Thursday, September 30, 2010

Butterfly Release Controversy

What we unwittingly released was a  firestorm when we published the butterfly release piece last week. Turns out there is a  dark side to the practice, and we want to share with our readers what we have come to know.....and hey, folks, this is one of the reasons the blog exists! It gives us a great forum to talk with, question, and learn from each other! 

The butterfly world is kind of divided in two camps on this issue. On one side are members of IBBA, the International Butterfly Breeders Association, who say that the practice of releasing butterflies is safe, both for the butterflies themselves, and for their impact on the environment they enter. On the other side are a number of people, including members of the Xerces Society, and the North American Butterfly Association (NABA).

Xerces is  a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. The Xerces site is very informative, and one of the things you will note if you go there is that they have a very long list member contributors who hold advanced degrees across a wide spectrum of the sciences. Xerces and  NABA  are united in their position that releases are cruel to the insects and also present a long-term hazard to native butterfly populations.

One major concern is the spread of disease from the commercially raised insects to the wild ones. IBBA contends that there is no data to support that worry. However, Xerces points out that the same claim (no supporting data) was made by two groups recently where harmful results did occur while we were waiting for the statistics to come in. Four of our North American bumble bee species are on the brink of extinction;  the most likely reason of their decline is a pathogen which was brought to them from  commercially reared bumble bees. And, in 2001, a sea lice epidemic spread from commercially produced salmon to wild populations in British Columbia. The warnings of conservationists had been ignored, and the wild salmon runs declined by 95%. So while it may be true that there is no supporting data for spread of disease,  the likelihood is high. Pathogens are hard to detect and there are no regulations preventing mailing unhealthy butterflies. Since the results of releasing practices are unstudied and unknown, caution seems wise. You as a consumer have a choice.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wildflower Symposium 2010: Highlights

There was a lot to learn at the 2010 Wildflower Symposium presented by the Florida Wildflower Foundation (FWF) held at the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs building in Winter Park.

Starting with the annual meeting, we learned that over the life of the wildflower license plate program (since 2000), more than $2.3 million has been raised and the majority of that money has been spent on research. This year the board has decided on a more balanced budget with more money spent on wildflower planting projects--the blue piece of the pie.  (Green: administrative expenses, gold: education, rose: research.)

Jeff Caster, FWF president filled us in on the inner-workings of the foundation's activities, the new information-rich foundation website, and how Florida's native wildflowers are enriching lives.

Then Brightman Logan reminded us about the importance of plant provenance. Even though the species may be the same, plants that originate from northern stock will not do well in Florida's climate. They will bloom and leaf out too late in the season and may have a difficult time with the heat, humidity and our seven-month dry season. A great lesson!

Then we spread out in the gardens to enjoy our lunches donated by Whole Foods. Some of us observed that FNPS still has a lot of education to do when we saw that the garden club building landscapers have used invasives (Mexican petunias, asparagus ferns and tuberous sword ferns).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Butterfly Bonanza at the Florida/Georgia Line

"Butterfly bonanza" was the report on a recent field trip to Simmons State Forest by the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.  The members of this Jacksonville group identified 26 different butterflies and were treated to a rare sighting of a Cofaqui Giant Skipper, which they even caught on camera - see below!   If your group has been on an interesting adventure and you have good photos of native plants or wildlife (like Bill's fantastic skippers) let us know.  We'd love to post it here.   Ginny Stibolt

Ixia Chapter Field Trip: Simmons State Forest. September 12, 2010Written and photographed by Bill Berthet

Waving hands, Cheshire smiles were aglow as I was greeted by 7 other members
of the Ixia chapter at the Burger King parking lot in Callahan. We headed North to Ralph E. Simmons Memorial State Forest. We picked up another Ixia member on the way and had a "TWO CAR" caravan.

Located in Nassau Co. in Northeastern Florida on the Florida-Georgia border, this 3,638 acre State Forest features many excellent examples of natural communities including longleaf pine/wiregrass, low pinelands, seepage slopes, herb bogs and ravine communities.

Reaching the Road 2 entrance into Simmons S.F., we were greeted by a huge "King Ranch" edition black truck pulling a large trailer full of hound dogs, and four or five horses with riders in traditional dress and appointments. Their leader said they were Cubbing.

Finally getting by all the commotion, we stopped at a spot where you can observe Frosted Elfin butterflies in March.

Frosted Elfin has a FNAI state rank S1,
Rare locally, selected habitat associations, along with its hostplant,

Sundial Lupine (L. Perennis) leads to the fragile status of this butterfly.

This butterfly's caterpillar allows ants to crawl over its body, and to pupate below the surface which can allow them to survive seasonal burns that can kill other species.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mexican Petunia: A Plant Gone Rogue

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: before you today stands the Mexican petunia, Ruellia simplex, of the family Acanthaceae, a blue, long-flowering plant used copiously in landscapes throughout Florida. What we will attempt to show you today, is that this plant, which invaded our fair state from foreign countries, is not a part of a sustainable ecosystem here, and in fact, has gone rogue with deleterious effects in a wide variety of habitats.

In other words, it may look good, but it's a bad choice. In fact FLEPPC (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council) has listed it as a category one invasive plant. This bad actor goes by many names: Ruellia tweediana, Ruellia brittoniana, Ruellia coerulea and Ruellia malacosperma are all names for the same culprit. In case you've forgotten, a Category I invasive plant is found doing some or all of the following:
  • altering native plant communities by displacing native species
  • changing community structures or ecological functions
  • hybridizing with natives
This rogue plant has many tricks up its sleeve. Ironically, although it prefers wetlands, it's highly drought tolerant once established. And get this: the seeds have no dormancy mechanisms, they are ready to germinate almost immediately after leaving their insidious little fruit capsules. No need for cold-treatment, scarification or stratification. Germination occurs over a broad range of temperatures, with or without light.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

People ARE interested in Garden-oriented events

In my guest rant on today's, I maintain that many people ARE interested in gardening events. This is in response to a NYTimes article a few weeks back that botanical gardens have had to cancel their garden-oriented events, because there's not enough interest. I took part in eleven (11) garden-oriented events in Florida over this past year where up to 20,000 people attended. I've summarized some of the best ideas for holding successful garden-oriented festivals. I've also included a link to a photographic tour. Enjoy!

I was quite pleased to see that various FNPS chapters were organizers or participants in the majority of the Florida garden fests. What a great way to reach out and educate the very specific group of folks--the gardeners!

If you have more ideas or would like to share your experiences, please leave a comment.

Ginny Stibolt

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shady Oak Butterfly Farm

Learn more about butterfly farming: read A butterfly hobby takes wing and brings in $300,000 a year. Be sure to watch the beautiful video of a monarch emerging from its chrysalis.

While we can attract butterflies to our own yards by planting more native plants--particularly larval food plants for butterflies, sometimes we might wish for more butterflies for special occasions. This is when having access to a butterfly farm like White Oak comes into play. I thought it was interesting that they ship adult butterflies in folds of wax paper in chilled containers to "mimic a cool spring morning." In my tour of 11 Florida garden fests this past year, several included butterfly houses and/or butterfly releases. Just beautiful!

One other note on welcoming monarchs to your yard: Don't plant scarlet milkweed, an exotic from South America that is commonly sold in big box stores, because the scarlet milkweed is more tropical than our natives and continues to bloom for a longer period. This means that many monarchs do not migrate and become susceptible to parasites. See:  I've ordered some butterfly weed (Asclepias. tuberosa) plants: hopefully I'll be successful in not killing them.
Ginny Stibolt

Saturday, September 11, 2010

American Beautyberry: Purple Now

Callicarpa Americana
American Beautyberry                                                               
Other Names: Dwarf Mulberry, Beautybush, Filigree, French Mulberry, Beautyberry

Introduction: Purple berries clinging around stems with bright green foliage make Callicarpa americana stand out from late summer to winter. It is easy to see how beautyberry got its common name. Don’t let its looks fool you though; Callicarpa is more than just eye candy. Callicarpa americana is useful medicinally and as food for wildlife and people. American Beautyberry is not fussy about location, soil or light requirements. This tough plant is an American Beauty in every sense of the word. Its name comes from Greek: Kalli, means beautiful; Karpos means fruit.

Historic Medicinal Uses:
Native Americans had many uses for beautberry, both internally and externally.  According to Taylor (1940), Native Americans used beautyberry externally as a steam and topical application. All parts of the plants were used for different purposes  Roots, leaves, and berries became the base for various teas and decoctions created to treated a wide variety of common aliments. It was also used for ceremonial activities.

Crushed berries were rubbed on the skin to repel mosquitoes. In modern times, farmers and ranchers in Texas applied the berries and leaves to cattle and horses in order to repel flies.  A study by Kinghorn (2008) confirms that Callicarpa Americana does have mosquito bite deterrent actions. Callicarpa leaves contain terpenoids that repel fire ants according to a recent study by Chen, Cantrell, Duke, and Allen (2008).

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Garden Professors Define Terms--alien, native, invasive & more

Holly Scoggins, one of the garden professors posted an interesting piece on the defintions of terms including alien, exotic, invasive and aggressive.  The discussion in the comments is also worthwhile.

We discussed it here a few posts ago: Invasive vs. Agressive... Part 1.

Say, here's an example of some invasives: wild taro (Colocasia esculenta) and wedelia (Sphagneticola trilobata).  >>

So the discussion continues...


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Buy your books (and other stuff) here

As you may have noticed, we have listed several books over in the right-hand column. If you use our Amazon links to purchase books FNPS will make some money depending upon the price of the item. If you use Amazon to purchase other items, you can still link to one of the books and then navigate to any other item to earn some cash for your favorite group.

On another note, if you wish to suggest any other books that you think folks would be interested in that relate to Florida and its native plants, let us know.

Thanks for your support.

PS., if you would like to suggest a topic or if you'd like to be a guest blogger, we'd love to hear from you.