7 Wild Edible Plants in Florida

Have you ever wanted to harvest the wild plants and berries in your backyard? Which ones are safe to eat?

Florida has a wide selection of edible wild plants, many of which can be found in your own backyard. Unfortunately, many people mistake these plants for weeds.

You should exercise caution when evaluating whether the plants you see in the wild are, in fact, edible. In addition, always thoroughly clean edible plants found near highways, fields, or bodies of water.

Here’s a list of edible plants that you may find growing wild in Florida. 

1. Blackberries

There are several blackberry species that are native to Florida. Blackberries are often picked from bushes found in the wild. Blackberry bushes have thorny branches and pointy and deeply serrated leaves. They also produce five tiny petals at the ends of their stems.

Blackberries normally ripen between May and June and are shiny, black, and soft to the touch. A telltale sign that the berry is fully ripe is it will be juicy, sweet, and tart.  

a branch with ripe and unripe blackberries

2. Muscadine Grapes 

Wild muscadine grapes can be found growing on vines throughout Florida. Their vines can span up to 100 feet long. This plant’s vines have leaves with dark green serrated edges. Muscadine grapevine leaves are also yellowish-green underneath.

The vine produces green flowers that bloom in late Spring, and the grapes mature in late Summer to early Fall. Muscadine grapes have a musky scent and flavor, with an acidic or slightly bitter skin. They’re translucent and come in bronze, pink, purple, and black. 

ripe and purple muscadine grapes

3. Purslane

Purslane is a nutrient-dense plant that grows in open, sunny areas such as gardens, lawns, and roadside ditches. Purslane is unique in that it has the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids of any other plant, six times the vitamin E that’s in spinach, and seven times the total beta carotene in carrots. This plant’s leaves, stalks, seeds, and flower buds are all edible and can be tart, sour, or salty.

Purslane plants are easy to identify by its thick, fleshy red stems and smooth, spatula-shaped leaves. They also grow in clumps that can be up to 20 inches wide.

purslane vines growing abundantly

4. Spiderwort 

Spiderwort is attractive and delicious. The plant’s stems and leaves are edible in their raw state, and its leaves can be cooked, brewed into tea, or added to salads and soups.

Spiderwort plants produce flowers that have three symmetrical colored petals that open at dawn and close around noon. The liquid produced by spiderwort plants can also be used to treat and soothe insect bites.

spiderwort purple wildflower

5. Swamp Cabbage 

Swamp cabbage is Florida’s official tree; it also has various edible parts. Other names for the plant include palmetto palm, sabal palm, and the swamp cabbage tree.

The plant also produces white bell-shaped flowers that open at dawn and then close. Swamp cabbage is typically eaten thinly sliced. When cooked, swamp cabbage turns from white to a brownish color and has a smoky flavor. Be advised that it is now illegal to collect this plant.

swamp cabbage in florida

6. Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto stems are between 7 and 10 feet tall and have a round canopy of large, fan-shaped leaves. The stem is coated with sharp spines and produces white clusters of flowers. This plant also produces edible olive-sized berries that turn dark brown or black when fully ripe. Unfortunately, the berries are not very tasty.

dense saw palmettos in the forest

7. Betony 

Florida betony plants belong to the mint family. It produces radish-like blooms that resemble the rattle of a rattlesnake or a large worm. The blooms can add texture to salads and tastes similar to cauliflower. It is best eaten fresh during the spring, when it is white and crisp. The bloom can also be enjoyed pickled.

The plant’s young leaves and stems can be cooked like greens or dried and used to make tea. The seeds are edible raw.

a bettony plant with a purple flower
Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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