Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sources for Native Plants

I am frequently asked, “Where can I get native plants?” As a result, I thought it might be helpful to provide some basic information, pointers, and advice on the different sources of native plants--something that might be especially helpful to beginning native plant gardeners.

Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS)

Local Chapters: Presently, there are 35 FNPS chapters scattered throughout Florida and most chapters engage in some form of activity whereby members can obtain native plants. The Palm Beach County Chapter, for example, has monthly plant raffles, an annual auction, and a vendor's table at the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park Earth Day celebration known as NatureScaping. Some chapters go beyond merely hosting a vendor's table and, as one example, the Paynes Prairie Chapter sponsors a very popular native plant sale every spring and autumn.

Silphium asteriscus seedlings were unexpectedly obtained during a native garden tour sponsored by the Palm Beach County Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.
Local FNPS chapters also promote, and are a source of information regarding, plant sales in other ways: chapter newsletters may carry advertisements from local businesses selling native plants; monthly speakers, especially nursery owners, may bring plants for sale; and the local FNPS chapter is a great way of meeting like-minded people with whom to trade plants, cuttings, and seeds. Even events that do not seem to be in any way connected with obtaining plants can yield new treasures. This spring, I went to the Palm Beach County Chapter's garden walk of native gardens. At one garden, the owner allowed me to collect Silphium asteriscus seedlings out of his yard and, in a little out-of-the-way corner, he had potted plants for sale, including Scutellaria havanensis, a compact-growing, state-listed endangered member of the mint family that bears masses of violet-blue flowers in late winter and spring.

The Annual Conference: FNPS has an annual conference and, to many attendees, the highlight of the conference is the numerous and varied plant nurseries with native plants for sale, often with fairly unusual or rare plants available. To obtain the most up-to-date information on the annual FNPS conference, go to the FNPS home page and click on the word Conference in the navigation menu on the left side of the page. The next annual conference is scheduled for May 19–22, 2011, in Maitland, Florida, and it's not too early to start your plans for attending the conference.

Association of Florida Native Nurseries (AFNN)

AFNN has a website with a complete listing of its members as well as a search engine for locating specific plants that AFNN members are growing. AFNN also publishes a very useful and informative Guide for Real Florida Gardeners. The latter is an all color publication with inspirational photographs of native plants used in home, commercial, and institutional settings. It also has advertisements from each member, ranging from a simple business card to full page spreads, that provide additional information about the nurseries that belong to AFNN.

Although the AFNN member nurseries and the AFNN website are invaluable resources for the native plant gardener, you should bear in mind that the plant lists on the website are not always up-to-date. Thus, some listed plants may no longer be in stock and plants that are not listed may very well be in stock. The only way to know for sure is to contact the various nurseries. Also, most of the nurseries tend to focus on specific groups of native plants, such as butterfly plants, wildflowers, trees, wetland plants, etc. By way of example, imagine that you are seeking Acer negundo, an uncommon tree of north and central Florida. It is unlikely that you would find it by making inquiries at AFNN member nurseries in South Florida that specialize in wetland mitigation plants. However, your chances of finding it will increase substantially if you make inquiries at AFNN member nurseries located in northern and central Florida (where Acer negundo naturally occurs) and if you focus specifically on nurseries that specialize in woody plants (trees and shrubs).

Opuntia triacanthos, a tiny 3-inch tall prickly-pear, was found at the nursery of the Institute for Regional Conservation.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cocoplum's Are Bursting Out All Over

Cocoplums, Chrysoblanus icaco, in my yard are more heavily laden with fruit than I have ever seen them. These shiny shrubs flower and fruit "intermittently all year," says the literature, which makes it a surprise when they do.

The fruit is edible for both wildlife and people; it's slightly sweet with a hard shell surrounding the nut. This feature actually qualifies it as a 'drupe.'

You can make jelly from the drupes using any standard recipe from your good old standard cookbook. However, I must say,  I think if you are going to the bother of it, you would get more flavor and nutritional benefit from blueberries. However, you can do it.

The little flowers are delicate and give off a delicate fragrance as well. Here are some tightly closed buds and a few opened flowers. They smell great!! No icon for that, darn. 

In the next two frames, you see the progression: buds, flowers and the newly formed fruit, first green, then red.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Invasive vs. aggressive… Part 1

A pine forest in my neighborhood suffered a hot fire that killed most of the pines when an abandoned building caught fire. The palmettos sprouted first after the fire, but the next plant in evidence was a carpet of Chinese tallow tree seedlings. Now three years later they are the dominant tree in this new growth. The Chinese tallow or popcorn tree (Sapium sebiferum) was imported in the 1700s by Ben Franklin himself. It is a nice-looking tree with its heart-shaped leaves and reliable fall color even here in Florida.  Of course, birds just love the seeds and spread them far and wide. Now it's on Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's ( most invasive list for all of Florida.  So we all need to get rid of it and object when we see stores selling it.

Even if a plant is not aggressive on your property that doesn't mean that it's not invasive and the reverse is also true. Here in Florida heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is also on the  most invasive list for northern and central Florida, but you could hardly tell by its behavior in your yard. Also if it's native like catbriar (Smilax spp), it is by definition not invasive, even if it's aggressive  and you're having a hard time getting rid of it because of those enormous woody tubers. Maybe you could learn to make sarsaparilla: haven't you noticed that spicy smell when you dig them up? It's not called root beer for nothing.

As folks interested in promoting native plant species, aren't we also interested in ridding our wild areas of invasive species that have invaded? And shouldn't we start with our yards and spread the word? Here is a recent discussion on Garden Rant about invasives. While porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) is not a problem here in Florida, the discussion, including the 28 comments, is quite interesting and educational

The Ixia chapter of FNPS in Jacksonville has created a brochure called "Alter-Natives," which includes a list of native alternatives to commonly planted invasives in northeastern Florida. As alter-natives for Chinese tallow, it suggests Florida sugar maple (Acer floridanum), Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia), and blue beech (Carpinus caroliniana).  Here's a link to the front & back and here's the link to the inside.  Maybe other chapters could come up with their own regional versions as a "nice" way of spreading the word.

Please chime in on this discussion.  More to come ...
Ginny Stibolt

Monday, August 16, 2010

GoodSearch Makes GoodSense!

It has come to our attention - please insert your own picture here of portentous figure banging shovel on desktop - that there are still people out there who don’t use GoodSearch!

Good grief!

You were shopping online anyway, right?
You know that your donation to FNPS will be cost-free to you, right?
You want to help FNPS educate the public, conserve and protect land, help our legislators craft wise laws, right?

OK. No more excuses. It’s so easy. I did a series of little mini-tests this morning. Because I am first among the guilty. Here is what I found.

My testing this morning included one PC and one Mac. On each of these, I discovered that after I had clicked the GoodSearch button on the FNPS homepage, the next time I entered GoodSearch in the address bar, the preference for FNPS as the charity of choice was persistent. It showed up automatically without my having to enter it again. This is important to me, one less thing to do.  (Now there's a link here on the blog as well.)

You can install a toolbar from GoodSearch to shop through. too.   However, we know that some you love your toolbar and don’t want to change it or add to it, yet do want the ease of fewer clicks when you go to use GoodSearch. So now you know that toolbar no-changers can:
  • enter Goodsearch through by clicking button on the right, or
  • enter GoodSearch once through using the badge to the right or the FNPS homepage, and then Bookmark GoodSearch in whatever way you prefer
Either of these ways will get you there with only two clicks and you will have FNPS already filled in.

If you crave one-click entrance and you are willing to add the GoodSearch toolbar, they make that really easy, too. Just go to . There are slightly different directions depending on what your computer/browser choice is, and if you are using Norton 360, it overrides the toolbar. But I promise you, they have made it easy to download. And yes, it is guaranteed, by them and by us, to be 100% spyware free. We also guarantee that if you want to download the toolbar, but can’t, we will give you personalized help!

Shopping through GoodSearch, gives another great benefit you might not know about. Serious coupons. Substantial discounts you either didn’t know about in stores, or that are available only online, will be yours for the taking. The list of stores that participate is practically all-encompassing, by the way. All the big names are there. GoodSearch shows you exactly how much money your purchase will earn for FNPS. The percentages vary, some stores give more than others. Barnes and Noble gives 4%. If you’re a book-lover, that adds up!

If you are interested in learning more about how GoodSearch works, where the money comes from, other organizations that use it, etc., they have an excellent FAQ on their homepage.

FNPS donations can come from anyone, you don’t have to be a member to donate.

Although if you aren’t a member, this is the perfect time to join. Only $35 to be a member of the GREENEST organization in Florida. The real green.

If we all got in the habit, we could earn real money for FNPS. The ASPCA has garnered more than $10,000. We could have funded more of the excellent research projects that were submitted to our grant program last year with this kind of money.

And it is just a habit, isn’t it?

Let’s all get in the habit of doing good. GoodSearch, that is!

sue dingwell

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Coonties: Captivating Cycads

These perky natives have numerous and endearing charms. Authors and growers disagree about the proper Latin name, but they are in complete agreement that more people should use more coonties in their landscapes.

What's to like?

Coonties are spritely and graceful in their form,  tough as the dickens, bright green all year, and host plant for the beautiful blue atala
hairstreak butterfly. In fact, coonties are the only larval food for atalas. You can use them as specimen or accent plants, mass them together for ground cover, or use them in a line as a border. And to top that off, they have an interesting sex life. A subject we hardly ever get to talk about around here. More on that later. See more in Roger Hammer's 1995 Palmetto article, The Coontie and the Atala Hairstreak.

Slow growers, coonties are more expensive to buy than some other natives by relative size, but don't let that put you off. They are well worth the investment. They can be planted in full sun or fairly deep shade. They thrive in a variety of soils, preferring some organic content, but doing okay in nutrient poor soil, too. They have a high tolerance for salt winds, although they don't like to stand around in salty or brackish water. They don't like to be in any soil that is continually moist. One of their big assets is that they are extremely drought tolerant once established. They can be from one to three feet high, and eventually they grow as wide as they are tall. Some older specimens have reached greater heights, but in general, in the home landscape, you can count on them holding on at about three feet.

Coonties can be susceptible to sooty mold or scale. However, this is easily controlled. Just whack them back to the ground, dispose of the scaly leaves, and the plant will merrily re-generate. Same thing if the atala babies eat them up; just wait, they come back.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Garden Professors on Maintaining Native Plantings

Last month on the Garden Professors Blog, Linda Chalker-Scott pleaded with people who are planting native plants to give them the care they need to become established. We talked about it here.  This time Bert Cregg shows what happens when a native habitat is not given enough initial maintenance:
Restoration ecologists--you need us! Part 2.

"There seems to be a pervasive notion that if we plant natives all we have to do is stick them in the ground and walk away. They’re native, right? Don’t need irrigation; don’t need fertilizer; all that good jazz. Well, often there is lot more to it than that. ..."

While this is not Florida flora, it's still a good lesson.  Just substitute your own weed species that might spoil the effect.

Ginny Stibolt

Friday, August 6, 2010

Is Your Landscape Project Ready for Prime Time?

If you've been working on including more native plants in your landscaping project, here are two ways to gain recognition: (The beautiful photos are some of the 2010 award winning landscapes.)

1) Apply by August 30th to be part of AFNN's Florida-wide media campaign. In partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the Association of Florida Native Nurseries (AFNN) is launching the Plant Real Florida statewide media campaign promoting the use of Florida native plants in residential landscaping. FDACS will produce a 30-second televised public service announcement that will run statewide on cable television from March through December 2011. Viewers will be directed to a new AFNN-sponsored website that enables homeowners to locate a variety of local resources, including AFNN native nurseries, landscape specialists, FNPS chapters and other Real Florida Gardener resources.

AFNN is particularly interested in landscaping that echoes or mimics native plant associations found in our natural ecosystems (e.g., hammocks, pinelands, coastal uplands). They'd like to see a mix of trees, shrubs, and native groundcover and preferably a few colorful native accents. It's okay for non-native plants to be part of the landscape; just not the dominate elements. Other "plus" features include butterfly, bird, pond and rain gardens, photogenic families, lots of onsite wildlife, etc. You get the picture--and speaking of pictures, include a photo of your property

Please send suggestions, questions, or comments by AUG 30 to AFNN Executive Director Cammie Donaldson at

2) Apply for the Landscape awards by March 4, 2011, which will be presented at next year's FNPS statewide meeting in Orlando. For a list of last year's winners and information for how to apply, click here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Congratulations to our Contest Winner!

Barbara Jackson, you told us of the many ways you are sharing native plant information with a wide
audience, and we applaud your outreach efforts! Gil Nelson's new book, Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens, is yours. Thanks to the University of Florida Press for their donation of the book. Keep up the good work, Barbara, and congratulations.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to post comments for this contest, we hope you will try again when the next one comes around. We sincerely apologize for the difficulties some of you encountered when trying to enter your comments. We have removed the entire "captcha" function, and hope that will simplify the process. Keep the comments coming and let us know what you want to read about. Got questions? We love to find answers!

sue dingwell

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Survey for those who did NOT FNPS's statewide conference

If you did NOT attend this year's conference in Tallahassee, FNPS would like to know why.

Please help us out by taking a few minutes to answer a quick 4-question survey:

Survey will run through August 16. Thank you.

If you want a taste of what you missed, see our older posts in May for our live blogs from the conference and also see some of the followup posts in June.