City Cast

What Is An Alligator Flag?

Brooke Lewis
Posted on August 8
A bee rests on the purple bloom of an alligator flag.

An Eastern carpenter bee rests on an alligator flag. (Houston Arboretum)

Alligator Flags are more commonly spotted in Florida, but the native wetland plants can also be seen in Houston. These plants usually grow in swamps and wet ditches and bloom in the summer to fall. If you’re trying to spot them, look for large green leaves on long stalks.

Their leaves can grow up to eight inches wide and more than two and half feet long. They boast signature purple flowers and their stalks can grow up to a whopping eight feet tall. Alligators and other reptiles often use the plants as hiding spots, giving them their name.

“One of Houston’s most spectacular wetland plants is the Alligator Flag with its cluster of purple flowers on an eight-foot-tall stalk. It looks like a banner rising from the swamp – a true ‘alligator flag.’ However, the plant is really trying to flag down pollinators, especially large bees like this Eastern Carpenter Bee. It’s fun to watch the heavy bees cling for dear life to the petals as the blossoms bend under their weight,” writes Kelsey Low, Adult Programs Manager at Houston Arboretum.

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