Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rescuing Rain Lilies

As gardeners, aren't we all tempted by beautiful plants that occur along the roadsides and in other public places? If we only take a few, it won't make much difference, right? Wrong!

Even if it weren't illegal, it is selfish to remove plants from roadsides where we all can enjoy them to the seclusion of your own yard. These days, many of the roadside wildflowers are planted by the Department of Transportation. We certainly should not be taking these plants, whether they were planted by Mother Nature or purchased with our taxes. But under certain circumstances you can get a permit to do so. A road near my house is due to be widened from two lanes to four. When the road construction begins, a sizable population of beautiful native rain lilies (Zephyranthes atamasca) in a ditch next to this road would be buried.

This native rain lily occurs from north central Florida through the panhandle and is threatened in the state. It's classified as facultative wetland plant that usually grows in damp places, but can also survive in drier habitats. I love rain lilies, because you never know exactly when you'll see them. They tend to sprout in the spring after a good rain. Maybe this is why they are also called fairly lilies or zephyr lilies. The rain lilies are not true lilies, but belong to the amaryllis family—Amaryllidaceae. Their flowers are similar to lilies in that they have the six tepals. The tepals all look the same, but in reality the three on the inside are petals and the ones on the outside are sepals, hence the term "tepal."

I contacted Clay County and found the right department to obtain a permit to rescue these lilies. Because this was a road project, I applied for a public works permit. As part of the application process, I needed to map out the exact location and someone from the county came out to inspect the site and took a photo—a copy of which was included with the permit papers.

By the time I received the permit and could recruit some assistance from Pete Johnson and Ed Rutherford, two fellow FNPS members, the ditch had been mowed and the rain lilies were no longer blooming. They were not easy to find even with the help of my map. We did find a section of the ditch where the vegetation was different and after more than a few empty shovels full; we found some bulbs. We had to sniff the bulbs to make sure that they were not the wild garlic (Allium canadense), which also grows in this ditch. (I wrote about the garlic a few weeks ago on this blog.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Cullowhee Conference: Native Plants in the Landscape

The Cullowhee Conference: Native Plants in the Landscape  will take place in Western North Carolina on July 27-31, 2010.  July 9th is the deadline for registration.   conference website

The purpose of the Cullowhee Conference is to increase interest in and knowledge of propagating and preserving native southeastern plant species in the landscape. Past participants of the conference have included landscape architects, commercial nursery operators, garden club members, botanists, and horticulturists from state highway departments, universities, native plant societies, botanical gardens, and arboretums. Both professionals and laypersons will gain valuable knowledge from the informative fieldtrips, lectures and workshops.

Featured Keynote Speaker: Peter H. Raven is one of the world's leading botanists and advocates of conservation and biodiversity. For three decades, he has headed the Missouri Botanical Garden, an institution he nurtured into a world-class center for botanical research and education, and horticultural display. Described by Time magazine as a "Hero for the Planet," Raven champions research around the world to preserve endangered plants and is a leading advocate for conservation and a sustainable environment.

The program schedule allows for informal sessions where participants can exchange ideas. We encourage you to make good use of this opportunity. Information and materials can be displayed and exchanged in each residence hall lobby. Please bring materials you wish to share.

The conference is held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Cullowhee is located between the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains, approximately fifty miles west of Asheville. Close to both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cullowhee is in an ideal location for anyone with an interest in nature

Friday, June 18, 2010

Are You Growing Native Plants?

  • Are you growing native plants?
  • Designing landscapes or that include native plants?
  • Installing or maintaining native landscapes? Restoring natural areas?
  • Getting more inquiries about natives from your customers?
Join the leaders in the Florida native plant industry - the Association of Florida Native Nurseries (, the nation's largest and oldest native nursery association.

But realize -- we're not just nurseries anymore --our  members also include landscape architects, designers, contractors and environmental consultants who specialize in using Florida native plants. We've always been the leading source for native plants, but we now also routinely receive requests for LAs, designers, contractors and consultants who know natives and like to use them. We need you, and we can feed you referrals. And if your firm offers another product or service allied with sustainable landscaping, we'd love to hear about it.

Membership benefits including listing in our very popular publications and website, discounts on advertising and CEU courses, networking with like-minded colleagues, and expanded marketing outreach through our partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and other organizations.

JUNE 30 is the deadline to be included in 2010-2011 edition of AFNN's Native Plant and Service Directory, the horticulture/landscape industry's most respected and widely used source for locating native plants, native landscape consultants, designers, installers, and maintenance gurus. If you're   growing, selling or planting natives for commercial, institutional or public agency clients, you need to be part of the Association of Florida Native Nurseries. For more info, call Cammie at 321-917-1960 OR visit (click JOIN to sign up as a member).

The Native Plant and Service Directory exclusively promotes Florida native plants for sustainable ornamental landscaping and restoration. Distributed via direct mail and at tradeshows and special events throughout Florida and the Southeastern U.S. Subscription list includes over 5000 organizations and individuals including landscape architects, designers, contractors, growers, municipalities and public and private agencies engaged in landscape and conservation projects. Don't miss your chance to be part of the growing market for native plant landscaping. Very affordable membership and advertising make this a great investment in your green future. All members listed in print and online at

The Florida Native Plant Partnership (FNP2) is a collaboration of the Association of Florida Native Nurseries (AFNN), Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS), Florida Wildflower Foundation (FWF), and Wildflower Seed and Plant Growers Association ("Seed Co-Op"). All four organizations are committed to the preservation and promotion of Florida native plants and are pooling resources to create greater visibility for our plants in industry and the general consumer marketplace. FNPP will be exhibiting at the Florida ASLA Conference (Landscape Architects, July 22-24, Gainesville), Florida APA Conference (Planners, Sept 15-17, Tampa), and the FNGLA Landscape Show (Horticulture Industry, Sept 23-25, Orlando). See you there!

Editor's Note: This message from our partners at AFNN is posted here as part of our cooperation with and support for the AFNN as explained in the above definition of the FNP2. The bloggers hope that the information will be useful in some form to many.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Protecting Florida Wildflowers Video

Our friends over at Florida Wildflower Foundation produced this great video.  It is particularly good if you're working to identify more of Florida's beautiful wildflowers.  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Truth About Butterfly Gardening: Part Two

Okay folks, hold onto your hats.  A reality which may shock many of you is that weedy lawns support a greater diversity of butterflies than most standard butterfly gardens. (I am sorry, but it is true.) Sure they aren’t the flashy “macros,” but weedy lots are well known for being great places to see the smaller, sometimes rarer, butterflies such as skippers, hairstreaks, sulphurs, whites, and blues. The photo here shows a common checkered skipper nectaring on Spanish needles, a common lawn plant.

My own lawn (which I now call an Urban Meadow) contains a diverse weed assemblage that supports up to 36 butterfly species.  Even St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secondatum) supports six different species of butterflies (uh oh) including Sachems, Carolina Satyrs, Clouded skippers, Eufala skippers, Southern broken dashes, Fiery skippers, and Whirlabouts.  The non-native Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) also hosts six species of butterflies including Sachems, Obscure skippers, Baracoa skippers, Eufala skippers, Southern skipperlings, Fiery skippers, and Whirlabouts.  I bet though, that other native grasses support the same species, but haven’t been documented doing so yet. 

 Some other lawn weed hosts and their butterflies are:  Spanish needle (Bidens alba var. radiata) which is host for dainty sulphurs, Pencil flower (Stylosanthes hamata) a host for barred yellows, Common fan petals (Sida acuta) hosts Martial Scrub & Gray hairstreaks and Common & Tropical Checkered skippers, Virginia pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum) hosts Great Southern & Checkered whites, and the non-native Trailing Indigo (Indigofera spicata) hosts Zarruco skippers, Ceranus blues, and Gray hairstreaks. Many of these lawn weeds are also great nectar sources.  All these facts may be obtained from Minno et al. (2005) Florida Butterfly Caterpillars and Their Hosts.  

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Truth About Butterfly Gardening: Part One

Butterfly gardens have continued to gain popularity over the last several years.  Even home owners who are less inclined towards the use of native plants lighten up about having butterflies in their yards.  And yet, the many butterfly gardens we see:
  • consist of the same species
  • end up looking ratty
  • are filled with native plants outside their range
  • contain non-native nectar and host sources
 Well, let’s evaluate the positives and negatives of butterfly gardens.

A good thing about butterfly gardens is that, if done correctly, they provide open habitat for butterflies as well as some other insects.  They can also be formal and filled with showy flowers, at least in the beginning.  Butterfly gardens do attract the larger butterflies, and are certainly a better alternative to landscapes which do not attract any insect life.  They are also very approachable and easy to install, making them especially good for schools, libraries, and other public areas.  Butterfly gardens help reduce nature deficit disorder in our youth, they encourage children to go outside, nurture their sense of wonder, and teach them about ecological interrelationships.  Who hasn’t had fun raising caterpillars and watching their metamorphosis?

The goal for most butterfly gardens is to obtain both nectar plants and host plants.  Nectar plants provide a food source for adult butterflies to feed on.  Host plants are those which the adult butterflies lay their eggs on, and then caterpillars feed upon the leaves, eventually pupating and transforming into adults. 

-Typical butterfly garden. Showy, but where are the butterflies?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Let your county know it’s a wildflower world

Want your county to buy into the valuable economic and ecological impacts of preserving native roadside wildflowers?

The Florida Wildflower Foundation has just the thing for you, thanks to FWF Chair Jeff Caster and wildflower enthusiast Eleanor Dietrich, Tallahassee of FNPS’ Magnolia Chapter. The two have developed a “kit” that can be used to persuade your county government to support the growth of native wildflowers.

The simple kit includes a fill-in-the-blank county resolution that pledges support for roadside management, including reduced mowing, that promotes the growth and reseeding of naturally occurring wildflowers. An accompanying PowerPoint presentation explains the historical, cultural and ecological importance of Florida’s flowers. Notes embedded in the presentation prompt the presenter to engage the audience and add county-specific information and photos.

The presentation and resolution were developed during recent efforts in Wakulla and Gadsden counties to allow wildflowers to flourish on roadsides. Both counties now have voted to protect roadside wildflowers in key locations during experiments that could lead to more beautiful roadsides being preserved. The resolution also has recently been adopted by Leon, Volusia and Lake counties. FNPS/FWF also members are working on presentations in Sarasota, Brevard and Marion counties.

For information on presenting the resolution to your county, contact Lisa Roberts at 407-353-6164.

The Florida Wildflower Foundation’s mission is to enrich lives with Florida’s native wildflowers. Through the sale of the State Wildflower license tag, the organization increases the visibility and availability of native wildflowers and grasses by funding research, education and planting projects statewide.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What I learned on my Summer Vacation by Sid Taylor

Congratulations to the dedicated members of the Magnolia Chapter who managed to host an event that exceeded the high expectations for this historic event!

Sid Taylor, a Hernando Chapter member, recorded some of things that she wanted to remember from his experience at the conference. If you, like poor, poor, pitiful me, had to miss the conference this year you will enjoy his little list. Thanks for sharing, Sid, and NOW, let's hear from you, Readers!

What did you like, love, learn from from this year's conference?? Take a leap and post your comment below. It's easy! If you don't have a Google Account, blog or url, you can choose the "Anonymous" selection and post using that option. And if you want to include your name, great! Just put your name at the bottom of the comment. This kind of sharing is what's fun about the blog world. Join the conversation!

sue dingwell

Bullets of knowledge from our Mentors @ FNPS Conf., Tallahassee, May 20-23-2010 or What I learned on my Summer Vacation by Sid Taylor

1) Apalachicola National Forest (ANF) is 1.2 M acres

2) ANF has Atlantic White Cedar: Chamaecyparis thyoides on acidic soils.

3) Join the Phenologists and help categorize a data base to track climate change. The US National Phenology Network and George Kish will thank you.

4) “Think locally; act neighborly” per Greg Jubinsky and his traveling exotic spray tank furnished by FWC. Greg says Florida is winning the war against Melaleuca quinquenervia. FWC is sponsoring a program to help provide a buffer around Public Lands against exotic invasions. Get help with ten acres.