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 www.afnn.org, 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 http://www.fws.gov/okefenokee/. 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:
http://www.mahalo.com/how-to-arrange-flowers. 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 http://pawpaw.fnpschapters.org
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 $$.)