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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

We all live in a watershed! 10/15/2010 Blog Action Day topic is Water

North-central Florida has been blessed with fantastic and seemingly endless crystal-clear springs. The Floridan aquifer is close to the surface in this area and water pressure caused by water percolating into the limestone formations already filled with water flows to the surface. Some springs  discharge more than 65 million gallons of water per day.  Several state parks have been located to include these springs.
Swimming with anhingas in Rainbow River

The springs support many types of wildlife: fish, water birds, snakes, turtles, and the placid manatees.

This manatee winters in Homosassa Springs

 The anhingas, aka snake birds, are particularly fun to watch as they spear their fishy prey with their beaks underwater and then come to the surface where they expertly flip the fish from their beaks into their gullets. You can see the lump in their long necks as the fish slide down. 

See DEP's website for more information, diagrams, and educational materials on Florida's fantastic springs.

Florida's picturesque rivers have captivated tourists and residents alike with their wonderful vistas of fantastic flora and fauna. Rivers occur throughout the state and each region's climate makes each river unique.

Sunrise over the St. Johns River
An American egret hunts for breakfast
on Appalachacola River.

For centuries Florida was not well developed because of its swamps. While early settlers found them hostile, our marvelous swamps provide hiding places for animals and habitat for rare plant species including the famous ghost orchid.  See Ghost Orchid Controversy.

Mangrove swamps provide critical habitat for fish, invertebrates, birds, and mammals.
The red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is one of three mangroves, but only one the one with stilts for roots. 
We featured mangroves in a  this posting.

The Corkscrew Swamp near Naples houses a vast and fascinating collection of interesting plants and animals.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Natives:The REAL Right Plants

Okay! Now let’s talk about the real Right Plants!

Kudos to IFAS for the new Florida Friendly publication with all its great information for waterwise gardening and smart landscape design principles. In my opinion, however, you have ripped the heart out of the very concept when you fail to mention the advantages of native plants each and every time you repeat the mantra, “Right Plant, Right Place.”

In fact the whole world is waking up to the fact that native plants are critical elements in the great jenga tower of existence, not quaint items we would like to catalog in a museum. If you need the statistics and the whole argument, please read Doug Tallamy’s book, Bringing Nature Home. You can read a summary and a review right here on the bottom of our homepage. You can read a simple explanation on Wildlife Garden’s blog page from last week.

Plants that come from Mexico, South America, or China, may be able to survive in Florida; they may even need relatively small amounts of water. But they are NOT, I repeat, NOT, Florida friendly. Excuse me for shouting. A Florida friendly plant is a plant that is supporting our native wildlife, or is a critical part of a naturally-occurring ecosystem here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Everything you need to know about the Florida-friendly program, but were afraid to ask: Part 2

This is Part 2 of an interview with Mike Thomas, Ph.D., P.E., who works at the Florida DEP, about the Florida Friendly Landscaping program.  Link to Part 1 here, where we asked Mike about primary objectives of the Florida-Friendly program and its law (HB2080), rain gardens, and Tallahassee's TAPP (Think About Personal Pollution) program.

5) There is quite a bit about landscape design included in the new, 104-page online and print book (The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design). Who is the intended audience and how will you market it?
The primary target of the new book is the homeowner, but the highest priority is the HOA landscape and architectural control committees, so they will have a good reference to what many FFL options look like.

We hope that this book will help to dispense with the notion that sustainable landscapes are necessarily weedy and unkempt. Many of the most beautiful gardens in the world were maintained in Charleston, in Europe, the Mideast, and other areas of the world for centuries before the advent of manufactured fertilizer, powered irrigation systems, or modern pesticides. Those things are a convenient help, no doubt, but we should not fall in love with them and be blinded to their disadvantages. The proper use of these products is discussed more in the FYN Handbook and in the Green Industry BMPs, which are written for the professional or advanced amateur horticulturist.

The largest audience, of course, is the homeowner. My own pet peeve about the FYN and native landscaping books for many years was the difficulty of imagining my yard with a bunch of alphabetically arranged Latin-named descriptions and no or only small black and white pictures. I wanted something that I could stand in front of the house with, figure out what looked nice, and take to the nursery with me to pick out the plants.

I would also strongly recommend to HOAs or anyone else the regional design guides on the UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Landscaping™ website that were produced by Dr. Gail Hansen, an assistant professor of Landscape Architecture, and her graduate student. Coupled with the color plant photos in the new Design Guide, they are a very powerful combination. (Editors' note: see below for the link to all the publications.)

Even if you don’t do it yourself, these references will be a great help in communicating your desires to a Registered Landscape Architect or landscape designer.

When Choosing Plants, Think Food Chain
Our own Loret T. Setters, an active member of our Pine Lily Chapter, has joined the great new group blog Wildlife Garden with her first post, When Choosing Plants, Think Food Chain.

When she participates in outreach programs, she usually collects interesting bugs and other critters from her yard to take with her.  She displays them in jars with their favorite food and proper humidity and they serve as conversation starters.  Later she releases them back into her yard.

At a recent event, someone remarked that not many folks could come up with eight different critters so quickly.  Well, she's planned her landscape so lots of bugs have access to their favorite foods. And if you want to invite birds to your yard, first you invite the bugs!

Read her post and follow her on Twitter.  She has a wonderful, chatty writing style and we're sure that folks all over the country are looking forward to her next set of observations.  Thanks Loret; you represent us well.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Everything you need to know about the Florida-Friendly program, but were afraid to ask! Part 1

You may have heard the term "Florida-Friendly" used in articles about the controversial law (HB2080) that passed last year and in presentations by your agriculture agents, and you may even have visited the Florida Yards website.  I thought I was fairly well educated on the topic, but when I met Mike Thomas in Tallahassee earlier this year on my book tour, I realized that there was so much more to think about.  And now with the new 104-page book, "Florida Friendly Landscaping," I thought you'd be interested in knowing more, too. 

This is Part 1 of my interview with Mike.  Please feel free to ask more questions and leave your comments.  Thanks for reading.
Ginny Stibolt

An interview with Mike Thomas, Ph.D., P.E. on the Florida-Friendly program, a state-wide effort to educate homeowners and property managers to have less impact on the environment. Their nine principles of better and water-wise landscaping practices cover a wide range of topics from attracting more wildlife to reducing stormwater runoff. Mike works for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

1) What are the primary objectives of the Florida-Friendly program?

The primary goal of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program and its predecessors* has been to induce a culture of educated, responsible stewardship of their land in the people of Florida, which will result in reduced non-point source pollution, water conservation, and a healthy ecosystem. While the vast majority of Floridians want to be good stewards, too few citizens understand how their everyday activities at home, work, or play can create “Pointless Personal Pollution” and harm our state’s vital water resources. This is especially true with respect to landscaping – very few people have had any formal education on how to actually maintain a home lawn or landscape in Florida, much less how to balance the needs of chosen landscape against the risks to the environment. Our objective is nothing less than to reach that goal, a cultural change, so that the common knowledge passed on neighbor to neighbor and to future generations is based on scientifically sound and sustainable practices about maintaining a nice yard in Florida.

*Predecessors to Florida-Friendly Landscaping program are: Environmental Landscape Management (ELM), Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN), and the Green Industry Best Management Practices (GI-BMP).

The ELM program began at UF/IFAS in the mid 1980s, the FYN program about 1990, initially funded by the National Estuary Program in the Sarasota / Tampa Bay area, and then picked up financially by FDEP and some of the Water Management Districts and spread statewide. In 2000 several Green Industry associations met with DEP and IFAS to create Best Management Practices (BMPs) and a training program for their workers. About the same time a program was added to take FYN education to the developers and homebuilders (FYN-B & D) so that entire developments would be based on more sustainable landscape practices. As these programs grew and matured, overlapping and duplication began to occur. In order to eliminate conflicts and improve efficiency, the GI BMPs, ELM, FYN and FYN B & D programs were all merged into the FFL program and a centralized management structure.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sweet Everlasting

“What is that sweet smell?” I wondered, as I walked the trail on our property with our lumbering Lab, Max.  Just a subtle, gentle odor of something recognizable; perhaps the dog brushed against something as we walked. Ah, then I noticed it—Gnaphalium obtusifolium, recently renamed Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium, and commonly called sweet everlasting. This is one of my favorite end-of-summer native species of the Asteraceae family. And it’s more than a fragrant delight. Sweet everlasting has a solid history as medicinal ally. Linnaeus named this genus in 1753, according to Daniel Austin in Florida Ethnobotany. Native people mixed the plant with smoking tobacco, and even Julia Morton in Folk Remedies of the Low Country (1974) noted its use in pipes by “old timers” in the southeast.

Sweet everlasting is notable near summer’s end and reaches 24 to 36 inches. The leaves are alternate, narrow and lancelet, lacking stalks. They are green above, white and hairy below. The difference between the top and bottom is striking.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Read the FNPS newsletter, Sabal minor

Learn the news at our society; read a message from our new president; and see pictures of the red admiral butterfly in its various stages. Did you know that the red admiral rarely visits flowers for nectar, but feeds on sap and decaying vegetation instead?
Download your copy of Sabal minor here: