Monday, January 31, 2011

Economics in the Native Plant Industry

Cammie Donaldson, Executive Director
The 25th anniversary year of the Association of the Florida Native Nurseries (AFNN)  started out with a bang last Saturday,  when forty one participants from all over the state traveled to Kissimmee to participate in a workshop: Economics and Ecotypes.

The group represented a mix of growers, retailers, landscape professionals, municipal reps, and Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) members who spent the day in intense, active learning about current conditions influencing the commercial native plant sales industry today. Seven professors from the University of Florida  gave excellent presentations and led stimulating discussions.

 Dr. Alan Hodges, an economist intimately familiar with the native plant industry, said the good news is that the economy is growing again, albeit slowly and with a bit of bouncing. However, it seems possible to many that we are experiencing a fundamental change in the human condition. Because technology has replaced many jobs, we may never be able to return to the more favorable unemployment rates of pre-2008, even when the economy strengthens.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Your Favorite Native Trees

In recognition of Florida’s Arbor Day, we posed a question on Facebook asking for your favorite native tree. We received 43 answers and some folks had a hard time choosing just one tree. Gail Sloane posted this: “South Florida favorite: Chrysophyllum oliviforme - Satin leaf. Here up north (Tallahassee), Husband says live oak, I say silverbell, no, wait - fringe tree, no...” Others had good reasons for their choices. Elizabeth Neily said, “Sabal Plam because it symbolizes Florida. The native people used it for a mulitude of products from making twine to building homes. Critters hang out in its branches and birds like its berries.” While Annette Nielsen added this: “Has to be the sabal (cabbage) palm, none other is as tenacious or as ubiquitous or as nourishing to so many!”

Live oaks can get really big. Make sure you have room in your
landscape. This giant is in Lake Griffin State Park south of Ocala.

Thanks for all your responses. They were fun to read, but the most chosen tree was the longleaf pine with six votes and second was live oak with five. You chose a wide variety both in appearance and distribution. Some of your trees occur in every county in the state, while others are limited to just a few counties in the south or a few panhandle counties.

Here’s the whole list with the number of votes and a link to Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants for each one, click it to see the natural distribution and photos.):

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) 6

Live oak (Quercus virginiana) 5

Cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) 3

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rick Darke Keynote Speaker In May

This is your chance to imbibe the spirit, learn the reasons, and grow to new heights as a gardener: Rick Darke is going to be one of the keynote speakers at the Florida Native Plant Society's 31st Annual Conference in Maitland, May 19-22.

Mr. Darke is a man who has been studying and listening to the heart of the green growing world all his life, and he has applied what he knows to books, photography, the design of gardens, and teaching. His website says,

"Blending art, ecology, and cultural geography, Darke is dedicated to the design and stewardship of the livable landscape." I don't know about you, but that sounds right on the mark for the myriad issues and challenges that keep me searching for answers in today's world.

His book The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest received the American Horticultural Society's Book Award, the Garden Writers Association Golden Globe Award for book photography, and the National Arbor Day Foundation's Certificate of Merit. He's also ahead of the pack on the subject of grass, being an internationally recognized authority on the use of grasses in designed landscapes, and having written The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes. 

So much for the official and prestigious recognition.

It was the work of a homegrown Floridian, Carl Terwilliger,  that first brought Mr. Darke to my attention. One day while I was admiring one of Carl's naturalistic and harmonious designs - he was digging, I was standing idly by - he began to tell me about Rick Darke and how his book The American Woodland Garden, had influenced his own philosophy and design.

I remembered that conversation when I found out that Mr. Darke would be coming to the conference. I went back to my Carl and asked him to try to explain exactly what had so inspired him about Darke's book. Here is the story, as I heard it.

"I grew up in an area of Pennsylvania where I spent time in gardens Darke had helped design, like Scott's Arboretum at Swarthmore College. One day while I was in Longwood Garden (where Darke spent 20 years) I saw his book. I saw pictures of Scott's Arboretum in it and I wanted to know how he did it. His gardens looked great, but he broke all the rules. I wanted to know why he put trees where he did. His gardens had clean places, maybe nothing but stone work, and places just right to sit in. Even in big spaces there were enclosures and a sense of privacy. There were single trees, clumps of trees, but nothing predictable. After you had spent time in them, you just looked at things differently."

Wow. I think this must be one of the things I am most looking forward to from hearing Mr. Darke's keynote speech. The ability to look at things differently. I will definitely be there, and I hope to see you, too.

You can go to his website and enjoy the information about him, and by him there. He has an awesome video of the Highline in NYC, radio podcasts and lots more.  And please, Watch This:

sue dingwell

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bare Roots Begone!

Up in Wakulla County, Arbor Day 2011 was a big success due to the efforts of two groups who joined forces so that they could make a substantial contribution to the goals of the event. The Sarracenia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and the Iris Garden Club of Wakulla County gave away over 500 trees in one-gallon pots this year, despite the really cold weather.

Their collaboration began four years ago when they realized that the little bareroot twigs given away as part of their community's Arbor Day celebration were too small to stand a good chance of even surviving the car trip home, let alone a chance of being planted and growing into a beautiful tree.

So the two groups made a commitment to collaborate that worked so well they have never looked back. The Garden Club put up the funds to buy 900 bareroot native trees from the local AFNN member nursery, Superior Trees. They bought enough potting soil to fill 900 gallon-sized pots. A local nursery operation, Just Fruits Nursery, owned by Ted and Brandy Cowley-Gilbert, who are members in both clubs,  kindly offered space to do the potting, so the two groups met there to really get down and dirty! Once the trees were potted, the nursery also kept them under irrigation for the next 11 months. When Arbor Day came around the next January, some of the faster growing varieties of trees were four feet tall! Those trees were going to go out and get planted!

The trees were carefully chosen to meet the needs of a variety of settings, because Wakulla county includes habitats near rivers, wetlands, high sandy pinelands and coastal terrain. They try to stick to stick to plants that are vouchered as being native to their county, an important effort. Among the  trees they gave away this year: redbuds, Ashe magnolia, bald cypress, blackgum, chichasaw plum, chinquapin, dogwood (Cornus florida), native persimmon, red maple, sycamore, white and shumard oaks, southern red cedar and sabal palmettos, an impressive list.

The collaboration continues on Arbor Day, when both groups are present to help people choose the right tree for their own yard. A bake sale and raffles are held, and toward the end of the day extra trees are available for purchase for a $3 per tree donation toward Arbor Day expenses. This year these combined funds brought in enough to pay for next year's trees, already slated for potting soon.

Great story of thinking outside the box and forging new bonds to make change for good!

Thanks to Jeannie Brodhead, Sarracenia Chapter Rep, for her help with this post.

sue dingwell
Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica) Lovely fall color, food for pollinators and migrating birds

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Florida’s Arbor Day: Third Friday in January.

The first Arbor Day was actually declared back in 1865, when we had a lot more trees.  J. Sterling Morton lived in Nebraska when he founded the Arbor Day Foundation. His son founded the Morton salt company in Chicago, and then the Morton Arboretum which is a vibrant, beautiful place and home to a superlative outdoor children's learning area. Don't miss it if you're ever out there.

The Mortons have done a lot to help trees, and now it's our turn. Taking time out to celebrate the planting of trees is more important than ever. The Arbor Day Foundation sponsors many activities and programs including Tree City USA certifications. Florida has 153 Tree Cities. Orlando has been a Tree City the longest—for 33 years.  See for other information and Arbor Day opportunities in Florida.

Most of the country celebrates Arbor Day in April, but here in Florida, it’s much better to plant a tree now. So both Florida and Louisiana celebrate Arbor Day the third Friday in January. Deciduous trees are dormant and others are less active, so they take to the shock of transplanting better. One thing to keep in mind is that January is right in the middle of our 7-month dry season. Extra irrigation over and above the rain and general landscape irrigation will be needed. For guidelines on planting and suggested irrigation schedules, see Ginny’s article: Trees and Shrubs: the "Bones" of Your Landscape.

Regionally Appropriate Choices for Your Arbor Day Trees…

We decided to poll some native nurseries in various parts of Florida for some guidelines and ideas of what trees would be the most appropriate and what they have in stock right now... We arbitrarily picked nurseries in different parts of the state, but there are many excellent native nurseries and you can find one near you on the Association of Florida’s Native Nurseries website

Starting in Tallahassee:

Long leaf pines, a good choice for
most of Florida

Donna Legare at Native Nurseries of Tallahassee says, "It is hard to pick 5 trees - we carry so many different species for different types of soils and that will grow to different heights. But here are our special 5:
1. Longleaf pine - (Pinus palustris) for sun to 125'
2. Live oak - (Quercus virginiana) for sun to 80'
3. Swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii) for sun to light shade,
     100' and up
4. American beech (Fagus grandifolia) for light shade to shade,
     100' and up

5. Chalk maple (Acer saccharum subsp. leucoderme) for sun to 
     light shade to 30'

Donna says, “Encourage planters to talk with their local nursery staff to find the right tree for their yard. They should dig around and be able to describe the soil - is it hard red clay or sandy or black and loamy—we have all three types in the Panhandle. They should know if there is a drainage problem—we have trees that can take wet spots. They should also be able to describe how much sun their yard gets - do they live in a woods or out in an open field or are there large canopy trees around. They should also know where overhead wires are in their yard. Then we can help pick the right sized tree and the right species for them. We can describe the special features of each - gorgeous fall color, flowers for hummingbirds, fruit or nuts for birds, fast or slow growing, showy flowers, colonial and so on.”

Oooh... the red fall colors of red maple.
Near Jacksonville:
James Loper at Reflections of Nature Nursery

1. Weeping Yaupon Holly- (Ilex vomitoria)
2. Flatwoods Plum- (Prunus umbellata)
3. Sand Live Oak- (Quercus geminata)
4. Red Maple- (Acer rubrum)
5. Sycamore- (Platanus occidentalis)

James advises us to learn how to plant a tree correctly and he always plants a tree so the root flare is higher than the soil line and uses a lot of water at the time of planting to remove any air bubbles from around the roots. The first three trees on his list are smaller trees that are appropriate for people with less room. Lastly he advises look up--don't plant these new trees under a power line or over your septic tank, either.

Simpson's stopper in bloom
     Central Florida:
     Sharon and Brent Dolan at Maplestreet Natives

     1. Southern Red Cedar - (Juniperous virginiana) 
     2. Slash Pine - (Pinus elliottii)
     3. Hercules club - (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis))
     4. Simpson's stopper - (Myrcianthes fragrans)

Sharon notes that the  Simpson's stopper is very cold hardy, so is looking good despite the recent cold temps. She likes its fragrant flowers, red berries and general willingness to grow well in sun, shade, dry or wet conditions. Cedars are great for screening; their dense upright branches give good cover and nest sites for birds, and the female tree has berries loved, of course, by cedar waxwings. The Hercules club is host for Giant swallowtail butterflies, and its leaves emit a light citrus-y scent. Another plus for this plant is its salt tolerance.
South Florida
Contrasting sides of Satinleaf leaves
Michael Catron - Southern Native Nursery
Loxahatchee - 561.798.1172

1. Live and Laurel Oaks - (Quercus virginiana and
       Q. laurifolia)
2. Satinleaf - (Chrysophyllum oliviforme)
3. Dahoon holly - (Ilex cassine
4. Gumbo limbo - (Bursera simarubra)
5. Jamaican caper - (Capparis cynophllophora)

Michael notes that he likes the oaks because they withstand hurricanes and are great for wildlife. However, they are not for small spaces. Satinleaf glistens beautifully in the wind when the leaves vibrate, alternately revealing  shiny green tops and coppery-brown undersides. Gumbo limbo adds interest with its red bark, and varied trunk forms. For the small yard, Dahoon hollies and Jamaican capers (native despite the name) are wonderful, with flowers and berries respectively. Michael has containerized, healthy trees in sizes ranging from 8 to 25 gallons. He is open six days a week.

Arbor Day Foundation

If you join you can opt for 10 free trees with your membership, but if you do this please choose native species. On the other hand, since these trees are unlikely to be locally grown in Florida, you’d probably have better luck with trees from your local native nursery. May we humbly suggest the other option of having the foundation plant 10 trees in your honor in one of our nation’s forests, instead?

10 live oaks is an Arbor Day option that's
appropriate for all of Florida, except the Keys.
For northern and central Florida, including the panhandle, they offer these choices: 10 live oaks, 10 redbuds, 10 bald cypress, 10 river birches and the 10 eastern redcedars are all good choices. The 5 crape myrtles are also offered, but these are not native, over-planted, and are routinely mis-pruned. The 10 flowering trees—4 white dogwoods, 3 American redbuds, and 3 goldenraintrees is a questionable choice. They don’t specify which goldenraintree, but one, Koelreuteria elegans.ssp formosana, is on the number II invasive list for central and south Florida.

For south Florida zip codes, the choices are limited to 10 live oaks, 10 bald cypress or 5 crape myrtles.

Happy Florida Arbor Day!

Let us know which trees you have planted.

Ginny Stibolt
sue dingwell

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Arbor Day

Did you know that Arbor Day is celebrated on different dates from state to
state? When you think about it, it makes sense; spring comes earlier in some
places than others!

Florida and Louisiana lead the pack with the first Arbor Day date, which is
the third Friday in January. Our state tree is the cabbage palm, Sabal palmetto,
Louisiana’s is the Bald cypress.
National Arbor Day is celebrated the last Friday in April. Twenty eight
states also use that for their own Arbor Day activities. The other states use
dates that coincide with their planting times, sometimes on the same date that the
state’s governor made the original proclamation to be part of the Arbor Day

Our next post is going to give you some help with choosing a tree that you
will like and that is good for the region you live in. We will also have some
warnings about using trees from the official Artbor Day list, and how to say
‘no’ to the free tree that won’t grow where you live.

Cabbage palms with boots fallen off

Cabbage palms with boots on
The cabbage palm looses it boots when it gets old enough. No one knows when that is. Some trees loose it before others!! Some people think the trees look nicer without boots and go to a lot of trouble to make the trunk smooth. The boots can be homes for lots of other plants and animals, like the native Golden polypody.

More later!

sue dingwell

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Lawn Reform Coalition Blog is Born

Standard-issue "lawn care" information is OUT. Lawn reform information is not only IN, it's important for ecosystem gardening, the health of our waterways and more. So 15 months ago the Lawn Reform Coalition launched a website filled with alternatives to the conventional, overly perfect and supersized American lawn. Next came our Facebook page, which quickly grew to over 1,000 followers.

And now, by popular demand, we have the new Lawn Reform Blog, launching today with as big a splash as we can muster, with all 13 of us Coalition members making a fuss about it at once. The coalition members live in various parts of the country: I am the Florida representative.

The blog covers design ideas to reduce or replace lawns, regionally appropriate lawn species, and eco-friendly care for all lawns. And news!"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Grow Your Own Wildflowers

Do you want to know how to grow your own native wildflowers? Doesn't everyone want to have more of these colorful beauties in their gardens? Jeff Norcini, an expert who works with the  Florida Wildflower Foundation has given us some great tips. Read on and you will find out how you can fill your garden with color, and at a fraction of the price you would pay at the nursery.

First of all, says Jeff,  you need to decide what kind of planting you will be doing. Will it be:
    •    a few containers
    •    a small corner or two
    •    a bed that fits into a formal design
    •    a bed that is part of a more naturalistic design

Grow your own blanket flower and bee balm!

Let's start with the most simple ones, containers and small corners. For these smaller areas, you can get a spot of native color by planting a flat or two at home. It's easy! Jeff says that blanket flower, (also called 'gaillardia') and coreopsis are good choices, easy to grow out and easy keepers in garden.  You can buy seed by the packet online from the  Wildflower Cooperative.

To get the seeds growing you will need:

    •   a bag from the box store labeled as a seed starter mix
    •    a warm, protected place to start the seeds; low to mid seventies is good
    •    a way to keep the soil moist, but not saturated
    •    labels if you are starting more than one kind!
You need to invest in the seed starter mix to be certain no weed seeds or harmful bacteria are present. Clear plastic wrap loosely covering the growing medium is effective at retaining moisture, but  be sure there is enough ventilation to keep mildew and mold from forming. If the top of the plastic is dripping water onto the soil, it's too close. Sprouted seedlings should never touch the plastic. When starting  seeds in a dry heated house, I will sometimes use the plastic cover, but once I see the first green tip poke through, I toss it. And don’t put seedlings under clear plastic wrap in the sun, it is likely to get hot enough to cook them.

Coreopsis, our state flower.
Jeff notes that he grows his seedlings out in a greenhouse. If you are like me, though, with no real greenhouse, you have to make some determinations about the weather conditions outside when you get the seeds sprouted. Your little plants need sunlight now. A windowsill will not do. You want nice straight stems and lots of photosynthesis to make strong plants. In their natural environment, of course, they would be exposed to direct sun right away. But they would also be coming up when optimum conditions prevailed. Also, the seeds may not sprout all at once, in which case the early risers are sitting around in less than full sun while their siblings are making the race to the top.

It may still be pretty cold or windy, too, depending on where you live. So for all these reasons,  you might like to provide a little transition area. This is easily made by setting a piece of wooden lattice over top of some flower pots or whatever else you have sitting around. Lattice is criss-crossed, thin, wooden pieces sometimes used as trellis,  cheap and readily available in square places. Now the seeds are protected  from the elements, including the full force of the sun,  and they can have an adjustment period, called "hardening off."

If you grew your seeds by scattering them over the top of an undivided flat, you will need to transplant them into individual containers once they have grown one or two sets of true leaves. (The very first things that come out from the stem are actually cotyledons, not the true leaf characteristic to the plant) If you placed the seeds in a container with individual cells, then just snip off the extras and leave one flower growing in each cell.

When the plants have become big enough, you can put them in their permanent homes, whether it is the containers or corners. You will know when it is time. Don't make the mistake of leaving seedlings in their tiny cells until the roots become overcrowded. If you are in doubt, slide one out and check.

Growing your own flowers is both economical and very satisfying. If you start today, you can have beautiful native wildflowers blooming in your garden this summer.

Coming up soon - Jeff's advice on the larger planting areas.

sue dingwell

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Day at the Beech

The American beech is a stately tree. Native to North America, Fagus grandifolia thrives in temperate forests in the United States with its southernmost habit in in Alachua County, Florida. (There are other beech species located in Europe and Asia.) Hardy specimens can be found at Mill Creek Preserve, acquired in 2000 through the Alachua County Forever Program. Although the preserve was opened to the public in 2008, a set of new trails were completed in November 2010, and I explored them during the holidays with a group of friends. We strolled through picturesque hardwood hammocks and pinelands, winding around and over Townsend Branch Creek.

One of the most unique features of the trail is the artisan-designed bridge created by welding artist John Patterson. The metal materials were recycled from Alachua County’s road and bridge department. A smaller footbridge was made from the split trunk of an invasive camphor tree that had been removed from another local preserve.

The trails alternate between wide easily traveled lanes to narrower meandering paths that cover a 2.5 to 3 mile loop with benches and interpretive signs, many constructed from logs of non-native invasive trees, various recycled material, and stone.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Placing Shrubs in Native Landscapes

Ardisia in bloom
An electrifying event occurred at my house last week when I received the newest copy of the Palmetto, our FNPS flagship magazine. When the Palmetto arrives here, all decks are cleared and I sit down for a soothing session of uninterrupted native plant bliss. 

On this particular day, I had just posted an article here about marlberry - Ardisia escallonioides. You may remember that I LOVE this shrub and had been liberal with descriptions of its virtues. Imagine my dismay when I read in Craig Huegel's Palmetto article that he classified marlberry as a plant with a deficiency!! (Don't worry, this has a happy ending.) Dr. Huegel states, "Species such as marlberry, myrsine (Rapanea punctata), and coffees (Psychotria spp.) are good examples of woderful wildlife plants that need to be carefully placed within the landscape to get their full value."

Well, I can tell you, I leapt up and ran to my computer to beg for clarification. I am delighted to tell you that Dr. Huegel very kindly complied, and has provided us here with a detailed explanation. Here it is:
"Marlberry (Ardisia escallonoides) is an excellent choice for semi-shady woodland understory plantings designed for wildlife in areas that regularly do not experience temperatures below 26 degrees F.  Because it is monoecious, each plant produces large numbers of fruit; often fruiting twice during the year. The flowers, besides being wonderfully fragrant, attract a wide assortment of insects too. Marlberry needs to be planted in clusters to optimize its cover value, however, or mixed with other species with denser foliage and stouter branches. Do not plant it as a stand-alone accent as its relatively short and weak branches will not provide enough cover to protect birds and other small wildlife seeking to feed on its fruit. 

Hope this is helpful in describing my thoughts on marlberry.  Like many "shade-tolerant" plants, it will get leggy and not flower/fruit well if placed in dense shade.  Placing marlberry in a landscape properly requires some thought as to what it should be mixed with and where it might receive a bit of sunlight (1-2 hours) during the day."

Ahh, my love is NOT deficient, just needs a little help. Like me! This was extremely helpful, of course. As it happens, the ardisias in my yard are placed in good spots, through dumb luck. 

If you prefer not to rely on dumb luck when planting your yard, then Dr. Huegel's new book,
Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife is a wonderful resource. We read so often that "wildlife needs food, water, and shelter," but in this new book we are treated to detailed explanations of how to decide:
  • what plants we need for specific wildlife
  • what plants will work in our own particular yard
  •  how to group the plants sensibly
  • how to stay in compliance with local landscape regulations
You will not be disappointed! If you decide to purchase, we'd love it if you did it right here, by clicking on the right hand where you see his book. Your purchase through our site will add a few pennies to the FNPS coffers. 

Knowledge is power. Happy Native Planting!

sue dingwell

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Make a Move Now

Now is the time to introduce yourself to your state legislator. 

 Here is a message from an experienced environmental activist, Lorraine Margeson, who is setting an example for us all.

I just returned from an absolutely excellent meeting with my Senator Jack Latvala. We will have a good working relationship and will stay in touch as "things" come up.

He is chair of transportation for the senate AND is on the environmental committee.  Of course, he knew of me and my work for the environment with apparent warm regard. I urge EVERYONE who cares to schedule meetings with your particular legislators before Florida's legislative session begins in March. Get to know them NOW if you don't already have a relationship. It will count when the time comes.  I am scheduling a meeting with Representative Brandes today, we're just picking a date and time right now.

Their schedules are already filling up now thru the March session start date.........not a moment to waste.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Plant for All Reasons

Marlberry is a Florida Native plant that has it all: charisma, beauty and all the utilitarian properties one could wish for.

The plant's latin name is Ardisia escallonioides, which I can barely spell, let alone pronounce, and it has become a personal favorite. In addition to all the claims made for it above, marlberry is an uncomplaining soldier in the garden, requiring very little care.

Why do I like it? Let me count the ways! Glossy dark green leaves, white flowers with a subtle, sweet fragrance, and berries! The berries are lovely in all their stages. Starting out as white to pale green and deepening to lusterous dark purple clumps that hang in thick graceful arches. How's that!? As an added benefit, marlberry is a super wildlife supporter. It not only provides food and nectar for a wide variety of animals, birds and butterflies, but it is dense enough to provide good cover, too.

The birds have already been helping themselves to this one.

Marlberry is listed by the IRC (Institute for Regional Conservation)  as an upright shrub or small tree. Let me say a quick word about the IRC here. The Institute's mission is to provide information to enable South Floridians to identify plants naturally adapted to the growing zones they they wish to plant. This furthers their intent to aid in the conservation and restoration of natives in our area.  You can type in your zip code for a list of plants that historically do well in that location. This explains why, in the URL bar, the name that appears is "Natives for Your Neighborhood." It is a very user-friendly site, with plenty of good information and links to more resources. Don't worry, though, marlberry is found growing well northward throughout Central Florida.

The IRC says that marlberry can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content, is highly wind-resistant and will even tolerate some salt wind, is drought resistant once established, and its leaves are persistent. Meaning they fall off one by one when they are old enough, not all at once. They prefer a moist, but well-drained spot.

Typically its crown is narrow, giving it a columnar shape when mature, but here is where part of its charisma comes into play; it can be variable, witness the bush at the top. And here is a columnar specimen.

It can reach heights of 20 feet in a natural setting, but more typically in the suburban setting it ranges from 8 to 15 feet, and can be pruned to keep it in conformity. It flowers and fruits intermittently throughout the year. Here again the variability is part of its charm; in my garden, bushes right next to one another are on different cycles, and it is rare that the whole yard is without at least bush with natural decorations on it.

Marlberry tolerates a lot of shade, but will grow faster and produce more flowers with more light. It is a fairly slow grower.

You should beware of the imposter, commonly called Shoebutton ardisia, which is a category one exotic from Southeast Asia. This look-alike forms dense single-species stands that crowd out natives. Although birds can eat its berries, it does not provide the insect habitat that enable bird parents to feed the next generation. The latin name for the invasive is Ardisia elliptica. The Miami-Dade, Broward, and Everglades Park systems are all engaged removing this one.

Marlberry is the name I hear most frequently used in reference to this plant, with 'ardisia' running a close second. Rufino Osorio comments in A Gardener's Guide to Florida's Native Plants that marlberry is probably a corruption of Marble-berry, another name sometimes used for it. Rufino points out that marlberry is really a misnomer because the plant is never found in wet, marly conditions.

I 'd like to  borrow from Rufino's eloquent tribute as a closer -

"it is densely clothed in dark green leaves and bears at various intervals throughout the year branched clusters of small, fragrant white flowers that fairly seem to glow against the dark foliage. "

Wish I'd thought of that.

Ardisia escallonioides is readily available for sale. So go on out and get some!

sue dingwell