Thursday, December 13, 2018

Care to help a rare plant species with your loppers and hand saw?

Etoniah Rosemary (Conradina etoniah) is a narrow range endemic mint species only known from Etoniah Creek State Forest and private land adjacent to the Forest (Figure 1). Dunn’s Creek Rosemary (C. cygniflora), an additional narrow range endemic mint species, was once considered the same species but further research determined it is a distinct species which occurs in roughly the same region.
Figure 1. Etoniah Rosemary (Conradina etoniah)
In areas where fire has been excluded populations of these mint species are declining. These populations would benefit from small-scale hand removal of shrubs near individual plants in areas that will not be burned or mowed. This involves cutting and removing sapling woody species like Sand Live and Laurel Oaks, Crooked Wood, etc. with loppers, hand saws, Root Jacks, etc..

This work is to be done in Florida Scrub in wintertime, so will be sunny, windy, and perhaps cold and dry. Volunteers will need to bring sunglasses/eye protection (for abundant, pokey Scrub plants), hat, work gloves, closed toed shoes (tennis shoes are fine), and appropriate clothing to guard against abundant briars, cacti, stinging/biting insects, Poison Ivy, Stinging Nettle, and Saw Palmettos. This will be a good workout in a truly beautiful place. Any amount of time will help the plant immensely; older plants will increase flowering and fruit production and seeds in the seedbank will increase germination from the increased sunlight, as a direct result of your work.

If you're interested in volunteering please let your chapter president and Todd Angel know and bring loppers, mattocks with cutting edge (not pick), hand saws, or other tools to remove small to medium sized saplings.

This workday is being coordinated by Todd Angel, Conservation Chair, and Michael Jenkins, Biologist, Florida Forest Service.

08:00 start time February 22-23, 2019
Etoniah Creek State Forest

Friday: Web Event | Facebook Event
Saturday: Web Event | Facebook Event

Announcement written by Todd Angel and posted by Valerie Anderson.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Prehistoric Broward: Three Jurassic Ferns

Before we get to the Jurassic ferns, step back with me in time and space for a moment to imagine the gradual and chaotic development of life on earth. We don’t yet know much about the beginning. During 2018 the NASA Curiosity rover provided more evidence of water on Mars and, importantly, organic molecules of the types that make life on earth. That isn’t yet scientific proof for prior life on Mars because complex “organic” molecules can be created chemically without life. We will have to wait to learn more about the story of life’s origins on earth and perhaps Mars.
Stromatolites, Exuma Land and Sea Park
Bahamas National Parks
From the fossil record, we know that Stromatolites, a living cyanobacteria, first appeared on earth roughly 3.5 billion years ago. They still live and grow relatively nearby (off the Exuma islands of the Bahamas). Stromatolites produce oxygen and slowly changed earth’s atmosphere, but nothing is simple in science or a good murder mystery. The earth has been through many atmospheric changes and five prior mass extinctions. Now is a good time for humans and other mammals to thrive and breathe, but it has not always been so. Let us not ruin that.
The blue atmosphere (think oxygen) as seen from
the International Space Station

This long view of life on earth (3.5 billion years for the stromatolites and 350,000 years for Homo sapiens) may help us realize how new we are, as a species, on the landscape. Imagine how much change, chaos, tenaciousness, has occurred and how many species lived and died and are only known to us through fossils, amber, and ever more sophisticated science that reveals tidbits of this long past.
Some of the plants now living around us are recent, either anomalies of their parent plants or just moved in from elsewhere. No plant in Broward has lived in the same spot where we find it now for more than roughly 75,000 years (somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 years). That was when the ocean receded from South Florida for the last time and until the present day. For perspective, the Pyramids of Giza are 4,500 years old.
During the last glaciation, about 20,000 years ago, the poles were heavily covered with ice and the ocean was much lower than now. Broward was, of course, exposed and in fact the Florida peninsula was something like three times wider. Our Broward coastline is steep beyond the beaches where the Gulf Stream now kisses Broward with warmth. So even then, when the ocean was low, our coastline was only slightly further east. Most of the then-extended Florida landscape was to the west and far, far beyond Naples. I imagine a gently sloping landscape to a much smaller Gulf of Mexico.
Pine Fern, Anemia adiantifolia
Photo: James Johnson 2014
The climate then, 20,000 years ago, would have been much different and, therefore, the plant life, too. Saber toothed cats, mammoths, mastodons, and sloths were then in Florida until their extinction about 10,000 years ago. People were evidently near Tallahassee 14,500 years ago, according to recent archeological discovery.  The evolution of the landscape and many ecosystems over the past 10,000 years in South Florida would make fascinating research and telling.
In the time since the sea receded from Broward, about 75,000 years ago, we can image a very complex and chaotic history with a relatively gradual climate change. Plants populate from the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, the Gulf coast, and from the temperate north (the US Eastern Seaboard). Species die out. Other species adapt to changes. More species keep arriving. Anomalies, genetic errors, plants different from their parents, are born here and most die, but a few persist to become our endemic species, different than any other species that ever existed on earth before. Some genera that migrate to South Florida had existed on land elsewhere for millions of years. Three fern genera that had existed on earth for about 200 million years found home here, too.
Cinnamon Fern, Osmundastrum cinnamomeum (Osmundaceae)
On our most recent field trip with the Dade Chapter near Turner River Unit in Big Cypress, Elizabeth and I saw the somewhat common Pine Fern, Anemia adiantifolia (Anemiaceae), the photo above, but she remarked about its two spore spikes. That got me thinking about two other South Florida ferns with spore spikes, Cinnamon Fern, Osmundastrum cinnamomeum (Osmundaceae), and Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis (Osmundaceae). Osmundaceae is in a different phylogenic Order than the Family, Anemiaceae, but all three are related to genera that existed during the Jurassic. Check  Cinnamon Fern origins and Royal Fern origins for more details. The Royal Fern family may trace origins back to the older Triassic era, but I am in no position to quibble the eras.
Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis (Osmundaceae)
Photo: Alan Cressler
According to research by Paulo Labiak, Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil, “Anemiaceae [The Pine Fern family] is one of the most ancient extant fern families, with fossils known since the Jurassic.” The family, Anemiaceae, is represented by the single genus, Anemia, and has about 115 living species distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical world. The phylogeny (evolutionary history) is, of course, complex and inevitably incomplete, but characterized by having sporangia with “subapical annulus and striate tetrahedral spores.” I would need a microscope and a little experience to confirm (smile). Roughly speaking, our Pine Fern, Anemia adiantifolia, has spore packets on those spore spikes that Elizabeth noticed that are characteristic of the genus, Anemia, presumably back to the Jurassic period, 200 million years ago.
Look for and protect these three ancient ferns in Fern Forest, Hillsborough Pineland, Pond Apple Slough, Miramar Pineland, Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area, Doris Davis Forman Wilderness Preserve, Coconut Creek Maple Swamp, Tree Tops Park, Secret Wood Nature Center and other places (even unprotected roadside and private property). Native nurseries sell Royal Fern and, less often, Cinnamon Fern. I know one person in Broward who is growing Pine Fern, but has no babies yet. Even if harder to cultivate, we should try to grow Pine Fern for its protection and our interest and enjoyment. Please just never take plants or their reproductive parts from the wild. We are too many and they are too few. We can obtain legally-acquired plants, seed, or spores from plants in cultivation, if we look hard enough and ask other responsible enthusiasts.

It would be reckless science for me to assume that spore spikes are a fern characteristic with ancient origins (a fact I haven’t studied), but in this case my hunch was apparently right. All three Broward ferns have very ancient origins. The notion of “living fossils” is a simplified concept not entirely accurate because plants continue to evolve over the eons splitting off into new variations and species along the way. However, the featured photo in this eNews header of a Jurassic fern fossil shows how remarkably similar Cinnamon Fern is to its Jurassic ancestor. A living fossil isn't far off the mark. To my mind and heart, it is very cool to look at these living ferns with a lot of respect and try to imagine them in ancient forests and habitats where dinosaurs thumped and dined.
Jurassic Osmundaceae Fossil (left) Cinnamon Fern (right)A magnificently preserved Jurassic fossil cross-section (left) compared with a modern Cinnamon Fern, Osmundastrum cinnamomeum (right). Even minute cell nucleoli are preserved in this 200 million year old fossil. Read about this fossil from Korsaröd, Sweden, here.
by Richard Brownscombe, President and Newsletter Editor for the Broward Chapter, posted by Valerie Anderson, Director of Communication

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Fighting over front yard gardens, wild native plants, and you

You may recall the fight between two gardeners and the Village of Miami Shores in 2016[1]. The two gardeners were growing vegetables in their front yard which violated the Village's zoning code Sec. 536 (5): "Vegetable gardens are permitted in rear yards only."[2]

The case almost made it to the Florida Supreme Court[3] but the justices refused to hear it[4]. They were represented by attorney Ari Bargill of the non-profit Institute for Justice[5]. Florida State Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) has taken up their cause this session, filing SB 82: Vegetable Gardens last week.

Relevance to Native Plant Enthusiasts

Ordinances restricting gardens in front yards reflect a reliance on outdated standards of landscaping that favor manicured green lawns that are ecologically sterile and provide little habitat for native bees, butterflies, and birds.  Ordinances and zoning codes restricting ecologically or nutritionally beneficial landscaping are often justified by "aesthetics", intimating that growing plants in your front yard for anything other than their ornamental value can be restricted by overzealous local governments.

Many of our members are native plant enthusiasts and grow native plants in their front yards to benefit native pollinators and birds as we, Xerces Society[6], and National Audubon Society[7] recommend to address our worldwide invertebrate decline[8][9]. Restricting the cultivation of plants in front of a house to those that serve no purpose other than to decorate is regressive. This arbitrary restriction enforces harmful norms that equate high property values with expensive, lifeless lawns that provide no food for people or pollinators.

Further research

Many of the least-protected plants in the world are not listed as threatened or endangered and are used for food, according to a new study published in the journal Ecological Indicators. Most food crops grown in Florida are not native, however, there are numerous wild plant species that are foraged for food, fiber, medicine, and decoration here in Florida and throughout the US and the world[10].

Growing heirloom vegetables and herbs that are suited to your area contributes to crop biodiversity, particularly if you save your seeds and replant them the next season. Additionally, growing native plants that are the wild relatives of crop plants maintains that important biodiversity that is highly sought-out when breeding disease resistance into domesticated food crops.


Local governments are currently allowed to restrict your ability to grow useful plants in your front yard. Senator Rob Bradley's bill would prevent local governments from restricting your right to grow edible plants in your front yard. If you support the premise of this bill, you can thank Senator Bradley and contact the Senators that represent you to encourage this bill through to the Governor's desk.

[1] Ovalle, David. 2016. Court upholds Miami Shores ban on veggie gardens. Miami Herald.
[2] Miami Shores Village, FL Zoning Code. Accessed 2018-11-27
[3] Fox35Orlando Staff. 2017. Supreme Court asked to rule on front yard garden ban. Accessed 2018-11-27.
[4] News Service of Florida. 2018. Florida Supreme Court turns down Miami-Dade vegetable garden case. Accessed 2018-11-27
[5] Institute for Justice. 2017. Florida Appellate Court Upholds Ban on Front-Yard Vegetable Gardens. Accessed 2018-11-27.
[6] Xerces Society. Bring Back the Pollinators Campaign. Accessed 2018-11-27.
[7] Krupp, Lexi. 2018. Yards With Non-Native Plants Create 'Food Deserts' for Bugs and Birds. National Audubon Society.
[8] Schwagerl, Christian. 2016. What's Causing the Sharp Decline in Insects, and Why It Matters. Yale Environment 360.
[9] Marchese, Halle and van Hoose, Natalie. 2018. Florida monarch butterfly populations have dropped 80 percent since 2005. Florida Museum.
[10] Mattson, Sean. 2018. Wild coffee plants, Christmas trees and chocolate's tree are surprisingly poorly protected. CIAT.

by Valerie Anderson, Director of Communications and Programming

Friday, November 9, 2018

Why do we care so much about Warea?

Clasping Warea is a Federally-Endangered plant. Our mission is to protect the native plants of Florida, and there are no plants that need protection more than ones that are on the endangered species list! 

We have been working since 2012 on monitoring Clasping Warea on the Warea Tract of the Seminole State Forest. Tarflower Chapter leads volunteer outings and hikes in this valuable property that is otherwise closed to the public. 

We also monitor three other sites with Clasping Warea within the rapidly developing Central Florida area. We have decided to take action to protect the largest population of Clasping Warea in Florida. It’s unprotected and could be developed at any time. 

We’re calling this place “The Warea Area” because there’s so much of it, plus, it rolls right off the tongue. View our photo album of this beautiful piece of real Florida here

Help us save this endangered species by donating today.

Friday, October 26, 2018

What it's like to adopt a highway by Janina Shoemaker of Sea Rocket Chapter

Sea Rocket Chapter, North Brevard County, held our first Adopt-a-Highway litter pickup with a crew of four, Saturday, October 20, along Columbia Blvd (a major 4-lane to the Space Coast) in 77-80 F weather, (warm but not too humid). We collected a ton (*) of paper, plastic, and some metal trash in under 3 hours, totaling 12 volunteer hours for the society. 
Litter Crew: David Humphrey, Janina Shoemaker, and Jim Robey
The team considered this a trial learning experience and found that a single sweep of four abreast was more efficient than two pair working both shoulders. We discovered a gopher tortoise meandering along the highway, but also found the remains of a deer and an armadillo, stripped to the bones. Our area of pickup was both sides of the road, in some places about ten feet wide, and in others, a wider expanse past culverts up to fence lines. We noted many native species growing, healthy green-ways, preventing run-off. (The median is NOT included, DOT rules.) 
Our next litter pickup will be scheduled for February, and we encourage members and friends to join us. We feel this project is a good way to present our name to the public, to be visible in community service. We also attend various festivals with literature and native plants and continue to grow our membership. If you live in the area or are willing to travel to Titusville to volunteer, contact (*) an exaggeration 
Placing our "loot" under the highway sign for DOT pickup.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Gardening with Natives Open Forum by Carolyn Gregsak

The Mangrove Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society presented its first meeting of the season on October 9 at Lemon Bay Park in Englewood. More than two-dozen guests were in attendance at the Open Forum, a framework for an interactive, question/discussion session, between the audience and 4-person panel, concerning gardening with native plants in this area of SW Florida. Several first-time attendees were present and we look forward to seeing them throughout the coming season.

   The panel consisted of four members of the Mangrove Chapter: Bonnie Moore, Linda Wilson, Al Squires, and Gail Finney. Several questions, submitted prior to the meeting, brought the audience and panel into the full spirit of discussion and debate. Some of the most enthusiastic debate revolved around planting non-native plants with native plants, soil composition, and soil amendments.

   Meeting adjournment at eight o’clock seemed to arrive too soon, and many guests lingered to share their comments. Members are looking forward to the Open Forum becoming an annual tradition, starting off each new season at the October meetings.

Bank with Natives in Steinhatchee by Jaya Milam

Big Bend Chapter completed a native plant conversion for our local Citizens State Bank.  We transformed the garden beds from all non-native to all native! The bank's managers were delighted with the results. They were very pleased to know that there is very low maintenance and the garden beds will shine with natural beauty most of the year!

Through this project we were able to share much information regarding the quality and sustainability of going native with many in our community that go past our beautiful Native transformations and get to enjoy the natural beauty.  We were provided the privilege to put our Big Bend Chapter Sign discretely in the corner of each flower bed to encourage folks to consider native when gardening at their home or business facility.  We have received numerous compliments and commendations from many customers and folks just passing by....Go Native, it’s contagious!