Thursday, December 29, 2011

Florida Native Landscaping Class Starting 1/11/12 at Ft. Pierce

The Mexican firebush, Gumbo-limbo tree, and stokes aster may not seem similar but all three plants are featured in either of two botanic gardens situated at the University of Florida/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center near Fort Pierce. The plants are native to Florida, require a minimum amount of care and were carefully selected and strategically placed for high aesthetic value.

More than 100 plants will be studied in “Florida Native Landscaping,” an upper division environmental horticulture course, the plants may be used in a wide array of landscapes. Offered to degree-seeking and non-degree seeking students at the UF Fort Pierce campus, many industry professionals, nursery owners and state employees have completed the course.

Registration for “Florida Native Landscaping” is taking place now for spring semester 2012. The course will begin Wednesday, Jan. 11, 3:30 until 6:30 p.m., and will continue each Wednesday through mid-April. “Florida Native Landscaping” is offered as both an undergraduate course, as well as a graduate-level course. Graduate students who enroll will complete an additional project.

Dr. Sandy Wilson
The course is designed to introduce students with a plant science background to a wide array of native plant species used in Florida landscapes, according to Sandy Wilson, who will instruct the course. Wilson, who has garnered multiple national teaching awards, holds a doctorate in plant physiology. She devotes equal amounts of her faculty time to teaching courses and to research projects.

Each week, students will participate in lectures and laboratory work that will cover plant nomenclature and taxonomy, native plant requirements, propagation, environmental issues and native landscape design and implementation. Portions of the course will take place in the center’s 1-acre “IRREC Teaching Gardens”, and the half-mile-long “Linear Garden,” both outdoor gardens planned and implemented by students of environmental horticulture. Wilson said,
“This is a very popular course every time I teach it with direct applications as we learn how to create environmentally sound, aesthetic landscapes that benefit our wildlife.”

Dr. Sandy Wilson is a prominent environmental horticulturalist nationally recognized for her research programs and innovative teaching skills in classroom, laboratory and distance education platforms. Her research focuses on characterizing the invasive potential of ornamental plants, and native plant physiology, propagation and production.

Recently, Dr. Wilson obtained a grant with which to produce material for newly created web-based lectures by statewide native experts specifically for this course. In addition, she is co-inventor of a new multiple-key entry online key for identifying plant families.

Prospective degree and non-degree seeking students may register for courses that will be held at the Indian River Research and Education Center, located at 2199 South Rock Road in Fort Pierce.

To enroll in “Florida Native Landscaping” or for more information about University of Florida course and degree offerings at the Fort Pierce location, contact Coordinator of Student Support Services Jackie White, at (772) 468-3922, extension 148, or by e-mail at or on the web at: For specific questions about the course or materials contact Dr. Sandra Wilson at: The course website provides information, including the course syllabus, plant list, review activities, plant images, and recommended native book references.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Man-in-the-ground (Ipomoea microdactyla), fantastically beautiful
morning glory for southernmost Florida.
A post by Roger L. Hammer

Most everyone is familiar with morning-glories in the genus Ipomoea, and certainly everyone reading this has even eaten Ipomoea batatas, the common sweet potato.

The Morning-Glory Family (Convolvulaceae) is well-represented in Florida, with 67 species in fourteen genera. Of those, twenty-four species are naturalized exotics, and four species are endemic to Florida, found nowhere else. The genus Ipomoea is the largest in the family, with twenty-five species and one naturally-occurring hybrid of two native species. Exactly half of the species (13) in Florida are native.

Only two species are rare enough to be listed as endangered by the state of Florida, and these are the rockland morning-glory (Ipomoea tenuissima) and man-in-the-ground (Ipomoea microdactyla). Both are on the northern extreme of their natural range in Florida, and both are restricted to pine rockland habitat in southern Miami-Dade County.

All species of morning-glories are pretty in their own right, but the most eye-catching, in my not-so-humble opinion, is man-in-the-ground. This peculiar common name refers to the large, underground root, similar to a sweet potato, that stores nutrients and helps the plant survive drought, dormancy, and fire. In fact, man-in-the-ground responds quickly after fire, sending long stems over the charred stems of other plants, and brightening the otherwise bleak landscape with cheery, pink, tubular flowers. Hummingbirds and butterflies (mostly skippers) visit the flowers for nectar.

Outside of Florida, man-in-the-ground is only known from pinelands in Cuba, especially on the Isle of Youth. In Florida you can find it in remnant pine rockland habitat of southern Miami-Dade County, and good places to look for it are in Larry & Penny Thompson Park, Camp Owaissa Bauer, Navy Wells Pineland Preserve, Florida City Pineland Preserve, and on Long Pine Key in Everglades National Park, particularly shortly after fire. It won’t be hard to find; simply look for lots of showy, brilliant pink flowers. Silent Native Nursery north of Homestead grows it if you want one for a sunny spot on a fence or arbor in your yard.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Plant Profile: Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)

Figure 1. Bignonia capreolata, note the tubular
flowers and two opposite leaves. Photo credit:
Stan Shebs
This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student author: Rebecca Clark

Common Name: Crossvine

Scientific Name: Bignonia capreloata L.

Bignonia capreolata or crossvine belongs to the Bignonia family and is found throughout the central to northern parts of the state. It is a woody, semi-evergreen vine, or liana, that can grow to be as long as 50 feet, using tendrils to attach to surfaces. Crossvine is found in forests, swamps, hammocks, fencerows, and limestone escarpments.

Crossvine is a relatively low-maintenance plant. The plant has low to medium water needs and is drought tolerant. It does do well in moist, well-drained, and acidic soil but can tolerate other soil conditions. The best flowering occurs in full sun even though the plant can grow in semi-shady conditions.

The leaves are opposite and four to six inches long with two leaflets per leaf. In summer, they are dark green and reddish purple in the winter.

The beautiful flowers are unscented and tubular in shape. They are normally red on the outside and yellow on the inside (Figure 1). The flowers are usually found in clusters of two to three. They appear in late April to early May. Pollinators such as hummingbirds and butterflies take advantage of the nectar.

If you would like to grow your own crossvine, please visit this site for vendors:


“Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata).” Duke University. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.

“Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata).” Plant Guide. United States Department of Agriculture. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.

Guides, Step. “Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine) NPIN.” Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center-The University of Texas at Austin. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Learning About Natives

Blanketflowers attract pollinators to your yard.
By Peg Lindsay, secretary FNPS

I moved to Florida about 10 years ago, from the state of Delaware.  The summer climate there is much the same as in Florida – hot and humid.  So I expected that the familiar garden plants I knew and loved would grow just as well here in Florida.  I went through several bottles of anti-fungal chemicals before I decided that, although I could coax those zinnias to bloom, gardening with chemicals was not for me, nor good for the environment.  Florida was lush and green before these chemicals could be commercially produced.  In fact, the name La Florida, given to this land by Ponce de Leon in 1513, refers to the amazing abundance and diversity of the wild flowering plants he observed here.  With the encouragement of my friends, I decided to try some Florida wildflowers in my garden.

The first native wildflower I added to my garden was Indian Blanketflower, Gaillardia pulchella.  This has a beautiful, red-orange-yellow daisy-like flower, blooms all summer and is tolerant of a wide variety of sunny growing conditions.  I found it at my favorite big box store in the garden section.  It thrived in my garden.

Dune sunflowers are drought tolerant.
My next wildflower selection was a groundcover: Dune Sunflower, Helianthus debilis.  As its name implies, this plant’s origins are on the eastern coastal sand dunes.  It thrives in hot, dry, sandy and sunny habitats.  It has a golden yellow, daisy-like flower with a brown center.  It blooms all summer and through the winter, if the weather stays fairly mild.  This one also thrived in my garden with its stunningly beautiful flowers.

I noticed that butterflies were now coming to my garden with the addition of a few native wildflowers.  I attended lectures and workshops and picked up handouts with lists of plants to put into my garden to attract more butterflies.  The speakers all said that I should include plants for the butterfly larvae – caterpillars – if I really wanted to attract the butterflies.  So my next two choices were for the caterpillars.  I added the non-native Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, and a native/non-native hybrid Passionvine, Passiflora incarnata hybrid.  The milkweed was for the Monarchs, the Passionvine for both Gulf Fritillary and Zebra Longwing butterfly caterpillars.  The Milkweed is still in my garden but the hybrid Passionvine was very invasive and I had a difficult time eradicating it from my lawn and garden.  I now have the strictly native passionvine in my garden.

Passionflowers are wonderfully complex.
Every time I shopped at the big box stores, I combed through their selection of native plants for something new to add to my garden.  I brought home a Gaura, which pot insert said “Florida Native.”  I proudly showed my new plant to one of my gardening friends.  She said it probably was a Gaura species but it wasn’t the native one.  That lovely little plant lasted a few years until our first big winter freeze.  I now have the native Guara angustifolia in my garden.  It’s a tall, spindly, non-descript thing with tiny pink flowers at the top which are frequented by the bees and butterflies.

So you see the evolution of my gardening preferences.  Our wildflower garden is in the back yard of our Highland Lakes home.  We have sandy soil, and half of the yard is sunny all day, half gets shade for part of the day.  My wildflower choices are now restricted to plants that originated in Florida scrub or sandhill habitats, because I’ve learned through trial-and-error what grows best for me.  I gather information about any plant before I add it to my garden.  I no longer plant for showy masses of color, although some of my garden wildflowers are truly spectacular.  My plant selections are now based on the plant’s ability to support (feed) insects and birds and survive in xeric (dry) conditions.  There is a succession of blooms all year long plus the myriad species of native bees, birds and butterflies which visit.  I am enthralled every time I wander through my garden by the number and variety of buzzy insect pollinators which visit.

A wildflower garden is not for everyone.  Like the choice of hairstyles, some prefer the traditional and more formal look.  Me - I love the dancing butterflies.

One dune sunflower plant covers a six foot triangle garden around a mailbox.
Photos by Ginny Stibolt.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A look at Drosera

Figure 1. The threatened Water Sundew (Drosera intermedia). Photo taken by:
Noah Elhardt
This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student author: Keenan Carpenter.

Allow me to introduce you to an odd little group of plants of the genus Drosera, otherwise known as the Sundews. The Sundews belong to larger family group Droseraceae which encompasses the rest of the carnivorous/insectivorous plants. There are five species of Sundew found here in Florida: The Pink Sundew (Drosera capillaris), the threatened Spoon-Leaved or Water Sundew (Drosera intermedia), the Dwarf Sundew (Drosera brevifolia) , the Thread-Leaved Sundew (Drosera filiformis), and Tracy’s Sundew (Drosera tracyi).

Figure 2. A common flower form seen among the members
of Drosera. Photo taken by: Denis Barthel
Sundews are for the most part swamp and bog plants that have managed to work their way into a niche in their environments that not many other plants have been able to inhabit. The members of Drosera make their homes in moist, acidic, and nutrient deficient soil. However, the Sundews have developed a strategy to get the nutrients they need from a different source…

If one was to examine any Sundew they would find that its leaves are covered in numerous tiny hair-like structures (Figure 1) each glistening with a drop of moisture that could easily be mistaken for dew clinging to the plant (Hence one reason for the name!). If they were to investigate further so far as touching one of the glistening hairs they may find the plant springs to life! This interesting adaptation is how the Sundews fill the nutritional gap left by their environment.

Sundews are insectivorous, meaning they feed on insects (Figure 2). That glistening dew-like substance on the leaves is actually a bead of sticky mucus packed with enzymes to digest unwary bugs lured in by the sweet smells the Sundew emits. When an insect lands on the plant the leaves immediately begin to curl around it, covering it in sticky digestive mucus, which will suffocate and eventually digest the insect into nutritious slurry which is then absorbed through the surface of the leaf.

Figure 3. An insect is digested by a Thread-Leaf Sundew.
Photo taken by: Tim Ross
Like many other plants, those in the genus Drosera produce flowers (Figure 3). Sundews flower when they have gathered sufficient nutrients to produce viable flowers and then seeds. The healthier and more well “fed” the Sundew, the more flowers and seeds are produced.

Aside from hybridized and tropical Sundews, the plants typically enter a dormant phase during the colder months of the year (November-February), at which time they form a hibernaculum, a dense cluster of buds made to aid them in toughing out the winter. Other species may die back to a tuberous root called a corm when it is too cold or too dry and then spring forth again when growing conditions are favorable again in the warm and/or wet season. All of the Floridian and North American species form hibernaculum during the unfavorable months.

From early on (Early as the 15th century) the various Sundews have been used for their medicinal properties (Figure 4). It has been seen that Sundews prove effective against a number of gram-negative bacteria (a group of bacteria, among which are those like shigella and salmonella). The leaves also contain quinones which make them effective for combating several bronchial ailments, like bronchitis. The digestive mucus itself is used as a topical treatment for pain and itching and works by distracting the brain with a new sensation.

Figure 4. 15th century book detailing Drosera, perhaps
for the first time.  Photo taken by: Denis Barthel

Sundew Facts

· Sundews seeds can remain viable for fifty years

· In some species a new Sundew can be grown from almost any part of the plant

· Larger Sundews can even take lizards and small rodents as prey items!!!

· Sundews can be fast. Snap trap Sundews can whip their arms in completely in a tenth of a second, literally flinging prey into the sticky center of the plant.

· Sundew leaves grow much like those of ferns, starting curled and gradually uncurling as the leaf matures

· There are approximately 130 species of Sundew scattered across the world

· Modification and cross-breeding has resulted in a strain of D.filiformis that turns completely red in direct sunlight. It’s been named the Florida All-Red.

Sources Cited:

Austin, D. F. 2002. Sundews . The Palmetto, 21(3) 12-13. (6 July, 2002).
"University of Florida Herbarium Digital Image Search." Florida Museum of Natural History. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.

Web. 10 Nov. 2011. .

"The Sundew Flowering and Seed-Collecting Process- When and How Should I Harvest Drosera Seeds?" The Sundew Grow Guides. Web. 10 Nov. 2011

"Drosera." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 10 Nov. 2011. .

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wildflowers (and Persistence) in Jacksonville

Barbara Jackson, environmental activist and president of
the FNPS Ixia Chapter. Photo from A Lesson in Outreach
By Barbara Jackson, President, FNPS, Ixia Chapter

“Nothing Is Ever Easy at the Shipyards”

This statement, from an environmental consultant in Jacksonville, has proven to be completely true. He should know. He has been involved in the Shipyards for over fifteen years, advising the City of Jacksonville and others about this almost forty-acre site. Luckily for our Ixia Chapter, he gave us free advice as we attempted to plant a wildflower garden at the Shipyards.

The Shipyards is in downtown Jacksonville and is situated on the St. Johns River. It was a working shipyard from the 1850’s until 1992. After its closure, two different companies purchased the land with the idea of development, only to be defeated by the economy. It was then claimed by the City of Jacksonville. The land sat idle for years, used for downtown event over-flow parking, surrounded by a chain link fence and full of weeds and debris. Just by chance last year, I saw an article in the local newspaper quoting the mayor, who wanted to tear down the fence and spread grass seed in the area. “Oh no, I thought, not grass seed!” I immediately pictured a forty acre site full of native plants, butterflies, bees, birds, paths, benches, and smiling people. I got in touch with my key contact in the mayor’s office and explained my idea. I also said our chapter would find funding, and make this happen. The proposal was actually well received!

Nothing ever happens quickly in government.
Months went by, but I kept popping up with my idea. Finally, two of us from the Ixia Chapter had a key meeting and we were granted two acres for planting. At the same time, the Florida Wildflower Foundation announced the availability of $500 grants for wildflower seed purchase to county governments that adopted a wildflower resolution, supporting the planting of wildflowers in the area. It certainly appeared planting two acres of wildflowers would be the easiest, least expensive, and best way to go for the Shipyards site. The City of Jacksonville Economic Development Commission (JEDC) would write the grant. The Ixia Chapter would handle the planting, and any other costs, which appeared minimal.

Right away, we had a soil pH test at the Duval County Extension Office. The pH tested very high, well over 8.0. This immediately limited us to only the wildflowers that could handle high pH, such as Dune Sunflower. Additionally, we discovered the soil was highly compacted. We decided to explore the purchase of good topsoil for the site, and needed 1,600 cubic yards to cover the area with four to six inches. The cost for this proved to be prohibitive, so I net worked, and immediately found a private donor of all the soil. The pH of this soil tested perfectly! We were in business.

Meanwhile, the City of Jacksonville City Council adopted the resolution required by the Florida Wildflower Foundation to apply for the grant. All was good. Except, the resolution was worded incorrectly and was not acceptable to the foundation. Back to the City Council. The resolution was re-worded correctly, and passed again. Now, on to the grant writing with a staff member from the JEDC. Whew! Everything was done just in time for the deadline of the grant submission. The City was awarded the grant! Great news, except we were required to purchase actual wildflower plants with the funding, not seeds, because of the current soil problems, which did not take into account the soil that would be donated.

Getting a Topsoil Donation
I thought I could now concentrate on finding someone to donate moving all the topsoil to the Shipyards site, another small detail. Also, I was informed by the City staff that we had to provide our own irrigation lines and pay for the water. It was also clear that $500 worth of wildflower plants would not cover two acres, so we had to purchase additional plants or seeds. “No problem,” I thought, always the optimist, “I can get donations for all of this.”

Just when I thought the path was clear, I was summoned to a meeting with key members of the JEDC. I was informed the Shipyards site was heavily contaminated, and great care had to be used in disturbing the site. I was also informed the donated topsoil had to be tested for contaminates and could not be moved to the Shipyards until the test was completed and tested clean. This test proved to be one of the most difficult hurdles because of a cost of over $1,000. It took several months, but the test was finally donated by a company that specializes in such testing. It was now clear that nothing else could be done until the soil test was complete because we could not afford to purchase soil, and believed it would be impossible to find another donation of the needed amount.

Time was Running out for the Wildflower Grant
Weeks went by, and finally, the test results came in. Unbelievably, the results indicated two prohibited contaminates. We could not move this soil to the site. We were also staring at a rapidly closing deadline to use the $500 grant. We put our heads together with our staff contact at the JEDC, and contacted the Florida Wildflower Foundation. We asked if they would approve another site, and approve the purchase of wildflower seeds instead of plants. We were approved for both! Our contact at the JEDC came up with a wonderful site at the intersection of Riverside Avenue and Forest, which has become the main through fare from that area to downtown Jacksonville. Over 10,000 cars pass by daily. The site is very large, but part of it is privately owned, and slated for development. It had also recently been seeded with grass. We were allowed to plant the ¾ acre owned by the City of Jacksonville around a newly installed retention pond.

The new Jacksonville wildflower site along Riverside Avenue in Brooklyn Park

These two "before" photos show two views of the site. The retention pond is behind the fence--on the left in the top photo and on the right in the bottom photo. You can also see the traffic signs for Rt 95 access in the bottom photo: this means a lot of people will see the wildflowers.

We sprayed the ¾ acre with glyphosate (Roundup) to kill the sprouting grass, and then waited ten days to sow the wildflower seeds. We also found we had a high pH in the new location, and were advised to use Dune sunflower and Blanket flower as primary plants. In addition to the $500 of seeds purchased by the grant, our chapter spent $291 on more seeds. We were also advised to use a roller to level the area and press the seeds into the ground, and spread pine straw over the area with 50% coverage. The area required 100 bales of pine straw. All was accomplished with volunteer labor from our chapter in a matter of three and a half hours on November 13, 2011. The ¾ acre site seemed to grow larger by the hour as we worked.

Sowing ten pounds of seeds takes many hands. The mixture of seed was designed for the soil's acidity and for maximum impact next to the road.

The pine straw bales were brought in and then spread evenly over the entire seeded area.

The whole area was rolled to ensure firm contact with the soil. Job well done, Ixia chapter!

Was all this worth the effort? Tune in next spring for another report.

Editor's note: The Florida Native Plant Society's 2013 conference will be located in Jacksonville. One of the field trips will include this project. So come see for yourself how *things* worked out.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) Profile

Figure 1. Trumpet vine flowers. Photo credit:
Stan Shebs taken at the Desert Demonstration
Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 2003
This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student author: Tayler Massey

The trumpet vine, otherwise known as Campsis radicans, is a plant you’ve probably seen many times and don’t even realize you’ve seen it! The trumpet vine is a native plant to Florida, but can also be found in many areas throughout the eastern, southeastern, and southwestern parts of the United States.

The plant can survive at any time during the year, if it is given the right conditions to grow. The trumpet vine grows best in coarse to medium grain soils with neutral pH levels. So long as the soil remains moist, the trumpet vine does not need an abundance of water, but it does need a great deal of sunlight. It is best if planted in the open rather than in the shade.

Once established the trumpet vine is very tolerant to fluctuations in heat, cold, and rainfall. They can grow very rapidly and if not managed, can climb up and over other plants and structures such as fences. In fact, the edges of the oblong leaves have ridges to aid the plant in climbing upwards, growing up to 12 and 36 feet!

You can enjoy their brilliant red and orange flowers during the summer and autumn months (Figure 1). The flower’s nectar attracts pollinators such as hummingbirds and long tongued bees. The trumpet vine also produces little fruits of a brown color.

The only precaution to take around the trumpet vine is that their sap has been known to cause skin irritation. Otherwise, trumpet vine flowers are planted for their beauty in the summer and fall months, much loved for their deep orange and red flowers. Some people use them as ornamentation on arbors and gazebos or as cover on barrier walls and fences. Trumpet vine seeds can be purchased at local nurseries. So what are you waiting for? It’s calling your name!

To purchase this plant, please check the FANN website for vendors:

Works Cited:

"Campsis Radicans (L.) Seem Ex Bureau Trumpet Creeper." Natural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture. Web. 5 Nov. 2011:

"Campsis Radicans (Trumpet Creeper) NPIN." Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – The University of Texas at Austin. Web. 05 Nov. 2011:

"Plant Profile: Trumpet Vine - Orlando Sentinel." Featured Articles From The Orlando Sentinel. 20 June 2010. Web. 05 Nov. 2011:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Orange Lake Native and Exotic Flora Activities

By Buford C. Pruitt, Jr.
In the summer of 2010, I approached Florida environmental agency staff at a Little Orange Creek Working Group meeting about volunteering to cut down and poison several species of invasive exotic trees (paper mulberry, Chinaberry, and Chinese tallow) that had colonized four spoil islands within the marshland in McIntosh Cove on the west side of Orange Lake. I also wanted to transplant from my yard some volunteer seedlings of black cherry, sweetgum, live oak, sugarberry, and cabbage palm in order to provide competition to discourage the three Chinese exotics from re-invading. I also wanted to provide some forested habitat on the islands that might possibly be used for nesting by the lake’s water birds. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff member Bruce Jaggers responded that the spoil islands were a byproduct of FWC’s effort to scrape down muck sediments from an adjacent area of Orange Lake. This would expose sandier sediments that would provide better spawning habitat for native fishes such as crappie, bream (pronounced ‘brim’) largemouth bass, and chain pickerel. Contrary to my intentions, I learned that the islands might be used in the future for additional muck disposal, so FWC did not want me to plant native trees on them.

Disappointed at first, I let them know that, if we as a society are going to create upland habitat within the biodiverse marsh that surrounds this magnificent lake, we as a society owe it to native flora and fauna to eliminate invasive exotics that colonize the islands and threaten the natives. Bruce agreed with me, and it is to his credit and that of FWC that they agreed to remove the invasives and, furthermore, plant native wetland trees in a couple of patches within McIntosh Cove. Subsequently, he directed a spraying program on the western spoil islands, although it was limited to only two of the four due to the lateness of the season.

Sapium sebiferum Orange Lk Spoil
Is 04 Roundup Treated 03

For best results, these invasive Chinese species should be sprayed in late autumn when the trees are drawing sap and nutrients from leaves and branches down into their roots for winter storage. It concentrates the herbicide in the root system and more effectively kills the trees. This photo shows how damaging the herbicide Roundup can be to a Chinese tallow tree:

On March 1st of this year, Bruce took me on a tour of three other cypress sapling planting areas that he and FWC had created on the east side of Orange Lake. In each instance, the saplings were planted on private property with landowner permission, and which also enjoy the protection of Florida’s trespass law. This is an example of one of the three eastern shore plantings:

Taxodium distichum Planting Essen Run
 Although leafless in early spring and despite stiff competition from a thick growth of maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), these cypress saplings were healthy and robust. Exotic trees are not the only concern of FWC. Two of their three spoil islands on Orange Lake’s eastern shore also are infested with balsam apple (Momordia balsamia), and obnoxious exotic herbaceous vine. In trying to eliminate balsam apple from the third eastern spoil island, FWC convinced a local hunt club to volunteer to remove the vines physically using tractors. FWC then applied herbicide to the remains of the weed. The following photograph shows how densely it can grow over and smother native plants such as this wildlife-valuable elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) on one of the other two eastern islands:

Momordia balsamia Orange Lk Spoil Island
 Although initially taken aback by FWC’s reluctance to allow tree plantings on ‘my’ spoil islands, I wound up being quite mollified by their proactive program to control nuisance exotics on all the lake’s spoil islands and plant native wetland trees in nearby areas. If I remember correctly, the eastern shore plantings were exclusively bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), but the two planting areas in McIntosh Cove also got two native hardwood species, popash (Fraxinus caroliniana) and swamp tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora). This photo shows a stand of popash and bald cypress that were planted a few weeks ago within a non-persistent herbaceous marsh habitat:

Tree Plantings at McIntosh Cove
 And another pic showing bald cypress planted within a persistent herbaceous wetland habitat:

Tree Plantings 5 Trees

There are five cypress planted in that last photograph. Can you see all five? Unfortunately, some local fellows have gone into the marshland planting area and mowed a small area plus created an ATV trail through it, destroying a few of the plantings. We are not happy about this development.

These native tree plantings have several important ecological benefits. First, they will eventually shade out some of the herbaceous marsh flora so that native fishes will have improved spawning grounds. Secondly, they will provide nesting birds with additional island habitat secure from non-native predators such as coyotes, cats, and dogs. Third, they will provide additional fire protection to lakeside residents by replacing herbaceous marsh with a fire-resistant forest within a band along the lakeside adjacent to an area of dense residential dwellings. Herbaceous marsh vegetation in that area dries out thoroughly in winter, forming a thicket of tinder that would create a conflagration that would doubtless endanger the homes of many people. Oh, it would be spectacular, but too hellish for enjoyment.

The following two photos show the dense, dry fuel, some of the planted seedlings, and how the mowing and an ATV trail have created a large gap within the plantings:

Tree Plantings at McIntosh Cove Mowed

I consider this unfolding story as an example of how private citizens can successfully work with a government agency towards conservation ends. Had I been an angry man, FWC may not have addressed my concerns. By cooperating with FWC, the hunt club gains additional fish and wildlife habitat for recreational use. In allowing FWC to plant wetland tree seedlings on their properties, private landowners receive visual amenities, fire protection, and enhanced fish and wildlife habitat for themselves and their customers. Importantly, by liaising with the public and do-good volunteers, FWC gets more opportunities to perform their job of enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. But most importantly, native species of flora and fauna benefit through enhanced habitat mitigation, relief from competition and predation by invasive exotic species, and opportunities for additional biodiversity.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Green Swamp - Should Hunting Be Allowed Here?

Editor's note: Thanks to the dedicated and ongoing efforts of people like Lorraine, the Hampton Tract is currently being recommended for no expanded hunting. However, there is one more public meeting where comments will be heard on Hampton and three other tracts. This post is a tribute to the fact that your voice counts. The following two links will take you to the SWFWMD's page on the hunting evaluation process and the specifics for the next meeting:

The next meeting is set for December 5th:

Chipping sparrow in the Green Swamp, Hampton Tract
The Green Swamp, a huge Southwest Florida Water Management District property holding purchased over time for aquifer recharge and conservation is probably the second most important property collection in the state after the Everglades.  The Hampton tract is one of the newer acquisitions, not many of you know it, but my husband Don and I got to know a bit of it and to experience the beauty and importance of this magnificent 11,000 acres recently.

We have requested a permit to perform an avian survey on the tract in January. Paul Elliot, the land manager was our expert guide to the property.  Mr. Elliot is probably the most knowledgeable person that I have ever met as a land manager; his institutional knowledge and understanding of linked ecosystems and the creatures that they host is astounding and to be treasured. Some places MUST remain a refuge without undue disturbance, and the Hampton tract is one of them.  It is now at risk to being opened to season-long hunting under the hunting evaluation process that Swiftmud (SFWMD) is currently engaged in.

American Robin

There were hundreds and hundreds of American Robins at the Hampton Tract today, (Nov. 19th) feeding to restore themselves after a long migration to their winter home here.

Swallow-Tailed kites and Southeastern American Kestrel nest here!

We weren’t even actively birding for real because we were trying to learn the paths and habitat in order to plan our survey. But we got some great birds without even trying.

Elliotts aster - Symphyotrichum elliottii, near the pit. A wonderful native fall wildflower. What glory...beautiful masses of lavender flowers. I’m in love with this place!

Eastern Phoebe enjoying the tranquility of Cypress Swamp

See my husband Don's eBird list (a neat electronic reporting system for tracking bird populations)  below the pics, and remember, we weren't birding, we were learning.......but trust me, come January this bird list will most certainly be greatly enhanced by our survey teams!!!

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

 When you look up through the Bald Cypress canopy in the Green Swamp Hampton Tract, the world is at peace. We were privileged to be shown an incredible bromeliad-laden cypress dome swamp reminiscent of visions in the Fakahatchee Strand. Sacred land where the creatures around you know they are safe.

What a beautiful place, so pristine in every way.

Let’s keep it that way!

Lorraine Margeson

Wouldn't you like to visit this beautiful place? Well, you can! It's on the field trip list for the Florida Native Plant Society's Annual Conference next May. A great, sustainable gift for someone you know? Like you? Check it out:

sue dingwell
roving blogger

Don's e-bird list:

Hampton Tract, Polk, US-FL
Nov 19, 2011 9:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
12.0 mile(s)
37 species

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)  3
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)  11
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  8
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)  2
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata)  1
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  6
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)  1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  2
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  11
White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)  1
Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  3
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  8
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  4
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  19
Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)  3
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  4
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  5
Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis)  3
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  6
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  400
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  3
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)  2
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  6
Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)  19
Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  24
Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor)  2
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  8
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  5
Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)  1
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)  4
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  4
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  3

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reflections on the "Real Florida"

Family and friends at the "jumping" tree at
Fisheating Creek in Glades County.
Photo by Helen Woodmansee, ca 1975.
A letter from Steve Woodmansee, FNPS president

FNPS members recently received my letter describing childhood adventures in South Florida's outdoors – memorable experiences made possible thanks to preserved lands and my parents' initiative. I dug up some photos of these family trips to share with you. The quality of these photos is not the greatest - they were scanned from prints - but many readers probably have photos like these (maybe even older!) and can relate to a time without cell phones, the Internet or cable television.

At this time of year, we are grateful for our families, and also organizations like FNPS, which works every day, through grassroots volunteer members, to preserve, conserve and restore the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. As I said in my letter, my childhood experiences led me to being part of FNPS, because I believed in the mission before I even knew there was an FNPS.

You know FNPS, our mission and the many great things we do, described on this blog. I hope you share my gratitude and will consider donating now to the Florida Native Plant Society's Annual Fund Drive. We appreciate any contribution of any size, and donations are fully tax deductible.

Woodmansee clan just outside our Dodge Camper, which we took all over Florida.  I'm the little guy on the left in the green shirt and swimsuit.  Site locale is somewhere in the Florida Keys (Bahia Honda State Park?).  Photo by Ralph Woodmansee (father), circa 1976

Sister Helen, Brother Marc, and a partial of my mother "Jo".  The inside of the camper was a nice respite from rainy days, many good times were had, and many board and card games were played (and much teasing).  Photo by Ralph Woodmansee, circa 1976.

My mother, who seemed to have a fashion all of her own.
Photo by Ralph Woodmansee, circa 1976

Me, at 8 years old, fishing in the Florida Bay, America Outdoors Campground, Key Largo.  I remember witnessing in the water, not far from there,  a large hermit crab using a beer can for its shell while we were netting Florida Pink Shrimp some winter night.
Photo by ???, circa 1979.

Me on my 10th Birthday at America Outdoors Campground.  Yes, that is a Mr. Bill shirt.
Photo by??, 1981.

Squirrel in the subtropical trees of Key Largo.  An early attempt to connect with nature with limited technology.  Photo by Steve Woodmansee, 1981.

Thank you,
Steve Woodmansee, President
Florida Native Plant Society

Click to donate:

Click to read Steve's original letter:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Plant Profile: The Sensitive Fern-Bead Fern

Figure 1: Vegetative and reproductive fronds of Onclea sensibilis;
note reproductive bead-like pinnacles and 8 pairs of
pinna that make up the green vegetative frond;
with photo credit to Kenneth J. Satsma at
This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student authors: Jennifer Hoffman and Marie Chrest

Common name: Sensitive Fern- Bead Fern
Scientific name: Onoclea sensibilis
Classification:  Kingdom Plantae
Subkingdom:  Tracheobionta
Division:  Pteridophyta
Class:  Filicopsida
Order: Polypodiales
Family: Dryopteridaceae
Genus: Onoclea L.
Species: Onoclea sensibilis L.

Onoclea sensibilis’s name is derived from the Greek root words “ono,” meaning “vessel” and “kleio” denoting “to close,” referring to the ferns reproductive gametes present in the sealed vessel-like beaded pinnacles (Figure 1). The second half of the ferns name sensibilis which is Latin for “sensitive,” is from the plants vulnerability to quickly wither and die at the first sight of frost in the winter. Onoclea sensibilis is found in the southern states of the US such as Florida. The fern is typically associated with swamps, marshes, floodplains, and ditches where the soil is very moist and slightly acidic. The sensitive fern stores water from its surrounding environment in its’ bead-like reproductive structures which makes it better at surviving in drought. Although Onoclea sensibilis is adapted to withstand direct sunlight it prefers to be in partial or full shade.

The sensitive fern is easily identified by its medium to large fronds with wide leaves and visible reproductive fronds. Each mature vegetative frond contains exactly eight pairs of “leaves,” or pinnae (Figure 1). Vegetative are the light green and leathery fronds. The reproductive fronds are produced around August and September; they are usually shorter than the vegetative fronds and brownish in color (Figure 1). The reproductive fronds contain the bead-like pinnacles which are made up of spores. A spore is a reproductive structure that is adapted to maximize dispersal and withstand harsh environmental conditions. During the spring time pinnacle begins to dry out and eventually cracks open unveiling the spores which are dispersed away from the parent plant via wind or water current. These spores enclosed inside of the beaded structures are composed of lipids, or fats, which make them a good source of energy for other animals. Not only can the fern use the stored fats as a food source, but corn earworm and fall armyworm are examples of two organisms that eat these beaded structures for the fats that the spores contain.

Onoclea sensibilis can benefit species such as the fall armyworm, but also be disadvantageous to other organisms too. The sensitive fern has been shown to be a host for the pathogen which causes wilt in rice. Also, parts of the fern are toxic when ingested. On the other hand, there are many advantages that Onoclea sensibilis have on its surrounding environment. Herbalists have claimed that certain species of ferns, including the sensitive fern, help in treating ulcers, intestinal infections, as well as other sicknesses. Ferns are mostly garden plants, but since ferns historically were a part of the dominant terrestrial plants living on Earth, the fossils of these late plants have contributed in large amounts to the formation of our fossil fuels. These fossil fuels include coal, oils, and natural gas that are extremely important to us as humans. Now that you have read about a common Florida native fern and know how to identify it, see if you can find one at your local national parks!


1. Ensiminger, Peter A. 2011. Ferns- Importance to Humans- Plants, Plant, Species, and Allies. November 1, 2011. [online]. Importance-humans.html.

2. Nelson, G. (2000). The ferns of Florida: A reference and field guide (1st ed.). Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc.

3. No Author. 23, January 2010. Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern). Northwoods. November 1, 2010. [online]. -lis_(Sensitive_Fern)

4. No Author. 2004. About Ferns- Sensitive Fern. November 1, 2010. [online].

5. Rook, Earl. 26 February, 2004. Onoclea Sensibilis- Sensitive Fern. November 1, 2010. [online].

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fragrant Ladies’-Tresses

Florida native orchid:
Fragrant ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes odorata)
 A post by Roger L. Hammer

There are eighteen species of Spiranthes native to Florida, along with two varieties of one species, and three intergeneric, naturally-occurring hybrids involving five different species. All are known as ladies’-tresses because of the spiraling habit of the flowers up the stem, which superficially resembles braided hair.

One of my favorite members of this genus is the fragrant ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes odorata) and this past Wednesday (11/16) I encountered a flowering colony of them in the flooded prairies of Everglades National Park, where I’ve seen them each Fall over the past two decades. The species name, odorata, refers to the intensely fragrant flowers, so it’s very worthwhile to get your feet wet to get a whiff of the perfume that emanates from the flowers. It’s quite intoxicating.

Although very localized, this native orchid is frequent throughout much of Florida, except the Florida Keys. Look for it in wet prairies, along river banks, edges of ponds, and sometimes even along roadside ditches. November is the best month to look for them.

Roger Hammer's books would make a great gift set for anyone who explores south Florida: Florida Keys Wildflowers and Everglades Wildflowers. And when you make your online purchases here, you support FNPS and it doesn't cost you one extra cent.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Searching for Florida's Indian Pipes

Monotropa uniflora, the pink form
John Freudenstein and Mike Broe from the Ohio State University Herbarium asked us to pass along this research request:

We will be visiting Florida in mid-December on a plant collecting fieldtrip. We are specifically looking for Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora), the white form and particularly the pink to dark-pink forms. This research is part of a worldwide study on the monotropoid group of plants. If any of your members could supply information on locations where we might find these we would be most grateful! We have found that local knowledge can be crucial to successfully locating monotropoids. You can contact us at

Indian pipes and their close relatives (pinesap, pinedrops, pigmypipes, etc.) are fascinating because they completely lack chlorophyll: this means they depend on other plants for food. It used to be thought that they were parasites, but in fact they are part of a three-way symbiosis: an underground fungus forms a bridge between the roots of the Indian Pipes and the roots of a tree that is the ultimate source of food. The seeds also require the presence of the fungus to germinate: this is one reason they are so darn hard to find! In fact, these plants are often mistaken for fungi at first glance, and it is difficult to establish detailed family relationships by looking at the plant's morphology. We are isolating DNA from both the plant and the fungus to establish family relationships within the monotropoids.

Northern Indian Pipes are usually white, occasionally pale pink. In Mexico they can be much larger flowered, and dark-pink to salmon-colored. We are trying to establish if these southern pink forms - which have also been reported in Florida - are a distinct species, and just how closely they are related to the white forms.
Again, you can reach us at with locality information, or any other questions about these unusual plants!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Enticing new members with dinosaurs and smiles

The Naples FNPS Chapter knows how to attract new members! This account is by Karyn Allman, membership chair, and Philip Tadman, The Coontie Man.

Earth Day special: 11 native plants when you join the Naples FNPS Chapter
Last year the Naples Chapter, with the gracious help of native plant grower and FNPS member Philip Tadman, gave away small nursery trays with 11 native seedlings as an incentive to join the plant society at an Earth Day festival. During the event, we gained three new members, and all three greatly enjoyed their new native plants.

As the new 2011-2012 season of the Naples Chapter rolled into action in September, so did Philip. This time around, Phillip had the help of Mr. K.C. Klein from Duck Lake Trees and Shrubs, and they were able to gather twenty-five 3-gallon Zamia pumila (coontie) and have them ready for the two day Collier County Yard and Garden show in Immokalee in October. Prior to the event, Harriet Heithaus of the Naples Daily News interviewed Philip and placed an informative article in the local newspaper. The article not only let everyone know they could obtain a free plant with membership, but it touted the beauty and ease of care of the Zamia and other natives. (See below for the original press release.)

The offer: A free coontie when you join FNPS
 The morning of the first day of the event, the Native Plant Society booth was festooned with Zamias and other native plants, but also an eye catching sign reading

Danger - Dinosaur
Feeding Area!

A large plastic dinosaur was placed by the sign with a sprig of Zamia in its mouth. The dinosaur grabbed the attention of those who wandered by the booth, and opened the door to questions and conversations with the FNPS members at the booth. The dinosaur was, of course, the Zamia itself; a member of the cycad family – meaning living fossil  that has survived through the ages as a part of the natural Florida ecosystem. In addition to the dinosaur, while selling native plants at his personal booth, Philip would send folks over to the FNPS booth, boosting our number of visitors.

The booth attracted  a lot of attention.
Despite the occasional gusts of strong wind and off-and-on rain from the far offshore Hurricane Rina, the event was a great success. We far exceeded our lofty goal of 10 new members with 16 new members! The new members walked away with not only a Zamia, but a packet of information on the Naples FNPS Chapter, native plants in general, and a schedule of upcoming events with the Naples Chapter.

The Naples Chapter is looking forward to the rest of the season and hopes to find lots of new faces at meetings, field trips and other events. Thanks to everyone who helped make the Yard and Garden show such a great success.

Karyn Allman, Membership Chair

How could anyone resist?
Philip explains, "My whole idea was to attract new young blood to our chapter. The 'Danger Dinosaur Feeding Area' sign resulted from my trip to a Fire/Safety store to get my fire-extinguishers re-certified. It orginally read 'Danger Hard Hat Area.' I knew it would stop people dead in their tracks. The bouquet of native wildflowers and grasses (about 30 different species) was a member's contribution. It not only looked great, but it got people enthused and asking questions.

Humorous Observations
As Events Unfolded

I think Zamia Chapter is shell shocked, not getting much coherency from them; like the exact number of new members.

Our booths at the fair were supposed to be together, but the Society for some reason ended up in the boonies. As a repeat offender, I mean vendor, from the inauguration of the annual Yard and Garden show, eleven years ago to the present, I have a permanent and very nicely shaded spot.

When I get up on someones shoulders I can see Jean way over by the parking lot signaling me by holding up her hands. (both of them) since we are long past five new members.

Let's see, now was that five fingers on the left and three on the right, or maybe that was a double flash on the left or is she just swatting flies? Okay I'm sure it's five plus five plus three.

Good Lord, thirteen? Impossible! another finger up? The coontie are flying off the shelves. Jean has gone mad grabbing handfuls of air, fingers going in all directions.

Oh dear, the member whose back I've requisitioned has just collapsed and I with her. I keep forgetting dear Eva is 82. Fortunately we both land in my wildflower section.

Looking eyeball to eyeball with a black-eyed susan is an experience not to be forgotten. Almost as thrilling as signing up another seven members that singular sensational sunny Sunday. My apologies to that rather indignant calaminta under my chin, but what a gorgeous scent.

Someone realized that a cootie leaf fit very nicely in steggie's mouth.
Delighting the kids, including me! And of course, a rose being inappropriate
(not Mesozoic), I lunched in a similar fashion.
I expect the chapter will shortly contact FNPS with the final figure. Unless of course they haven't taken all that loot and gone to Paris.

I kind of think we made history!

Philip Tadman

P.S. Next incentive: Earth Day 2012. Top Secret!

Here's the Press Release:

At Yard and Garden Show a genuine Florida 'living fossil' offered with membership

On Saturday Oct 29 and Sunday Oct 30, the Naples Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society will be manning a booth at the SW Florida Yard & Garden Show, at the Collier County University Extension Office on Immokalee Road. Members of our Zamia chapter will be on hand to answer all your 'going native' questions with information and friendly advice on how to create a wildlife-friendly Florida yard.
The purpose of FNPS is to preserve, conserve and restore the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. The encourage you to join our society, we are making a very special offer. During these two days anyone who joins will receive (along with their membership) a beautiful 3-gal Florida coontie. This complimentary plant, officially named Zamia pumila, is an education in itself. Coontie is a cycad--a 'living fossil.' These primitive plants were a dominant form of plant life during the dinosaur age and were relished by those long-gone behemoths. Once common throughout the state, coontie is now rarely found in the wild due to intense collection in the past for starch production. The starch, called Florida arrowroot, was extracted from its underground stem or caudex.

From the article in the
Naples Paper
Coonties look like small palms or ferns and can be planted in full sun or deep shade. With its high drought and cold tolerance, it is an ecellent choice as a low-maintenance landscape plant and is quite happy living out its long uneventful life in a pot. Cycads are long-lived and at the age of an Encephalartos altensteinii, on display at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew England, is estimated at 220 years! If you've read this far, you have successfully passed Coontie (101) and haven't aged a day. You may proceed directly to our booth this weekend and pick up your very own stegosaurus munchie. Your membership will help support the preservation and restoration of wildlfie habitats and biological diversity throughout Florida and be assured that coontie will come in handy if, by chance, a hungry velociraptor crossses your beautifually landscaped wildlife-friendly path.

The cycad will be included with individual, family or student membership; the dinosaur will not be.
As a result of the above press release, we received good press coverage in the Naples News.

Wow! What a great membership drive. Has your chapter had success in gaining new members? We'd love to hear about it. Send article ideas or text and photos to

Ginny Stibolt