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


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Biocontrol: A Success Story!

Mexican Petunia is a Category 1 invasive species in Florida. 

by Megan Weeks, Cuplet Fern Chapter of FNPS

Florida’s biodiversity is made remarkable by the plants and animals that depend on one another for survival. This delicate yet imperative relationship maintains a healthy natural environment, where the population of plants and animals are balanced. When new species are introduced, natives can be outsourced and the natural balance risks being disrupted[1]. Biocontrol is one method to help restore a balanced environment.

Exotic species have been introduced to Florida both accidentally and intentionally. Most threatening to the natural balance are plants from tropical and sub-tropical regions which are suited to Florida climate and often “take root” in this foreign land[1]. These non-native species do not serve as a significant food source for Florida organisms and are able to outcompete native plants for resources[1]. When an exotic species that is not affected by predators or pathogens becomes established, then the population will grow uninhibited and can potentially become invasive. Approximately one-third of vegetation found in Florida’s natural lands is exotic, and roughly 11% of those species are considered invasive[2].

The air potato beetle is released into an area overrun
by the invasive vine .
Biologists have long struggled to prevent the exotic populations from encroaching on endemic habitats. Manual methods, such as applying chemicals, hand pulling and burning, may help tame invasive populations but are often not a reliable long term solution[3]. As an alternative, scientists spend years researching predators (insects, pathogens, and fish) to target specific invasive species in a method called Biocontrol. This method relies on the predator to consume or destroy the exotic species, restoring ecological balance[1].

Air Potato Beetle. Photo by Mary Keim

In 1905 Dioscorea bulbifera, the air potato, was introduced to Florida and with no natural predators the exotic vine quickly became a threat to native plants[2]. The infamy of this invasive species grew almost as rapidly as the plant itself and is a major concern for the Department of Agriculture[2]. A biocontrol program was launched to find a predator that would consume or destroy the air potato. Scientists returned to Asia where D. bulbifera is endemic and found a small beetle that could survive by eating the invasive plant[4]. Extensive research was performed to ensure that the beetle would not further disrupt the ecological balance.

In 2012 the air potato leaf beetle was finally released to feast on the air potato. Scientists note that the beetle mostly consumes the soft tissues found on the leaves and growing tips which creates difficult growing circumstances and can hinder the plant’s biological processes[5]. Every year between May and October, during peak air potato growth, new batches of the beetle are released[1].

Larva of the Air Potato Leaf Beetle eating air potato leaves.
Photo by Donna Bollenbach 
The air potato leaf beetle is very selective in its diet and only consumes D. bulbifera even excluding all other species of Dioscorea[3]. Research done by the University of Florida has found that beetle establishment in release sites has led to “reduced height of vines, decreased bulbil production, and most importantly, an increase in native vegetation”[3].

Seminole county is one of the release sites for this remarkable and successful form of biocontrol. Through this biocontrol program, professionals were able to contribute to the restoration of Florida’s ecological balance. The air potato leaf beetle is an investment for our future and a vital part of the preservation and conservation of our natural lands. To find out more about the amazing air potato leaf beetle check out the USDAs website: bcrcl.ifas.


This blog was reprinted with permission from the Frond Forum, the newsletter of the Cuplet Fern Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. If your chapter publishes informative articles that you would like to share, please send them to me for review. I am especially interested in getting plant profiles and "What's in Bloom?" from different areas of the state.

Donna Bollenbach, Social Media Director/FNPS

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Where Have All the Pygmy Pipes Gone?

By Carmel van Hoek

I haven’t heard any mention of pygmy pipes in quite a while, and the last collections, according to the USF Plant Atlas, were made in 2012 in Pasco and St. Johns Counties. I wonder if these little endemic, state endangered obscurities are taking another sabbatical as they have sometimes done since the late 1800’s when they were first discovered.

Photograph by Betty Wargo. Courtesy of The Atlas of Florida Plants
Photograph by Rita Lassiter
. Courtesy of 
The Atlas of Florida Plants
In December of 1884, in east Florida near St. Augustine, Mary C. Reynolds found several small plants that obviously lacked chlorophyll as they displayed no hint of green. They looked somewhat like Indian Pipes, Monotropa uniflora, except that these plants were smaller, some barely visible above the leaf litter. And they were suffused with colors of pink and pale lavender instead of being ghostly white. Instead of a single flower atop the stem as in Indian Pipes, these stems held a cluster of flowers.
Photo by Rita Lassiter
Courtesy of The Atlas of Florida Plants
Mary made a collection of the different-looking species and had them seen by Dr. Asa Gray, a well-known botanist of that period. Dr. Gray recognized the plants as a new species thought to be related to other achlorophyllous herbs of Ericaceae or Heath Family. His description of the species was subsequently published as Monotropsis reynoldsiae, named in honor of the collector. This first ever collected specimen of pygmy pipes is vouchered at the Smithsonian Institute and can be viewed online. 

I assume that as the Florida weather began to warm from winter into late spring Mary Reynolds’ little plants gradually disappeared, never to be seen again...Until December of 1977, that is, 93 years later! 

Botanist Rita Lassiter was the first one to rediscover pigmy pipes in a hardwood hammock in Hernando County, and it created quite a stir in botanical circles. Frequent sightings were reported during the winters of 1977-79, all in Hernando County, and several collections were made for further study of the fungus on which the plant feeds as well as of the plant itself. Gradually the range of Pygmy pipes has spread as collections have since been made in Pasco, Marion, Volusia and St. Johns Counties.

Photo by John Kunzer
Courtesy of The Atlas of Florida Plants
Monotropsis reynoldsiae is found usually in rich woods of oak hammocks and flowering dogwoods. They have been found as early in the year as November until late February. Its stems can be 1.5 to almost 5” long, and some of their length can be buried in leaf litter. A thick cluster of flowers, pale pink and white-mottled, top the stem, nodding bell-like at first and later straightening in age. Be looking for them until spring. 

For more information on Montoropsis reymoldsiae, visit the species page on the USF Atlas of Florida Plants. 

Carmel van Hoek is a member of the Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and recipient of the the FNPS Mentor Award in 2015. 

Posted by Donna Bollenbach

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Produced and Submitted by Mark Kateli, Tarflower Chapter

This was yet another great year with the "sister society" collaboration for the Central Florida Native and Wildlife Friendly Yards Tour

Florida Native Plant Society Tarflower and Cuplet Fern chapters, and the Orange Audubon Society,
host this event annually. It's a great exercise to help strengthen our bond around a common mission. This year, we had well over 100 attendees. 

A special thanks to noted environmental journalist Kevin Spear that published an article in the Orlando Sentinel that promulgated the event to people outside our usual sphere of influence.
Being Tarflower chapter Treasurer, I firmly believe that as we prosper, so will our neighboring chapters. 

I look forward to hearing from chapters that border Orange County- Lake, Osceola, Brevard, Volusia, and Polk chapter Treasurers- for more collaborative ideas that amplify attention to Central Florida and it's unique native plants.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Rain gardens for Florida

Florida's 5-month wet season produces
50% to 70% of annual rainfall. (Data from NOAA)
by Ginny Stibolt

Too much rain or not enough

Florida's 5-month wet season (aka hurricane season), from June through October, accounts for almost 2/3 of our rainfall. In general, the more southern counties experience the more dramatic differences between their wet and dry seasons. In contrast, New York City's rainfall is more evenly distributed from about 3.5" to 4.5" each month.

Our weird patterns of rainfall help make the case for using Florida's native plants in our landscapes. Also we receive huge amounts of rain all at once on a regular basis. In most cases, all that excess water is rushed from our properties out to the streets where our stormwater then ends up in the nearest waterway. At that point it's no longer just water, but it will have collected pollutants from our landscapes and the streets. This is called nonpoint source pollution, which is not regulated and not monitored.

Nonpoint source pollution (NPS)

In addition to rainfall, over-irrigation is a common cause of NPS in Florida.
Rainbows of pollution headed toward the nearest
body of water.
Some people think that NPS is the most significant cause of water quality deterioration because it cannot be monitored effectively. This may be true, but I think that we can make a difference by sequestering as much rain water as possible through the use of rain barrels, cisterns, and rain gardens. We can reach out to others to help them do the same.

The EPA webpages on NPS include definitions, solutions, success stories, outreach tools, information about grants, and events. One of the solutions that homeowners and communities can implement is rain gardens.

Rain gardens

The downspout delivered water to the lawn, which became
a muddy, soggy mess throughout the wet season.
Because of Florida's long dry season, the selection of plants that can withstand both flooding and drought are quite limited. For instance, suggested rain garden plants for the Mid-Atlantic states and northward, often include the cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), but it won't work for Florida's rain gardens, even though it's native down through Central Florida, because it is not drought-tolerant.

Rain gardens can be small like this downspout garden, which was expanded over a few years. First, I took out a few feet of lawn and created a small dry well by digging an 18" cube under where the tray dumps the water and filling it with coarse gravel topped in with some fake river rock  I planted some blue eyed grass, soft rush, and some ferns in the area. A couple of years later I expanded it by digging a good sized swale beyond the original dry well and overflow drainage through a French drain to a larger dry well near our front pond.. You can see details of this effort in this series of posts.
After a couple of expansions, this downspout rain gardens
 can handle any amount of rain.

Rain gardens can be large community projects which are designed to absorb all the runoff from parking lots or roads. The Lasalle Bioswale Project in Jacksonville is a good example of how various members of the community came together to build a highly visible rain garden to handle the stormwater runoff beautifully.

A likely spot for some rain garden plants to better absorb the parking lot runoff. At this point the lawn maintenance is skinning the roots of the trees, but groupings of good rain garden plants such as rushes, sedges, shrubs would do a better job of absorbing the water. 

White-topped sedge (Rhynchospora colorata) is a beautiful addition to rain gardens.

The 2016 FNPS conference

The 2016 FNPS conference will be in Daytona Beach.
I will be giving a presentation on rain gardens at the FNPS conference in Daytona Beach on Saturday May 21. I will provide details on siting and sizing rain gardens, a plant list for Florida rain gardens, and ideas for community rain garden projects.

After my talk I'll walk through the native plant vendors to talk in more detail about good rain garden plants and rain garden designs.

In addition, University Press of Florida will be a vendor for the conference and I'll be signing books during the lunch breaks on Friday and Saturday. I've dedicated whole chapters to rain gardens and rain barrels in "Sustainable Gardening for Florida," which include even more details and ideas for sequestering rain water on your property.

We all live in a watershed!

Ginny Stibolt

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Is the Florida Native Plant Society Conference for Me?

Submitted by Sande Habali, Pawpaw Chapter

Many new members ask themselves this same question and many other questions like it. I know because I used to ask them myself.  Maybe you’ve wondered about the conference as I did.

There are many people in my group who know so much about plants. They are “experts” and I’m not.

 Visit the Park of Honor 755 Olive Street,  South Daytona. The Pawpaw 
Chapter maintains a section in exchange for a meeting place at the 
nearby Piggotte Community Center. Just enter the park, 
turn right and look for the pollinators!
While it is true the Florida Native Plant Society is a scientific based organization (and aren’t we glad it is?), the rest of us get the benefits of all the science based information out there. With the help of FNPS, we can make decisions about our yards, our neighborhoods, and our general community based of facts.  The conference is the best place to learn from the real experts!

It is a huge time commitment and I have other obligations.
This was also part of my hesitation to attend a conference. So, I started in small bits. I attended one conference for a day and was hooked with all the excitement of learning so many new things all at one time. On other occasions, I was only able to attend one field trip per conference, rather than two.  This year the basic field trips are free. Each trip is included in a day’s conference fee.  The field trips are unique to the area, but you learn so much about our state by just being there!

Do I really want to attend the socials?

Some people think skipping the socials is a way to cut down on the cost of the weekend. But, in reality, the socials are a way to “unpack your brain” after a day filled with information and meet new, like-minded folks from around the state.  Also, the socials provide a way to showcase the area of the convention. In Daytona Beach’s case, we get to enjoy the beautiful beach atmosphere at two of our venues. The Saturday venue features our newest attraction: The Cici and Hayatt Brown Museum of Art, adjacent to the Museum of Arts and Sciences.  The MOAS tells us this collection is the largest collection of Florida-based art in the world.  All this is included in the cost of the social! 

The Cici Brown Museum of Art is located in a natural habitat and has recently been landscaped with many native plants. The Tuscawilla Preserve is open to the public and features boardwalks and nature trails. You may want to arrive a bit early to enjoy this beautiful area. (Art featured below building, From left to right: Louis Comfort Tiffany; Natural Limestone Bridge at Arch Creek, Miami, 1920Emmett John Fritz; Keys Shrimper, J. Ralph Wilcox; South Beach Street, Daytona)

The cost of the conference seems high.

This is a big factor for many folks and takes a bit to get over. But, think about how good and refreshed you feel just spending the day on a chapter field trip, or maybe after hearing an inspirational speaker at a meeting; and that is how you will feel after an entire weekend (or day).  You get value for the event because you are learning from the best.  You can off-set ½ of a daily fee by volunteering at the conference for ½ a day. Contact for more information on this. Volunteer spaces are filling up quickly, so act soon!

So, is the Florida Native Plant Society Conference for me?
These Suncoast Members said "Yes" to the Conference in 2014
 and have returned year after year. 

The answer is, “yes!”  Now I look forward to this special weekend every May. I return to my Chapter with new enthusiasm, new knowledge, new friends, and new commitments and maybe a few new plants I didn’t know I “needed.” It is like a mini-vacation! And also feel good about knowing money goes back into the FNPS mission for Conservation, Preservation, and Restoration.  

Sign up today and see if you don’t feel the same way! Oh. And by the way… I am still no expert, but I am a life-long learner!

Daytona Beach Resort and Conference Center
The conference offers you a great rate to stay at the Daytona Beach Resort and Conference Center, so you can consider
your time there like a "mini-vacation."

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Find your "AWESOME" on a Conference Landscape Tour

Submitted by Sonya Guidry

The Pawpaw Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society recently held a South Volusia Landscape Tour that included many of the native landscapes  that will be featured on FNPS Conference Fieldtrip "K" Landscape Bus Tour on Thursday, May 19th. They ended their yard tours at the Marine Discovery Center, the location for the Kayak (paddle) - Lagoon Restoration Tour , FNPS Conference Fieldtrip"I"on Thursday, May 19th. 

Here is a glimpse of some of the  tour's native yards, and the Marine Discovery Center...

Renee Luedke's Port Orange home.  

Surprise, her front yard has no grass to mow! 

Elizabeth ponders the diversity of plants in Renee's front yard.

Most of the 16 tour visitors are gathered around Renee
as she talks about her landscape. 

 Mike visiting from the UK notes Renee's creative bird feeders...
including the log filled with peanut butter suet.

Elizabeth Flynn will be the leader of May 19, Landscape Bus Tour at the FNPS Conference.
 (I see a smile is as bright as the Beach Sunflowers in Renee's yard.)
She will make sure all on the tour have a great time.

Ray and Sonya Jarrett 's Landscape Carved Out of Nature

What a surprising number of diverse tropical species, such as the Strangler Fig intentionally set loose on the laurel oaks, Florida Orchid, Jamaican Caper, and subtropical species Pinkster Azalea and Sassafrass!  

"It was remarkable to see the variety of plants and trees at the home of Ray Jarrett. He discussed his yard, along with the his journey of planting these trees, and how they grew over the past 15 years of his development of his home landscape. It was a real education in plants."  Carol Marie Vlack, Pawpaw member and tour participant. 

Rare this far north are Florida Orchids...
usually found in the Fakahatchee Strand

Mike from the UK, who gave a talk to the
Pawpaw Chapter on Florida's Wild Orchids last year,
was pleased to see the Florida Orchids.

Ray, Sonya and their little sunflower, Sasha,
with Elizabeth Flynn and Dot Backes 

Doug Hunt's New Smyrna Beach Native Homescape

Doug Hunt's gardening skills made us all envious as we made our final landscape stop for the half day Pawpaw Chapter tour.  He has  a wide variety of tropicals, which includes a newly installed TALL Gumbo Limbo Tree. How surprising to also see crop of jonquils 
in this New Smyrna Beach homescape!

The view of Doug Hunt's yard before everyone arrived.

"The company was genial, the rain held off, and the tour locations were diverse and all interesting to observe. However, it was  the extensive number of native plants and how they worked as a beautiful home landscape that made it  a fantastic learning experience." Carol Marie Vlack, Pawpaw member and tour participant.

 The view of Doug's front yard loaded with happy landscape explorers :
Carol Marie, Warren, Renee, Amelia, Renee,
Mike and Carol Parsons (from the UK). 

No doubt Mike and Carol Parsons find a Florida Native Garden Tour...quite different from one in the UK!

Are those hanging pots really an Orchid garden?
 Bill Kiel and Kim Johnson find a shady place
to just sit and admire the scenery.

Marine Discovery Center, New Smyrna Beach

The Pawpaw Chapter Landscape Tour ended at the Marine Discovery Center (MDC) where where a a butterfly garden was recently installed  by the NSB Men's Garden Club. They also visited a huge lagoon restoration area, where Warren Reynolds will lead a Marine Discovery Center Kayak (paddle) - Lagoon Restoration Tour , FNPS Conference Fieldtrip"I"on Thursday, May 19th.

Mike Parsons in foreground and Carolyn Kiel in the back ground inspecting the future kayak launch area at the lagoon restoration area. 
Warren Reynolds, Kayak Tour Guide for the Marine Discovery Center, 
talks about the MDC and the Lagoon Restoration Project. 
Warren will lead the conference kayak (I) fieldtrip at MDC on Thursday, May 19th. 

Newly installed Butterfly Garden at MDC  
So, how did the participants feel about the day? 

For me it was TOTALLY AWESOME.
Carol Marie Vlack

Don't miss out on the awesome...visit the 2016 FNPS Conference fieldtrip pages and make your field trip choices. Some fieldtrips will fill fast, so be ready to reserve when registration opens. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Camp Kulaqua: My First FNPS Retreat

by Mark Kateli, Tarflower Chapter

I thought I knew my FNPS tribe! We were the rough riders of the Florida landscape that understood natural beauty in a manufactured civilization. But here in Camp Kulaqua (run by Seventh Day Adventists) I found pillows, pressed sheets, and (gasp!) Wi-Fi.
Being a city boy this was certainly a welcomed sight as we are all accustomed to so many amenities that are taken for granted every day. That being said, this was certainly not the retreat I had envisioned in my head- chilly nights, encircled around a campfire in the middle of nowhere, listening to coyotes howling away, and cold showers in the morning. This was, comparatively, upscale living.

Opening Night

Friday was an informal social gathering in the evening by the entrance lobby. I did, as usual, hobnob with some other local chapter members. In particular, I had a long conversation with Ina Crawford of Sweetbay Chapter. It was as though the heavens were listening to my prayer as I was hoping for a very long time to connect with chapter member on the far west coast of Florida where things (including the weather) are a bit different from the rest of us in the peninsular area. Ina mentioned that her chapter is but 35 members strong but they still have monthly presentations and field trips. When asked if it was difficult for her to gather
Ian Crawford, an observant, enthusiastic,
and cheerful teacher 
presenters to come out to her chapter, she mentioned that her chapter actually has more trouble organizing field trips than anything else. We talked about a lot of various subjects including our love for the wildflower blooms along SR 65. We spoke about getting more kids involved with plants at great length and making inexpensive craft projects to help them develop an ongoing interest with nature. 

A Great Idea
Simple and to the Point
I also met with Gail Taylor of Crystal River’s Citrus Chapter. This chapter is in the middle of a total revamp and she had some great ideas for advertising such as buttons which cost her just $30 for 100 buttons Gail was a fountain of new ideas ranging from ideas on yard signage, clear table cloths for plant sales, to attracting “snowbird” memberships.

The Brochure is Alive & Well, Thank you

Saturday was packed with presentations- including Richard Brownscombe of Broward County’s Coontie Chapter. Donna Bollenbach of Suncoast Chapter, Richard, the Chapter of Council Landscape 101 Committee, and many others, worked together to create a beautiful folded brochure on native landscaping. The first of six versions is for the West Coast Region (Pasco through Collier counties). This has been
Richard Brownscombe presents the "nearly" final version of the
native landscape brochure for the West Coast region 
sent to selected FNPS members for final review, and if all goes well, Donna will be putting together the other 5 regions (which are delineated on the FNPS forum webpage) in the next few months. 

Craig Huegel has written an introduction in the brochure and there will be tips for native plant landscaping. There will be on-line references, such as our the FNPS website, that will motivate interested readers to further resources. 

These brochures will cost FNPS about $0.30 each to print. Richard has recommended that the chapters sell the final product at $1 per brochure to pay for future printing. Andy Taylor (FNPS Director of Development) and Richard will seek out $20K in funding to do 60,000 copies statewide.

Data for Dollars

Juliet Rynear spoke briefly on some data collected on the state and chapter level.  As most of you know, FNPS has been driving
Juliet Rynear is a lady
on a fact-finding mission. 
an initiative for members to track their volunteer hours and report them back to the state. Fifteen chapters replied out of 36 regarding volunteering hours. Of the 15 chapters, 7 of them tracked actually track their volunteer hours. Of these 7 chapters, it was reported they have 4200 accrued volunteer hours! Those 4200 hours are currently valued at $97K! 
Volunteer hours are worth money to the organization, especially when FNPS is seeking for sponsors and grants. 

Shirley Denton (Chair of the Communications Committee) has been looking into a software program for an automated system for logging volunteer hours. Everything that we invest in volunteering (from driving to an event, to a board meeting, to working at home individually for FNPS tasks) is valued at $23/hour! 

Juliet went on to cite some other data:  
  1. FNPS Chapters were involved with 16 pieces of native plant local legislation that were ratified on the county level, with 15 others that are still outstanding.  
  2. There were 91 outreach events with 2400 people attending, 33 education workshops, and 16 school-related activities (Pine Lilly chapter was mentioned as being most heavily invested in school programs). 
Most of this information was put together thanks to members who responded to a survey, or by information gathered from the FNPS website calendar. Juliet hopes that these facts help members prepare a “Two-minute elevator conversation” to spread the word and scope of what our society is achieving. She hopes that similar data in the future will help all chapters to grow.

Membership Matters

Jonnie Spitler from Nature Coast Chapter presented some additional data put together by Cammie Donaldson’s (FNPS Administration) team. In 2014-2015, the Villages Chapter got 113 members, however FNPS as a whole only gained 56 memberships in total. 

Jonnie emphasized enthusiasm,
Jonnie Spitler-an embodiment
of the go-getter spirit. 
inclusion of novices, and being persistent on getting new members to join chapters. Her own chapter has seen rapid growth due to her efforts- from 30 members to about 65 members total. At her chapter meetings, she said everybody begins the meeting by saying FNPS mission statement akin to an anthem. Jonnie mentioned that it’s very important to validate newcomers in front of the entire crowd every single month. 
When renewals are due, her chapter sends 3 courtesy reminder emails. This strategy has successfully worked for her chapter- Jonnie has reported new members joining her chapter almost every single month. 

Jonnie also emphasized in her presentation how important it is to have a fun meeting by engaging with people and encouraging happiness. She mentioned that even though FNPS can be science-driven, we should not forget the fun element in a meeting because that’s what will gain the most memberships from “common folks.” 

In the future, Jonnie will be in closer communication with other chapters on membership. She will be giving away prizes for the chapters that have risen most in percentage or numbers. She will keep pushing and focusing on membership at the chapter level, and if the chapter does not have a membership point of contact, she will start reaching out to each chapter president.

Gail Taylor, in her revitalization efforts for Citrus Chapter, mentioned that she hands out a welcome packet to new members. Each packet contains a Chapter Newsletters, native plant articles, resources, places to find natives, and more. Gail also sends out a ‘Thank You’ card to new members, as well as people that bring refreshments at the meetings. Just like Jonnie, Gail validates new members in front of her own audience but she also gives new members first choice on plants that are presented for the plant drawings. She hopes that through this visual cue, visitors will be encouraged to return.

Shirley Denton is busy gathering data on membership through the CiviCRM program. She hopes that through understanding our members more, we will be able to efficiently gather and connect with the right resources needed for any given project. For example, Shirley mentioned that she has gathered some information on who in the membership is a Master Naturalist, or a Master Gardener through the data, but it is based on an outdated 1998 membership survey. Members who would like to share information about themselves to help the society can reach out to Shirley Denton directly.

Andy Taylor and his undying passion
for the political theater
Political Fineness

Andy Taylor, FNPS Director of Development, did a presentation on elected officials and policy. He mentioned Google Alerts which can be found at, you search for any name of your local or state elected official, or a subject, and google alerts will email you current news and articles about that subject. For members who are leery of clogging their email inboxes with multiple google alerts, they can set it up once a day (such as at the end of the day when things have quieted down) in a single lump sum notification.

Andy also gave the following tips when dealing with local and state officials: 

  1. Let officials know that you support them (or vice versa) and that you would be happy to provide them more information on native plants. Invite them to an FNPS meeting to a chapter field trip.
  2. Keep the initial emails to politicians short (4 paragraphs or less) and establish yourself as an independent expert in this email, and offer resources for them to research our organization.
  3. Additionally, Andy noted that almost everything in an email to your policy maker in Florida is classified as a public record and therefore is traceable. He recommends to be careful in your word choice and the content of your email if you support or oppose policies- never bribe elected officials with votes or other favors. This may give developers reason to sue the city or county for a legal challenge in court which is counterproductive to our efforts. 
  4. When policies are approved or rejected, state and local governments have notification requirements for these decisions to the general public. For more information, you can visit or You can sign up to get email alerts when anything happens on a specific bill. 
  5. If your chapter finds it hard to organize a group during working hours to visit government office, consider inviting the County or City Attorney to your chapter board meeting to present on the progress of a bill. 
  6. Many chapters want to influence ordinances to include more natives. But as far as ordinances are concerned, Andy said that unless you have a specific expertise in writing them, it is best not to write your own. County and City attorneys are paid lots of money and no matter what you do, they will have to review for the ordinance for compliance with state law, and revise your work for proper format and preferences.

Parting Words of Wisdom

In conclusion, I did enjoy my time at the camp and extended my native plant family even further. 

If you do make it out to Camp Kulaqua (this is at least the third time FNPS has used this facility), please be advised that due to their religious policies, no caffeinated products (coffee, tea, or soda) are offered. If you are a coffee drinker first thing in the morning like myself, please plan ahead by bringing your own supplies- including your own coffee mug. It will also be wise to locate the nearest hot water outlet or coffee pot in the vicinity before your crabbiness gets the better of you come morning time. 
The meals were above average, with a healthy assortment of fruit, vegetables (fresh and steamed), starch, and protein (fish for lunch, chicken for dinner). I also recommend planning ahead with some additional snacks as dinner was too early for me (5:30 pm), and meals were only available from Saturday morning until breakfast Sunday.

Do attend presentations and meetings, and take notes, but try to go out of your way to connect with other chapter members- after all, we are on the same journey and only together will we be able to make ever-bigger strides.

Posted by Donna Bollenbach