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


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why Florida Native Plant Month?

A New Initiative

As the weather turns nicer and chapter events start increasing, the Florida Native Plant Society is starting a new initiative for the fall this year.  Welcome to the first ever Florida Native Plant Month!   You can find a list of events at

The St. Johns County Proclamation of October being Florida's Native Plant Month 
We are working on a coordinated outreach and membership campaign to tell everyone we can find in the state about the work FNPS does.  As part of this, we are building relationships with local elected officials, media and organizations who may not know much about us.

The proclamation document.
There are currently 36 scheduled proclamations across the state for an event FNPS decided to proceed with in late July.  We have already found people that share a similar mindset as FNPS who were not members.  One of the coolest stories so far is a City Commissioner reaching out to us because he wanted to do a Florida Native Plant Month proclamation.

St Johns BOCC Chairwoman Rachael Bennett said “My backyard, much to the dismay of my HOA, looks very much like a natural Florida environment.” A nice touch from the Sea Oats members in attendance to give a loud round of applause after that line!

In Highlands County, we were able to highlight our friends at Archbold Biological Station’s use of native landscaping that won a 2015 FNPS Landscape Award.

Proclamations are purely ceremonial but allow for promotion of the FNPS mission state and reach the general public on the benefits of native plants.  They are a great tool to be in front of your County Commissioners or your city elected officials to talk about native plants and celebrate the work that your chapter does. You may be surprised how many people keep an eye on what happens at their local government meetings.

Tips to use your proclamations: display at plant sales and chapter meetings, press releases with a picture of your members receiving the proclamation to your local media (especially newspapers with an ‘Around Town’ section).

Florida Native Plant Month aids, including press release templates, digital logos and flyers/posters can be found at here. The organizing committee still has some of the original printed posters that can be sent. Remember there are FNPS membership brochures available for you to have at events.

One of the reasons we were able to have printed materials is the support of our generous sponsors that believed in a first year program. Thank you to Conversa, NAUI Green DiverInitiative, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Please contact FNPS Development Director Andy Taylor or committee chair Donna Bollenbach for details on Florida Native Plant Month.

Florida Native Plant Month sponsors:
We thank our sponsors.

Post by Andy Taylor.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Speak up for Florida!


Most of Florida's County Legislative Delegations have scheduled local meetings over the next couple of weeks. Your Legislative Delegation meeting provides local constituents with a rare opportunity to speak directly with the state lawmakers who represent them in Tallahassee. You may also have a chance to speak more personally with your delegates during breaks and/or at the conclusion of the meeting.

(Find your representatives: Find your Florida senator and Find your Florida House representative. )


As a member of the Florida Native Plant Society or someone who cares for Florida's wild spaces and their native ecosystems. We ask you to attend your local delegation meeting to express your support for Florida.

Please consider attending and speaking at your local meeting and emphasize the points below:

Be organized because you'll only have 3 minutes to
make your point. (G. Stibolt at a Clay County
Delegation meeting.)


1. Restore Florida Forever funding. 
Let them know that when you voted in support of Amendment 1, you intended for a large portion of the funds to be used to conserve land. Annual funding for Florida Forever should at least equal the $300 million that was allocated before funding was cut in response to the recession. This amount is not cost-prohibitive given that annual Amendment 1 funding exceeds $700 million.

2. Manage Florida’s conservation lands responsibly. 
The land we have already conserved represents a valuable investment and proper management is necessary to protect our investment. Management shouldn’t be short-changed by inadequate staffing or funding. Funding should be sufficient to implement the management plans that have been adopted for each property.

3. Do not spend Amendment 1 funds on items previously provided from other funding sources, such as staff salaries. Amendment 1 was intended to supplement funding for conservation, not replace pre-existing funds that came from other sources.

4. Adopt a comprehensive approach to protection of our water resources.
Such an approach must account for the water needs of our springs, rivers, estuaries, and other water-dependent natural systems. 


The procedure differs depending on the county. To find out the procedures to be a speaker call any one of the offices for your senator or representative and a staff member will forward your request to the representative in charge of that meeting's agenda. Some counties require you to sign up several days ahead of time  but others have speaker request forms available at the meeting, and if this is the case, you should submit one immediately upon arrival to ensure you will be allowed to speak. 

Senator Rob Bradley and FNPS member Ginny Stibolt.

Tips for making a good impression

1. Dress appropriately: Wear business casual clothing.
2. Be polite: Even though we may be disappointed with the house and senate actions, be respectful to your individual representatives. No yelling.
3. Be Prepared: You may only have 3 minutes to make all your points.
4. Offer to be a resource if they have questions. 
5. County officials, who will also addressing the delegation will be in the room, so your audience is much larger than just the representatives. Chances are good that most of these people have never considered that native plants might be important.
6. Bring handouts with your contact information and the major points you want them to to know. (I print mine on green paper so they don't get lost in the shuffle.)
7. Come early and/or stay late so you can mingle with your representatives, their staff, and the county officials. Bring a camera and take a photo with them and then email them the photo for their use. Be memorable.

If we all speak up on behalf of Florida in will be HUGE!

Thank you for all your efforts.

Thanks to Gene Kelly for organizing the talking points.

Posted by & Photos by

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Our Beautiful Subtropical Garden

By Mary Ann Gibbs

When my husband, Tucker, and I bought our house in Miami some 16 years ago, we inherited a yard that was mostly grass with five large melaleuca trees, several Queen palms and a Surinam cherry hedge. We tore all of that out and evolved our yard into what it is today – a haven for people and wildlife. There is a sense of beauty and peace in the garden where we can observe the birds, butterflies, bees, squirrels and other critters that share our space with us.
A more than 15-year-old lignam-vitae tree on left is the standout in our new hedge planted with many young native trees and bushes, including here coral-bean, golden dewdrop, satinwood and Florida Keys blackbead. Growing up the chicken wire around a fishtail palm to the right of the lignam-vitae is passion vine, a larval host for heliconian butterflies. The bromeliads in the front will come out as the young slow-growing natives fill up and out.
We have never liked grass in our yard. We replaced most it with winding garden beds lined by coral rocks and gravel paths. We always kept some grass for our daughter for playing outside. Now that she is an adult, we decided to eliminate the rest of the grass and add more native plants in a garden makeover that started last winter.

We finished tearing out the Brazilian cloak privacy hedge we had initially planted. Now our hedge is mostly made up of native trees and bushes, such as spicewood, Jamaican caper, bay cedar, butterfly-sage, golden dewdrop, white indigo berry, Bahama strongbark, beautyberry, Florida Keys blackbead, snowberry, privet cassia, wild-lime, marlberry, Florida tetrazygia, lignum-vitae, wild coffee, maidenbush, necklace-pod, locustberry, firebush, Florida privet, coralbean and all the stoppers – red, red-berry, white, Simpson and Spanish. I had been growing the lignum-vitae, wild-lime, Florida privet and Spanish and Simpson stoppers for years so they have grown into handsome specimens. The white stopper, planted nearly five years ago, had become such a beautiful small tree that I bought a second one.
Another view of the young hedge featuring the lignam-vitae looking down our street. The native bushes here from back to front are coral-bean, spicewood, Florida Keys blackbead, golden dewdrop, and white indigo berry.
It might seem that this is a large number of plants for a hedge. However, our quarter-acre yard is long and narrow, spanning the bottom of the horseshoe-shaped cul-de-sac on which we live. We needed many plants to create the native hedge and fill garden beds.
Mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis baccifera), a native endangered plant,
establishing itself on a cabbage palm, a favorite spot.
My husband and I preferred to mix natives along our property’s perimeter rather than plant just one kind, such as the commonly used red tip cocoplum, because diversity is beautiful, more interesting, offers less opportunity for disease and provides food and habitat for a variety of wildlife. We planted for birds, butterflies, bees and other animals that want to share in the bounty.
Our goal was to provide a sanctuary for animals and endangered native plants that have lost their natural environment to development. In our neighborhood, which was once pine rockland, many houses have grassy yards accented by mostly non-native plants – just like ours once was. Our U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Zone is 10b.
Quailberry (Crossopetalum ilicifolium)  specimen has been
happily growing in this spot for some 15 years.
Behind the native hedge, we broke the yard down into beds for different purposes, such as butterfly and kitchen gardens and a shady area for understory plants under a large live oak. These beds host subtropical greenery as well as a variety of native plants, that include coontie, joewood, pineland croton, corky passion flower and passion vines, blue porterweed, sea lavender, swamp sunflower, rice button aster, blanket-flower, tickseed, blue-eyed grass, yellowtop, purple flag iris, beach verbena, star rush, wild plumbago, quailberry, rouge plant, goldenrod, little strongbark, wild lantana, pineland lantana, spiderwort, beach sunflower, wild petunia, mimosa, Dutchman’s pipe vine, climbing aster, frogfruit, helmet skullcap, scorpion-tail, loosestrife, violet, tropical sage, wood sage and creeping Charlie.
Sea lavender (Argusia gnaphalodes) in a butterfly garden.
Over the years we have also planted many native palms, including the silver thatch, buccaneer, cabbage, Key thatch, saw palmetto and Florida thatch palms.
Since I have been butterfly gardening for more than five years, we have cultivated a variety of butterflies in our yard by planting many native host and nectar plants. This summer we’re seeing Monarch, Zebra, Giant Swallowtail, Gold Rim Swallowtail, Gulf Fritillary, Mangrove Buckeye, several Sulfers and Pharon and Pearl Cresent butterflies. We’ve even seen a tiny blue butterfly that could be either a Cassius Blue or Ceraunus Blue. They fly so fast we cannot quite tell what they are. We planted coonties all over the yard and hope someday to attract the rare Attala butterfly.
This silver thatch palm (Leucothrinax morrisii ) is more than 20 years old. 
I learned about native plants when I took the Florida Master Gardener course some 20 years ago. I have been building on that knowledge by reading books and taking classes about gardening. I decided what plants I wanted in my garden and then bought them at local native plant nurseries, such as Casey’s Corner Nursery in Homestead, Florida, and plant shows by plant societies, such as the Dade chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.
When I find out about an endangered plant, such as the crenulate lead-plant, I buy it to help the plant from becoming extinct. We have three crenulate lead-plants in our butterfly beds. As a bonus, the critically imperiled lead-plant is a larval host for the Cassius Blue butterfly.
We have found gardening with native plants to be very rewarding. Not only are we helping to preserve habitat for the beautiful animals that live with us in South Florida, we are creating a beautiful green space in the city where when we step outside, we are at peace in nature.

 ~ ~ ~
Thanks to Mary Ann for sharing her yard and its stories. Would you like to share your yard? Let us know.
Posted by Ginny Stibolt

Friday, August 7, 2015

Finding Native “Apples” in Florida

The Story of a Field Trip Leader who Just Wouldn’t Give Up

By Sande Habali

Native “Apples” in Florida!  “Apples” in Volusia County?  Thanks to the dedication of our intrepid field trip leader, Sonya Guidry, the two year search for the endangered Harrisia fragrans is over!  Pawpaw chapter members located a Prickly “apple” orchard in southern Volusia County!

Sonya and I first met Dr. Jon Moore from Florida Atlantic University, Wilkes Honor College, where he presented a paper on the Prickly Apple at the 2012 FNPS Conference in Plant City. His research paper was entitled "Transplantation of the Endangered Fragrant Prickly Apple Cactus, Harrisia fragrans, in St. Lucie and Indian River Counties." He explained the scrub habitat and conditions of its survival historically and that it exists now in St Lucie and Brevard County coastlines. He mentioned it could “possibly” be found in Volusia County and gave Sonya the coordinates. When he said it would be “hard to find”; I think that was all the challenge she needed to make it her mission to go out and locate this important cactus!

First, Sonya tried by land to find the little guys. If anyone has ever been to Castle Windy Midden in Canaveral National Seashore  (CNS), you know why the area is known as Mosquito Lagoon. Sonya and I battled swarms of mosquitoes while we traipsed through the dense foliage in search of Harrisia fragrans. And by “we,” I certainly mean Sonya!  I was too busy trying to find sunlight to relieve the buzzing noises and discomfort that follows. Of course, we realized we were a bit too far north and we were not looking in the right terrain. We needed to be in scrub-like conditions.

But Sonya was not ready to give up. She began asking anyone and everyone she met with a boat to take her by water to find the Fragrant Prickly apple.  She continued to keep the subject “alive,” by discussing her quest and speaking with Dr. Moore again at another event.

The fuzzy fungus on the endangered
Fragrant Prickly Apple Cactus (Harrisia fragrans)


Eventually, Sonya added another feather to her cap and became a tour volunteer and plant ID guide at CNS. Naturally, her enthusiasm for finding Harrisia fragrans, carried over to the other volunteers who then enlisted the help of a CNS Park Service boat with Captain Walt at the helm. The exploratory group of CNS volunteers, fellow Pawpaw members Dot Backes and Sonya, and MDC’s kayak specialist, Warren Reynolds set off in early April. Success! Not only did they find lots of cool treasures, but they found the Prickly Apple, Gumbo Limbo (Bursera simaruba), and strangler fig. Sonya’s determination paid off.

Now she wanted to share her findings with her Pawpaw Chapter folks and friends. An outing to Canaveral National Seashore became our June field trip in 2015.

Fruit of the Fragrant Prickly Apple Cactus (Harrisia fragrans)

The fruit of the Fragrant Prickly Apple Cactus (Harrisia fragrans)

Looking for “apples” and other treasures located in Canaveral National Seashore will be part of the field trips offered by  Pawpaw Chapter at the 2016 Conference. 

Photos by Sonya Guidry
Posted by Ginny Stibolt

Monday, July 27, 2015

Planting a Feast for Nature

By Marlene Rodak

Creating Bird and Butterfly Habitat at Middle School

A tiny butterfly on bloodberry (Cordia globosa), which is one of the native species
that will be planted at Fort Myers Middle Academy on Tuesday
The school corridor to be planted
A spectacular event will take place the morning of Tuesday, July 28 at Fort Myers Middle Academy.  Florida Forest Service employees and volunteers from the Florida Native Plant Society are planting hundreds of native plants in an outdoor corridor, which will transform the area into important bird and butterfly habitat.  This planting will demonstrate how natural, native landscaping functions in the environment by providing food and shelter to wildlife.  Best of all, the entire project is provided to Fort Myers Middle Academy and Lee County Schools FREE OF CHARGE!

FNPS Coccoloba Chapter President
Martha Grattan shoveling mulch
at Fort Myers Middle Academy
Florida Native Plant Society is coordinating the planting with Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, Florida Forest Service, Covanta Energy, Lee County Solid Waste, All Native Garden Center, Deep South Native Nursery, Hickory Hammock Native Tree Farm, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Nursery and others.  Costco, Bass Pro Shops, and Estero Community Park Recreation Center donated the cardboard and newspapers that volunteers placed over the entire 105' x 20' area. This will both recycle these materials and help prevent weeds for about a year. After laying the cardboard and newspaper, they covered it in mulch. Subsequently, they will install about 340 one-gallon plants in openings they make through the cardboard, with the mulch moved to the side then returned under the plants' dripline. Volunteers have already driven to Sweetbay Nursery in Parrish, Florida to acquire plants for the project that were not available at local nurseries.

After the planting is finished, the school will be provided with a plant maintenance manual . Monthly visits will also take place to monitor the new landscape's progress.

Fort Myers Middle Academy, located at 3050 Central Avenue, Fort Myers, FL 33901, was in the news in March when student Jeffery Thompson won the Lee County Spelling Bee by correctly spelling the word ESCARGOT. The school, which celebrates its 60th year anniversary this year, is in one of the most economically challenged areas of the city.

Would you like to learn more about native plants and landscaping in southwest Florida?  Do you want to help a school that deserves our attention?  Call (239) 273-8945 to learn how you can participate.  Visit for more information about the Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.

Below are some work-in-progress photos. Looking great, Coccoloba Chapter!

Already an improvement!
posted by Laurie Sheldon

Monday, June 1, 2015

2015 FNPS conference: Native Yard Tour

A conference field trip

by Donna Legare with photos by Lilly Anderson-Messec

On Thursday, May 28th Native Nurseries led a tour of native yards in Tallahassee for the Florida Native Plant Society's 35th Annual Conference. The tour featured three yards.

1) A rain garden and more...

The first illustrated what could be done with a blank slate in a neighborhood that was previously a cow pasture with scattered large live oaks. Landscape designer, David Copps designed the native landscape for Mark and Linda Powell, whose home is certified as LEED Platinum. The native landscape helped them earn this designation. David described how he implemented his design, beginning with very heavy mulching of existing vegetation. He included a rain garden in a natural depression and created a future forest of mixed hardwoods in one section and a small longleaf pine grove in the back yard. Jody Walthall, owner and landscape designer at Native Nurseries talked about what is involved in maintaining this type of landscape.

The group gathers to discuss the creation of this native landscape, just beyond the rain garden of bluestem palmetto, senecio, blue eyed grass, loblolly bay and other native plants that fills a natural depression on the property.

Field trip participants admire one of the largest sweetbays
in the state at Eleanor Dietrich's.

2) A large sweetbay magnolia

The second site visited was the home of long time Magnolia Chapter member Eleanor Dietrich. Eleanor's house is perched above a beautiful ravine with huge sweetbay, American beech, blackgum and other hardwoods. Over the years the woodland had become crowded with invasives - nandina, ligustrum, ardisia to name just a few. Inspired by Doug Tallamy's book, Bringing Nature Home, Eleanor embarked on a long term and intensive project to remove the invasives and replant with natives with the help of two professional gardeners.

3) Invite the birds

The last stop featured a typical in-town house and yard, the home of Native Nurseries' owners, Donna Legare and Jody Walthall. When they purchased the house in the early 1990s, 100% of the landscape plants were non-native, except for the large trees. This landscape illustrates what two busy people, running a business and raising a family, can do over time to convert to mostly native with the goal of increasing diversity for wildlife.

We gather at the the bird-window to watch birds up close among the native plants in the backyard at the Legare/Walthall residence.

And to top it off... 

The tour ended with home-made oatmeal cookies and iced tea at Native Nurseries, where participants had fun shopping for native plants, perusing the nature gift shop and getting a close-up view through a spotting scope of two baby red-shouldered hawks in a nest, high in pine tree over the parking lot.

In addition to the people mentioned above, I would like to thank Lilly Anderson-Messec, manager of Native Nurseries and Vanessa Crisler of Trillium Gardens Nursery for their assistance during the tour.

Posted by Ginny Stibolt

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Conference Highlights: Burning and so much more...

FNPS Conference, Born to Burn: May 28 - 31 in Tallahassee

Last day to register online is May 22. Onsite registration will open on May 27th.
(The online registration fee is $85/day. Onsite registration is $120/day.)  

Born to Burn is our theme and we'll offer a good variety of presentations, workshops and panel discussions on the importance of fire for Florida's ecosystems.
Of course, we are offering field trips in Florida's Panhandle. Several still have openings on both Thursday and Sunday. (You must register for one day of the conference in order to participate in a field trip,)

But wait, there's more... 

 3 social events: (Fees apply.)

- Thursday evening: Welcome to the Capital. Dinner on the 22nd floor of the capital building
- Friday evening: Dinner and optional boat ride at Wakulla Springs
- Saturday evening:  Dinner at Tall Timbers Research Center & Land Conservancy. a fitting end to the conference.

William Bartram (aka Mike Adams) will make an appearance at the Saturday evening social event at Tall Timbers.

- Dr. Austin Mast (left), Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, will lead the group through a transcription blitz at FSU's Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium.
- Sue Mullins, FNPS's lobbyist will present, Speaking for Florida: learn how to support Florida’s ecosystems.  The workshop will address all forms of communicating to lawmakers, including:Audience research, Coalition building,.Grassroots & grasstops mobilization, Issues management / public affairs, Media relations, Partnership development, Social media, Strategic communications, How to effectively communicate to elected officials, and What not to do.

A Saturday presentation by  Eleanor Dietrich and Robert Farley. Learn how to request Wildflower Areas in your area, with examples of how this program is being implemented in northwest Florida.

Florida needs more wildflowers and less mowing, so let's all work with our local officials to make this happen now that there are new regulations for doing so.

 Native Florida Plants for Shady Landscapes

A Saturday presentation (and the book will be for sale on Friday and Saturday) by Craig Huegel.

Living in Florida makes shade extremely desirable, but landscaping in shade creates its own set of challenges.  Plants do not respond to shady areas the same as they respond to sun.  Understanding how shade affects plants and knowing which native species perform adequately under these conditions is important if you are create an ecologically vibrant landscape in shade.  

 The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape

A Friday presentation (with pre-orders for the book taken on Friday and Saturday) by Ginny Stibolt

When native plant enthusiasts talk to people who are familiar with high maintenance lawns, instant landscapes, seasonally planted beds, and the pretty-on-the-shelf plants, we have a lot of talking to do. We can explain how the native plants provide specific habitat services in their natural ecosystems such as supplying food to birds or insects. But when we say natives need less water, no pesticides, and no fertilizer, are we over stating our case? 

 2015 FNPS Conference

So we'll see you in Tallahassee! 

Written and posted by Ginny Stibolt

Friday, May 8, 2015

F.N.P.S. President's Statement on Proposed Surplus Lands

The mission of the Florida Native Plant Society is to
promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of
the native plants and native plant communities of Florida.

April 12, 2015

Robert Beltran, Executive Director
Southwest Florida Water Management District
2379 Broad Street
Brooksville, Florida 34604-6899

Subject:  Comments on Proposal to Surplus District-held Conservation Lands

Dear Mr. Beltran:

The Florida Native Plant Society (Society) recognizes that the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is a critically important participant in Florida’s land conservation efforts. We hope you recognize the Society to be an especially supportive and engaged stakeholder given our regular participation on land management review teams, the assistance several of our local chapters have provided by conducting plant surveys on District lands, and the various other forms of support we have provided over the years.

We have evaluated the lands proposed for surplussing as part of the ongoing Biennial Assessment and disagree strongly with inclusion of a number of the parcels. The District has not shared any information on the assessment process that was used to assemble the list, and we believe such information must be shared with the public before a well-conceived proposal can be submitted for consideration by the Governing Board.

While we believe the surplussing of lands that truly lack conservation value is a responsible course of action, we also believe surplussing decisions must be based an expansive interpretation of what constitutes conservation value, and the adoption of a long-range view. The tremendous investment the public has made in funding these acquisitions, and will continue to make to ensure the lands are properly managed, demands nothing less.

The following discussion summarizes the results of our evaluation for several project areas. The comments are representative of the expansive interpretation and long-term view we espouse, and that we believe is lacking from the District’s proposal. We conclude the letter with a table that summarizes our position on each of the parcels identified in the District’s proposed list.

Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve (GSWP)

The GSE-1, GSE-2 and GSE-3 parcels (left) are proposed to be surplussed with a conservation easement retained over them. Decisions on whether relinquishing fee title ownership is justified should be based first and foremost on whether the natural and societal values of a subject parcel can be conserved effectively through less-than-fee ownership. “Working landscapes” that provide income for a fee-title owner while conserving natural resources that benefit the public will be an essential part of the “mix” in Florida’s efforts to create a viable, sustainable network of conservation lands. The upland portions of GSE-1 have been converted to improved pasture, it is contiguous with other lands protected through easements, and is within an approved Florida Forever project area that has identified easements as a suitable mechanism for protection. We believe it may be appropriate to sell fee-title to GSE-1, provided a highly restrictive easement is retained that would preclude conversion of unaltered areas, logging in wetlands, extractive uses or subdivision, and that limit future uses to agricultural or silvicultural uses that would be compatible with conservation objectives for the Green Swamp. It should also include a requirement that invasive plants be controlled and any fire-maintained habitats be subjected to burns.

However, the District should not consider GSE-2 and GSE-3 as surplus parcels given their size (111 and 227 acres, respectively), relatively unaltered condition, contiguity with the main body of the GSWP, frontage on the Van Fleet State Trail (>1.5 miles total) and exceptional habitat values. Both parcels include pine flatwoods habitat and isolated wetland systems. Flatwoods have been designated an Under-Represented Natural Community by the Florida Forever Conservation Needs Assessment (FFCNA), and both parcels are within a Priority 2 Ecological Greenway. Listed species that are potentially present on these lands, based on available data, include the Eastern indigo snake, celestial lily, red-margined zephyr lily, swamp plumed polypody, cutthroat grass and gopher tortoise. The forested wetland serves as potential nesting or roosting habitat for swallow-tailed kites. And finally, GSE-3 encompasses a portion of main stem of the Withlacoochee River in the uppermost headwater reaches of the river. If these lands were not already protected through fee-title public ownership, they would be outstanding candidates for such protection. It is difficult to fathom how they could be identified as possible surplus parcels. 

We applied the same basic evaluation criteria to the GSW-3 and GSW-4 parcels (left). Although pine plantation accounts for much of the GSW-3 land area, the parcel supports a diverse mix of habitat types and maintains a linkage between the GSWP and Colt Creek State Park. The plantation area should be targeted for future habitat restoration and fee-title ownership of this 326-acre parcel should be retained. Much of GSW-4 has been converted to improved pasture and it represents a transitional zone between the core habitat of the GSWP and the surrounding working landscapes (i.e., ranches) that supplement the habitat conserved under public ownership and buffer it from surrounding land uses. It could be appropriate to consider surplussing GSW-4, provided it would continue to be conserved under a highly restrictive easement. However, the value of land encumbered by such restrictions may be extremely limited in the private market. It could be more cost-effective for the District to lease large, modified parcels like GSW-4 for cattle grazing or haying, or engage in revenue-generating silviculture in the pasture areas, rather than relinquish ownership and the control it provides. Such a cost-benefit analysis should be part of the District’s assessment, yet there is no evidence that such factors received any consideration.

Annutteliga Hammock

“Mega-Parcel” projects like Annutteliga Hammock are incredibly challenging. They require a long-term commitment and patience. We believe a decision to surplus the large number of small and largely disjunct parcels acquired through this project is premature. There is also a 160-acre parcel in the northwest corner of the project area that has superlative stand-alone conservation value, yet it is proposed for surplus. As illustrated by the series of maps below, the Annutteliga Hammock project seeks to conserve a land area with extraordinary natural significance. Recharge rates are as high as any recorded in the state. The corollary of this is that the vulnerability of the Floridan aquifer to contamination equally high – with the main headwater springs of the Chassahowitzka River less than 2 miles to the northwest. Minimizing development in this area, and the threat of groundwater contamination that it poses, should be factored into any decisions to surplus lands here. The Priority 2 Ecological Greenway ranking of the GSWP parcels discussed previously is significant; this project is a Priority 1 “Critical Linkage” and represents the last viable opportunity to maintain functional connectivity between the Chassahowitza complex of conservation lands along the coast and the Withlacoochee State Forest to the northeast. 

Lastly, it should be noted the sandhill habitat of the project area is another Under-Represented Natural Community. Listed species known to inhabit the sandhill habitats of the Annuttliga Hammock and adjoining public lands include the Sherman’s fox squirrel, gopher tortoise, Florida mouse, gopher frog, giant orchid, Chapman’s skeletongrass, Florida pine snake, small-tailed snake, and pine pinweed.

Little Manatee River Corridor Southfork Tract

The 57-acre parcel at the southeastern end of the Little Manatee River Corridor project supports a mixture of pine flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, wet flatwoods and wet prairie habitat. This area of high habitat diversity is contiguous with the eastern boundary of the South Fork State Park and is proximate to a segment of the Little Manatee River. A surplus sale of the parcel would degrade the value of the neighboring lands that the District proposes to retain. Given the parcel’s contiguity with the state park, proximity to the river, and ease of access from the adjoining road, it would make more sense to incorporate the entire tract into the state park. If this parcel was not already publicly owned, it would be logical to pursue its acquisition; as such, there is little apparent logic in proposing to surplus it.

The parcels discussed above, and many others on your list, merit a much more in-depth discussion than we have provided here. For example, we are also especially concerned by the proposal to surplus two parcels within the Halpata Tastanaki Preserve, where the District’s history of habitat restoration and effective land management are achieving great success. That success is clearly illustrated by an observed expansion of the local Florida scrub jay population. These parcels provide an excellent opportunity to expand the population even more through habitat restoration given the xeric soils that underlie them. Indeed, if jays already inhabit these parcels, any actions that exclude them could be considered a taking of a federally-listed species and a violation of the Endangered Species Act. A federally listed plant species – the endangered longspur balm – may also occur on these xeric soils. The Preserve, in combination with the neighboring Ross Prairie State Forest, constitutes the only area of significant core habitat along the entire Cross Florida Greenway, from the Ocala National Forest to the Gulf of Mexico. We believe virtually every acre now under public ownership should be retained.

The District has the staff and other resources to conduct a comprehensive assessment of these lands you hold in trust for the public. The Society does not enjoy the benefit of such resources, yet there is little evidence to indicate that you have conducted an assessment as discerning as ours. We ask that you conduct a scientifically rigorous and transparent evaluation before you finalize the Biennial Assessment. We stand ready to assist you in any way we can, and look forward to continuing our constructive relationship with the District. Thank you for considering our concerns.


Anne C. Cox, President
Florida Native Plant Society

full-size map images can be viewed on the FNPS Flickr page

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Learning from California

By Devon Higginbotham

Despite Governor Brown's pleas to conserve during the
ongoing severe drought, California's water use continues to rise.
Today, because of the drought in the southwest, the City of Palm Springs, CA (long considered a desert oasis) is returning to native plants. According to the New York Times, “Palm Springs has ordered 50 percent cuts in water use by city agencies, and plans to replace the lawns and annual flowers around city buildings with native landscapes. It is digging up the grassy median into town that unfurled before visitors like a carpet at a Hollywood premiere. It is paying residents to replace their lawns with rocks and desert plants…”   (See link at bottom for the entire article)

It’s too bad it takes an event as drastic as a drought to bring attention to the benefits of native plants, but once people realize the rewards to wildlife and the state’s water system, it becomes obvious, both in California and Florida. Hopefully California will learn and adapt to their climate and 20 years from now will “look” like an arid landscape should look.

Property surrounded by desert in Palm Springs. The state's current
landscape norms face an uncertain future as severe water shortages
have prompted a mandated a 25% reduction in non-ag water use.
Photo credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times
No doubt, the California Native Plant Society is revving into high gear, promoting the use of native plants in desert habitats. Every homeowner should be learning how to convert their yards to natives and conserve water, not just for a year but forever. Unfortunately there will be naysayers, like the man in the Times article that said, “I’m not going to stop watering,” said Matthew Post, 45, referring to the gardens around his Benedict Canyon home. “The state does not know how to arrange the resources they have, and so we have to pay for it….”

What can we learn from California?  Don’t wait for a crisis to change our concept of what is beautiful. We must be actively promoting and speaking out.

For the first time since 2007, FNPS is poised to top the 3,000 mark in membership. This is a monumental point in our growth which was diminished by the drop in the US economy.

Because of the graceful stewardship of Jonnie Spitler, FNPS now has a very capable Membership Chair who is uniting and supporting all the chapter chairs. We have a new FNPS brochure on the way to the publishers, smaller chapters are getting support and membership is growing.

This home in California's Yucca Valley is surrounded by native plants.
Hopefully more people will recognize its beauty as well as its functionality
and enviro-conscious appeal.
Also this year, thanks to the careful guidance of Karina Veaudry, we have a new chapter, The Villages, in Sumter Co which has grown in just a few months to over 60 members. Interest in Florida Native Plants is sparking in homeowners, politicians and governmental officials. But we need to continue growing and that means more members, more feet on the ground, more neighbors talking to neighbors!

Over the next few months, FNPS is poised to surpass our all-time high of 3145 members. This is not the end of our goal but merely the beginning.

Heather Cooley, water program director for the Pacific Institute, an environmental research group based in Oakland said,  “This will change what Californians see as beautiful”. Let’s not wait for a drought or dried lakes and streams or murky springs to change what Floridians see as beautiful.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April 2015 Legislative Update

From the F.N.P.S. Policy Team...

Dear Native Plant Advocates and Environmental Stewards:
Thank you for speaking up for more land acquisition funding through Amendment 1. You made a difference and an impression on legislators. They told our lobbyist that callers who identified themselves as FNPS members were both polite and well-informed. There is more work ahead for us on Amendment 1 funding - that Alert remains active on our website - but there are other issues of importance to conserving native plants and native plant communities. Please consider acting on one or more of the issues discussed below and be prepared to act in the near future on an Alert that will demand meaningful funding for land conservation. To find contact information for your legislator, go to and

Growth Management

Without good growth management, it’s hard to conserve habitat for native plants and wildlife. The Senate is getting ready to discuss SB 1216, which is a companion bill to HB 933. The House passed HB 933 on April 9. SB 1216 is a much better bill. Please ask your Senator to MAINTAIN the following provisions that we support:
  • The pilot “connected city corridors” program for Pasco County that supports innovative mixed use, high-tech employment and multi-modal developments via linear transportation and development connections (a new “sector plan” approach)
  • Sector plan language on data and analysis, conservation easements, and authority for long-term water consumptive use permits for DRI master development orders.
  • Keeping counties in regional planning councils
What we want to keep OUT of SB 1216 includes:
  • Confusing concurrency language
  • The “constrained agricultural parcels” language
  • Making private property rights a required element of local comp plans


We continue to support SB 918, sponsored by Senator Dean, because it includes a number of provisions that would benefit Florida springs and should be maintained in any final water legislation, including:
  • Designation of all 1st magnitude springs and five 2nd magnitude springs as Outstanding Florida Springs and requiring priority focus areas for protection of these springs.
  • Adding protective criteria for establishing minimum flows and levels for Outstanding Florida Springs and creating “interim minimum flows and levels” for any OFS that does not already have an adopted minimum flow and level.
  • Creating the Florida Water Resources Advisory Council to recommend projects for funding to the Legislature
  • Establishing guidelines for recovery strategies for springs that do not meet an adopted minimum flow and level.
  • Establishing guidelines for Basin Management Action Plans that restore water quality in Outstanding Florida Springs.
  • Requiring local governments in priority focus areas to implement urban fertilizer ordinances.
  • Requiring local governments in priority focus areas where septic tank systems are identified as a source of nitrogen pollution to create remediation plans.
  • Prohibiting certain future activities such as new wastewater treatment facilities, new facilities for hazardous waste disposal, spreading of biosolids and new agricultural operations that do not implement BMPs or conduct water quality monitoring.

Unfortunately, SB 918 was amended two weeks ago to include some of the troubling provisions of its House counterpart, HB 7003. The language now in SB 918 that we OPPOSE includes:
  • Weakened water quality regulations for Lake Okeechobee
  • A reduction in water management district authority for allocating water
  • Use of public funding for private water projects without requiring mandatory conservation measures

Land Application of Septage

We OPPOSE bills that will continue to allow raw sewage to be dispersed on Florida’s landscape. HB 687 by Rep. Drake, is moving forward on the House Floor. The bill would repeal the ban on spreading of effluent pumped out of septic tanks, which is set to finally go into effect on January 1, 2016. Further delays in banning this practice will allow the devastating impacts on Florida’s rivers, lakes and springs to continue that much longer. Representative Drake filed an amendment last week that would delay the ban on the land application of septage from going into effect until 2018, but would not repeal it.

 Senator Evers’ version, CS/SB 648, would outright eliminate the ban on this third-world practice. It was passed by the Senate Environmental Preservation committee and will be heard next in the Senate Health Policy Committee. Tell your Senator and Representative that you want the 2016 ban to remain in effect.
posted by Laurie Sheldon