Showing posts from 2010

A Walk In the Longleaf Pines

Happy New Year to ALL!  Enjoy this piece by Eleanor Sommers, a member of the Paynes Prairie Chapter. If you or your chapter has a story to tell that includes something about Florida native plants, let us know. We'd love to host more guest bloggers. Email us at with your ideas and plant some Florida native plants to celebrate 2011.   Ginny & Sue

A Walk along a Longleaf Pine Trail

If you haven’t explored the Longleaf Ecology and Forestry Society’s (LEAFS) trails in eastern Alachua County near Waldo consider doing so next time you are in the area. This private demonstration project has been designed to show small private landowners (100 acres or less) how to “harmoniously and profitably” restore and sustain a longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) habitat using fire, selective harvesting, and replanting of desired species. Once reestablished, the habitat can be “maintained and utilized for the production of forestry products (LEAFS brochure).” Fire is a major part o…

One Person CAN Make a Difference

As the year comes to a close, many folks rate the past year on items that they've accomplished or good deeds that they've done. This feel-good story, published in the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville shows just how much difference one man made...

Read the whole story here:  Willie Browne's Enduring Gift to Jacksonville: Nature
Here's a link to the Park Service website for the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.
It includes Ft. Caroline, the Kingsley Plantation (the oldest plantation house in Florida) and miles of wonderful trails through the woods and over ancient shell mounds left from the Timucuan Indians.
Even if you don't own acres of undisturbed land to donate, you can, before the year ends, make a pledge to donate time and/or money to The Nature Conservancy of Florida, The Florida Wildflower Foundation, and of course, the Florida Native Plant Society. Read the end of year message from FNPS president Ann Redmond for a run down on the many ways that th…

Can the Birds Count on You???

Folks have been counting birds for decades, but can the birds count on you... to provide habitat filled with native plants that provide food, shelter, and places to raise their young?
This is the 111th year that Audubon Society has organized its Christmas bird count. This definitive data shows without a doubt that our native bird populations have decreased dramatically over the decades. Most of the declines are due to decreased habitat, but we are not helpless and we can all do much more than wring our hands in dismay.

Greg Braun from Audubon of Martin County in south Florida created a slide show which illustrates specific examples of how and why people of south Florida can make a significant difference for their birds. 
An important book that makes THE case for more native plants in the landscape for wildlife is Doug Tallamy's "Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens." As our friend Ellen Honeycutt, an active member of the Georgia Native …

Winter Solstice and Hollies

Plants, especially evergreens, have long played a role in celebrating pagan and religious events and holidays. When celebrating the holidays this year think about planting some native hollies in your landscape. Evergreen hollies are good for screening and offer excellent habitat for birds, while deciduous hollies offer outstanding beauty of berries on naked branches.

Hollies are dioecious, which means that trees will bear either male or female flowers, but not both. The female trees bear those attractive berries. (Nurseries should label whether a holly is a male or a female. Be sure there is at least one male tree in the neighborhood or your female trees won’t produce berries.) Hollies grow best in acidic soil and once they are established, require little care. The USDA reports that the biggest destroyer of holly trees is not disease or insects, but people harvesting its branches for the Christmas trade!

End-of-Year Message from FNPS President

Ann Redmond sent out an end-of-year message to the membership. Read it to see how you can receive a 22-photograph theme for your Windows computer by our own Shirley Denton.

Here's how Ann begins her letter:

Dear Fellow FNPS Member,

We’re just finishing up our Thirtieth Year as the voice for Florida’s native plants! We’ve really leapt forward – a Resolution from the Governor and Cabinet recognized our contributions this year. Our efforts have spawned development of a confederation of NPS’s in the southeast. Our grant funding has fostered conservation and restoration of Florida’s natural lands. There have been recent scientific publications from research for which we provided grant funding. We are making a difference in many ways throughout Florida.

We entered the world of social media in May and that has been remarkably productive; we gain new followers every week. Our Facebook page has about 700 Fans, as well as almost 600 active weekly users of t…

Green Boots for FNPS

Want to hike and earn money for FNPS? There's an app for that!

Green Boot Media is a new organization providing funding and publicity for non-profit environmental groups. They raise revenue from advertisers who pay to be featured on the ad stream that runs while you are walking.

FNPS is officially signed up, and we got our first exposure from Green Boot when they welcomed us on their Facebook page, with a link to us, which went out to all the other Green Boot members nationwide.

In Florida, The North Florida Land Trust, Tampa Bay Watch, Apalachacola Riverkeepers, the Conservation Trust for Florida, and the DuMond Conservancy are also using Green Boot.

You have to have an iPhone to use it so far, but we are hoping it will morph over soon. So if you do have an iPhone, go to the iTunes store where you can download the Green Boot app for free. If you have friends who have iPhones, ask them to do it, too; you do not have to been an FNPS member to get steps credited to us.

This is anoth…

Native Plant Wreath Making

Native plants make nifty wreaths! The FNPS's Conradina Chapter was creativity in action Monday night as the members, along with their friends from local garden and herb clubs,  joined in a convivial group to fashion wreaths and other seasonal decorations using native plants.

As you will soon see, a wide variety of methods and styles, both conventional and un,  were successfully employed.

Chapter president Martha Steuart started us out by introducing all the plants, and we had an excellent selection, including:
Simpsons stopper, sea grape, magnolia - leaves and pods, satin leaf, yaupon holly, yellowtop, southern red cedar, coontie, spanish moss, salt bush, palm fronds, several grasses, dried ferns and polypody, pine cones, and some native-found treasures like feathers and shells.

 Martha gave snippets of information with many of the plants: coontie and spanish moss were among Forida's first cash crops. Simpson's stopper is sometimes known as Naked bark because on a mature tr…

Prizes, Politics, and Passion

Kariena Veaudry, our own FNPS Executive Director, spearheaded the effort to save 17,000 acres of pristine Florida habitat in Osceola County, winning her an award from the Sierra Club. Here's the story of how one woman used passion, determination, and political savvy to battle bad decisions by government and corporate interests. Kariena shares her top three tips you can use to influence Florida's public input process.
Kariena waxed passionate in her explanation of how this award came about. She began with the observation, “ Investigative reporting is largely gone everywhere, and it left Osceola county extra early." Commissioners there are bent on a huge development project that will benefit one large land owner, destroy one of the most critical areas of conservation in the state, and negatively impact the citizens of Osceola County most of whom know nothing about it. This development is being pushed forward in a county that still has 103 years of growth left before anything…

Field trip to Torreya State Park with Gil Nelson: Part 2

This is the second part of a summary of an FNPS field trip with Florida plant guru Gil Nelson.  Click here to read Part 1.

Gil thinks that sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) should be more widely planted. Particularly because of its year round interest including its unusual salmon-y fall color. It's a panhandle plant, but might also do well farther east.

We saw quite a bit of leatherwood (Dirca palustris) which makes quite a show this time of year with its yellow leaves. Gil explains that its common name leatherwood refers to the pliable stems, and that Native Americans used these twigs instead of leather to make ropes or thongs.  It's only found in a few Florida panhandle counties.

We found some partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) groundcover, but very few patches still had their bright red berries. This occurs throughout north and central Florida.

As we came out of the woods, we met up with a troop of boy scouts having lunch at the stone bridge. Some of us chatted with the scout…

Field trip to Torreya State Park with Gil Nelson: Part 1

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, 25 members from three different chapters of the Florida Native Plant Society joined up with Florida plant guru Gil Nelson at Torreya State Park. The park, located west of Tallahassee,  borders the Apalachicola River. You may have noticed that several books that we recommend over there on the right hand column are by Gil.
What a great way to spend a beautiful north Florida November day--out in the woods with folks who are interested in not only plants, but the bugs, snakes and the whole ecosystem. After posing for the initial photo (Gil is on the left of this group photo.), we were off into the woods.  (Note: For this post, I have included links to webpages with more information on the specimen being discussed.)

Here Gil shows folks how to look for hairy undersides of leaves to help identify this tree that many people confuse with oaks, but instead it's a gum bully (Sideroxylon lanuginosum). It also has thorns and bluish berries, which might be a …

Contest Winners!

Enter for your chance to win by Dec. 1 at midnight EST

The clock is ticking!

 Just a reminder to make a comment hereby midnight December 1stto enter the contest to win Craig Huegel's excellent book, "Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife."
You know you want it or know someone who would love to receive it as a holiday gift. Your chances are very high, because we have two to give away thanks to University Press of Florida.

Green Gift Monday @ FNPS

Do you wish to have less impact on the environment this holiday season? (Thanks to The Nature Conservancy for getting this idea going.) Here are some ideas for you:
Buy a year's membership in FNPS for someone who'd enjoy learning more about Florida's native plants.

If you'll be shopping online for your holiday gifts, FNPS offers merchandise on our store website. (Update: the store is not available at this time. Sorry.)You may also use our link to Amazon to purchase not only the great Florida plant books we have listed, but anything else that Amazon of fers.  By using our link, FNPS receives a small referral fee for everything you buy.

Plan to use Our Good Search and Good Shops button, which also benefits FNPS every time you use it.

Purchase gift certificates from your local native plant nursery to give to your neighbors who have been admiring your more naturalized landscape.
Give the gift of gardening labor to an elderly neighbor, a local school, or community associat…

A shrub to be thankful for: the groundseltree or salt-bush

The groundseltree (Baccharis halimifolia) occurs throughout Florida according to The Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants even though Gil Nelson's "Florida Best Native Landscape Plants" lists its planting zones as 5 through 9. It thrives in many conditions from wet and brackish to sandy, dry, acidic or alkaline. This evergreen shrub has wedge-shaped, irregularly-lobed waxy leaves and can grow in full sun or partial shade. It naturally occurs at the edges of forested areas. It's best used as part of a mass or hedge row because single specimens can become rangy. They do tolerate trimming if you wish to control the size or produce a neater habit. Groundseltrees also make a good addition to large rain gardens.

This shrub is the only shrub or tree in the aster family (Asteraceae), although the flowers are small and insignificant in the landscape because there are no ray flowers which look like petals on the typical aster flower head--only the disc or central flowers.  It…

Wildlife Driven Design

Our native butterfly sage is buzzing with bees and swirling with butterflies. Four mockingbirds take turns feeding on the red berries, and two brown thrashers sift through the leaf litter for insects - all within view from our patio.

Flowers and fruits are important for wildlife, yet insects and spiders are the main diet of young, growing birds. Many species of native insects eat the leaves, buds and seeds of our native plants, while only a few have gotten past the chemical defenses of introduced exotics. Thousands of caterpillars and other insects and spiders are hiding in most large native trees. During the nesting season, it is important to have these trees so as to supply the insect food for our next generation of birds. Insects contain more protein than beef does.

Exotic plants are sold as pest-free. This sounds great to most people - until we realize that "pest-free" means that the plant arrived here without any of the insects that feed on it back home. Even if a pest is…

Win "Native Plant Landscaping for Florida" by Craig Huegel


You know that folks interested in Florida's native plants are going to love a book that starts like this:

"Natural Florida is an amazing magical place. Few areas in the nation are more diverse or mysterious. Although seasons pass here with greater subtlety than regions to our north, a beauty and complexity lie beneath the surface unmatched by any other. We are fortunate to live here and should embrace the natural wealth that Florida has to offer. Instead of shying away from it, we should insist that our developed landscapes capture more diversity and more mystery than is currently the case.  What better place than Florida to recapture the sense of place lost from the areas where we live and work? Armed with a palette of native plants virtually unequaled in natural beauty and textures, we can be equipped with no better arsenal to fight off the blandness and artificial character that we have, for some reason, created and learned to accept.  We need not accept the status quo.&…

Want to See Julias? You've Got to Plant Natives!

Poor poor South Floridians; we can't make a trek to a real pumpkin patch to celebrate the fall season. And if we buy a real pumpkin from a fake pumpkin patch, it turns to mush on our doorstep in about two days, if we're lucky. But we can enjoy the most orange butterfly on the planet right in our own yards if we go native with our plantings!

This extract is from an article in the Native Roots series, written by Jeff Nurge, a member of the Palm Beach County Chapter of FNPS. It runs a couple of times a month in the Palm Beach Post.

  Sporting long wings and a quick and graceful flight it is easy to spot the Julia.  The male is bright orange on top while the female is a duller orange with black bands across the top of the forewings.  The butterfly only gives away its true color as a caterpillar by its orange head. The caterpillars remainder length is black with rows of white spots on top and down both sides.  The Julia is practically flying year round having three or more broods a…

Okefenokee Gold

Okefenokee Gold  by Pete Johnson, Ixia Chapter
On Saturday November 6, 2010, the Ixia Chapter and Sea Oats Chapter took a joint field trip to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR), East Entrance. The trip was well organized by Ixia president Barbara Jackson, who coordinated with Okefenokee Adventures to guide us on a boat tour. The turnout was big enough to fill four boats with eight people in each boat. The boats can hold more than eight, but the water level was very low due to lack of recent rainfall. The owners of Okefenokee Adventures, Chip and Joy Campbell, and their staff are courteous and very knowledgeable naturalists. They also run a great gift shop and lunch counter at the boat basin inside the ONWR.

Chip guided the boat that I rode in and explained the Okefenokee is not just a swamp, but a peat bog system of wet prairies, marshes, cypress and hardwood swamps, and upland islands oriented generally northeast to southwest. The ONWR and contiguous conservation buffers m…

Native Plants - Not Everybody Likes Them

And now for something else completely different. Occasionally it comes to our attention that not everyone likes native plants. This fall, I shared with some people from my FNPS chapter a link to an article telling about some new research that Doug Tallamy is doing. You may remember him as the author of Bringing Nature Home. After he had read the new article, I received this reply from a chapter member who had recently started his own landscaping business.
Hi Sue,  I really enjoyed this article. The two researchers, Tallamy and Bruck, have discovered exactly what I have discovered in the last two years since starting Sustainscape, Inc., I have made it my model to take on customers who are not necessarily interested in going native, but who have an “open mind.”   I have learned that their mindset changes through time, and the more I am patient with them, the more they begin to be patient with their landscape.   The open-mindedness part is the most important.  I have to follow their rule…

Native Plant Flower Arrangements

And now for something completely different! Arranging with Florida's native flowers is easy and fun. Not to mention economical. Even a couple of stems in a miniature holder placed on shelf or ledge are such a treat when you bring them outside indoors. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

There is always something interesting to put in an arrangement if you have a native yard. Fall is a time when the wildflowers are at their peak in Florida, so its easy to gather a bunch of things you like and stick them in a container. Sometimes people are put off doing their own arrangements because they are worried about design rules, or because they think they aren't "artistic." But honestly, you don't need to know any rules, although I will give you a few. The beauty is in the plants themselves. Let's get started!

It would have been great if I had had time to get this in front of a backdrop, but I didn't. This is one of my favorite ways to arrange flowers: I…

Native Plant Appreciation Event in Daytona Beach 11/13/10 9am - 3pm

Join the Pawpaw Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society for a full day of fun at the Daytona Museum of Arts and Sciences, Saturday November 13th 9:00am to 3:00 pm.

There will be special activities for children and adults. Also speakers, native plant vendors and guided tours of Tuscawilla Preserve. Come out and enjoy speakers covering topics:
10am: Jewels in your Garden– Kevin Bagwell Full Moon Natives 11am: AHS HEMS Academy - Mike McDowell Atlantic High School 11:30am: Florida Wildflowers DVD showing 12noon: Are You a Drip or a Drop? - Ann Moore Water Conservationist 1pm: Sweet life of Honey Bees - Tom Bartlett Master Bee Keeper 2pm: Florida Habitats and Inhabitants - Paul Rebmann Wild FL Photo 3pm: Gardening for (Wild)life - Elizabeth Flynn Nat’l Wildlife Federation
PLUS artist Lee Dunkel gives a guided tour of her exhibit Spruce Creek and the St. Johns: Silverpoint Photography
Vendors will offer: Rain barrels, Photography, Field Guides, Books, and of course, Central Florida Native Plant…

East Coast Dune Sunflower: an appreciation

The east coast dune sunflower (Helianthus debilis) is one of Florida's 14 native sunflowers and one of three that are widely available in the native plant trade according to Gil Nelson's Florida's Best Native Landscape Plants. I purchased a plant this spring at a gardenfest and planted it in a hot dry area out next to our mailbox. To say that it's done well is an understatement.

The flower heads are about 2.5 inches across and they are plentiful. I'll have a lots of seed to share with members of my FNPS chapter, but there will be plenty left for the birds. You can see a spent flower in the foreground of the photo to the right.

Sunflowers belong to the daisy plant family (Asteraceae), which is the largest plant family with more than 22,000 species.  Sunflowers have the typical flower head arrangement for this family, which is composed of many florets sharing a single receptacle. The florets arrange themselves to look superficially like a single flower: sterile ray f…

FNPS Research Grant Money at Work

A study funded by money awarded from a Florida Native Plant Society Research Grant was selected for publication in the prestigious American Journal of Botanythis September. Two biologists from the University of Alabama, Darah Newell and Ashley Morris conducted extensive research in Florida on an endemic plant, the Illicium parviflorum, commonly known by the name Yellow anise.

The big money usually goes to the rarer plants, says Shirely Denton, an FNPS board member.

What is unusual with this award is that the plant being studied is not rare, exactly, although it is on the Florida Department of Agriculture’s endangered list. What’s of interest in this case is that the plant's most common way of reproducing itself is not by setting seed, but by a  clonal, or root sprouting, method. So a cluster of Illicium p. might be offspring of only one parent plant. Adding to the interest is that Illicium p., although occurring naturally in a limited range in Florida, is both  highly adaptable…

Save the Date! for FNPS Annual Conference on May, 19-22, 2011

FNPS 31st Annual Conference will be held on  May, 19-22, 2011 in Maitland
Patios, Preserves and Public Spaces: Making Connections Hosted by the Cuplet Fern, Lake Beautyberry, Pine Lily and Tarflower Chapters
Join us in May, 2011 for this exciting and comprehensive conference that connects Florida's natural values and conservation with the landscapes that we create in our personal and public environments.

Registration begins 01/01/11 with discounts offered to FNPS members.  Now's a good time to join as our chapters have started their programs for the season.  Then by the time May rolls around, you'll have a head start. 

See for a preliminary list of field trips, social activities and workshops.  The conference offers opporunities for sponsors and vendors. 

Hope to see you there!

Removing Invasives in Mandarin: a Team Effort

Search and destroy!  This was the mission for four hours on a Sunday afternoon, carried out by a group of 12 teens and 6 members of the Ixia chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, covering Duval, Clay & Nassau Counties.  The teens were members of the Jacksonville Teens Volunteer program, which is sponsored by the Jewish Community Alliance (JCA), and earned four hours of community service, plus they learned a lot about invasive plants.

Walter Jones Historical Park, on the eastern bank of the St. Johns River in the Mandarin section of Jacksonville, houses a restored farmhouse and various outbuildings.  There are some remaining citrus plants and other cultivars left over from its farming days. For more information, visit

Pete Johnson, conservation chair for the Ixia Chapter of FNPS, lives nearby and had noticed the large number of invasive plants on this property.  He worked with Andrew Morrow, executive director for the Mandarin Museum a…

Executive Committe Meets

FNPS officers from all corners of the state met earlier this month at  Turkey Lake State Park outside Orlando. Discussions covered a wide range of topics: exciting new projects were being considered at the same time hard decisions had to be made over funding issues.

I had to leave before the finish of the meeting, and these notes in no way constitute minutes.  Here are few of the the discussion topics:

The Suwannee River Water Management District has continued to sell off surplus lands that many think are important for conservation. After FNPS wrote a letter of protest, the DEP did, too, and so did Gov. Crist, but to no avail. At this point, the District is engaged in adopting a rule that defines their concept of what "surplus" means, after which further action (filing suit) can be taken by others.

Biofuels is a pet passion of Adam Putnam, a possible new Commissioner of Agriculture. Caution is advised: biofuel plants tend to be rampant growers, and most have not been tested …

Florida's Marvelous Mangroves

Too many native mangrove stands have been removed from the edges of Florida's waterways over decades of development, and as a result shorelines are more vulnerable to tropical storms and our native bird and fish populations are in steep decline. Mangroves growing in thickets along tropical and sub-tropical shorelines absorb the wave action from open waters, build new land as they slow down and hold onto passing sediment, and create fabulous habitat for many types of wildlife. Many types of birds inhabit mangrove thickets and some of them are endangered or have declining populations. Some examples are roseate spoonbills, limpkins, white ibis, herons, bitterns, anhingas, osprey, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles.

Mangroves are so important for the health of the shorelines that Florida has passed regulations to govern their treatment.  We mentioned mangroves last week as one of Florida's important water resources and habitats in We ALL Live in a Watershed!

The term mangrove desc…

Florida Wildflower Foundation's e-newsletter

Read thenewsletter and be sure to download the Fall Gazette with lots of great information such as: a full report of the sold-out symposium; "Fall color, Florida" style by Jeff Norcini; The Foundation's partnership with the Scenic Highway program; "Fall in the wildflower garden" by Claudia Larson; fall garden jobs, including how to collect wildflower seeds; and a plant profile of the partridge pea. 

You can also read our report of the wildflower symposium that we posted here last month.

Being True to Place

Many people enjoy planting “odd” things in their yards. In the world of native plant landscaping, this has often meant planting things that seem unusual … and what this has often meant is planting species that may be “native” based on occurring naturally somewhere in the state or in some landscape other than the one we’re working on. I’ve been there. Sometimes, I still can’t resist the beautiful plant in a pot that is being sold at the latest native plant sale. But, over time, I’ve had the opportunity to rethink this.

I began landscaping with native about 30 years ago. At that time, I owned a home in southern Michigan. All lawn and old field weeds – about two acres of them. I went on the warpath against mowing by converting much of the lawn to old field and then began planting trees which I gathered locally, often from uncleared parts of the property. Many years later, after I’d been in Florida for about 10 years, I got a call from a woman who had bought the property and tracked me dow…