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


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Gallus Quigley: A Subdivision Apart

Minneola, Florida, resident Gallus Quigley has gone native - and he’s persuaded his whole neighborhood to join him. Like many people, Quigley lives in a subdivision. The landscaping in such communities usually isn’t very enticing to birds, but Quigley wanted to change things up when he bought his home in October 2009. He envisioned a wildlife refuge of native plants.

The problem was how to get his neighbors to go along with it. Quigley became involved in the homeowners’ association that governed the subdivision, was elected secretary, and fnally persuaded the association to embrace native plants for future landscaping. It took more than two years of work, and it helped that Quigley could show other homeowners how he had successfully landscaped his own yard with native plants.

“Seeing something new makes it less scary,” he says.

Quigley explained to the other homeowners the benefts of native plants, such as less water use, lower maintenance costs, and more pollinators for vegetable gardens.

“The best part is that now the community has a unique entrance,” he says. “It isn’t like every other subdivision in the area.”

After some back-and-forth, Gallus Quigley convinced his
homeowner’s association to embrace native plants. Photo © Gallus Quigley
Quigley’s experience shows how one individual can change a whole community, one yard at a time. He says: “You just need to invest a little time and passion into it.”
Gallus Quigley works for Lake County as a land steward

Article from the May “Conservation and Community” issue of American Birding Association magazine; reprinted with permission

posted by Laurie Sheldon

Monday, February 23, 2015

Flagler Library Embraces Native Landscape

By Joan Bausch
Florida Native Plant Society
Martin County Chapter

A hearty "good job" to the Flagler Beach Library community and director, Ruth Young, for their initiative to subtract lawn and add Florida native plants at the library on 7th Street  (just west of A1A,  south of Route 100). Their efforts are noticed and welcome. Thank you Ruth and your collaborators!

Visiting in Flagler Beach in December, I found that the library there had installed some really nice natives to kick off of their goal of eliminating "lawn" care. I reached out Sonya Guidry, Paw paw Chapter Rep, and eventually recieved an email from Ruth Young, Library Director.

“With funds from our annual book sale, and the help of two special people, a local man who likes not to be recognized, Art Woosley, and MaryLou Baiata (now deceased), a local landscape business owner, this vision became a reality. Art did most of the work, with a little help from a few others. MaryLou was generous with her expertise and discounted prices on trees, plants and mulch. This was definitely a project of lots of labor and love. Please stop in if you are in the area sometime. Sincerely, Ruth Young, Director”

Sonya responded “...sounds as though we should make Flagler Beach Library part of a Flagler area Landscape tour.  Thanks for plugging a good deed well done!"

When you visit Flagler Beach, take a walk out along the natural Betty Steflick Memorial walkway that leads directly from the library to the greenway along the Intracoastal Waterway. You'll be delighted with this lovely natural area!
posted by Laurie Sheldon

Monday, February 2, 2015

Meet the New Officers of The Villages Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society!

By Karina Veaudry

New Villages Chapter Officers!
Inaugural Meeting

On Friday, January 30th, Steve Turnipseed, inaugural President, led The Villages Chapter inaugural meeting.  Steve had signed up interested persons through website and newspaper publicity ads and we were expecting 30 to 40 people.  By the start of the meeting, 162 people had filed in and we scrambled to set up enough chairs.  It was standing room only!  Within the first 15 minutes, a VP of Programs, VP of Field Trips, Secretary, Treasurer and Chapter Representative were confirmed.  Steve is a strong leader with excellent communication skills.  He has already given tasks and they are on their way to opening a bank account, etc. – and they have the next 4 months speakers recommended and are lining them up.  This chapter will be very successful.

I talked about the history of the FNPS, its mission, typical chapter meeting format, chapter initiatives, field trips, membership dues format, conference information, existing committees and their work, our research and conservation grants, landscape awards, etc.  Nancy Dwyer, President of the Sumter County chapter sent well wishes and Taryn Evans of the Marion Big Scrub Chapter attended the meeting and delivered a greeting and short presentation.

Not only did were officers and members secured, the new chapter had its first program with two speakers. The crowd was both energetic and enthusiastic.

New Memberships

150 membership forms were passed out.   We should expect the new membership forms to start arriving (online and mail-in paper form).  Steve has directed the Officers to join online so that he can record their membership number on the Chapter Approval Form and get it turned in before the BOD meeting on Saturday.  He will submit that form with the names and contact information of all the officers to the appropriate statewide officers and administrators by Friday, February 6th.

The house was packed!

Moving Forward

Devon Higginbotham, Kim Zarillo and Jonnie Spitler (State Finance and Treasury Officers) have already contacted the new chapter leaders and introduced themselves and will be assisting them in 501c3 (or not) set up. Anne Cox, FNPS President, will be attending a meeting within the next several months.

Steve Turnipseed, Villages Chapter President, and Susan, his wife, may be at the B.O.D. retreat at Archbold next weekend.  Please make sure to meet and greet them!


posted by Laurie Sheldon

Thursday, December 18, 2014

FNPS Annual Fund Drive

Live Oak seedling
By Devon Higgenbotham

Have you ever planted a young Live Oak or Hickory knowing you might never it see reach maturity?
In this age of instant gratification, too often we want results today, but in 1980 the founders of the Florida Native Plant Society had the foresight to start an organization that would outlive them.
"Too old to plant trees for my own gratification I shall do it for posterity."
said Thomas Jefferson, age 83.
The Florida Native Plant Society was started by individuals that were looking into the future and planning for an organization that would grow and provide benefits to all Floridians for many years.  We have been handed the benefits of their foresight, the full grown shade tree that was planted years ago, perhaps before we were around.

We in turn have the responsibility to nurture this organization for the generations that will come after us, keep it healthy and leave it stronger than when we found it. 

This is the time of year for our Annual Fund Drive which provides vital resources for outreach, conservation awards, education, land management and the continuation of our promotion of Florida native plants.  Help us to grow!

Please respond generously to the Annual fund Drive.  Your donation will ensure future generations will enjoy a stronger, more vibrant FNPS.  Do it for posterity!

Mature Live Oak

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Helen Roth: Amazing Florida Land Steward

By Arlo H. Kane, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Welcome to Spring Canyon LLC in Gadsden County, a 100-acre property owned by Helen and Tom Roth. This beautiful property is home to steephead ravines and longleaf pine-wire grass sandhills. Helen has traced the history of the property through property records and aerial photographs back to 1926 near the end of the turpentine era. In 1960, the land was donated to the First Baptist Church of Greensboro. The church put in a dam on Crooked Creek to create a small lake in the center of the property. Fire was excluded from the uplands during their ownership. Helen’s brother, Mark Bane, bought the property in 1993 and began working with the Forest Stewardship Program in 1994. He harvested the hardwoods from two of the three upland areas and applied prescribed fire to one of the areas be- fore he passed away in 2005 and the property passed to Mark and Helen’s father.

Helen Roth, owner and manager of Spring Canyon
In 2008, Helen and Tom purchased the land from her father and entered the Forest Stewardship Program. At that time, the one upland area that had been cleared and burned was in good shape and so it became Helen’s reference area for what the rest of the uplands should look like. In the areas that had been cleared but not burned, natural regeneration of longleaf pine had occurred, but the encroaching hardwoods were head high. Helen was able to get a contractor to come in and conduct a prescribed burn in 2011. She quickly learned that the fire helped control small hardwood saplings that were invading the uplands, but it did not control the larger hardwoods enough to open up the habitat.

Before the brush clearing project
Helen’s goal for the property is to restore and maintain the longleaf pine-wiregrass uplands that will ultimately maintain healthy steephead ravines and provide good wildlife habitat. In 2012, Helen entered the Working Lands for Wildlife Program operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Working Lands for Wildlife Program is focused on creating and restoring habitat for gopher tortoises. Helen was awarded a contract for 26.5 acres of brush management and prescribed burning. The upland sandhills were divided into 3 treatment areas and work on clearing brush and trees up to 6 inches in diameter began in the summer of 2013. Using a battery operated chainsaw, she and a volunteer cleared the first 8.5 acres by October of that year. By January 2014, they had cleared another 14 acres. In March 2014, the first burn on the three upland areas was conducted and Helen became a certified prescribed burn manager. The final 4 acres of brush management was finished in August 2014.

Since the completion of the brush management, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of gopher tortoises and fox squirrels using the property. New burrows are appearing and inactive burrows are being re-activated. The endangered Gholson's Gayfeather (Liatris gholsonii) is one of many wildflowers exploding across the now open sandhill habitat, and the wiregrass has begun to recover after years of excessive shade and fire exclusion. To say the transformation has been spectacular is an understatement. One has to see the property to believe the change.

After the brush clearing
Helen loves to use the property to educate other landowners and those interested in Florida’s natural areas. Over the years she has led tours for the Florida Native Plant Society and the North American Butterfly Association and will soon host the Florida Trails Association. She has been visited by a number of university professors and researchers who have come to study the plants, wildlife, and ravines on her property. Much of what she has learned about the plants on the property she learned from members of the Florida Native Plant Society. She labels plants as people identify them so she is able to observe them throughout the seasons. This is a great way to learn how to identify plants whether in flower or not. Her philosophy has been that you need to learn the plants on your property so you know which ones are most vulnerable and need protection and which ones are invasive and need to be removed to protect the native habitat. She encourages other landowners to get involved with their local native plant society chapter and begin learning the plants on their property. The more you learn, the more you will enjoy your property.

If you would like to visit Spring Canyon and see this beautiful property for yourself, there will be a Forest Stewardship tour scheduled for Spring 2015. Details will be an upcoming issue of the Florida Land Steward newsletter.

posted by Laurie Sheldon

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

November Board and Council Meeting at Disney Wilderness Preserve

By Laurie Sheldon

We got lost on our way, but finally made it to the Disney Wilderness Preserve late Friday afternoon. A quintet of wild turkeys ushered us in as we navigated along Scrub Jay Trail en route to the Conservation Learning Center. Petra Royston showed us the lovely room that the Board and Council would be using on Saturday for our meetings, then handed us a map and pointed out where our accommodations were, noting the trails nearby. After dropping off what we'd brought for the business portion of our trip, the eight of us piled into the two vehicles capable of driving on the unpaved road to the "dorm" we were staying in without getting stuck. "Dorm," as it turned out, was code for a double-wide trailer that had once served as the Preserve's offices. It had several rooms of beds, some bunked, a small kitchen, two bathrooms at the end of the hallway (one labeled "ladies" and one labeled "guests"), and two gathering areas with kitschy and unusual knick-knacks (among these were a centrifuge, a plastic horse statuette, and a candle carved into a tiki man). It was no Four Seasons, but for $20 a night we were more than satisfied.

We entered the trailer and called dibs on beds then went about getting settled in. A few people went to the grocery store, and the rest of us remained at the Preserve. I decided to make the most of the remaining hour of sunlight and headed out to the red trail loop, along which I was told I might see some scrub jays. The trail was not lengthy, but the sand under foot made a brisk walk nearly impossible. As I plugged along, however, one of the positive attributes of sand became quickly apparent: its ability to record tracks! Over the next two days I found wild turkey tracks, raccoon tracks, deer tracks, and the tracks of what looked like a large cat. Exciting!

I meandered through a landscape of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) and  bluestem (Andropogon sp.) freckled yellow and purple with goldenrod (Solidago sp.), silkgrass (Pityopsis sp.), gayfeather (Liatris sp.), and chaffhead (Carphephorus sp.) until it got dark. Suddenly, a voice shouted out from just behind me. It belonged to Richard Brownscombe, who seemed to appear out of nowhere. I waited for him to catch up and we walked the main grade back to the dorm together, both of us visibly excited to be staying in such a beautiful place.

Back at the dorm, the whole gang stuffed their faces, chatted about everything from politics to plants and pop culture, and, one by one, wandered off to bed.

By 10 o'clock the next morning the Education Center had filled up with members from all over the state. Anne Cox, F.N.P.S. President, pointed out a poster that I had drawn by hand and pinned up on one side of the room. It depicted our organization graphically - as composite flower - and will be featured in the upcoming Sabal Minor (so keep your eyes peeled). "It is the first org chart we've had in a long time," Anne said, "and isn't it beautiful!?"
Next Marlene Rodak shared some exciting outreach news. After noticing that the staff at most big box nurseries were unable to identify which of the plants on their shelves were native, she enlisted the financial help of the Lee County I.F.A.S. Extension office and had Mastertag produce native plant tags. With the nurseries' permission, Marlene has regularly gone in and placed a tag in each of the native plants they have in stock. Nice work!

Richard Brownscombe spearheaded
Initiative Group 1's meeting
Our guest speaker, Russ Hoffman, then took the floor with a presentation about Ecopsychology. For a detailed account of his lecture, click HERE. We broke for a fabulous potluck lunch at around noon, then started the business portion of the day.

While the Board met inside of the Educational Center, Council members broke out into their initiative groups: (1) promoting landscaping with native plants, (2) enhancing educational field trips, and (3) developing strategies & advocacy for land use planning to address habitat loss. Several hours later, the Council and Board adjourned for the day, and Nature Conservancy staff member Petra Royston took us on a guided swamp buggy tour of the Preserve.

The buggy placed us just high enough to see over the scrub and truly take in the magnificent landscape. Petra gave us some background about the Preserve while we rode. Apparently it encompasses 12,000 acres, the initial portion of which was donated by Disney to mitigate for expansion. With the help of the Nature Conservancy's team of ecologists, the property has been restored to what is believed to be its original state. Non-native, invasive species have been eliminated, fire-dependent habitats are maintained with controlled burns, and excessive scrub and trees are removed mechanically.

View from the swamp buggy
Petra with the artificial nesting box
We passed by a few atmospheric monitoring stations, all of which looked like giant erector sets, and several active Red-cockaded woodpecker nests. These birds are endangered in Florida, partly because of their very specific habitat requirements: they make their cavities in old growth longleaf pines, which were logged here extensively for many years. Petra also showed us an artificial nesting cavity that has been used successfully in areas without older trees.

We caught the beginning of sunset from the buggy, then winded our way back to the Education Center. Everyone but the overnight crew hurried back to their respective homes throughout Florida. Those of us who were sleeping on site ate potluck leftovers for dinner and enjoyed each other's company for another evening.

Sunset from the swamp buggy
After a short hike Sunday morning, we all pitched in and returned to dorm to the state it was in when we arrived. Then we said our goodbyes and got on the road. After dropping off Marjorie Shropshire, Anne and I spotted a gopher tortoise in the middle of a busy south Florida intersection. I hopped out of the car and grabbed it, then started walking and looking for a burrow to return it to. With no hole in sight, I got back into Anne's truck and put the tortoise at my feet, where it promptly crawled under me and hit the bar to move my seat backwards, then defecated several times on the floor. Oy! Anne drove to a nearby natural area and pulled over to the side of the road, at which point I carried the tortoise across the street and into the woods while it urinated on my leg. I'll end this story on the following note: you can take a F.N.P.S. member out of a Preserve, but you can't take the preservation instinct out of a F.N.P.S. member.

Friday, November 28, 2014


Russ Hoffman

by Laurie Sheldon

On November 15, 2014, the FNPS Board of Directors and Council of Chapters met at Disney Wilderness preserve. We had Russ Hoffman, a former psychologist and the owner of Beautiful Ponds (a Venice, Florida firm focused on lake, wetland and preserve management) as our guest speaker prior to launching into "business." He delivered a presentation on the subject of Ecopsychology in which he introduced a handful of  topical theories in a relatively short period of time. I have elaborated on these in this blog. I believe that you will find them to be both enlightening and useful in all of your communication endeavors, environmental and otherwise.

Ecopsych: Definition and Applications

What is Ecopsychology and why does it matter to FNPS?
The term Ecopsychology, coined by Theodore Roszak in his 1992 text entitled The Voice of the Earth, can be vaguely defined as a study of the interrelationship between humans and nature. Essentially, Ecopsychology
  1. brings concepts of ecology into the largely anthropocentric field of psychology, and
  2. provides the environmental movement with the psychological perspective necessary for effecting change among all audiences.
Think of it as tool-swapping. As environmental activists and stewards, we are well aware of the physical and psychological benefits of communing with nature. Psychologists are very tuned into the studies of human behavior and motivation. By combining the two, environmental activists can hone their message(s) to elicit a positive response from any given audience, and psychologists can assist their patients' efforts to heal by exploring what E. O. Wilson has called humans' " innately emotional affiliation with all living organisms."

How Ideas Catch On

Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation theory seeks to explain the process, rationale, and speed at which new ideas spread. This is particularly poignant considering the outreach goals of our organization. In order for said “innovations” (new ideas) to self-sustain, they must be widely adopted (reach a critical mass). The four main elements in the diffusion of new ideas are the innovation, communication channels, time, and social context.

The innovation must show certain characteristics in order to spread and become widely adopted. Among these are relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability to those within the social context.

Communication channels are vectors for the spead of ideas. Although vectors like television and radio are great at making people aware of an innovation, PEERS are the ones who actually mold and shift attitudes towards innovations. Most people do NOT evaluate and decide to adopt or reject a new idea based on the scientific evidence an expert may present. Rather, they look to the opinions of peers who have already adopted the innovation.
Rogers’ Innovation Adoption Curve
Time factors into the diffusion of ideas in several ways. It is involved in both the rate of adoption (determined by the characteristics of the innovation noted above) and the cognitive processing of new ideas, from the moment an individual is made aware of the idea through their decision to adopt and implement it or flat out reject it. Time is also inherent to the principle of innovativeness, which is a descriptor of how quickly someone will adopt a new idea relative to everyone else. Rogers' theory places idea adopters into five distinct categories: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards.

Adopter Characteristics: Innovators to Laggards
Social context is essentially the boundary within which an idea diffuses and the set of interrelated members, organizations, or informal groups that problem solve together to accomplish a common goal

Guiding Change

Prochaska's Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change assesses an individual's readiness to act on a new healthier behavior (like planting natives), and provides strategies to guide an individual through the following stages of change to Action and Maintenance:

Pre-contemplation: people are unaware, uninformed or underinformed that their behavior is problematic. They may respond to simple cues, depending on how knowledgeable, respectable, or attractive the message source is.

Contemplation: people are vaguely aware that their behavior is problematic, and start to look at the pros and cons of their continued actions. A small gift can serve as an emotional trigger. Positive emotions will help move them to the next stage.

Preparation: people are fairly well educated and intend to take action, although not necessarily right away. They maintain a level of fear regarding how others will perceive their behavior, and may need a push (like a coupon or ad) to get them to enact a change.

Action: people have made specific changes/behavioral modifications, but may still be somewhat ambivalent about them.

Maintenance: people have sustained their changes for a while, but still require regular reinforcement. They feel smart and positive about the choices they’ve made, but will further benefit from some sort of reward for their actions.  Social support (like AA) is very important at this stage.

Relapse: people return from Action or Maintenance to an earlier stage, but not all the way back to pre-contemplation. By using incentives like coupons or ads, emphasizing the long term benefits of the changes they had begun to make, and reminding them of their former choice, you may get them headed back in the right direction.

Getting Rider and Elephant on Board

In The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, a psychology book by Jonathan Haidt, the author examines the internal struggle between conscious and unconscious reasoning. Similar dualities may be found between mind and body, left brain and right brain, yin and yang, Freud’s ego and id, and Bern’s adult and child.

Haidt describes this conflict metaphorically as a Rider on the back of an Elephant. In that scenario, the conscious mind is the Rider and the unconscious mind is the Elephant. The Rider cannot control the Elephant by force. Rather, his course will be driven by the Elephant, who navigates by instinct in a series of reactions to external stimuli.

The Rider (ego) is motivated by logic. We can appeal to him/her with facts, figures, charts, tables, science, expertise, etc.The Elephant (id), by contrast, is motivated by positive emotions: recognition, feelings of belonging, happiness, and pride. Accordingly, we may entreat the Elephant to adopt an innovation by using bright, colorful images, limiting choices, and communicating via simple language.

How Natural Landscapes are (mis)Perceived

Joan Iverson Nassauer, professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment, is focused on the field of ecological design. Her research extends beyond the natural sciences into social science, and explores the cause and effect relationship between human experience and landscapes. In Messy Ecosystems, Orderly Frames, she documented her investigation of Americans perceptions about several types of landscapes, with a concentration on picturesque and native/eco-friendly designs. Here is what she discovered:

Ecological quality and function are not necessarily apparent features of a landscape - particularly to the layperson. Because the scientific processes going on in a native landscape are basically invisible to casual observers, so are the ecological benefits. Areas of high ecological quality are often perceived as as unruly or messy. While wild or rampant growing vegetation is acceptable within the context of the wilderness (lands that aren't occupied by humans), it is frowned upon when encountered in human-influenced landscapes like yards and parks.

As our design choices are seen as a reflection or extension of ourselves, it should not be surprising that passers-by will make assumptions about the type of people who live in a house from the landscape in front of it. In other words, our landscapes communicate something to the outside world. Most Americans read a neat, orderly landscape (mown lawn, trimmed hedges, well maintained flower beds) as a sign of "neighborliness, hard work and pride." It follows that if a landscape is designed for its ecological benefits and doesn't contain the "neat and tidy" elements, the owner is assumed to be disagreeable, lazy, and possibly self-deprecating or troubled.

A naturalistic meadow framed with "cues to care"
How, then, can we design with natives without being seen as a nuisance neighbor? By framing them with what Nassauer calls, "cues to care" (signs that make it obvious we haven't abandoned our landscapes). Examples include:
  • Mowing strips along bordering properties, pathways, driveways, or sidewalks
  • Flowering plants and trees (note that small-flowered native plants may be mistaken as weeds; try warming neighbors up to native flowers by planting species with larger blooms en mass)
  • Wildlife feeders and houses
  • Crisp edges
  • Trimmed shrubs, linear planting designs
  • Well-maintained fences and garden appurtenances
  • Foundation planting

Technical jargon is not the way to go if your goal is to encourage Rider and Elephant to make positive behavioral changes. It actually makes people stop reading or listening to your message, and increases their frustration, irritation, and suspicion. By using short sentences, short words, and active voice, your message will reach a much larger audience.

Rudolf Flesch devised the following formula (the Flesch Reading Ease Test) to determine how readable a given piece of text is:

Fortunately, it has been incorporated into the most commonly used word processing programs, including Microsoft Office Word, WordPerfect, and WordPro, so you needn’t bust out your calculator.  There are also websites which will calculate your text’s readability score for free. Higher scores indicate material that is easier to read; lower numbers mark passages that are more difficult to read.

Flesch Reading Ease Scores
Here is a list of words to use in any environmental campaigning you do. They have proven to be readable and well-received with the general public.

Liberals must learn to use language
that appeals to Conservatives' ears

Values & Environmental Stewardship

In The Moral Roots of Environmental Attitudes, Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer document their studies of Americans’ highly polarized environmental stances. The authors found that liberals view environmental issues as moral concerns related to harm and care (saving the world, protecting it from harm), whereas conservatives view the same issues through the lens of purity and sanctity (maintaining the purity of resources as a matter of tradition, legacy, and heritage). By framing pro-environmental rhetoric using different terminology, liberals can gain the conservative support necessary for creating more environmentally conscious policies.

The Summing Up: Lessons from the Lorax

How, then, should we begin our environmental message? Reflect, for a moment, on The Lorax, a children's book written by Dr. Seuss. The tale begins in a town that has been completely denuded of vegetation, and the story of how it became that way unfolds. Apparently the land was once lush with "Truffula" trees, which were systematically cut down and used for industrial purposes. A small creature called the Lorax appeared out of the stump of the first tree felled and begged for the axe wielding to cease. "I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues," he decried. "He was very upset as he shouted and puffed," then went on to disparage those responsible for the logging, later pointing the finger at them for the reciprocal ecological damage. Why was his message lost? Perhaps it's because, despite his good intentions, he did not have a clue about Ecopsychology.

If it is our goal as an organization to encourage "C.P.R." (Conservation, Preservation, and Restoration) within the state of Florida, we must learn to avoid using jargon, prompting unclear calls for action, and saying things like, “this is important” (or "we speak for the trees"). Rather, we should approach a given audience guided by what we now understand about motivation, language and change. If we tell people that their actions make a difference, and follow up with exactly what to do and how to do it, we will make great strides toward reaching the critical mass needed for our ideas to self-sustain.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Prairie Wildflower Walk: So Many Thanks to Give!

Thanksgiving always makes me feel, well, thankful. With the first official Wildflower Walk at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve over, and a great success, I am especially thankful. It was the first park event sponsored by the Friends of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve. Our goal was to bring new people to the preserve, show them the beauty of the dry prairie and educate them on the importance of its preservation and protection. We also wanted to recruit new members to the group, and send people home with wonderful memories that they will share with others. I believe we achieved all of our goals, and we owe that success to many. Here are my thanks:

Mother Nature: Some might say she was a bit too generous with the wind that day, but she kept us cool, and provided a beautiful blue sky and the perfect light to view the prairie. Thank you, Mother Nature.

Roger Hammer and Craig Huegel each know a lot about plants. Together they are walking encyclopedia of Florida wildflowers. With each question asked, they not only provide an answer, but add a bit of trivia or a personal anecdote to their replies.  Oh, and did I mention they are really funny too? When asked what the most bizarre thing that he encountered in the Everglades was, Roger said it was probably him after emerging from a five day trek into the swamp. Thank you, Roger and Craig, for your knowledge, your passion, and your good humor

KPP Management and Staff: KPP Biologist Paul Miller likes to say "A dry Prairie is a wet prairie when it is not wet."  It is the simplest way to acknowledge that a dry prairie isn't always dry. Paul gave an introduction to the prairie before each walk. He stood by Caroline, the pet name for the statue of the now extinct Carolina Parakeet whose last known nest was on the preserve. It is his segue into the preserve's present day quest to save the nearly extinct Grasshopper Sparrow. Thank you Paul, Park Manager Evan Hall,  Natalie, Joy, and all of the preserve staff for your support, but especially for your role in the preservation and protection of this critical Florida habitat and the wildlife that depend upon it.

FNPS and all Attendees: We had a great attendance on the wildflower walk. For most it was their first time visiting the preserve. Many were members of the Florida Native Plant Society, others were members of the Friends of KPP, and several were members of both. A few were inspired to join the Friends of KPP group before they left.  They came from all over the state. One couple, from Canada, registered for the walk while looking for something interesting to do while driving to their winter home in south Florida. The FNPS educational committee hired a wonderful videographer, Jennifer Brown, to film the event. I am sure that once others see the film, they will want to visit KPP too. Thank you to FNPS, Friends of KPP and others for their attendance and support.
Swamp Buggy Rides: All attendees were treated to  a swamp buggy ride to and from the walk site. If they wished, they also got a 45-minute buggy ride, complete with historic and educational narrative along the Kilpatrick Hammock Trail. This was an abbreviated version of the 2-3 hour buggy rides the preserve provides (for a fee) every weekend from November through March. People return year after year to take the swamp buggy through the prairie, so if you want to go, make your reservations now. Thank you to AmeriCorps volunteer Katie Ferguson and Preserve Specialist Frank Verello for taking us out on these buggy rides and sharing your knowledge and love of the prairie.

Mother Nature, again (she deserves most of the credit): From high atop the buggy one gets a beautiful view of a vast expanse of saw palmetto and sweeping grasses. It is a nearly treeless mosaic of dry prairie, wet prairie marshes and sloughs. But to really experience the dry prairie one must climb down from the buggy and walk into it.  Wispy strands of tall purple liatris stand tall against the warm grasses, bunches of bright yellow sunflowers mingle with the saw palmetto, while sprays of white to lavender asters add a delicate mix to the bouquet of autumn wildflowers. Look under the grasses and see bushes of false pennyroyal, bright yellow bladderworts and red sundews.

As Mother Nature would advise:
To really see the prairie, one should look into it, not at it. 
Thank you, Mother Nature, for your wise words

Submitted by Donna Bollenbach on behalf of the Friends of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

To see more images from the Prairie Walk visit the Friends of KPP FB Page.

Posted by Laurie Sheldon 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Prairie Wildflower Walk

Sponsored by the Friends of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

When most people think of prairie they think of the Midwest; flat, treeless land with acres upon acres of wheat or corn. Few conjure an image of dwarf palmetto and wiregrass stretching to the horizon, interrupted only by sparse hammocks of cabbage palm and small seasonal ponds. Yet Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, located in rural Okeechobee, is just that. KPP protects the largest remaining tract of the unique Florida dry prairie. Its 54,000 acres contain a mosaic of dry prairie, wet prairie, marshes, sloughs, cabbage palm and oak hammocks, flood plain - no less than 14 distinct natural communities - which sustain a vast and diverse array of flora and fauna. This is prairie in Florida, shaped by the sea, maintained by frequent fire, and with its own history. This is the land made famous by author Patrick Smith in A Land Remembered.

In the fall, the Florida dry prairie is ablaze with color and texture: rich yellow goldenrods and sunflowers, purple blue Liatris and Carphephorus, and tall, tawny grasses sway gently among the bright green saw palmettos. (as seen in the photo above). This spectacular sight is not to be missed. Fortunately for all of us, Roger Hammer and Craig Huegel, two of Florida's most recognized wildflower experts, will lead two wildflower walks at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park on November 1, 2014. Their extensive knowledge of Florida's flora, along with their well known wit and humor, are guaranteed to emake the trip both educational and entertaining.

All aboard the Swamp Buggy Express!
Participants may also sign up for a free 45 minute buggy ride in the prairie.

Cost for the plant walk is $24 for Friends of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve members and $34 for non-members. Walks are scheduled at both 9:30 am and 1:30 pm and are limited to 20 participants each - first come, first serve.

To register, and for more information, visit:
Click on "Special Event" on the home page.
Roger Hammer is a well known author, photographer and botanist, with several excellent guides to Florida wildflowers. He is a very sought after speaker and workshop leader. He holds an Honorary Doctor of Science from Florida International University and has received numerous awards for his work as a naturalist from the Florida Native Plant Society, Audubon Society and the North American Butterfly Association.

Craig Huegel is an accomplished Ecologist, Environmental Consultant and author. He is an expert in the design of wildlife-attracting landscapes in Florida. Craig is the author of several very popular books on wildflowers and native plant landscaping for wildlife. He has a Ph.D. in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University and has received numerous awards for his environmental education, restoration and preservation work.

Additional Photos taken at KPP

The inflorescences of these grasses give the prairie a mist-like glow
Eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna) among the goldenrods (Solidago spp.)
 D.Y.C.s (darn yellow composites) might be hard to key out but they're cheerful to look at
This could be you!
Florida Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo osceola)
Blazing star (Liatris spp.) and Skipper butterfly
The rare is commonplace at KPP. Clockwise from top left:
Bachman's sparrow, Catesby's lily, crested caracara and zebra swallowtail

Text provided by the Friends of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve
Photos courtesy of Donna Bollenbach, Christina Evans, Stan Czaplicki, Craig Huegel, and Paul Marcellini
Posted and edited by Laurie Sheldon