Friday, December 31, 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 of the restoration efforts, and it is used in ways that mimic how these habitats would have naturally burned prior to human intervention. LEAFS proposes a sensible balance for sustaining conservation lands without stripping owners of value and income from their properties.

Vanillaleaf (Carphephorus spp)

My husband Paul and I and our neighbor Joni Ellis recently strolled through the short (1/2 mile) self-guided interpretive trail off County Road 1471 just northeast of Highway 301. Although it was obvious that Florida is suffering severe drought conditions, we enjoyed identifying late fall seed heads and finding the occasional flower still in bloom. We saw ghostly patches of goldenrods (Solidago spp), blazing start (Liatris spp), deer tongue and vanillaleaf plant (Carphephorus paniculatas and C. odaratissimus), and silk grass (Pityopsis graminilfolia), as well as graceful Andropogon species swaying in the breeze and floating seeds into the midday sun. Some gallberries (Ilex glabra) remained on the bushes awaiting the interest of a passing animal or birds. We did not see much wildlife although several nut hatches called to us from atop the pine trees.

Young longleaf pines don't produce
branches until they are taller. This way
they have more fire resistance.
As the winter sun angled low in the northwest and an afternoon chill descended, I thought about our ancestors trying to eke out a living in these sandy flatlands, thick with longleaf pines and saw palmettos (Serenoa repens). Before the settlers descended on Florida, pine flatlands covered two-thirds of the state. For sure these pioneers used everything they could, and the magnificent longleaf pine habitats fell into decline. Early Florida settlers used the pines for building shelter and tools and then the barren flat land for farming. The saps, resins, and cellulose from pines were processed into soaps, pitch, and turpentine. Wood not used for building was made into charcoal. The resin is antiseptic and has many medicinal uses, including healing skin salves. A dye can be made from the needles, which can also brewed into a healing tea rich in vitamins A and C. (Chop them finely and steep in boiling water.) And of course, if you can get to them before the squirrels, you can roast the edible winged nuts inside the scales of the cones.

Unfortunately, the usefulness of the Pinus palustris contributed to the demise of hundreds of thousands of acres of arresting habit. Fortunately, many state and private organizations are attempting to reestablish these native environments. LEAFS is doing so in practical ways that allow owners as well ecosystems to benefit. For more information about LEAFS go to The LEAFS tracts, each of about 90 acres, are located in northeastern Alachua County, Florida, on County Road 1471. The nearest town is Waldo, midway between Starke and Gainesville. The turnoff onto County Road 1471 from U. S. Highway 301 is about 2 1/2 miles southeast of Waldo.

Eleanor K. Sommer
Paynes Prairie Chapter

Monday, December 27, 2010

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 this organization makes a real difference FOR Florida.

Together we can all do just a little more to make 2011 a Greener New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Can the Birds Count on You???

Audubon's Call to its Christmas Bird Count
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.

Slide from Greg Braun's habitat presentation

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 Plant Society, says, “People all over the country are reading this book and smacking their heads while thinking: ‘Of course, it all makes perfect sense now!’ “ You can purchase this book, which we have listed over in the right hand column along with our other favorites--just click the covers to link to Amazon. (When you purchase books here, FNPS receives a small referral fee.)
A little green heron in our front pond.
Supplying water is part of habitat building.

My personal experience in Florida habitat building goes back to 2004 when my husband and I moved to Florida and bought a house on a 1.5 acre lot with a good-sized natural pond in the front and a 110-acre lake out back. Much of the land had been cleared and sodded with St. Augustine and poisoned regularly by the previous owner. We stopped all poisoning right away and let some big patches of lawn go to meadow such as the area on the far side of the pond and on top of the septic tank drainfield mound where the grass was not doing well at all. Since then we have been reducing the rest of lawn area little by little and removing invasive plants.

Early in 2006, I applied for backyard habitat certification from the National Wildlife Federation and we are now habitat #59063. I hung the sign out front so the neighbors might be inclined to become certified as well. We are not in a restrictive HOA neighborhood and I know of several neighbors who have also certified their yards. I wrote about this process in Creating Backyard Habitat. Since then we have enjoyed a tremendous variety of bird visitors--it's always interesting.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice and Hollies

American holly (Ilex opaca)
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!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

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 the page! We have a growing number of people following the FNPS blog , with 78 followers and over 2,000 visits in November. After seeing our blog, the Presidents of two other southeastern state native plant societies have asked our advice on starting ones of their own!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

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 another avenue, like Good Shop, Good Search, where little efforts can add up to big things.

Whenever you are walking for a bit, whether it's outside or at the grocery store, start up your Green Boot pedometer, and enter our code, 1048. The more steps we have accrued, the more advertising we will get from them. Each month 15% of their proceeds are donated to the organizations that are walking with Green Boots on. More steps will equal more money. So let's get walking!

It's good for you, it's good for FNPS and it's good for the environment.

sue dingwell

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Native Plant Wreath Making

Cora Johnson goes for a spritely look
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:
Cora and Sandy choose carefully
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 tree the bark will form deep fissures and peel. Yellowtop, if it is still in color at this time of year, will hold its color after you pick it. Both sides of the Satin leaf are beautiful in a wreath, the deep green top, and the bronze underside. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

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 new will need to be built out, according the records on file with the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The DCA is the state agency put in place to ensure that county comprehensive plans follow Florida Statutes and avoid detrimental urban sprawl.

In Kariena's view, the land that lies at the heart of the matter is “The single most important piece of conservation land in Florida.” A mixed mosaic of upland and wetlands, it is unique in the Southeast, in part because it is pristine: it has never been touched by citrus or cattle operations. It contains the headwaters to the Everglades and is home to numerous rare and threatened endemic plants and animals. If that wasn’t enough, it also lies in the middle of a corridor critical to the free flow of hydrology, native plant regeneration and wildlife habitat. 

Endangered Pine Lily-Charlie Fredrickson
Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) gave it one of their highest ecological ratings. The Florida Forever land acquisition program rated this property as priority 'A,'  the highest rating achievable.

When members of Kariena's FNPS chapter, Pine Lily, a small but active group, heard that Osceola County was planning to take the steps necessary to move their Urban Service Boundary outward to encompass the 17,000 acres so that it could be developed  they decided to see what they could do. They teamed up with several other environmental groups, including Sierra Club, and went to work. Kariena used her own personal volunteer time to fight for the irreplaceable land.

Osceola County officials had in fact been meeting with the developer for the past three years, before the public process had even begun.

Endangered Snowy Orchid
This meant that a significant amount of taxpayer money was going to further the interest of a single large land owner. When Kariena objected to this during a subsequent meeting, the reply was, “Well, they are going to develop it anyway, so we are just trying to move things in the right direction.” Kariena pointed out the weightlessness of that answer. Since the county had the decision making power, they were responsible for denying the request to expand the Boundary, and to protect citizens from the costly effects of unneeded urban sprawl.

Kariena led an effort to research pertinent Florida statutes and sections of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The aligned group collected the necessary data and ecological maps to convey the importance of the area. Information was provided the DCA, the water management district and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Jenny Welch, currently the chapter president, along with other members of the Pine Lily chapter, began to attend and to speak at the public hearings.

The DCA had the authority to approve or deny the request to move the boundary. For the record, Kariena pointed out that the DCA does not routinely squelch development projects.  She said “If the DCA denies a plan, it is because it is really, really bad.” In order to move an Urban Service Boundary, you have to demonstrate need. However in the case of Osceola County, there is approximately 12 million square feet of office/retail approved but not yet built, approximately 69,000 homes approved but not yet built, high foreclosure rates, and empty shopping centers. Remember that 103 years of growth left, mentioned earlier?

Kariena and the crew went through the proposal,  noting the many errors in documentation sent by the developer. Ultimately, the DCA did, in its initial response, find the plan not in compliance. The land is safe for the moment. And thus it was that a group of volunteers from the community banded with some non-profit organizations and brought reason and logic to bear on a county's planning process.

Kariena also noted that this is only one story of unneeded developemnt, one of many in Florida. The future of our state is at stake. With ever weakening environmental regulations it will be even more important than ever for citizens to get involved and to educate those government leaders who don't understand the balance between necessary, responsible development and conservation.

“My experience has been that you don’t need to be professional to be effectively involved with your county,” said Kariena.  “A single voice representing the environment can be the one that makes the difference in saving critical lands. The public input process in Florida has been consistently diminished, so attending meetings and speaking to individual commissioners about conservation issues is vital.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

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 masters, the boys played with Pete's dog, and we paused to catch our breaths and regroup.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

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 hint that this is not an oak.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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

The clock is ticking!

Just a reminder to make a comment here by midnight December 1st to 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.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Green Gift Monday @ FNPS

Green Gift Monday
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 association. It could be a one time two-hour session or several sessions throughout the year.

Pay the registration fee for FNPS's annual conference for a fellow member. And give yourself the gift of attending the conference as well. More details later. (Read our live blog posts from last year's conference here and Sid Taylor's report here.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

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

A natural grounsel tree population at the edge of a pine woods.
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's dioecious with the female plants being the ones we see in the landscape in the fall with their abundance of showy, fluffy seeds ready for flight. It reseeds well, so you may already have this plant growing in the wilder areas on your property.

Monday, November 22, 2010

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 accidentally imported, like the ficus whitefly, it becomes a serious pest because it has arrived without any of its natural predators. These insects are not eaten by our birds, either.

With caterpillars, grasshoppers, stinkbugs and other insects eating your native plants, you would think that they would be ripped to shreds and become ugly. Yet it is rare to notice even 10 percent damage to the leaves of a plant. In fact, the damage is usually much less. The imported weevils from Asia are probably what you are noticing scalloping the edges of your plants' leaves. When planting for wildlife, consider plants that actually attract a few "pests." Oaks, maples, pines, Florida elm, sweetgum, gumbo limbo, wild tamarind and redbay are just a few trees that are loaded with insects and attract many birds seeking food for their young.

Songbird populations are declining at the rate of 1 percent a year and have already plummeted 50 percent since the 1960s. This is because our lawns have replaced their natural habitat. The good news is that the damage is reversible. We have more than 40 million acres of lawns in the United States - or eight New Jerseys - that could be returned to forest. Most of our natural areas are small islands. It is possible to connect these preserves with one another by installing the same species of plants in our yards. Then, birds and other wildlife could move about and spread their genes to new populations, thus eliminating the problems caused by in-breeding.

Brown Thrasher
Visit a local natural area, make a note of what grows there, and decide which species you like. Go home and try a few trees. Later, blend in native shrubs and wildflowers. When you notice that birds are using your yard, you will become hooked and never look back to the lawn you left behind.

Carl Terwilliger
Meadow Beauty Nursery

Editor's note: This article, first appearing in the Palm Beach Post last fall, seemed to be a natural companion to our ongoing contest for Craig Huegel's book, Native Plant Landscaping for Florida. Remember, the contest is going on till December 2nd so you still have time to comment, here, or on our Facebook page. Find our Facebook page @ Florida Native Plant Society. The comments will be drawn at random, and U of Florida has given us two copies to give away.

Carl's new website  is featuring some great landscape 'before and after' slideshows.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Win "Native Plant Landscaping for Florida" by Craig Huegel

Win Native Plant Landscaping for
 Florida Wildlife by Craig Huegel.
Leave a comment by Dec. 1! 
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."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

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 year.  Moving from shade to sunlight in the wild the Julia can be seen inhabiting the edges of hardwood hammocks and dense underbrush.      
How to attract them:  Ranging only from the most southern parts of South Florida the Julia attracts butterfly watchers from across the country.  We are fortunate here in Palm Beach County as this is typically the northern range for the Julia.  However unless you have planted a native passion-vine in your yard chances are you cannot be in the garden long enough to catch a glimpse of the Julia.  While a number of our native host passion-vines have the potential to lure these beauties into your landscape full time I have found that one vine in particular is a sure fire bet.  Passiflora Multiflora aka White Passion-vine is a must have for this species of butterfly.  This state-listed endangered vine from Dade county is a high climber with tendrils.  Plant in an area that gets full sun with plenty of room to spread out.  While the vine likes it more on the moist side, it will tolerate short periods of drought.  Thankfully the Passifloria Multifloria has found its way into cultivation and is a favorite for the seriously minded butterfly gardener.

This is a close-up, it's tiny!
Where to buy it: The native plants to attract and feed this butterfly are available at native nurseries, including Meadowbeauty Native Nursery (561-966-6848) in Lake Worth.  To find other nurseries that carry it, visit the Association of Florida Native Nurseries at, but don’t stop there.  The site provides only a snapshot of the offerings at local nurseries, so call around.

Jeff Nurge

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Okefenokee Gold

The plant of the day was Bidens mitis,
which lit up the landscape with beautiful
golden-yellow fall color!
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 make up approximately 420,000 acres! This enormous wetland system contains mildly acidic water resulting from tannic acids produced during vegetative decomposition. Since the formation of the Okefenokee around the beginning of the Holocene epoch (12,000 years before present), it’s acidic water has continued to dissolve away the underlying limestone base, a little more to the southwest, causing it to drain mostly out through the Suwannee River. Only a small portion of the Okefenokee drains into the St. Mary’s River to the east. This is just a small taste of the well articulated information that Chip provided in an animated, engaging fashion. He really knows and loves the Okefenokee!

You can find out more information about the ONWR at I suggest downloading the USFWS Comprehensive Management Plan for the ONWR, because it contains the most useful information for an informed visit to the refuge. I printed out an extensive plant list that was quite useful in guiding and narrowing down plant identifications during and after the trip.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

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 rules in the beginning in order to gain their trust.  Many times I am asked to provide exotic plants; however, every design I create is at least 50% native, and none of the exotics are invasive. I do not plant invasives or use chemicals like roundup or atrazine.  When I have taken on the risk of taking a new customer without the Sustainability or Native knowledge, it has been more challenging.   I have a total of three customers who would not, or have not, decided to have an open mind.  Two of these customers I dropped and the other I just count as a “bronze” level customer.   If they cannot have an open mind to the methodologies (no chemicals, reduced fertilizers, more natives, etc.) that I try to promote, I generally lose money from them and it does not make business sense to keep them.   However, many of the best customers I have taken on are completely oblivious/uncaring about natives and the harmful effects of fertilizers.   The more I show them how it works, the more their mind set changes.   It truly gives me satisfaction when this happens!!

My point, which is the same as the articles’ (in my perspective), is the more open-minded we are as native plant lovers, the more open-minded the public will be and eventually change the psychology.

Dennis de Zeeuw

Monday, November 8, 2010

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 love a full, exuberant look. This one is made up of firebush, beautyberry, and Walter's viburnum.

There is only rule you really have to pay attention to, and it has nothing to do with design. Pick your flowers (as with herbs) in the early morning or at the end of the day, when it has begun to cool down. You don't want heat-stressed, limp, sagging flowers, you want nice standing-up, moisturized flowers. They look better and last much longer. Early morning is my first choice, when plants have had the whole night to rest. This one is constructed without the use of any tape, oasis (floral foam) or other holders. I found a excellent video segment that shows you one way to put one like this together: With a tall vase and lots of long stems, you really don't need to worry about about how it will stand up; the plants support each other.

Friday, November 5, 2010

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 Plants propagated from local sources.

Museum of Arts and Sciences Museum of Arts and Sciences
352 S. Nova Rd
Daytona Beach, FL

For more information call 386-673-9543 or visit
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

East Coast Dune Sunflower: an appreciation

One dune sunflower plant has spread beautifully over a six foot triangle.
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 flowers around the edge look like petals, while the central disk florets, arranged spirally, are fertile and produce the seeds.

So how can you find which native plants will do well in your yard?  We have several terrific books in addition to Gil's book, which are listed on the right side of this blog.  (When you use our links to purchase books (or anything else) on Amazon, FNPS earns $$.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

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 Botany this 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, and easy to propagate; so the nursery trade has spread its existence widely throughout the our state and beyond.

The plant is endemic to Florida, meaning it occurs naturally only here, but it is being sold as far away as North Carolina and Arkansas due to its popularity in the horticultural trade. 
The problem under consideration was whether or not the future of this plant, and others like it, would be hampered by lack of genetic diversity that may be present now, and perhaps exaggerated by  the spread of the genetically similar plants in the nursery trade. Typically nursery stock from cuttings comes from only one plant. So all the new plants are exactly the same genetically.

Friday, October 29, 2010

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!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

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 and Historical Society and Betsy Miller, JCA Youth Services Director to coordinate this project.

Andrew said, “I’m excited that we could coordinate this effort work on our invasive species problem. Many folks who come through Walter Jones Park look around at all the beautiful plants and do not realize that many of them don’t belong in the natural environment that we would like to depict.” He noted the City of Jacksonville had previously conducted one program to eradicate the camphor trees that are in the park.

“Invasive species takes a lot of work to get rid of,” he continued.“We’re going to have to hit them again and again over several years before they are completely removed. And then we still have to be vigilant so they don’t pop up again.”  This was part of that effort.

Pete said the main invasive plant species at Walter Jones are Cesar weed (Urena lobata), Coral ardisia (Ardisia crenata), Air potato (Discoria bulbifera), Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense), Camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora), Mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin), and Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda).

Here he shows the teens three of the invasive plant species that are the most numerous on the site.

Monday, October 25, 2010

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 for invasive potential.

The Land Management Partnership committee reported 100% participation by FNPS members on the reviews this year. Every five years each parcel of state-owned and managed land must have its management plan reviewed and updated. FNPS has one of the coveted seats at the table for these reviews. FNPS volunteers were present as active voices at every review.  An added bonus has been that participants have tended to, in effect, take ownership of the sites they help review, and motivated their chapters to get out there and help with management. This program has been a big success and gets the FNPS name in the limelight. SWFWMD actually called them to ask for their help this fall and to finalize a working relationship.

Greater sponsorship is needed for our conferences. The Executive Director has sent out a spreadsheet with potential sponsors and their contact information. Chapters are encouraged to participate by selecting which of the potential sponsors to call, and coming up with others.

Many ideas related to fundraising were discussed. A subcommittee is already working on the first-ever
Annual Report to be used with seeking fundraising and grants. This paragraph is short but the discussion was loooooooooooong.

A generous offer from a Conradina Chapter member to help run an online store had the group re-visiting the issue of merchandising. What do you think, readers? Would you buy FNPS t-shirts, hats, bags, mouse pads, coffee cups online?  Are there other items you would use?

sue dingwell

Friday, October 22, 2010

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!
Mangroves as far as you can see at Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo.

The term mangrove describes either a single species or the whole plant community that grows along saline shorelines. These plants are not related taxonomically, but are grouped by their ability to grow at the edge of the sea. There are 50 species worldwide, but only three mangrove species are native to Florida: red, black, and white, and because it so often grows in the same habitat, another native, green buttonwood, is often thought of as Florida's unofficial mangrove. The mangrove ecosystem ranges from shallow waters into the shore. Typically the red mangrove with its built-in stilt-like roots grows farthest out in the water, followed by black and then white as you move toward shore. The green buttonwood grows mostly on dry land, but can withstand periodic flooding.

Red mangrove propagules.

While mangrove species are salt tolerant, they can also grow in brackish or fresh water. Red and black mangroves filter out much of the salt with a waxy coating on the roots and they can absorb water through their bark. The white mangrove exudes salt through pores on its leaves and the coating of salt makes the leaves look white—hence the name.

One of the features that all mangroves share is that their seeds germinate while still attached to the parent tree—this is called viviparous germination or viviparity. Once germinated, the seed forms a propagule, a seedling that has roots, a stem, and leaves. When dropped, it can float away vertically, root-end downward, until it lands on a favorable site where it can quickly send out roots to anchor itself. The leaves and green stem are already capable of photosynthesis at the point of landing and can provide the energy necessary to fuel the quick root penetration. A propagule may float for many months with no ill effects.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Florida Wildflower Foundation's e-newsletter

Florida Wildflower Foundation's
Oct. 21st issue of its e-newsletter
Read the newsletter 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.

Monday, October 18, 2010

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 down – she’d bought it largely because those trees had grown and were far more healthy than the standard nursery stock which neighbors had attempted to grow.

I learned again in Florida. I live in the central part of the state, and friends give me “special” plants from elsewhere in Florida. Sometimes they live, but occasional freezes take a toll on the plants that belonged further south. Plants that prefer more moisture than my yard provides almost always die (I don’t opt to water them once established). Some grow slowly.

Eventually, I developed a philosophy of gardening that focuses on planting the things that belong here. I had an advantage in that my land mostly has natural soils, soils that developed here on the site and which were not brought in as fill.