Footprints in the Sand - Eco Trail

Plants of Pensacola Beach

A number of flowers, shrubs, and trees grow on Pensacola Beach. In order to survive the beach environment, these plants must be able to grow in sand-friendly soils and must be tolerant of cold weather, salt and sea spray, long droughts, and constant wind and sun.

Flowering plants and shrubs on Pensacola Beach include the Indian hawthorn, lantana, rosemary, sea rocket, woody goldenrod, pennywort, and yaupon holly. The trees are primarily southern live oaks, cabbage palms, and dwarf palmettos. Pensacola Beach also features multiple species of cactus, including the century plant and prickly pear.

Indian Hawthorn

Indian hawthorn is originally from southern China and is popular in bonsai culture. Its fruit is edible when cooked and can be used to make jam. It has become a very popular plant in backyards and commercial gardens all across the United States.


Lantana is distinguished by its colorful flower clusters, called umbels. The flowers change color over time, sometimes resulting in two or three color patterns. Some species of lantana are known as Spanish Flag, a popular flower among gardeners. Some species are invasive and poisonous, and efforts have been made to control their growth in Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Beach Rosemary

Rosemary is originally from the Mediterranean. Its name is Latin for “dew of the sea,” so named because it often requires only the humidity carried by the sea breeze to live. During blooming season, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators sip nectar from its lavender flowers.

Woody Goldenrod

The relationship between goldenrod and humans varies greatly by geography. Goldenrod is a useful plant; it’s edible when cooked and can be used for making tea. In some places, goldenrod is held as a sign of good luck. In Europe, it is a prized garden subject. Many North Americans, however, consider goldenrod a weed, as it is a somewhat invasive plant that has been known to chase off native vegetation in some habitats.

Southern Live Oak

The southern live oak, so named because it remains “alive” throughout the winter while other oaks appear leafless and dead, is the most commonly found tree on Pensacola Beach and Santa Rosa Island. The tree is native to the southeastern United States and has become an iconic symbol of the Old South. The live oak’s extensive, widespread root system makes it extremely sturdy, allowing it to survive strong, sustained winds like those of a hurricane.

Sabal Palm Tree

The sabal palm, also known as the cabbage palm tree, is a popular landscape plant known for its tolerance of salt spray and cold. It is the state tree of South Carolina and Florida. Cabbage palms have good hurricane resistance but are frequently overpruned for a variety of reasons. The growing heart of new fronds, also known as the terminal bud, gives the tree its "cabbage" name, as it can be extracted as food and tastes similar to cabbage or artichoke. However, extracting the heart will kill this species of palm because the terminal bud is the only point from which the palm can grow new leaves.

Century Plant

The century plant is originally from Mexico but has been cultivated worldwide thanks to its unique appearance and low maintenance. Its name is quite the misnomer—century plants live only 10 to 30 years. It flowers only once in its life, dying soon afterward.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly pears typically grow as flat, rounded structures called cladodes that are armed with two kinds of spines: large, smooth, fixed spines and small, hair-like prickles called glochids that easily penetrate skin and detach from the plant. Prickly pears have been used for a variety of medicinal and culinary purposes. For thousands of years, Mexican natives have used them to create colonche, a powerful liquor.