Showing posts from February, 2011

Florida's Palms

What would the Florida landscape be without our palm trees? Those gracefully curved trunks and topknots of fronds are mainstays of any tropical setting. While many palms serve as trees in the landscape, they are not true trees, botanically speaking, because they don't have a cambium layer under a coating of bark and cannot develop annual layers of wood like actual trees. Palms are monocots and are more like grasses. A cross-section of a palm shows a curly or random fibrous grain rather than annual rings. This arrangement of woody tissue is usually quite flexible, making palms an excellent choice for wind tolerant landscaping.

After a palm seed sprouts, the plant goes into the establishment phase for several years when it looks and behaves like a shrubby palmetto. This time is necessary for the development of its growing tip and for the establishment of the tree trunk's diameter prior to its vertical growth. Once its trunk is established, then the palm starts growing vertically…

Disney Wilderness Preserve: A Nature Conservancy Property

Because I'd donated 50% of my book's royalties to the Nature Conservancy of Florida, Erica La Spada, a donor coordinator there, invited my husband and me to a private guided tour of the Disney Wilderness Preserve south of Orlando in Kissimmee. Wow! We were impressed with the size (12,000 acres) and with what the Conservancy has done to restore the property from ranchland back to its original status according to the records from the first Spanish missionaries.

This site began as a mitigation site to offset the land that was used in the making and expansion of Disney World. Disney has provided an endowment that has allowed the Conservancy to do most of the restoration, and some of the wildlife monitoring. While Disney gave the first 8,000 + acres. An additional 3000 acres came from the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and a few more small parcels from other companies (Universal is actually one of them.) to make up our current 11.866 acres.

To us, this refurbished "Real Fl…

Ecotypes: Considerations in Restoration

How important is it to use plants from local sources when working to restore damaged or compromised ecosystems? How is “local” defined? These were two of the questions that were explored in the afternoon session of the Economics and Ecotypes workshop put on by the Association of Florida Native Nurseries (AFNN) in Kissimmee last month.

The University of Florida sent down a fleet of professors from their Consortium for Horticultural Application in Ecosystem Conservation. These passionate folks had some very interesting research to share as the crowd wrestled with both the ethical and the practical problems that restoration can pose. The Consortium works to provide science-based information to meet the needs of the native plant industry called in to supply the plants for restoration work.

Dr. Carrie Reinhardt Adams lead off with an explanation of ecotypes. She noted that  there can be distinct and separate genetic composition within a plant species resulting from adaptation to local en…

Florida Forever Day is March 8, 2011

A message from the Florida branch of the Nature Conservancy:

Greetings all,

Please see flyer (above) for Florida Forever Day on March 8, 2011. We need your help getting out the word on this important event. Please circulate this information widely and help us generate a great crowd! This year we will have tabling by more than 20 organizations, guest speakers, a beautiful exhibit of LINC Florida Forever photographs, lunch, and live music! This is the first day of the 2011 legislative session and a great opportunity to make sure Florida Forever is in the spotlight. Please let me know if you need any additional information, and see you on March 8th!


Holly Parker Davenport,
Government Relations Associate
625 North Adams Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301

Is Your Landscape A Winner?

Fantastic! Because you still have time to enter the The Florida Native Plant Society's competition for Landscape Awards this year at the 31st Annual Conference in May. 

You can enter for free if you are a non-profit, school or governmental organization. Homeowners pay $35, and you professionals pay $200 to apply. If you have,or did the design for a home, business or school site landscaped primarily with Florida native plants, you are eligible to apply. There are also categories for transportation, mitigation and restoration projects.

To qualify for application, your landscape needs to have been in place for two years, must be 75% Florida natives, and contain no plants that are listed on the Florida Exotic Pest Council's List of Invasive Plant Species, Category 1 or 2, within the project site. You can check that list at:

Maybe you have a friend or neighbor who needs to be informed of this opportunity!

Awards will presented on Saturday, May 21st and winners will r…

Australian Pine: One of Florida's Least Wanted


Australian pines seem to be everywhere in the coastal regions in the bottom half of Florida. Their name is deceiving because, while they are native to Australia, they aren't pines or even conifers. They are flowering trees with separate male and female flowers, and what look like needles are really green twiglets with close-set circles of tiny leaves that drop at the first sign of a drought. In the photo to the right, the light-colored lines are where leaves where once attached. Most of the photosynthesis takes place in the twiglets.

There are three species of Australian pine (Casuarina spp) that have been imported into Florida for various purposes. They were widely planted to soak up the "swamps" in Florida, stabilize canals, and hold beaches. Unfortunately for Florida's ecosystems, the "pines" accomplished all this and more--like seeding prolifically, growing five feet or more per year, producing dense shade, and emitting an herbicide that kills most a…

Florida Wildflower Garden

Are you planning  native wildflower garden this year? If your garden design is calling for more than a couple of containers or a small patch, then you will love these tips straight from an expert, Jeff Norcini (OecoHort, LLC), a contractor for  the FloridaWildflower Foundation.
First of all, says Jeff, choose a site that has a good chance of being successful. Your wildflower garden needs to be in a place that: is free from established populations of weeds like nut-sedge and torpedo grass gets plenty of sunlight, at least 6 hours, mid morning to afternoon is best and, is well drained
Weeds are the number one downfall of wildflower gardens!
So start with an  area that has few to no weeds: advance planning is critical. You can kill your turfgrass by smothering it, and then plant into the decomposing matter. Jeff is very definite about the DO NOT TILL mantra. Tilling just brings more weed seeds to the surface where they can germinate and drive you crazy. Hundreds to thousands of weed seeds p…

Conference Field Trip Preview: Fabulous Florida Forever

The 31st Annual Conference is offering outstanding field trips, as always. We will be highlighting some of them for you on the blog. Put the conference on your calendar today; you will be so glad you did! One trip we will be taking this year is to a place called Florida Forever. Here is what one Florida Native Plant Society spokeswoman, Loret, has to say about it:

 "When I have out of town visitors, I never take them to Disney…as a matter of fact I have never been to the Disney theme parks. I take my guests to the Forever Florida conservation area in my neighborhood that I learned about a few months after I moved to Osceola County in 2006. They have a quaint restaurant and offer an EcoSafari tour of "Real Florida".

My first trip to this wonderful nine-ecosystem playground was with a couple of friends and because we visited on a weekday, we were treated to a coach safari where only the three of us were onboard. The "swamp buggy" offers a unique perspective from …

Invasive Species Week is Feb. 26th to Mar. 4th

While there is a national recognition of Invasive Species Awareness Week ( with a conference in Washington, D.C., we here in Florida have have our own action-oriented plans. Some of our efforts have gained national attention like Gainesville's recent air potato round-up in an AOL article, and regional attention with articles like this one in the Dayton New Journal "New coalition Works to Stamp Out Invasive Plants," and this Orlando Sentinel story, "Volunteers Help Pick Up Pesky Air Potatoes at Orlando Park" withe the subtitle: "Central Florida Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area's holds Air Potato Mega Raid at 14 sites."

The Florida Native Plant Society has long been actively fighting invasives, and was in fact, the first non-profit organization to join the Florida Invasive Species Partnership. Here on the FNPS blog, we've posted Removing Invasives in Mandarin: A Team Effort, Mexican Petunia: A Plant Gone RogueAggressi…

A Field Trip to Turtle Mound

Guest blog By Jim McCuen, president of the Lyonia Chapter in West Volusia County.  All the photos are by Gil Miller.

A strong and chilly breeze; sweet, skunk scented stoppers, salty purslanes, unidentifiable blobs of nature-produced flesh as clear as glass; hollies loaded obscenely with brilliantly colored carmine berries, a stirring then a churr in the underbrush from some unseen winged inhabitant of the coastal scrub; a spent flower, its waxy blood red wings topped by a vicious looking blue-black seed pod; gun metal blue and green palmettos, stunted from fire, and pencil shaped mangrove offspring sent on a mission by way of a salty highway of ocean to find a patch of sand, perhaps hundreds of miles from home, never to see its progenitors again. Illuminating everything, our resident walking encyclopedias answered every question with patience and smiles and never made us feel less than. Lyonia is lucky indeed. Recording the trip photographically, our very own artiste provid…

Pokeweed: a bird-friendly native


Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) has a wide distribution from eastern Canada, down through all of Florida, across the southern states, and up the west coast to Washington State. They favor sandy disturbed soils. Poke weed plants have grown very well atop the drainfield mound on our property. The official descriptions of this plant peg the height as up to 10 feet. I guess "they" didn't consider our long growing season here in Florida or that they might lean on tree branches for support. Pokeweed continues to grow, bloom, and produce its dark purple berries right until the first killing frost when it dies back, but the root survives and sends up new shoots in the spring. Each year the plant gets larger and some of ours have reached more than 20-feet tall when they can lean on something for support. The stems are weak because of the mostly hollow pith and without support, the plant breaks when it gets too heavy with berries.

I've seen various species of birds eating t…

What Florida Native is This?

When we moved into our northern Florida house, we stopped mowing the St. Augustine grass that had been planted on top of the raised septic drainfield. The grass was not doing well in that very sandy, well-drained environment. Since then, it has become a good meadow with various tenacious grasses, rushes, back-eyed susans, beggars' ticks, and these plants.  Once a year we remove the trees that sprout here because they'd ruin the integrity of the drainfield, but who knew that these monstrous roots were beneath this native plant?

Ginny Stibolt