Preserving, conserving, and restoring the native plants and native plant communities of Florida.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reaching Out and Digging In for Native Pines

Amanda Ugarte, planting organizer and
Oasis High Charter School student.

On Tuesday, July 8, 2014, representatives from the Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, students from Oasis and Mariner High Schools in Cape Coral, and other volunteers planted twenty native Slash Pine trees, donated by the Florida Forest Service. The planting was arranged by Oasis High Charter School student Amanda Ugarte. These trees supplemented a prior planting in the median on Oasis Boulevard between SW 37 Street and SW 37 Terrace, where some trees from a previous planting perished. Two species of native bunch grass were also added to the median.

Students assisting with the planting on this toasty day were Alex Boesch, Christopher Byron, Sara Logan, Jillian Lucia, Anthony Morales, Branden Pearson, and Amanda Ugarte. Sara’s father, Tom Logan assisted, as did Pascha Donaldson, Martha Grattan, Russ Ringlund and Marlene Rodak.

(left to right) Martha Grattan, Coccoloba Chapter President, explains the qualities of native slash pine
trees to students Alex Boesch, Christopher Byron, Jillian Lucia, Branden Pearson and Anthony Morales.
Jillian Lucia (L) and Sara Logan (R) take turns
trying to dig a hole in the hard, rocky ground.
The planting included a lesson on the slash pine and the mycorrhizae fungus that supplements the function of its roots.  Since the tree roots are inoculated with the native fungus, the students handled the root balls very carefully. If the soil is disturbed, the mycorrhizae fungus can be removed from the roots, resulting in a slower start for the 3-gallon sized trees. Students also learned to properly plant the trees, assuring they were not planted too deeply. Then, pine straw mulch was added and the plants were watered in well. Mrs. Donaldson and Amanda Ugarte will check on the plantings through the summer and assure they are manually watered between rainfalls.

South Florida Slash Pines are often misunderstood by residents of the area. These hard yellow pines can reach heights of 80’ to 100’ tall. The durable bark is hard and scaly with plates. Slash Pines have extensive root systems with a moderate taproot. Southern Slash Pines are only found in south Florida, and the seeds propagated for these trees were likely harvested by the Florida Forest Service in nearby Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest.

A newly-planted 3-gal slash pine with pine straw mulch.
Eventually, the seeds in the pine cones of these trees will provide food for squirrels, mice, and dozens of species of songbirds. The pine needles will provide nutritious meals for moths, butterfly larvae and inchworms. Pine trees also host many native insects, which will not feed on anything else. Close inspection of the trees typically reveals “caterpillars,” which are not really caterpillars at all, but sawfly larvae, more closely related to ants, wasps, and bees, who also enjoy eating pine needles. They, in turn, are eaten voraciously by small mammals, birds, and other insects. Pine trees also provide habitat to many nesting birds.

Perhaps one of the best aspects of the slash pine is that it is self-mulching.  Once the tree is tall enough, it will start to shed enough needles to retain soil moisture and control surrounding weeds.  Plus, the lovely slash pine needles break down into nutrients and provide microbes to build healthy soil.  Once the tree is between 10 and 15 years old, it will produce a good pine cone crop about every four years.

(left to right), Amanda Ugarte, Pascha Donaldson, Anthony Morales, Branden Pearson,
Christopher Byron and Alex Boesh preparing their native flags.
At the conclusion of the planting of Oasis Boulevard median, the students added native flags to the site, indicating that the land was reclaimed for nature.

• More Florida Forest Services Slash Pine trees will be planted on Saturday, July 12 on Veterans Parkway.  This planting is being coordinated by Russ Ringlund and will enlist the help of the Cub Scouts.

This article is provided by the Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. The Society meets at Calusa Nature Center on the second Thursday of each month, between September and April, at 6:30 for socializing. Meetings start at 7 pm. All are welcome to join this friendly bunch and learn more about native plants. Visit for more information or call (239) 273-8945.

posted by Laurie Sheldon

Friday, July 11, 2014

Coccoloba Chapter @ Lowes

Back row: Mark Miller, Pat Moyer, Lowe's employee Sandra; front row: Suzy Callanan and Barbara Wallace.

This was a fun event on Saturday, July 5th from 10am-2pm at Lowe's in Estero (southwest Florida).  Coccoloba Chapter representatives, along with UF/IFAS Lee County Master Gardeners, set up a table at Lowe's on Corkscrew Road to explain the importance of native plants, low-impact landscaping, Lee County fertilizer ban, etc.

The morning started off rather busy.  The local News-Press ran an article informing readers the volunteers would be at the store to answer gardening questions.  Several customers indicated they came to Lowe's just to talk to volunteers and get information!  One man walked in with a list of questions on a small sheet of paper explaining that his wife sent him down.  When they saw the Slime Monster poster several commented they had seen the commercials and enjoyed them.  One gentleman was really happy (somewhat stunned) to see the volunteers and display in the garden center providing this type of information.  Capable volunteers on hand leapt into action providing information, handouts, advice and conversation.

1-on-1 with the Lowe's staff

Then, about 11:30, a thunderstorm rolled into the area and cleared out the garden center.  However, this gave the visiting volunteers an opportunity to chat with the Lowe's staff for awhile without interruption.  They learned that the staff really didn't understand what the fertilizer ban meant and which products their customers were allowed to use during the ban.  So, volunteers literally walked them down the fertilizer aisle to explain the numeric values and how to interpret them.  Then, they walked the soil aisle and discussed methods for using mushroom compost and Black Cow.  Of course, when everything grows like crazy in southwest Florida summer and lawns can be saturated during our wet season, the notion of adding fertilizer at all was discussed.  The volunteers felt that working directly with the staff in the garden center was a huge benefit of the day.  They were able to leave some fertilizer ordinance and slime monster brochures and promised to check into aisle signage on the fertilizer ordinance/slime monster for the employees.

Slime monster!

As the customers started returning to the garden center, the volunteers were able to discuss the importance of attracting insect pollinators to Florida yards.  Two of the three orange geiger trees they had in stock were scooped up by customers and they were not even in bloom!  (The third was in our display.)  Once customers learned about them, they wanted them and bought them.  It was also helpful to have excellent examples of alternative ground cover in the area.  The Estero medians on US-41 north of Corkscrew Road have wonderful examples of sunshine mimosa and the Florida-friendly perennial peanut.  Although not native, the scarlet milkweed was moving out the door.  The milkweed was worked into the display where volunteers were able to demonstrate the life cycle of the monarch caterpillars and butterflies.  During the event, a caterpillar even climbed from the milkweed onto the nearby clusia in the display area to eventually form a chrysalis!

Caterpillars were a bonus!

Kids coming in with parents squealed with excitement when they saw the caterpillars and butterflies.  Volunteers were able to explain the goal of the caterpillars eating the plants and the plants growing back.  City of Bonita Springs native plant coloring books, CHNEP reusable tote bags, WaterWise guides, butterfly brochures and other materials were given away.  The garden center employees were delighted to receive a WaterWise book for reference.  Volunteers showed them how to use it and the books were referred to throughout the day.  At one point, a young garden center employee named Joe rattled off the page number from memory for the orange geiger in the book!

The basis of this event was to show off what Lowe's does right and to help educate their customers on creating a balanced ecosystem on their real estate.  Along those lines, volunteers could explain ways to nurture "bugs" and micro-organisms in the soil and on the native plants. Volunteers could explain the importance of insects to the songbird population and to humans.  Homeowners learned that improperly applied fertilizers impair our waterways and cost us all money, disrupt the ecosystem, etc.  They could also learn how native plants in the landscape can be beautiful, thrive and save them money.  If Lowe's customers start to ask for native plants and are willing to buy them, hopefully Lowe's will expand their selection. 

This event was a great experience and will hopefully be repeated at this and other Lowe's stores, Home Depots and other garden centers around the area ... and throughout the state.  It was wonderful for the various organizations to work together on this outreach project.

Chapter perspective

From a Coccoloba Chapter perspective, the event was less work than a plant sale because we did not "create our own event," but were able to take advantage of a place where people were shopping for plants and gardening materials anyway.  This meant we could just show up and get to work (although we did put out a brief press release to the two local newspapers -- News-Press and Naples Daily News).  Quite frankly, this reduces the event organizer's stress level tremendously by not having to worry about making sure people show up.

Perhaps the most important aspect is that we were able to develop a relationship with this Lowe's store.   The staff seemed to love learning more information to help them do their job.  The direction of the volunteers was to help educate customers and staff while being a benefit to Lowe's.  So, if certain plants were not in stock, we simply explained that we would make a note of it and ask Lowe's to get them.  It would be rather rude to send customers elsewhere.  Also, the more native plants are "mainstream," the better the demand for ALL native plant nurseries.  Additionally, the Estero store has a resource to contact for more information or assistance.  (I already received an email thanking us from the live nursery specialist.)

Overall, from the perspective of Coccoloba Chapter and Master Gardeners, the event was a success.  Lee County Natural Resources should be ecstatic, too.  This was huge event promoting the Lee County Fertilizer Ordinance and the slime monster campaign.  (And many thanks for creating the Monster poster in time for this event.)

Demographic information was tracked, but not yet received at the time of this report.  Truly, the quantity is much less important than the quality of the contacts from this event.

Respectfully submitted,
Marlene Rodak

(Thanks to Marlene for sharing this creative outreach effort. We can't always be preaching to the same choir--we must find new audiences to become more effective. What outreach has your chapter done lately?)
Edited and posted by Ginny Stibolt

Friday, July 4, 2014

Cucumber Mosaic Virus (CMV): A Growing Problem for American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Leaf mottling, late December
Leaf mottling and wilting, late June. Photo by Tom Becker.
Defoliated stem tip with emerging new growth
Leaf mottling, Mid July mid July
Plant diseases are caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Those caused by viruses are the most difficult to diagnose. Symptoms are often quite subtle, and easily confused with nutrient deficiencies and herbicide injuries. Viral plant diseases are most often transmitted by insect vectors or by infected pruning tools. Once infected, a plant cannot be cured of diseases caused by viruses.

Results of Plant Analysis
In November 2011, American beautyberries (Callicarpa americana) exhibiting leaf distortion, mottling, and slowed growth were reported to Lee County Extension. Leaf samples were collected from the affected plants and sent to the Plant Disease Clinic at the University of Florida, Gainesville. The sample tested positive for cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) with the Agdia Immunostrip Kit (ISK 44501). Aphids were also found on the affected plants. Since the initial analysis, plant samples suspected of having CMV have been collected in Lee County from Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Sanibel and Estero.  

Cucumber Mosaic Virus
Cucumber mosaic virus has a wide host range including row crops, vegetables, fruits and herbaceous ornamentals. The aphid-transmitted virus infects plants in hundreds of plant families on nearly every continent. The virus can also be spread by seed in some hosts and by mechanical transmission. The latter includes propagation, pruning tools, and plants rubbing on other plants. Symptoms are most pronounced if the plants are infected at an early growth stage, and can include stunting, deformation, and even plant death in some hosts. 

CMV Symptoms and Transmission in American Beautyberry  
The disease is slow to progress in American beautyberry. It can persist in affected plants for several years and infected plants will continue to flower and fruit. Disease symptoms are present throughout the year. Symptoms include mottling of leaves, leaf distortion, partial defoliation, stunted growth and stem dieback. Plants with defoliated stem tips will likely produce new leaves that will eventually show symptoms of CMV infection. We have observed seedlings with CMV symptoms suggesting seed transmission. The disease is transmitted to American beautyberry by insects known as aphids. Aphids already infested with CMV feed on newly forming plant leaves. They pierce the leaves with their stylet and suck the sap from the host plant. The process deposits CMV in American beautyberry and other susceptible plants. 

Disease Management
Prevention is key when dealing with any virus pathogens. Purchase virus-free seed and healthy transplants from reputable growers. Maintain an effective aphid management program in gardens and landscapes. Remove and destroy plants that have the virus. When pruning American beautyberries, disinfect  tools before moving from one plant to the next even if the plants show no symptoms of the disease. 

Posted by Laurie Sheldon
Research c/o UF IFAS Extension, Lee County faculty, including
Stephen H. Brown, Horticulture Agent
Bonnie Farnsworth, Master Gardener
Tom Becker, Florida Yards and Neighborhood Agent

Friday, June 27, 2014

Study: Roadside Vegetation Can Provide $1.5 BILLION in Ecosystem Services

A recently released Florida Department of Transportation study conservatively estimates that roadside vegetation along the state highway system performs nearly a half-billion dollars worth of ecosystem services. The study found that value would increase to $1 billion if sustainable vegetation management practices such as reduced mowing were adopted. The value would triple to $1.5 billion if wildflower areas were incorporated into roadside landscapes. Ecosystem services include carbon sequestration, runoff prevention, and support of crop pollinators and other insects, as well as contributions to air quality, invasive species resistance and roadside aesthetics.

Native roadside wildflowers in Florida's Panhandle
The Florida Wildflower Foundation requested the Florida Department of Transportation study on behalf of the Florida Native Plant Partnership, which includes the foundation, Florida Association of Native Nurseries, Florida Native Plant Society, and Florida Wildflower Plant and Seed Growers Association.

"These findings are a significant step toward fully understanding the benefits of vegetation, including wildflowers and native plant communities, along Florida's state highways. It's clear such vegetation, which is often viewed as a financial liability, has significant value to every Floridian in terms of the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the waterways and springs we enjoy," said Lisa Roberts, Florida Wildflower Foundation executive director.

SR 47 roadside view
Research found that the $33.5 million cost of vegetation management during FDOT's 2011-12 fiscal year was more than offset by the value of carbon sequestration alone, a service that potentially could generate income for FDOT with the sale of carbon credits. The University of Florida-IFAS report, "Economic Impact of Ecosystem Services Provided by Ecologically Sustainable Roadside Right of Way Vegetation Management Practices," also concluded that FDOT could reduce its costs by 30 percent by implementing sustainable management practices, such as reduced mowing. Jeff Caster, FDOT's State Transportation Landscape Architect, suggests, “The roadsides where wildflowers occur naturally may be the best places to reduce mowing.”

FDOT manages about 186,000 roadside acres - about one-half percent of Florida’s total area.

To view the full report, visit

Press release by Lisa Roberts
Posted by Laurie Sheldon

Friday, June 20, 2014

Two Florida scrub endemics

The welcome sign for Hickory Lake Scrub.
I visited Hickory Lake Scrub, a 57-acre preserve,  in May and I loved that I found quite a number of plants that I'd never seen before. A scrub habitat is not to be rushed through.  To begin to appreciate it, you need to slow down —way down.

Besides the plants there is a rich ecosystem filled with critters.  It's fun to examine the tracks in the sandy soil to guess what has taken place.

Here are two endemic plants that I found:

Scrub morning glory (Bonamia grandiflora)

Scrub morning glory with its pale lavender flowers.

Bonamia grandiflora distribution
The scrub morning glory or lady's nightcap is obviously a member of the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae), but it belongs to a different genus than the majority of  the morning gloriesBonamia not Ipomoea. This is the only species in this genus native to the US.

It is threatened and endangered and various sources state that there are only 100 populations remaining. Most of them have been lost due to development and fire suppression. This plant is not only adapted to fire with its deep roots, but it requires the fire to clear out overhead vegetation

Isn't it gorgeous? 

For more information read the profile at The Center for Plant Conservation. It's interesting to note that "Bonamia grandiflora is fully sponsored and the primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is Bok Tower Gardens."

Hickory Lake scrub is only a few miles from Bok Tower.

 Feay's palafox (Palafoxia feayi)

Feay's palafox, a shrubby member of Asteraceae.

Palafoxia feayi distribution
The daisy family (Asteraceae)  is one of the largest plant families, but there are not many members that are shrubs or trees. The most common in Florida is the groundsel tree (Baccharis halimifolia), which most of us know, but I wasn't thinking of this family when I spotted this shrub.

The flower head doesn't have the typical petal-like ray florets, just the central disk florets, but they were so pretty. I was relieved when I eventually figured it out. I love the cool palafox name—who knew? It was named for a Spanish general who fought against Napoleon.

It is endemic to Florida, but is not listed as threatened. 

There are 3 species native to Florida, but Texas palafox (P. taxana) has only been vouchered for 1 county in the Panhandle. The coastal plain palafox (P. integrefolia) is a little more widespread: it also occurs in Georgia and is more often found in the native plant trade, but is not as shrubby as Feay's palafox. 

Read Craig Huegel's profile of Palafoxia feayi and the IRC's listing including the 37 conservation areas where it occurs.

The scrub habitat is critical

Visit the scrub conservation areas and be sure to sign the book or register your presence so managers have real numbers to report back to justify their conservation. Please let your elected representatives know that you want these habitats to be preserved and vote "Yes!" on Amendment #1 in November.

Have enjoyed your scrub today?

Written and posted by Ginny Stibolt
Photos by Ginny Stibolt

Friday, June 13, 2014

Grieving the loss of a small bit of nature in my neighborhood

By Alex Farr (Sea Oats Chapter member)

I first saw the sign on a walk around the block, on my way to the corner swamp.  "Oh, no.  This can't be good!"....flashed through my mind, and all of the horrors of the bulldozer followed that thought.  But that was in October, still not much building happening, and anyway, with all this talk of global warming, water rising, huge hurricanes, impossible insurance rates (if any insurance at all), would  make these lots a hard sell.

How hard would it be to sell these lots?

Late February---I heard that all too familiar sound of beep, beep, beep, diesel engines, swoosh, the sickening sound of trees falling.  But I was off to work, not time to investigate.  Turning down my little lane that afternoon, I was horrified to be able to see the next street over, and the condo's on the next street.  The trees and entangled growth that blocked that view were gone.  It was the site of that For Sale sign back in October!

I realized how complacency had also settled in over the 25 years I have lived in this wonderful little pocket of a neighborhood.  My home was built in 1920, built lightly on the beach as a "social club," a place for families and friends to gather for a day at the beach.  A very few small, bare bones cottages followed, clustered at the end of a dirt road, with large areas of native growth untouched.  These spaces were part of the property owned by the handful of people who had built their beach place out here.  Very little changed, some porches were enclosed, and a few conveniences added.  The dirt road was paved not too long ago, and the dunes have shifted even further inland, and the ocean began lapping at doorsteps.  Ocean front property---now it must be protected by beach "nourishment."  But with this latest intrusion, I was outraged.

Grieving the loss
And the grieving process is now ongoing.  It isn't about the loss of privacy, the more populated neighborhood, wondering what kind of junky houses might be going up.  What was lost is something that is becoming critical to our own existence.  Loss of habitat.  The homes of marsh rabbits, tortoise, snakes, hawks and song birds, frogs and toads, and those pesky raccoons and opossums, are now destroyed.  Loss of monarda, one of the best plants for our pollinators, red cedars, wax myrtles, hollies, wild blackberries, climbing asters, gallardia, dune sunflower, and various grasses...just the few I would see see from the edge of the thicket until now.  Most beach goers and new home owners aren't even aware of the variety of plants we do have growing naturally right up to the dunes.  Our new neighbors-to-be- probably never even saw those plants, and if they did, it wasn't a tidy little affair, so it wasn't significant.

The homeowner who backs up to this nightmare had discovered  the new owners live up north, the wife is on assignment in Africa, and their new "beach" house will have a nice big wall around the perimeter of the property, enclosing the cement deck of a pool in back, and parking space and garage in the front.  My hopes that maybe some native landscape would be in the picture were squashed!
While it may be too late to do much about this tragedy, and we are not politically powerful when up against the money of a developer,  we must become more vigilant.  Digging up plants?  Relocating animals?  You bet I would be there, along with a few other neighbors...if only we had gotten honest information in time to act.  Could we have started as soon as the For Sale sign appeared?  Would we need the approval of the seller, could we get it?  I don't know, but I will risk threats of trespassing charges next time.

And would a letter to the new neighbors be in order, a friendly "chat" about the benefits of our native plants, even if they are in a pot or three?  I'll let you know.
Time for a chat about the beauty of natives?

I still have too many questions.  What are yours?  And how do you feel about the continuing development in our state, especially where you live?  We can only start in our own neighborhood.  And that really does help.

~ ~ ~

Thanks Alex for sharing your story. We would love to share your native plant and native habitat stories, too. Contact us at if you have a story idea.

Story and photos by Alex Farr.
Posted by Ginny Stibolt

Saturday, May 10, 2014

FNPS conference starts on May 15th

Our conference begins on Thursday May 15th with field trips and a nature journaling workshop. If you wish to sign up, get there early.  There are still openings for some of the field trips and for the workshop. See below for the workshop details.

Elizabeth gives pointers at the 2013 conference.

Nature Journaling at the FNPS Conference!

by Elizabeth Smith
This Thursday I’m thrilled to be leading a Nature Journal Workshop for the 34th annual Florida Native Plant Conference in Ft. Myers, Florida!  Just one of the many exciting events at the 4-day event, the Nature Journal Workshop is open to 10 aspiring journal-keepers.  The workshop takes place Thursday, May 15th, from 1pm to 4pm at Florida Gulf Coast University (see conference site for exact location).  We still have spaces open!

At the workshop, you’ll learn the basics of starting a nature journal and have the opportunity to start a journal page with the art supplies provided.  Yes – a starter kit of artist-quality supplies is included in the cost of the workshop!  Each participant receives a lightweight tote bag with the FNPS logo, a 6 x 9 inch spiral-bound sketchbook, Micron Pigma ink pen, pencil, and eraser.  A small folding palette with primary colors and a medium size waterbrush rounds out the kit, along with a few other items.  You’ll also receive a handout of drawing tips to take home, a great reference for beginners and experienced artists alike to use later. 

If you’re not sure that this workshop is for you, I invite you to read some of my thoughts.  Scroll to the bottom for links and contact information.

Onsite tutoring...

Keeping a Visual Nature journal

The process of keeping a visual nature journal is a path.  It isn’t about creating a finished product or a pretty picture, but is rather a reflection of my curiosity and explorations.  Every time I sketch something, I deepen my relationship with my subject by experiencing it differently.  I ask questions and think more deeply, and get to know my subject on an intimate level.

Those of us who draw and write about the natural world carry on a long historical tradition of curiosity, exploration, and investigation.  We need not be accomplished artists – just alight with the fire of curiosity and a desire to put thoughts and observations on paper.

Our own visual journals may contain quick sketches, detailed studies, photos, maps, poetry, or scientific observations.  We might record the progress of our garden, our explorations of nearby habitats, or simply our emotional responses to the beauty and diversity of the natural world.
Here’s what I’ve discovered that makes these journals valuable to me:  my drawing and painting skills have sharpened, especially when I draw on a weekly basis.  My observation has improved – I find myself specifically seeking out details in order to capture them on the fly or to write them down later.  My knowledge base has become more dimensional; not only have I learned more, my emotional connection to nature has become more specific and I have a deeper sense of how individual parts fit into the whole.
The participants add color when they came back from sketching.
I recommend that you try to keep in mind the process, and not get over-involved with the outcome of each page.  As you practice, you’ll find your skills improving in every area.  Don’t be discouraged if you start and then stop.  When you’re ready, you’ll pick up your journal again and the words and pictures will flow onto the page.  Remember that it all “begins at the beginning” with that first step.  This is your exploration of  the natural world around you!

For more information:

FNPS Conference home:
Nature Journaling Workshop at the conference:
Contact Marlene Rodak ( or 239-273-8945) for more information on the conference and how to register for the workshop.
Contact Elizabeth Smith for more information or questions on the Nature Journal Workshop (

Photos by Ginny Stibolt
Posted by Ginny Stibolt

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Naples Botanical Garden

Children's Garden Treehouse.
Photo c/o Naples Botanical Garden.
During the upcoming Florida Native Plant Society Conference, one of the Sunday field trips is destined for the blossoming 170-acre Naples Botanical Garden (NBG; 4820 Bayshore Drive; 239-643-7275). This non-profit organization was incorporated in 1994, so staff, members, and visitors are celebrating the Garden’s 20th anniversary this year. In this spirit, NBG is currently building the impressive Eleanor and Nicholas Chabraja Visitor Center to welcome guests starting in fall 2014. Participants in this field trip can expect to pass by exciting, new construction on their way to four main locations: 1) Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden, 2) Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Caribbean Garden, 3) Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden, and 4) Mary and Stephen Byron Smith Family River of Grass.

Guaiacum sanctum. Photo c/o Naples Botanical Garden.
Your journey into the Smith Children’s Garden will begin by walking under a domed ceiling of saw palmettos (Serenoa repens). This Garden truly stands out for both its diversity of native plants and the fun, interactive design that presents them to children and adults alike. Most of the native plants in this whimsical wonderland can be found along the Wild Florida Loop Trail, which begins near spurting water fountains and winds around a rustic tree-house. Search the Duane Repp Hardwood Hammock at the top of the trail for marlberry (Ardisia escallonioides), holywood lignumvitae (Guaiacum sanctum), and white indigoberry (Randia aculeata). The trail slopes down to meet other created habitats, including shell mounds, dry grass prairie, open-water slough, and cypress dome. The last two habitats were created as homage to the Everglades and Corkscrew Swamp, respectively. Each habitat is equipped with play features to get kids up close and personal with plants.

Next up, field trip participants will embark to the Kapnick Caribbean Garden, which spotlights those plants swapped across hemispheres during the Columbian exchange. Botanical specimens native to the Caribbean and tropical Asia are planted side by side around an aquamarine Chattel House. Many visitors are surprised to discover how many Caribbean plants are also native to the Florida Keys. Challenge yourself to count the number of Florida natives in this botanical melting pot. The observant investigator can locate little strongbark (Bourreria cassinifolia), maidenberry (Crossopetalum rhacoma), spicewood (Calyptranthes pallens), and many more mixed in with Caribbean agricultural commodities. Be sure to rest in the hammocks slung between coconut palms after your count is done. Don’t miss the arid garden, which displays the endangered semaphore cactus (Opuntia corallicola) among diverse Caribbean succulents, as you move on.

Gaillardia pulchella. Photo c/o Naples Botanical Garden,
Of course, plenty of natives reside in the Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden, which strives to connect Floridians and visitors with nature. Within its expansive Wildflower Meadow, bees hum and butterflies dash between common and rare wildflowers, including Leavenworth’s tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii), wild pennyroyal (Piloblephis rigida), and button rattlesnakemaster (Eryngium yuccifolium). The meadow is encircled by cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto) studded with bromeliads (Tillandsia sp.) and coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Take a moment to sit in the limestone seating circle and observe the rainbow of colors and busy pollinators around you.

Just outside the Wildflower Meadow, discover an open air patio called Lucy’s Solstice Landing, which aligns with the setting sun on the winter solstice. Native palms, including Florida thatch palm (Thrinax radiata) and sargent’s cherry palm (Pseudophoenix sargentii), stand tall around this reflective spot. If you take a break on the benches, look out across Deep Lake, an aquatic component of NBG’s 90-acre Preserve. Other than examining lush littorals and other native plants, keep an eye out for basking alligators, swooping Ospreys, or dozens of other birds regularly observed here.

Passiflora pallens. Photo c/o Naples Botanical Garden.
The final stop on this tour will be the Mary and Stephen Byron Smith Family River of Grass, which honors and emulates the Everglades. The River of Grass is a corridor of aquatic plants that runs through the Garden like a verdant spine. Impressively, this beautiful feature in the heart of the Garden filters rainwater originally collected in the parking lot bioswales. Two boardwalks cross this filtration system, so visitors can admire Everglades palms (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii), bulltongue arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia), and other plants that thrive in mucky soil. The eastern boardwalk includes an interpretive display of some rare Everglades flora. Look for pineland passionflower (Passiflora pallens) twining through soldierwood (Colubrina elliptica) and Miami lead plant (Amorpha herbacea var. crenulata) in this easily overlooked corner of the Garden.

Strongly consider signing up for the field trip to Naples Botanical Garden if you want to learn identification of south Florida species, observe various native landscaping strategies, and enjoy a leisurely walk in beautiful surroundings. Other fantastic cultivated Gardens (i.e. Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Brazilian Garden; Marcia and L. Bates Lea Asian Garden) will be in view, although not directly part of the tour. This field trip will remain on level walkways (90% sidewalk/boardwalk; 10% shell path) with easy access to restrooms and water fountains. Total walking distance will be approximately half a mile, with plenty of opportunities to rest. We recommend that participants bring a reusable water bottle, sunscreen, hat, and rain jacket and wear good walking shoes. This Florida Native Plant Society field trip represents one of your last chances to tour Naples Botanical Garden before its four-month closure to complete construction of the new Chabraja Visitor Center.

Submitted by Andee Naccarato
Naples Botanical Garden
Department of Education and Conservation

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

F.N.P.S. 2014 Conference- Sunday Field Trips

Posted by Laurie Sheldon

The F.N.P.S. Annual Conference is less than a month away, and I'm sure that everyone is starting to get excited about the fabulous lineup of speakers. There's so much more to this event than listening to brilliant lecturers and attending the evening social events. In fact, some of the biggest draws to the Conference are the field trips! Scheduled the Thursday before the Conference begins and the Sunday after it ends, these excursions vary widely in length, difficulty, and setting and are an excellent resource for those hoping to familiarize themselves with regional flora and fauna. If you're having a hard time deciding which trip(s) you'd most enjoy, let the following blog be your guide. This year's Sunday field trips include…

This spring-fed pond at End of the Road Ranch
supports an abundance of wildlife.
Field Trip M:
End of Road Ranch Landscape Tour
This ten-acre country property, located outside of North Ft. Myers, won the FNPS Residential Landscape Award in 2012. Its design focuses on the restoration of the flatwood plant community that existed on the site prior to development. After removing numerous invasive exotics, the owner provides habitat for native wildlife within the 2.5 acres immediately surrounding the home in the form of mulched beds of native plants. The overriding style is Japanese rustic.The remaining 7.5 acres contain native slash pines, saw palmettos, and naturally occurring understory plants, including grasses, weeds and numerous wildflowers. Carolyn Moore, ranch owner and designer, and Dick Workman will guide you through this delightful landscape.

Florida panther kittens found in Okaloacoochee
Slough State Forest. Photo by FFWCC.
Field Trip N:
Okaloacoochee (OK) Slough State Forest
FWC Biologist Jean McCollum, Forester Chris Schmiege and Jim Rodwell will guide you through the State Forest’s wet and dry pine flatwoods, marshes and the slough itself. You will also get to observe some exotic species removal and replacement with native species. The Okaloacoochee Slough is a 13,382 acre pristine slough that is oriented north-south through the forest. The natural systems of the Fakahatchee Strand and Big Cypress Preserve are dependent on the water supplied by the Slough. Additionally, the Slough is one of the few places in south Florida in which the pre-Columbian landscape, north of the Everglades or Big Cypress National Preserve, can be observed.

Cayo Costa Island State Park, a pristine barrier island.
Map graphic by Laurie Sheldon.
Field Trip P:
Cayo Costa Island State Park
Cayo Costa Island is one of a very few remaining undisturbed and undeveloped barrier islands in Florida, with Calusa Indian mounds from 2000 years ago. Just west of Ft. Myers and Cape Coral, it is accessible only by boat. About nine miles long and about one mile wide, it is transected by nature trails abundant with plants native to Florida’s pine forests, oak-palm hammocks, mangrove swamps, freshwater marshes, and beaches. Margi Nanney, island resident and President of Friends of Cayo Costa and Roger Clark, former Conservation 20/20 Land Steward will be your guides through the island's extraordinary and diverse landscapes.

Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area.
Photo by David Moynahan
Field Trip Q:
Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area

This 65,000 acre management area includes pine flatwoods, hammocks, cypress stands freshwater marsh, and wet prairie. Alongside Denny Girard, Al Squires and Management Area Staff, you will be looking for spring wildflowers, primarily in the area's  hydric pine flatwoods and wet prairie. You will likely come across the beautiful false pawpaw, Deeringothamnus rugelii var. pulchellus, which is found in only Orange, Lee and Charlotte counties. The WMA's extensive use of prescribed burning has been a key component to its management. Birding fans might be interested to learn that this area is home to a large bobwhite quail population.

Wildflowers at Naples Botanical Garden.
Field Trip R:
Naples Botanical Garden
Scott Davis and Chad Washburn will bring the history and exciting future of Naples Botanical Garden to life during this walking tour of native plantings in the Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden, Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Caribbean Garden, Mary and Steven Byron Smith River of Grass, and Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden’s Wildflower Meadow. Learn how native plants function in both cultivated gardens and the award-winning stormwater treatment system at Naples Botanical Garden. This tour will remain on paved sidewalks and have easy access to water fountains and restrooms.

Edison and Ford Winter Estates.
Field Trip S:
Edison and Ford Winter Estates
No visit to southwest Florida is complete without seeing Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Debbie Hughes will lead your tour there, where, in addition to exploring the winter retreats of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, you will have the opportunity to enjoy its park like environment. Throughout the year, this National Register Historic Site, Florida Historic Landmark and Winner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Restoration Award offers visitors of all ages a chance to step back into “old Florida” and the opportunity to learn more about the world through unique historical, scientific and cultural experiences.

Over the years, staff has steadily added new native plants into the historic landscape and removed exotic pest plants that had no historical value. Thomas Edison did much plant related research which included find a species of native goldenrod that could be used as natural source of rubber. Edison’s research laboratory was restored and opened to the public last year.

A new beautiful waterfront restaurant called Pinchers has opened directly adjacent to the Estates and would be a great place to enjoy an iced tea, cold ale or seafood lunch after the tour.

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park -
Guided swamp walk. Photo by John Grinter.
Field Trip T:
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Mike Owen, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park Biologist and Dennis Giardina, Everglades Region Biologist are the ideal leaders for a field trip into Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Your swamp walk will take place within the central slough of the park. During this walk, you will encounter native orchids, bromeliads and other rare native plants.

Dubbed the "Amazon of North America," this linear 20 mile long/5 mile wide swamp forest is oriented from north to south and has been sculpted by the movement of water for thousands of years. Beneath a protective canopy of bald cypress trees flows a slow moving, shallow river or slough that is warmer than the ambient temperature in the winter and cooler in the summer. This buffers the forest interior from temperature extremes. As a result, the forest is home to a great number of rare and endangered tropical plant species.

The Fakahatchee Strand is probably one of the best examples of subtropical, strand swamp in the United States. The Strand harbors one of the largest concentrations and diversity of native orchids in North America, and supports numerous rare and endangered animal species. It is also one of the core areas of the current range of the Florida Panther. Linked hydrologically to the Everglades, the Strand is particularly important to the estuarine ecosystem of the Ten Thousand Islands area.

The Estero River Scrub Trail. Photo by Stephen Giguere.
Field Trip U:
Estero Bay Preserve State Park
Terry Cain, Lee County Land Steward and Dr. Jim Burch, Botanist at Big Cypress National Preserve, will lead you through the Estero Bay State Preserve, where you are likely to see wet flatwoods, tidal marshes, estuarine tidal swamp and sandy upland pine flatwoods. The trails can get mucky near the wet flatwoods and tidal swamp, so if you like getting dirty, this field trip if for you! There are 16 natural communities in this preserve; our goal is to see at least three out of the 8,486 acres.

Gator Hole Preserve contains relocated
Gopher Tortoises and much more.
Field Trip V:
Gator Hole Preserve
Conservation 20/20 has generously provided us with 3 pickup trucks to tour this site, which is normally off limits to the general public. GHP boasts a species list of over 250 plants and 150 animals, so there will be plenty to see! Management activities at the Preserve were done to accommodate gopher tortoises that needed to be relocated for a number of county projects. Restoration activities have included invasive exotic plant removal, roller chopping and mowing of palmetto, pine tree thinning and prescribed burning. The entire Preserve has been fenced with buried chain link fence to prevent relocated tortoises from attempting to return to their previous locations and out onto the adjacent Road.

The majority of the Preserve contains mesic flatwoods (also called pine flatwoods and pine savannahs). Mesic flatwoods occur on relatively flat, moderately to poorly drained soils. Standing water is common for brief periods during the rainy season. This community is characterized as having an open canopy with widely spaced pine trees and a dense ground cover of herbs and shrubs. Typical plants growing in these communities at GHP include south Florida slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa), saw palmetto, chalky bluestem, crowpoison (Nothoscordum bivalve), and tall elephantsfoot (Elephantopus elatus). In addition, two dome swamps are located centrally within the Preserve. Laura Jewell, Lee County Land Steward, and Mick Curtis will be your guides at this unique and seldom-seen Preserve.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

F.N.P.S. 2014 Conference - Thursday Field Trips

Posted by Laurie Sheldon

The F.N.P.S. Annual Conference is less than a month away, and I'm sure that everyone is starting to get excited about the fabulous lineup of speakers. There's so much more to this event than listening to brilliant lecturers and attending the evening social events. In fact, some of the biggest draws to the Conference are the field trips! Scheduled the Thursday before the Conference begins and the Sunday after it ends, these excursions vary widely in length, difficulty, and setting and are an excellent resource for those hoping to familiarize themselves with regional flora and fauna. If you're having a hard time deciding which trip(s) you'd most enjoy, let the following blog be your guide. This year's Thursday field trips include…

Observation tower at CREW
Field Trip A:
CREW Marsh
Roger Hammer, noted author, and Deb Hanson, CREW Education Specialist, will lead you through CREW - the largest intact watershed in southwest Florida - which straddles Lee and Collier County. CREW’s majestic 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh is the headwaters for the entire watershed (which includes the National Audubon Society’s famous Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary).

Mound House Director Theresa Schober inspects
shell layers of a Calusa Indian mound
Field Trip B:
Mound House, Ft Myers Beach
Experience old Florida at Mound House where Estero Island's oldest standing structure sits on an ancient Calusa Indian Mound. Parke Lewis and Penny Jarrett will be your guides at this incredible site, where 2,000 years of island life are revealed through archaeology and history. The William H. Case House, also on the property, is currently being restored to its 1921 grandeur. 

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) at Six Mile Slough
Field Trip C:
Six Mile Cypress Slough
Mick Curtis and other park experts will take you through the Six Mile Cypress Slough (pronounced “slew”), which covers over 3,400 acres of wetland in Fort Myers, Florida, and measures approximately 11 miles long and 1/3 mile wide. This linear ecosystem is home to a diverse population of plants and animals, including a few considered to be endangered. A natural drainage-way, the Slough collects runoff water from a 33-square-mile watershed area during periods of heavy or prolonged rainfall. During the wet season (June through October), a depth of 2 to 3 feet of water transforms the Slough into a wide, shallow stream which empties into the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve.

HCMP - Gorgeous!
Field Trip D:
Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park
At the Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park (HCMP), a mosaic of pine flatwoods, hydric hammocks, cypress swamps, freshwater marshes, temperate hardwood hammocks, riparian wetlands, inland ponds, mixed wetland forests, xeric oak, and scrubby pine flatwoods awaits you, with Annisa Karim, Senior Supervisor, Lee County Parks and Recreation, and noted author Walter Kingsley Taylor as your guides. HCMP encompasses 862 acres and is co-managed by the Lee County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Park contains both human altered and natural land forms. Hickey’s Creek, a tributary of the Caloosahatchee River, meanders through the site and provides it with both permanent aquatic habitat and scenic beauty. The area has been identified by the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, Lee County, and the FWC as a “riverine corridor” on wildlife habitat protection planning maps. Listed species it offers refuge for include the Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corals couperi), and gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). See this blog for more about what you may discover on this trip.

Field Trip E:
Canoe trip with Native Species
Dr. Douglass, Dr. Bovard and Dana Moller will lead you as you explore the estuarine ecology of Southwest Florida’s mangrove forests and seagrasses by snorkeling* and canoeing Fish Trap Bay. Your journey will begin at Vester Field Station, just 12 miles from the Florida Gulf Coast University campus. Located on Little Hickory Island, where the Imperial River empties into Estero Bay, the property was once a commercial fish house, then an old Florida-style resort. Today, the space holds the Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field Station where researchers, students and other organizations come to learn from extremely diverse and interconnected coastal plant species and animals.
*Snorkeling equipment not provided

Mangroves & signage at Matanzas Pass
Field Trip F:
Barrier Island Tour
Dr. Tonya Clayton, noted author of How to Read a Gulf Coast Beach, Terry Cain, Lee County Land Steward, and Jim Rodwell, Master Naturalist, will lead you on a tour of Matanzas Pass Preserve and Lovers Key Beach (a.k.a. Carl E. Johnson State Park). The first part of the trip will take place at the Preserve, where you will pass through a classic maritime forest, into a mangrove swamp, out to Estero Bay, then return to your starting point through black and white mangrove swamps. This will give you the opportunity to see what the bay sides of the tropical gulf coast barrier islands were like prior to development. You will also learn about the importance of barrier islands and their different ecosystems.

Part two of the trip will be located at Lovers Key Park, which contains two of Florida’s younger islands. There you’ll see specialized plants adapted to life at the ocean’s edge and consider how these unique plants shape the landscape. You’ll discover how barrier islands and beaches formed and evolved, study features such as sand dunes and overwash terraces, and discuss issues including coastal change and conservation, ecological succession and restoration.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a haven for
birders and native plant enthusiasts alike.
Field Trip G:
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Maureen Bonness, Botanist and Corkscrew Swamp Volunteer and Sally Stein, Director of Public Programs for Corkscrew Swamp will lead you through this fabulous Sanctuary, a 13,000 acre preserve in northern Collier County that is owned and managed by the National Audubon Society and contains the largest stand of old growth bald cypress forest left in the world. It is a designated National Natural Landmark, an Important Bird Area, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, and the gateway to the South Florida Birding Trail. On this field trip you will hike into the heart of the ancient forest and learn about this rare habitat, its ancient trees, and some of the other plants and wildlife that depend on this ecosystem. You’ll begin in upland pine flatwoods and follow a fire-break road “downhill” into the cypress where the trail becomes an infrequently traveled narrow foot path amongst wide-bodied centuries-old cypress.

Field Trip H:
Royal Palm Hammock
Dr. George Wilder, Botanist and Herbarium Curator at the Naples Botanical Garden and his assistant will guide you through Royal Palm Hammock, which is situated within Collier-Seminole State Park – one of the finest remaining natural areas of Collier County. One of the Hammock’s most notable features is its abundant native royal palm population. You will explore, in considerable botanical detail, the plant species inhabiting this hammock and associated mangrove vegetation. Emphasis will be placed on woody plants and on the morphological feature utilized for species identification.

Above: Randell Research Center trail
Below: Sunset view at the Tarpon Lodge
Field Trip I:
Little Pine, Research Ctr. & more
With Kevin Erwin, Kris Bowman, Dick Anderson of Mariner Properties, and Dick Workman as your guides and trusty drivers, this day-long field trip can’t be beat. Sit back and enjoy your coffee as you’re chauffeured to Little Pine Island Wetland Restoration and Mitigation Bank for a morning-long tour, including a two-mile hike through high marsh and salt flats. The property, managed by a public-private partnership between the State of Florida and Mariner Properties Development, Inc., of Fort Myers, is situated within the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve on the southwest coast of Florida. It represents over 4,700 acres of unique wetland ecosystem. Take a virtual tour of the site here.

Following a lunch break, you’ll be whisked away to Randell Research Center in Pineland, where you’ll tour the Calusa shell-midden native plants and introduced species associated with aboriginal mound upland habitats. Your return trip will include a stop for some “old world charm” - a cold glass of iced tea or lemonade (cocktails on your own) while taking in the panoramic waterfront views at the historic Tarpon Lodge (est’d 1926) on Pine Island Florida. Finally, you’ll be shuttled back to campus, exhausted from a long day, but diy with excitement about all you learned and saw.

Skyblue lupine (Lupinus diffusus) is one of the species
you may come across in scrubby flatwoods.
Field Trip J:
Rookery Bay/Conservancy Scrubby Flatwoods
Glen Stacell, co-author of A Guide to Native Wildflowers of Southwest Florida, and Dr. Jim Burch, Botanist at Big Cypress National Preserve and local expert will lead you on a two-hour exploration of a remnant scrub community left over from the Wisconsin Ice Age (when most of South Florida was an Oak Scrub Savanna). Although Florida’s endemic Scrub Jay no longer lives here, Florida Panthers  frequent the area due to a healthy deer population - exciting! Further, you will definitely see evidence of active Gopher Tortoise activity.

These trips fill up quickly! Register today to ensure that you make the most of your conference experience. Check back with our blog next week, when we'll give you the run-down of Sunday field trips.