Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Preserve and Conservation Area

The Florida Native Plant Society has taken a stand on preserving this important land.  Read the letter from FNPS president Ann Redmond. Then please make your comment for support by March 31, 2011.  Your voice WILL count.  Preservation of these lands is good for Florida's native plants & wildlife and it's also good for Florida's business community.

"In order to effectively conserve the native plants and native plant communities of Florida, we must conserve places where the natural processes that shaped and sustained them can be perpetuated. The Refuge proposal embraces the kind of holistic, integrated, landscape-scale approach that is required to achieve such an outcome. The protection of these lands, in combination with the hydrologic restoration envisioned in the Preliminary Project Proposal, will produce benefits that extend well beyond the footprint of the Refuge and complement the goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan."
The Audubon Society has created an easy-to-use form for you to use.

Thanks for your support!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Conference Calling

The Conference is calling! Yes, the 31st Annual Conference of the Florida Native Plant Society, in Maitland, May 19-22, "Patios, Preserves and Open Spaces," is indeed calling you, and now is the time to make plans and register. Why? Because you will:

    •    learn things you always wanted to know
    •    learn things you never knew you wanted to know
    •    meet people who really dig the same stuff you do
    •    meet people who expand your horizons
    •    take home new visions  for your own future

And I am not kidding! The conference is specifically designed for people just like you, whether you are a lifelong pro or a native plant newbie. There will be presentations on topics from experts ranging from the needs of a homeowner to those of research scientists and everything in between.

Interested in invasives? Butterfly gardening? Wildflowers in the landscape? Green roofs?

Focused on research in restoration outplanting of jacquemontia,? Or genetic drift in 
St. John’s Wort?  (See? Did you know there was genetic drift in St. John’s Wort?) 

Are you secretly craving a workshop called Midnight in Your Garden of Good and Evil? 
(And who wouldn’t be?)  Well, look no further. There is one.

And how about Native Plant Yard Tours? Oh yes, you will see real native plants in actual yards! 
It is a fantastic way to assimilate knowledge about what works in home landscaping. 

Bruce Means will teach and entertain you during a presentation called “The Wild, Wild World of the Florida Panhandle.” If you have never had the opportunity to hear him, treat yourself right now. He is one of the authors of Priceless Florida, and he knows Florida from the inside out.

Inspiration will permeate your very soul from this years’ keynote speakers, Rutherford Platt and
Rick Darke. These gentlemen have literally been visionaries of our times; predicting the future of our world with and without the plants and ecosystems that we simultaneously need and decimate.

For a detailed schedule, go to the conference page  and click on “schedule;’ (or top right of this page, click on the "Patios, Preserves and Open Spaces") where you can download a spreadsheet of all the talks, and the field trips, keynote speakers, social events and everything else.

Do you just want to get the heck out of Dodge? Then don’t miss the spectacular field trips, which are 
unbelievable opportunites to learn and enjoy our Florida natives. All field trips are lead by folks who are experts; you will have the chance to observe and ask questions. Take look at the wide variety of trips being offered – there are hikes, canoe trips, rides in buggies through mesic hardwoods, sloughs,  springs, swamps, marshes, reclaimed lands, and wildlife management areas.

There is a trip for all you people who want to eat native. You know how we are always saying on this blog, “Don’t eat this plant until you have had it ID’d by an expert?" Here is your big chance!

There will be social events, eating, author book signing, cool plant art for sale, cool plants for sale. You can come for one day or all the days.  There will be weighty thoughts and general hilarity. Truly something for everyone!
The conference is one of the Society's biggest efforts to offer education to the people of Florida. Take advantage of it.  I promise you, you will be glad you did.

sue dingwell

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lignum vitae: the Wood of Life

The lgnum vitae (Gualacum sanctum). This must be a special tree with two Latin names. Actually, this IS a special tree for many reasons. It grows slowly--about an inch per year. The wood is so dense that it sinks in water. Its wood was highly prized for propellers and judges' gavels. Because it's resinous, the wood was also good for ball bearings and hinges--they are self lubricating. The resin has medicinal properties: it reduces inflammation, suppresses coughs, and was used to treat syphilis. Because of all its uses, it was widely harvested and because of its extremely slow growth, the tree is rare in most of the Florida Keys, its native habitat.

Here's more information and photos of the tree on It has amazingly blue flowers.

But on Lignumvitae Key most of the population was spared from the harvest because it was privately held and accessible only by boat. This key is now a state park. It's open on Thursday through Sunday and tours of the house and trails are only on Friday through Sunday.  It's on the bay side of Islamorada at mile marker 78.5.  Here's the park's website. It's worth the trip, but bring your insect repellent.

Since 1973, it's been a registered
natural landmark.

The caretaker's house made from coral rock.
The cannons are from ships; this island was never fortified.

Another more accessible site to see a lignum vitae up close is the Key West Garden Club garden at Martello Tower.


This 20' tall lignum vitae tree in the garden withstood hurricane Wilma's flooding where the bottom portion of the garden was under saltwater for several days. They estimate that it's more than 80 years old. Let's see, if you do the math, 20 x 12 = 240 inches tall. Gosh, this tree is probably a lot older than 80; if you consider that it's growing in a civil war fort, it's probably 150 years old.

 The KW Garden Club displays this piece of wood.

This chunk of lignum vitae wood is about a foot tall and 10" x 6" across. It weighs 82 pounds!

The details of the sign beneath the chunk of wood.
Lignum vitae, just one of many wonders in Florida.

Quick quiz: What other state park is also named after a native plant?

Ginny Stibolt

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Florida Wildflower & Garden Festival: March 26th

Florida wildflower seeds sell quickly.
Spring means plentiful natives in bloom, especially in Volusia County, which offers plentiful natural lands to explore. The county’s flowers are the perfect foil for the March 26 Florida Wildflower & Garden Festival in downtown DeLand – a gathering of speakers, vendors and organizations that celebrates our native wildflowers.

This year’s family-friendly event again blends education, entertainment and fun. Vendors will line West Indiana Avenue selling potted wildflowers and plants, seeds, garden utensils, yard ornaments, books and more. Joining them will be organizations such as the Florida Wildflower Foundation, local Florida Native Plant Society chapters, and garden clubs, all which will offer information on native wildflowers and plants, as well as Florida gardening in general.

Last year's festival was well attended.
Six wildflower, gardening and pollinator experts will give presentations at the historic Athens Theatre, 124 N. Florida Ave. Among them will be the always-popular Dr. Walter Taylor, author of three books on Florida’s wildflowers and grasses, and Dr. Jaret Daniels of the Florida Natural History Museum’s Butterfly Rainforest. Other presenters are Wildflower Seed Co-op President J.R. Newbold, of Forest Groves Inc., Crescent City; gardening gurus Tom MacCubbin and Dana Venrick; and beekeeper Doug McGinnis of Tropical Blossom Honey, Edgewater. Visit to see download the event schedule.

Children are invited to participate in a drawing for $50 in MainStreet Money which can be spent at Downtown DeLand Stores & Restaurants by submitting a wildflower coloring page to the Information booth during the festival. Coloring pages can be picked up at the MainStreet DeLand Office, 100 N. Woodland Blvd. in DeLand or downloaded for printing at Free art activities for kids also will be offered at the Museum of Florida Art booth.
The Florida Native Plant Society's booth at last year's festival.
Live entertainment, a wildflower-arranging demonstration, composting demo, and paintings by Central Florida Plein Air artists also will be featured. A shuttle bus will run between the Wildflower Festival and the nearby DeLand Outdoor Art Festival at Earl Brown Park so that attendees easily can enjoy both events.

The Wildflower & Garden Festival, attended by 9,000 people in 2010, was the recent recipient of the Florida Secretary of State's Award for Outstanding Special Event. 2011 sponsors and partners include MainStreet DeLand Association, Florida Wildflower Foundation, University of Florida/IFAS Volusia County Extension Office, River of Lakes Heritage Corridor, the Florida Wildflower Seed and Plant Growers Association, Garden Club of DeLand and Museum of Florida Art.

Lisa Roberts
Executive director of Florida Wildflower Foundation

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Less-Than-Ideal Potted Tree? Even Natives Can Have Problems.

Last August I ended up with a mistreated winged elm (Ulmus alata). This interesting tree, native from north central Florida northward, has corky extensions on its branches, which is why it's called a "winged" elm. The branches make it a good addition to your landscape for its year-round interest. It had been headed back at least twice and branches were coming from everywhere.

This is why you rinse away all the soil
from a potted tree.

The first thing I did was water it in its pot, but when I was ready to plant it I rinsed ALL the soil from the roots. (Who knew that they'd be so red?) There are several reasons for this:
1) If the tree has been sitting in that pot for a year or more, there are virtually no nutrients left in the soil.
2) Many times trees that have been potted and repotted are too deep in the soil. Rinsing the soil away will reveal the root flare and this should be at or slightly above ground level when planted.
3) Trees sitting in pots too long have circling roots that may eventually strangle the tree as it grows. In this case the circling roots did not show when I removed the plant from the pot, because it had been previously repotted into a larger one.

I dug a wide shallow hole and used no soil amendmentsjust the native sandy soil in that spot. I untwisted the roots as gently as I could, but two largest ones cracked. The smaller roots were easier to spread out as I placed the tree into its hole. I flooded the hole with rain barrel water and added the soil around the roots and gently tamped it down so the tree was vertical. I built a low circular berm around the tree to form an 18-inch diameter saucer to keep water from running away.

I watered the tree with a 2.5-gallon watering can every day for two weeks and then I spread a generous top-dressing of compost at the edge of the original planting hole and topped it with wood chip mulchbut leaving a few inches around the trunk without any mulch.  After that I watered several times a week for the next month and at least once a week until the end of October.  By this time the tree had lost its leaves. Through the winter, I didn't know whether my poor little elm had survived or not.

Spring greening of the transplanted elm.
At the end of February, a mass of new green leaves had sprouted. Yay! The tenacious elm had survived the transplanting brutality.

Even though the branching was chaotic, I didn't prune it at all last fall.  A new transplant needs all the energy it can getthe more leaves the more photosynthesis and the more energy for regrowing a root system.

One old gardeners' tale is that you prune trees upon transplanting so the roots don't have so much to support. This may seem logical, but the generous irrigation keeps the plant from wilting and then it has significantly more energy for recovery.

But now that the elm is growing, it's time to start the gradual process of converting it to a single-trunked tree. It's gradual, because trimming too much could be a harsh setback to an already stressed plant.

The tree trunks lean against each other.
I chose the straightest and most vigorous
leader to be the single trunk.

After deciding which trunk will be "The One," I trimmed back about one third of the lengths of the other two.  Later I'll trim back these doomed leaders by half and by the third session, I'll trim them all the way back to the trunk.

After trimming: The main leader looks like it's forked,
but in reality the closest branch is thicker and straighter.
The side branch will be pruned back next time.
 From this photo it looks like my chosen leader is a Y with equal forks, but there is one strong leader here and the next trimming will include chopping back the side branch so that it doesn't become a second trunk. After the top branches are trimmed, then I'll start cutting back all those small branches arising from the lower part of the plant.

Standard pruning recommendations are that you should not trim more than 20% of a tree's canopy in one season.  And with a stressed tree like this elm, less than 20% is a good idea.

To be continued...

University of Florida horticulture professor Ed Gilman maintains the Landscape Plants Web site, with detailed information on the care of woody plants:
See especially all of the sections on tree establishment , including on amount and frequency of irrigation after planting

Ginny Stibolt, still learning about Florida gardening

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Mapping System for Florida's Invasive Species

Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS) for Invasive Species in Florida
A GPS being used to mark the spot for
invasive Chinese tallow trees.  You can
participate and help locate and map
invasive species populations. 

Invasive species in Florida are a huge problem. Most of us know this, right? Until now there wasn’t much we could do to help document the occurrences of invasive species that we see all the time in parks, right-of-ways, conservation areas and other public and private lands. Now we can use EDDMapS to quickly and easily document invasive species occurrences!
What is EDDMapS? It’s a web-based system developed by the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. It allows citizens to systematically document invasive species distribution throughout the southeastern US. A partnership of Florida agencies and NGOs/Non-profit groups have recently started promoting it through their, “I’ve Got 1” web address ( and phone hotline (1-888-Ive-Got1). There is even an IveGot1 iPhone app available!

It’s like unleashing a citizen army against the onslaught of invasive species! The tables have turned on the Climbing Ferns and Brazilian Peppers. They have no place to hide, except for private lands. However, you can report to EDDMapS with private landowner permission.
EDDMapS even has a quality control system where each county has a volunteer EDDMapS verifier who reviews submissions and validates adequately documented submissions or requests additional documentation. Validated data is given to FNAI and FWC invasive control authorities.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get out there. It’s easy to learn how to use EDDMapS. Most people can probably use it with little or no training. There are plenty of training and tools available on the website. It helps to have a Global Positioning System unit, but one is not required. Most smart phones have GPS location standard features available.
Here are several good reasons to get involved:

· Learn to ID invasive plants and sharpen your ID skills

· Documentation can be used to justify a problem

· Help authorities track “leading edge” of invasive outbreaks

· Early detection of new invasive species to Florida

· Helps authorities refine invasive lists and priorities

Pete Johnson, Ixia Chapter Member

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cold Hardy or Foolhardy?

Tillandsia fasciculata, or Cardinal Airplant, a native epiphyte
 Spring is here, at least in South Florida, and it will be coming your way soon even if you are in the northernmost regions of the state. That means the cypress needles are stretching upward, with the beautiful luminescent green of their new growth. The pink fetterbush, red tillandsias and firebush are all showing cheerful color.

Spring is traditionally a time when people begin to be serious about deciding for sure which plants will be going into their landscapes, so it's  a good time to remind gardeners about the need to plan for cold hardy plants.

We had plenty of cold this winter, and the results were obvious in landscapes that had not been well-planned. In February I was trying to sell, for a relative, a house that had been planted with a row of areca palms to provide screening. The cold weather turned these palms completely brown. They weren't dead; but they might as well have been dead, because they looked terrible, and they were the first things you saw as you came up the driveway.

I noticed that many of the houses around this one had fallen into the same trap. The "landscaping" was done with exotic palms. The funny thing (to me, anyway) was that all these ugly brown things were surrounded by healthy green native plants.
A row of cold damaged areca palms

These arecas are not dead, their growing tips were shielded from the worst weather, but it will be mid summer before they look green again. Once a frond has turned brown,  it never changes. Only the new growth will be green. Remember, never cut partially green fronds, the palm needs the nutrients they hold.

Here is a not-very-nice entryway    framed by burned exotics and bananas.

I was shooting surreptitiously from the side because it made me slightly nervous to be out there with the camera, but here is another house seen through a frame of burned fishtail palms, and one that had a row of specimen palms all along the front fence line. The palm, possibly a queen, near the house, fared better because of the micro-climate provided by the heat of the house itself.

At the same time those pictures were taken, here is what my yard of native plants looked like, and I live even further north in the county, and just as far west:

What was native and green? Slash pines, dahoon holly, cocoplum, white indigoberry, red stoppers, saw palmetto, myrsine, and coonties, in this photo. It just makes so much sense to plant natives and not loose money on plants that didn't evolve with our conditions, and not only won't be happy here, but also fail to contribute to the food chain for the birds, butterflies, pollinators and other creatures that depend on natives for food. 

 And I almost forgot - here's what I planted to replace the brown arecas and welcome potential buyers. What's here? My old favorite, marlberry, along with saw palmetto and Florida boxwood, of which you need male and female for berries. And guess what. The house is sold! Of course I left lots of native plant information and an FNPS membership application on the kitchen counter!

marlberry and saw palmetto

boxwoods in foreground

So as you choose plants this spring, be sure to research the ones that are well-suited for your own particular conditions. You wouldn't plant sea oats in a swamp, right? There are so many resources right at hand these days. We have listed them frequently here, but here is a list for you, just a few of the many available:
All of these will tell you and/or show you with maps, which plants grow naturally in your area.

While I was looking for some cold hardy plant lists, I came across this article by Laura Schiller which you might find useful: Laura Schiller:

Laura has also written a great little book (for sale on side bar) Natural Florida Landscaping, and owns a nursery on the west coast - they have an online store and a newsletter you can sign up for if you want to. Here's her new website:

Well as usual, I'm the only up around here, so time to turn off the lights! Good luck with your spring plants, and remember

Native Plants Add Life to Your Landscape!

sue dingwell

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Florida Forever Rally on March 8, 2011

Even though there were competing rallies,
Dr. Loran Anderson a member of the Magnolia
Chapter gained the attention of the media.
It was a glorious, “Chamber of Commerce” day in Tallahassee for the opening day of the 2011 legislative session and “Florida Forever Day.”  This annual event grows each year and does a fantastic job of showing our legislators and fellow Floridians how great the Florida Forever program is.  

This important lobbying day for Florida’s environment took place on at the Florida Capitol Courtyard from 10AM-2PM, with a speaking program at 12PM.

Florida Forever
Florida Forever was created in 2001 to succeed the extremely successful Preservation 2000 conservation program. Under Florida Forever and Preservation 2000, Florida has protected more than 2.4 million acres of land. To name just a few successes, Florida Forever has protected:
53,600 acres of springs and springsheds.
5,190 acres of fragile coastline.
300,000 acres of sustainable forest lands.
158,700 acres of working agricultural lands.

The Florida Forever and The Nature Conservancy tables

Florida Forever Steering Committee includes: 1000 Friends of Florida, Audubon of Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, Everglades Trust, Florida Recreation and Park Association, Florida Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land

Two FNPS tables from the Magnolia Chapter
and the Sarracenia Chapter

It was so windy that folks from the Magnolia
Chapter had to tie their lovely native plant
bouquet to the table leg with duct tape!

Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda speaks to the crowd.
Florida Forever Day Talking Points
Young folks protecting their future. 
· It doesn’t make sense to cut conservation lands, because they help the state’s bottom line. They are economic engines that bring visitors and revenue to Florida.
· This is a smart time to keep funding Florida Forever–while land is cheap, so the state can buy it for the public at good prices. The state must be a smart investor of taxpayer dollars.   
· Florida Forever provides places for Floridians to hunt, fish, and recreate. These lands protect our outdoor heritage for future generations. 
· Land conservation protects our natural resources and makes sure Floridians have access to clean and abundant water.
· Florida Forever grows our economy by protecting working ranches, farms and forests. 
·Florida Forever protects Florida’s unique variety of plants and animals, such as the Florida panther, Florida black bear, and numerous rare birds. 
Facts & Figures
· Hunting, fishing and wildlife watching in Florida generate $6.8 billion in annual retail sales, nearly $706 million in state and local taxes, and have an overall economic impact of about $11.6 billion.
· For every 1,000 people attending a state park, the total direct impact on the local community is more than $43,000, a 2008 DEP study found.
· More than 140,000 Florida jobs are provided directly by hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, and state parks.
· Florida Forever has protected more than 53,600 acres of springs and springsheds. 
· Florida Forever has helped preserve more than 158,700 acres of working agricultural lands. 

FNAI (Florida's Natural Areas Inventory) table

As reported by Florida DEP
Florida Forever is Florida’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving natural resources and renewing Florida’s commitment to conserve the state’s natural and cultural heritage. Florida Forever replaces Preservation 2000(P2000), the largest public land acquisition program of its kind in the United States. With approximately 9.8 million acres of conservation land in Florida, more than 2.4 million acres were purchased under the Florida Forever and P2000 programs.
Between its inception in July 2001 to the present, the Florida Forever program has acquired more than 667,832 acres of land with $2.8 billion. During this time,Florida Forever has protected:
· 252,940 acres of strategic habitat conservation areas,
· 424,300 acres of rare species habitat conservation areas, including over 660 sites that are habitats for over 255 different rare species, 113 of which are state-listed as endangered, 48 state-listed threatened, and 21 species of special concern,
· 642,310 acres of ecological greenways,
· 105,690 acres of under-represented natural communities,
· 76,920 acres of natural floodplains,
· 653,820 acres important to significant water bodies,
· 5,140 acres of fragile coastline,
· 282,840 acres of functional wetlands,
· 630,230 acres of significant groundwater recharge areas,
· 220 kilometers of land to support priority recreational trails,
· 303,830 acres of sustainable forest land,
· 576 archaeological and historic sites

Please contact your state legislators and let them know how you feel about Florida Forever. Not only is it smart for commercial reason, but also Florida's future is at stake.

Sweet Bay Natural Area

Sandhill cranes need open areas in Florida to survive.

Thanks to Ann Redmond
FNPS President and our reporter on the scene

Sabal minor and Palmetto: FNPS publications
Sabal minor is the FNPS online newsletter.  In this issue read a message from Kariena Veaudry, our executive director, about the politics of conservation lands. Learn about the viceroy butterfly, chapter happenings, Palmetto awards, the annual meeting, and more.

Also, members have received the winter issue of the Palmetto magazine in the mail. This issue included articles, Restoring Mariposa Key, Building Partnerships--One State Land at a Time, Babcock Ranch Preserve Land Review, FNPS Chapter Palmetto Award (Congrats to the Magnolia Chapter.) and a Book reviw of "The Gopher Toroise, a Life History." 

Join FNPS and get your own copy

Sunday, March 6, 2011

An Action-Oriented "Invasives Awareness Week" Ends

We’ve spent some time in the past few weeks talking about this past week—Invasives Awareness Week & Autralian Pine: One of Florida's Least Wanted. I posted a photo of some coral ardisia (Ardisia crenata) on Facebook and asked what you have done about invasives this week. The most amusing answer was from Jeff Wright: “I removed ardisia, kudzu, air potato bulbils, some brazilian pepper and a handful of snowbirds. =)“  But Judith Benson’s comment reminds us that we don’t need a group to take action: “Air potato raid (small scale - 1 woman band) in Winter Springs!” Fighting invasives is a battle where we can all help and individual efforts do make a difference.
Formerly a Girl Scout Camp, Clay County’s Camp Chowenwaw consists of
150 acres of beautiful forest and wetlands sitting on the banks of Black Creek
not far from the St. Johns River.
Coral ardisia has invaded Camp Chow's woods.

Even though there’s a lot to do in my own yard, I spent Thursday morning at Clay County’s Camp Chowenwaw helping an enthusiastic group of volunteers pulling coral ardisia from the wooded areas. Clay County bought this 150-acre property from the Girl Scouts several years ago and is  working to repair original buildings, add new pavilions, and better manage the surrounding woods. It’s a lovely park at the mouth of Black Creek near the St. John’s River.

While there’s more work to do on the invasives on the property, several broad areas have been cleared of the ardisia, for now.

Some of the volunteers at Camp Chow. Ann Stodola, park ranger is on the right

Being careful not to loose any berries, the ardisias are
bagged and ready for the trash--not yard waste.

Even without berries, it's easy to spot
the distinctive leaves with crenate borders
--hence the species name "crenata."

The dogwoods (Cornus florida) were
blooming.  This is why you need to
get out in the woods in spring.

Native partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)
were the other red-berried plants in the woods.

Beautiful wetlands with irises (Iris spp) springing forth. I must come back
in a few weeks to see them bloom.
Let us know of your invasives projects.  Thanks for reading.

Ginny Stibolt