. Augustine and those around it, I get this list. If I filter it for only pollinators, birds, bats, and butterflies, the new list shrinks just a little. I think we're still looking at at least 100 different species. Click on a plant's name to view the plant and its specifications.

You may very well be correct that Ponce de Leon named the area la Florida because of the hundreds of different types of beautiful plants that he saw.

  • Is there a way to tell which flower-species would have been more likely to have grown on the soil nearer to the shores? So in other words, flowers that flourish more abundantly near the sea-shores where De Leon might have first walked through? Thank you for your answer, I appreciate it very much so. Sep 27, 2020 at 4:21
  • 1
    If you use the tool I linked to, select only those counties along the coast. If de Leon travelled upriver, you should select the county or counties that contain/border along the river. Next, move the Moisture Range Options slider bar so that both controls are in the blue and green range (from values 1 - 8). This should give you a list of all plants that like wet, flooding, and/or consistently moist soil.
    – Jurp
    Sep 27, 2020 at 14:29
  • I hate to see the 100 bounty go to the dogs, so I would be happy to give them to you, seeing as thought no one could answer the question even with the larger bounty, if you edit your answer somewhat. Oct 14, 2020 at 22:19
  • What kind of edits did you have in mind?
    – Jurp
    Oct 14, 2020 at 23:28
  • something that I might appreciate according to the topic at hand. I have a great affection for Florida and any insight from a fellow flower and plant lover, on what flowers might have resided bear when Ponce de Leon landed in 1513, and any sites that show archaic names for flowers, which I can use later on would certainly deserve the bounty. Oct 14, 2020 at 23:37

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