Thursday, June 30, 2011

Do Florida's State Parks Need Private Campgrounds?

Honeymoon Island State Park

Passions are quickly rising to high levels over this issue. The public will have a chance to hear the facts as related by the DEP, and to give voice to their own opinions at meetings next week.

FNPS member Jan Allyn has this to say: 

"Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin is on FDEP's list of parks that may get campgrounds. The goal, of course, is to generate revenue. Campgrounds require infrastructure--roads, parking, restrooms, trash disposal, etc. Those things will be installed at the expense of the natural environment, inevitably, and will fundamentally change visitors' experience of the park.
Is the addition of a campground at Honeymoon inevitable? Possibly. But even if it cannot be prevented, the public's input is invaluable in determining what type of camping will be allowed, and the size of the footprint that results. It could make the difference between what the state allows: low-impact tent camping or 30-foot-long RVs with noisy generators, electrical hookups and blaring TVs that disturb wildlife. Private concessionaires may say they care about the environment, but their first priority will be to push for what makes the most money, and the state has a financial incentive to do so as well."

Facts are in short supply right now, but Audubon has raised some good points, and it seems appropriate to copy a message from their website here. At the bottom is link to their page for addresses of meeting site. Audubon says:

Earlier this month, the Department of Environmental Protection sought permission from the state Acquisition and Restoration Council to pursue an expedited approval process for the development of private campgrounds in as many as 56 Florida State Parks. Over Audubon’s objections and the "no" votes of two Council members, the expedited process was overwhelmingly approved. Now DEP is proceeding with public meetings next week on campground proposals for four state parks. 

These quickly assembled proposals would put family campgrounds including large RV developments in these sensitive preserved areas, potentially constructed and operated by the private sector. While public-private partnerships are not necessarily bad for our natural resources and camping helps introduce more people to Florida’s special places, these plans need careful, transparent consideration… and the benefit of your input!

Audubon's Concerns:

  • In these amendments, “carrying capacities” for what use these parks can sustain are based on the number of parking spaces and facilities, not the amount of human use the resources can endure without being degraded.
  • Campgrounds will mean more swimmers on the beach and in the springs; expanded hours during which the park must need to be patrolled for public safety and natural resource protection; and require additional resource management to ensure the parks are not degraded. How is the park service assessing these increased expenses and ensuring they are accounted for in these decisions?
  • In order for a private vendor to bid accurately and for the resources to be protected appropriately, the park service needs to provide more detailed conditions for these campgrounds than is currently contained in the amendments.
Snowy plover eggs on beach
Honeymoon Island is a narrow barrier island designated as an Important Bird Area for its critical importance to threatened beach-dependent birds, neotropical migratory songbirds, nesting sea turtles and more. It already sustains more than one-million day visitors annually. Is the best use for this nature sanctuary really paved pads for RVs?

Fanning, De Leon and Wakulla Springs are all windows to our aquifer surrounded by verdant wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, all three springs are already impaired by nutrients from stormwater run off, fertilizer and septic tanks. Do these proposals adequately consider and provide protections for these springs from the increased use and development of these campgrounds?

The meetings, one for each park, will all be held on Tuesday, July 5. You can find the addresses, the times and also view the proposals for each park by going to Audubon's Action page: 

Wakulla Springs 

Alligator and native plants at Wakulla Springs

sue dingwell

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gil Nelson's "Trees of Florida 2nd Edition": a review

The 2nd edition includes 140 more trees, a detailed key
to  tree families, more detail, more photos. Gil Nelson
at the authors' signing at the 2011 FNPS conference.
Gil Nelson, botantist and author, is a tremendous friend of FNPS. He leads field trips, he's been active in the southeastern native plant societies' conferences, he speaks at our conventions, and he's written fanatastic field guides so those of us who are new to Florida can find our way around our gardens and parks. Now he's re-written his classic "Trees of Florida" originally published in 1994 by Pineapple Press.

The new edition is greatly expanded and includes the origin of trees and whether they are listed as invasive. This information makes this field guide much more useful, because now readers will know what to do with a tree once they identify it.

Here's the product description:

"The Trees of Florida is the most comprehensive guide to Florida’s amazing variety of tree species, both temperate and tropical, both natives and exotics. The first edition was very popular with both professionals and laypeople since it was accurate, comprehensive, and organized and written in an easy-to-understand way. This edition will be even more useful as it adds about 140 more tree accounts for a total of more than 480 species. There are almost 600 color photos and many drawings and range maps. And now included is a key to tree families that will help with field identification."

Purchase a copy here.
To give you a better feel for the difference, I've excerpted the descriptions of two different trees in both editions. Longleaf pine goes from this in the 1st edtion:

Longleaf pine
Pinus palustris Mill         Photo #4 plate 2 (line drawing included within text)

Form: Medium or large evergreen tree to about 40 m in height
Leaves: Needles, largely borne in fascicles of three. 15 -30 cm long (or longer), most commonly well over 20 cm long, extending from the branch in large globular clusters.
Cones: Female cones usually longer than 15 cm; terminal buds silvery white.
Distinguishing Marks: Distinguished from slash pine (P. elliotti) by silvery white buds and cones generally longer than 15 cm.
Distribution: Statewide except southern tip of the peninsula and the Keys; natural stands of this species are becoming increasingly scarce due largely to the practices of the forest products industry.

To this description in the 2nd edition:

Longleaf PinePinus palustris Miller               Color Photos 22, 23 (same line drawing included within text)

Origin: Native
Form: Medium or large evergreen tree to about 40 m tall; branches and branchlets not tapering, remaining more or less thick and stocky to the tip.
Leaves: Needlelike, largely borne in fascicles of 3, 15-30 cm long (or longer), more commonly well over 20 cm long, extending from the branch tip in large, distinctive globular clusters.
Cones: Female cones usually longer than 15 cm; terminal buds silvery white.
Distinguishing marks: Distinguished from slash pine (P. elliotti) by combination of silvery buds, cones generally longer than 15 cm, branches and branchlets being thick and stocky to the tip, longer needles predominately in fascicles of 3 and borne in globular clusters at the branch tips; individuals with particularly long needles are easy to recognize.
Distribution: Upland sandhills, drier flatwoods; statewide except the southern tip of the peninsula and the Keys; natural stands of this species are becoming increasingly scarce due largely to the practices of the forest products industry.
Remarks: Longleaf pines once covered about 93 million acres across the southeastern United State, a quantity that has now been reduced to a few thousand acres of old growth trees, non of which occurs in Florida. Longleaf is most abundant in dry sandhill uplands and is among the more ecologically important of Florida's trees. Its success in its preferred habitat is due primarly to its adaptation to frequent fire. Prior to fire suppression, Florida's pinelands ignited naturally, being set ablaze often by lightning from numerous thunderstorms. While wildfire keeps in check the growth of many species of trees and shrubsa, it has actually contributed to the longleaf's dominance in the landscape. Longleaf is a fire-adapted species that remains in a grasslike stage until the subterranean trunk reaches such proportions as to withstand fire. Depending upon soil, moisture, and competition, this grass stage may last as few as 3 or as many as 20 years or more. Once the underground trunk has reached sufficient size, the tree grows upward rapidly, as much as 1 m in only 12 months. Such growth elevates the growing tip of the longleaf above potential flames, thus ensuring protection. Other trees, no so adapted, do not tolerate frequent fires, resulting in nearly pure, parklike stands of longleaf pine with a sparse subcanopy and rich groundcover.

Here's another comparison. The camphor tree goes from this:

Camphor TreeCinnamomum camphora(L.) Nees & Eberm.       Photo #66
Form: Small attractive tree with green twigs.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, ovate, 4-10 cm long, 2-5 cm wide, upper surfaces shiny green, margins entire and waxy.
Flowers: Small, cream colored, borne in loose, spreading clusters.
Fruit: A rounded, black drupe to about 9mm in diameter and borne atop a cup-shape receptacle.
Distinguishing Marks: Distinguished by leaves that give off a strong aroma of camphor when crushed.
Distribution: Secondary woods, disturbed sites; naturalized in northern Florida, southward to the central peninsula.

To this in the second edition:

Camphor TreeCinnamomum camphora(Linnaeaus.) J.Presl      Photo #330

Origin: Not native (eastern Asia), invasive, EPPC listed
Form: An attractive, small to very large evergreen tree with green twigs; typically less than 20 m tall in Florida, but reportedly 45 m tall in Asia; trunk becoming large, potentially to nearly 5 m dbh, but not exceeding about half this in Florida; bark brownish, furrowed, and attractive on large trees.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, ovate, 4-10cm long, 2-5 cm wide, upper surfaces lustrous green, margins entire and wavy; tapering to an elongated, acuminate apex; exhibiting a strong odor of camphor when crushed.
Flowers: Small more or less inconspicuous, cream-colored, borne in loose, spreading clusters on stalks averaging about 7 cm long; appearing in spring.
Distinguishing Marks: Distinguished by the lustrous leaves that give off a strong aroma of camphor when crushed.
Distribution: Secondary woods, disturbed sites, naturalized in northern Florida, southward to the central peninsula.
Remarks: There are more than 200 species in the genus Cinnamomum, most of which are found in India, China, and Japan. The camphor was introduced as a shade tree in Florida at least as early as 1875, was once a frequently used ornamental, and is now widely naturalized and common. The wood is the source of the same camphor oil that is used in the production of medicine. The tree's rapid expansion in the southeastern United States probably resulted from an early, and not very successful, attempt to compete with Japan and Formosa's industry.

As you can see Gil has included important details that make the second edition well-worth the investment.

Ginny Stibolt

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Lesson in Outreach by FNPS Ixia Chapter in Jacksonville

After more than a year of planning, 80 paid guests attended a 3-part event:
A native plant sale with appetizers, a dinner, and a native plant presentation.
A guest post by Ixia Chapter President, Barbara Jackson

The keys to a successful event are long-range planning, organization, and lining up enough volunteer help. I began planning a chapter dinner, plant sale, and presentation about 16 months out. This allowed me to secure the location, in this case two venues, the guest speaker, and the one other person that helped me plan the food. Our objective was to raise funds for our Chapter’s projects. We are restoring a 1923 “Native Park” in Jacksonville, assisting another Jacksonville park with the removal of many invasive species, and planning a two acre wildflower garden on the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville.

The beautiful property on the bank of the St. Johns River provided an elegant location for the native plant sale and appetizers. Email invitations were sent out to the local garden clubs, the master gardeners, the local historical society. Barbara also talked about the event on the Jacksonville public radio station with the speaker Craig Huegel on the phone. The plant sale brought in more than $1,000.  Ixia's FNPS beautiful rain barrel greeted attendees.
We asked Dr. Craig Huegel, of the Pinellas Chapter, to be our guest speaker. His new book, “Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife,” was the subject of his PowerPoint presentation at our event. I began looking for a venue and was told of a beautiful home and piece of private property on the banks of the St. Johns River. The owner allows environmental groups to hold events on the grounds. We were granted permission, and I made a site visit. It immediately became obvious we would have lots of expense if we held our entire event at this location because we would have to rent tables, chairs, and anything else required. However, across the street from this location, stands a Community Club that rents space for events! That solved our problem, because the Community Club has tables and chairs, and a large kitchen. We decided to have appetizers, beverages, and our native plant sale at the property on the river, and walk across the street to the Community Club for a buffet dinner and presentation by Dr. Huegel. We secured the Community Club for our date, plus paid for cleaning so we would not be responsible for mopping floors, etc. This was well worth the extra expense.

Attendees parked at the community club, walked over to the pre-dinner location, stayed about an hour,
and most were able to carry their new native plants back to their cars. The Ixia banner greeted attendees.

We decided to charge $30 per person, inclusive, for the event, and to save money, made the decision to prepare all the food. Two months out, we planned the menu and began making decisions about where and how to purchase all needed items. We also asked Chapter members to sign up to help, and recruited extra help for the kitchen. We needed all hands on deck, and everyone pitched in. We heavily advertised the event in every free manner possible, allowed non-members to attend, and asked for pre-registration with payment. We had 80 paid guests! The food preparation was done the day of the event, in the Community Club kitchen, with six people working non-stop for around eight or nine hours. Do not underestimate the amount of time and the number of people needed to complete the food. The dinner is actually the most important part of the evening to the majority of your guests. I can tell you that because we prepared a variety of fresh and healthy food, and poured lots of wine, we were complimented by everyone!

Dinner, prepared by Ixia members & friends, provided a wonderful selection including asparagus salad, baked chicken and fish, a spinach & walermelon salad, pasta salad, potatoes, and berry-delicious desserts.

The Ixia display materials were set up in the back corner of the community center room.
At least a few attendees said they were intersted in joining FNPS.
Our native plant sale was also a success, bringing in over $1,000. The attendees loved being on the grounds of the property across the street from the Community Club, and enjoyed ample appetizers, wine, beer, and other non-alcoholic beverages. We were only in this location one hour, and this was very adequate. We moved to the Community Club for the remainder of the evening, and quickly cleaned up at the private property. After the dinner, Dr. Huegel made a wonderful presentation, and also sold and autographed his book at the conclusion of the evening. We cleaned up the kitchen, packed our cars, and drive home to collapse! Not only did we raise money for our Chapter, we raised awareness about the importance of native plants, and purchased large amounts of good will in our community.

Barbara Jackson makes some announcements and introduces Craig. Many folks had
already met him and his wife Alexa, because they had brought some native plants to sell, too.  
Craig Huegel's presentation really made the case for the importance of native plants in the landscape.
Thanks Craig! Lots of people purchased his book, "Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife."

Barbara Jackson, president of the Ixia chapter, organized this excellent outreach event.
She's also wrote an article (with her fabulous native plant photos) for Jacksonville Luxury Living Magazine. Barbara has also stepped up to chair the state-wide FNPS conference in 2013, which will be in Jacksonville!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Roofs and Native Plants

One of the first interesting observations on a newly installed green roof is the plant preference of insects and pollinators.

"Biodiversity: Higher Taxa Variations, Green Roofs and Native Plants"
  A guest post by KEVIN SONGER

We always use many native Florida species on our green roof plantings.  We also use non-native ‘Florida Friendly’ plants, non-invasive landscape plants, and food plants.  Our green roof designs are centered around four or five main native plant families, Asteraceae, Poaceae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae, and Solanaceae, if the green roof has a food garden or ethnobotanical component (though I love our native Solanaceae weeds too).

Of course invasive and exotic species with aggressive growth tendencies need be avoided as plants growing on a roof are situated high in the air, their seeds and plant DNA subject to being carried by the wind, picked up and redeposited elsewhere by birds, collected and transported downstream by stormwater A green roof serves as a platform from where species are provided with a remarkable advantage for spreading seed, rootable stems and leaves to areas far across the landscape and watershed below.

But as soon as plants are installed on the green roof, wildlife arrives.  First a scout or two then within a couple weeks many, many more as the ‘food is here’ songs are sung and dances choreographed in perfect geometric patterns.

Yucca filamentosa on the roof

Native pollinator species head directly for the native wildflowers and shrubs.  The exotic pollinators, such as European Paper Wasp, Poistes dominula, head straight to the non-native, cultivated flowers.  The imported Asian ladybugs fly straight to the food crops in search of aphids.  Bees, moth and butterflies seek out the native Asteraceae and Lamiaceae while the dragonfly and damselfly congregate around the Poaceae and wildflowers.  Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris, are immediately attracted to the red tubular flowers of Lonicera sempervirens (Caprifoliaceae) and white flower spikes of Yucca filamentosa (Agavoideae).

Adding different species of the same genera seems to increase the quantity of specific pollinators.  But when plants of varying genera and families are added both the quantity and varieties of insects, birds and wildlife jump exponentially.  Since varied types of pollinators are required for food production, it behooves us as humans to do what we can to maintain a healthy level of pollinating insects by designing our landscapes and green roofs with native wildflowers and plants

But what is the optimal blend of higher taxa to species variance?  This is a question I’ve considered for many years.  It has been my observation the greater the plant variety on the green roof and the landscape, the more varied the wildlife occurrences.  But how much variety is best?

Is a green roof with many species of Asteraceae the target, or is it better for wildlife to design a green roof and landscape with a few species each of many genera?

The issue is commonly referred to as ‘determination of biodiversity through higher taxa’.

Published literature about biodiversity as represented by species or by higher taxa  (families) is scant.   The best I’ve done to satisfy my curiosity concerning biodiversity, species, genera and families is to observe nature, observe landscape designs and track the plants preferred by varying types of wildlife on green roofs.

I have read persuasive articles, some passionate but all having varying opinions on the matter.  Some say biodiversity is best supported by strong variance in higher taxa though others point to examples of strong biodiversity where the biota is limited among only a few families.

Could nature be best equipped to show us what to design into our green roof and landscapes?  At least this is the theory behind biomimicry.

The following chart categorizes many of the native plant families growing in Florida.  Certainly there are more and I recognize the data is quite generalized. 

As a side note, two of the most important design factors for green roofs are light and wind impacts.  Wind, I contend, is the biggest threat to green roof survival, for a two meter per second desiccating breeze can overwhelm the vascular system’s ability to move water from roots to replace lost leaf moisture.

 Reviewing the above chart I realized despite my best intentions old habitats die hard - the bright colored, multi-head flowers of the Asteraceae remained at the center of my green roof native plant design pallet.  I was drawn to the familiar, the reliable, comfortable species, those readily available across the state. Historically I used a half dozen species from each of two families to represent the native plant component of my designs.  Right there with Gaillardia, Rudbeckia and Helianthus of the Asteraceae were the Poaceae, the proven purple muhly grass, sand cordgrass, Fakahatchee and blue-green Andropogons.

Asteraceae  (Aster family) and Poaceae (true grasses, including cereal crops)

Between the two families there are about five hundred different plants I could choose from for green roof native plant design and still retain a comfort level for success.   However, even though the Asteraceae and Poaceae provided a wide variety of genera and species selection I was still working with just two families.

Targeting the 10-20-30 Rule for Biodiversity is a goal on every green roof and ground level landscape project we are involved in; no more than 10% of the design any one species, 20% genera and 30% family.  But where did the 10-20-30 rule come from and what was the reasoning behind the rule?

I know from years of field work that most ecosystems across Florida contain many species, genera and plant families.  Tagging along recently, I was fortunate to spend a day with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) biologists assessing and completing Uniform Mitigation Assesment Method (UMAM )habitat surveys on a overgrown silviculture site.  The planted pine and hardwood treed site was typical for most of Florida and the diversity of higher taxa extensive. These types sites, though common looking, are rich with a wide variety of higher taxa diversity including many plant families, many genera and countless species.

Feeling overwhelmed and knowing I could never match the extensive diversity found in  a typical silvicultural site, I thought maybe I’d justify my past landscape design practices by finding a native Florida ecosystem low in higher taxa occurrences.  Maybe an ecosystem with little soil and insignificant, if any native hydrology, would contain only limited biodiversity; maybe an ecosystem such as upland glade.

Glancing through a Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) description of upland glades the notion of low higher taxa diversity in a harsh environment was quickly dispelled.  FNAI listed twenty five different plant families and I am sure there are many more.  Not surprisingly, Asteraceae and Poaceae both were well represented along with unexpectedly, Cyperaceae.  We’ll talk more on Cyperaceae in a future article.

Having little luck with finding a low higher taxa native plant community, I wondered if urban sites would maybe contain fewer genera and plant families.  Recalling the Breaking Ground Contracting project in Jacksonville where we installed an interesting green roof and native plant landscape (for more information see the project website located ), I pulled up the existing plant survey conducted during construction activities.

The Breaking Ground Contracting floristic site survey conducted during significant ground disturbance and construction activity, revealed at least thirteen different plant families and more than twenty different genera, hardly an example of low higher taxa diversity. Feeling more distanced from my landscape designs where I specify Gaillardia, Rudbeckia and muhly grass I remembered my favorite place to photograph and study living wall plants, Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine.

The old Spanish fort was built from coquina shell and limestone rock in 1672.  Her walls are constantly buffeted with strong, salty winds off the Atlantic Ocean and hot blazing sun, a harsh environment for any living organism.  Yet the fort walls are covered in plants. According to floristic surveys of the site, Castillo de San Marcos contains at least 61 families, 129 genera and 153 species, with again Asteraceae, Poaceae, Lamiaceae, & Fabaceae ranking as the most frequently observed plant families.

So if a construction site with concrete trucks, heavy machinery and nowhere for plants to grow has a minimum of thirteen different plant families, a harsh habitat such as an upland glade has at least twenty five different plant families and a rock wall many more, then maybe proper design for biodiversity support should contain a significant variety in higher plant taxa.  Maybe all natural plant ecosystems, no matter where they are located, are truly a complex and intricate representation of biodiversity.  Maybe our landscape designs should mimic our natural environment’s intricate diversity of life forms.

Wikipedia offers an enlightening definition of the term ‘ecosystem," describing the intricacies as “a web, community or network of individuals that arrange into a self-sustaining and complex hierarchy of a pattern and process” capable of creating biophysical feedback between both living and non-living components “sustaining bio-diversity” and integrating into “complex and regenerative spatial arrangement of types, forms and interactions”.

In reality, native plant ecosystems are complex.  They are, as described above, a web, a community arranged into a self-sustaining and complex hierarchy of a pattern and process. To create the complex web a native plant community needs representation from more than two plant families. Each individual plant family offers unique and important contributions for supporting nature’s complex hierarchy.  Ultimately, more plant families included in the landscape and green roof, will encourage increased biodiversity.

Understanding how biodiversity benefits from higher taxa variations opens many doors to green roof and landscape design.   I still love my Asteraceae, Poaceae, Lamiaceae and Solanaceae,  I am also now discovering many new plant families, excited about an enhanced understanding of what nature can teach and enthusiastic with newfound opportunities to support native wildlife biodiversity.

Kevin Songer, Juris Doctor
ISA Arborist,  Municipal Specialist,
Leed BG+C

Friday, June 17, 2011

Florida Museum of Natural History Needs FNPS Help

Yes! What a conversation starter - "I helped create that app!" The Florida Museum of Natural History developing a cool new app right now, has asked FNPS for help. What they need is some specific photographs of Florida flowers, listed below. The app will be a plant ID tool that entry-level folks can use in the field.  However, since the program will eventually include more than 250 plants, there will definitely be something for all of us to learn from it!

The project manager, Shari Ellis, explained that this new app will be focused around plants that occur along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, a network of approximately 500 sites covering 2,000 miles. The purpose of the app is to get people outside and help them understand and experience Florida's natural areas. "We want to help people identify flowering plants, butterflies, and birds without having to read long paragraphs of text."

Jaret Daniels educating guests about native plants
The program will help educate both Florida residents and visitors. There will not be extensive text with each flower, but there will be critical information on the wildlife that associate with each plant. There will be a "Did you know?" pop-up feature that will present important facts such as why the native milkweed are more beneficial. There will also be links to further information, such as buttterfly anatomy for further study as well as information on the facilities available at state parks along the trail. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's Level One invasives will be there, too!

Wildflower planting at the Museum
The Museum is partnering on this project with the University of Florida's  Institute of Food, Agriculture and Science (IFAS)  and the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), using funding from  Florida Wildflower Foundation. Jaret Daniels and Betty Dunckel, from the Museum, and Anne Glick, from the FWC, the Principal Investigators, are planning to roll out the first version by end of summer. The initial version will be free. Later, if the program is becoming widely enough used, the Museum may offer an upgraded version for a small charge, with any proceeds being used for supporting the institutions.

The Museum will credit each picture with a watermark bearing the photographer's name. They request that you remove any watermark you might usually use, for the sake of uniformity: they want just one font and style used throughout the whole app. Also, photo entries should:
  • use jpeg or tiff in the biggest file you can
  • send as an attachment
  • use vertical orientation if possible
  • send to Shari, her email is
Shari says its fine to include an insect in the picture, as long as you can clearly see the flower. They may include up to four shots of the same plant, so you can also send shots of the leaves, pods, berries, and also the context; in other words, the area in which the plant is living. Here is a list of the plants they would like to have photos of; there are some easy ones, like rudbeckia, and some not-easy-ones, so something for everyone! The plants' commonly used name, or names, are listed first, followed by the Latin name in italics.

List of Photos Needed for Florida Museum of Natural History
  1. Burrmarigold, Smooth Beggarsticks    Bidens laevis
  2. Bushy Sea Oxeye    Borrichia frutescens
  3. Long Key Locustbery    Byrsonima lucida
  4. Coastal Searocket    Cakile lanceolata
  5. Eastern Sweetshrub, Carolina Allspice, Strawberry-bush    Calycanthus floridus
  6. Bayleaf Capertree, Limber Caper, Falseteeth    Capparis flexuosa
  7. Baybean, Seaside Jackbean    Canavalia rosea
  8. Bandanna-of-the-Everglades, Golden Canna    Canna flaccida
  9. Hairy Chaffhead, Deertongue    Carphephorus paniculatus
  10. New Jersey Tea, Redroot    Ceanothus americanus
  11. White Fringetree, Old-Man's Beard    Chionanthus virginicus
  12. Seagrape   Coccoloba uvifera
  13. American Squareroot, Cancerroot    Conopholis americana
  14. Oblongleaf Twinflower, Oblongleaf Snakeherb     Dyschoriste oblongifolia
  15. Dogtongue, Wild Buckwheat, Sandhill Wild Buckwheat    Eriogonum tomentosum
  16. Button Snakeroot, Rattlesnake Master, Button Eryngo    Eryngium yuccifolium
  17. Marsh Gentien, Catchfly Praire    Eustoma exaltatum
  18. Cottonweed, Plains Snakecotton    Froelichia floridana
  19. Elliott's Milkpea    Galactia elliottii
  20. Loblolly Bay    Gordonia lasianthus
  21. Southern Beeblossom, Morning Honeysuckle    Gaura angustifolia
  22. Pineweeds, Orangegrass    Hypericum gentianoides
  23. Dahoon    Ilex cassine
  24. Moonflower    Ipomoea alba
  25. Carolina Redroot    Lachnanthes caroliana
  26. Dense Gayfeather, Liatris, Blazing Star    Liatris spicata
  27. Coral Honeysuckle, Trumpet Honeysuckle    Lonicera sempervirens
  28. Southern Magnolia    Magnolia grandiflora
  29. American White Waterlily    Nymphaea ordorata
  30. Showy Milkwort    Polygala violacea
  31. Common Guava, Apple Guava    Psidium guajava
  32. Wild Coffee    Psychotria nervosa
  33. Downy Rose Myrtle, Downy Myrtle, Hill Gooseberry, Hill Guava    Rhodomyrtus tomentosa
  34. Swamp Rose     Rosa palustris
  35. Blackeyed Susan, Browneyed Susan    Rudbeckia hirta
  36. Beachberry, Inkberry, Gullfeed    Scaevola plumieri
  37. Beach Naupaka, Half-flower    Scaevola sericea
  38. Brazilian Pepper, Florida Holly, Christmas Berry, Pepper Tree    Schinus terebinthifolius
  39. Danglepod, Tall Indigo, Coffee Bean, Pea Tree    Sesbania emerus
  40. Narrow Blue-Eyed Grass    Sisyrinchium angustifolium
  41. Yellow Necklacepod    Sophora tomentosa var. truncata
  42. Indian Pink, Woodland Pinkroot, Wormgrass    Spigelia marilandica
  43. Coastalplain Dawnflower    Stylisma patens
  44. Small-leaf Spiderwort, Wandering Jew    Tradescantia fluminensis
  45. Adam's Needles    Yucca filamentosa
Let's get out our cameras and have some fun helping the Museum this weekend!

sue dingwell

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Inside Story

A personal interview in which clues to Steve Woodmansee's indisputable prowess in Plant ID and indefatigable energy for FNPS are revealed!

Steve Woodmansee taking the reins
from departing FNPS President, Ann Redmond,
at the recent Conference.
Sue: Steve, when you became Vice President of Finance for the Florida Native Plant Society in 2008,  your bio came out in the Sabal Minor, so we know about your formal achievements, but I am thinking that today you could give us a bit more of a insider's view of our new FNPS President?      
Steve: Sure, Sue, what would you like to know?

Sue: Well, let's go back a ways: how long have you lived in Florida? Can you tell us how you came to be interested on native plants in the first place?

Steve: I've lived all my life in the Miami area. I did spend a long summer near Hood River, Oregon. That was enough cold and elevation for me!

Sue: I hear you, Steve. We were out there last year in July hiking in the snow!

Steve: I give my parents, FNPS members since 2002, Jo and Woody Woodmansee, credit for sparking my first interest in native plants. They taught me to love nature at an early age, mostly through action.  It seemed every long weekend we’d camp somewhere in South Florida, and I was able to explore much of wild Florida with them, my siblings, or on my own.  They also taught me the value of hard work, to never be complacent, and to never be bored. My mother used to tell me “boredom is a sign of stupidity”.

Sue:  What was it that got you started with the Florida Native Plant Society?

Steve: When I started working at IRC (The Institute for Regional Conservation), I became aware of FNPS because of their affiliation there as a not-for-profit member.  One of the goals of IRC was/is Institution Building, and at that time Keith Bradley, who later became Dade Chapter president, was on the chapter and FNPS boards.  I liked the vibe of the organization, and became a member myself in 1998.  The Dade Chapter also hosted the 2000 conference, and I volunteered as a field trip leader.  I became a chapter board member in 2002 and served till 2008. I was chapter president (and the chapter representative) 2003-2006, and I’ve been active ever since.

Sue: That's an understatement! Did your first working experiences contribute to your plant knowledge base? Were there any mentors for you in FNPS?

Steve leading chapter field trip
Steve:  While going to school at Univ. of Miami, I became a naturalist for the Miami-Dade County Department of Parks and Recreation, and I worked at two local parks, the Deering Estate at Cutler Park, and Bill Sadowski Park.  As a naturalist I was a jack-of-all-trades; I led tours through the natural areas and historical buildings, canoe trips, sold tickets, cleaned bathrooms, helped with book keeping, and was a camp counselor in the summer.  After Hurricane Andrew, the park closed, and in 1994 I got a job as a research assistant at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where I conducted vegetation monitoring and rare plant mapping activities.  In 1997, I was hired at IRC, and worked there for 11 years.  I am still a Research Associate at IRC, and assist where I can.

I started my own business, Pro Native Consulting, a little over three years ago.  I have to say that my experience at IRC honed my botanic ability in addition to teaching me about not-for-profit organization and development, and I credit that to George Gann in addition to my own observations.   I’d list my additional FNPS mentors as founding FNPS members Don and Joyce Gann, and almost founding member Patty Phares.  Don and Joyce were always there to answer questions, and Patty is an institution all on her own.  I will say though, that I blame myself for any mistakes that I made during my leadership positions  

Sue: What kind of customers are you serving in Pro Native? Have you seen changes in your customer base? Would you say from your experience in Pro Native that there is a greater appreciation for natives now than when you first started out?

Steve: I am again a Jack-of-all-trades running my own business.  The bulk of my work comes from the environmental consulting, where I am currently working as a lead scientist in the vegetation monitoring of the Hole-in-the-Donut Restoration area in Everglades National Park (along with Floravista, FNPS member and former conservation chair, Suzanne Kennedy’s group).  I also assist governments and not-for-profits in similar projects consisting of vegetation monitoring, rare plant mapping, and exotic plant mapping.  I even assisted one researcher in China, where I was hired to collect seed from populations of the native Jack-in-the-bush (Chromolaena odorata), a noxious weed in China.  I am also  a certified Nursery Plant broker and a professor at Miami Dade College’s Landscape and Technology Center.  All those years volunteering at the chapter’s plant sales really inspired me to try it out on my own.  As a plant broker, I work closely with a wholesaler friend, John Lawson of Silent Native Nursery (also an FNPS member), I am always bringing him seed, and testing out new native plants for cultivation.

Steve's frontyard pine rockland garden
I also sell retail at plant shows, and once a month at Silent Native Nursery.  At Miami Dade College, I teach courses in Landscape Plant Identification, Landscape Construction, and Exotic Pest Plant Identification.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to influence the landscapers, horticulturalists, and hobbyists in using native plants.  Ironically, since I don’t have a Masters Degree, I am “unqualified” to teach native plant identification courses.  So, my customer base is broad, and I have both new and loyal customers.  I do think there is a growing appreciation for natives, although the current trend holds for butterfly gardens," (click to see Steve's posts!) which are very much in vogue.  During my sales events, I always schlep along some FNPS membership forms and information pamphlets and dutifully hand them out promoting FNPS and its mission.  While I’ll always be a botanist at heart, I feel that both teaching and sales have really furthered my personal development and outreach skills, and learning something new keeps me on my toes!

Sue: Where do you like to go to botanise/relax/enjoy the outdoors?

Steve: Well, when one makes his hobby his life, one must be careful not to become “burned out."  I no longer go into the woods and “enjoy” the woods, I am constantly identifying things, but it is still fun for me.  I am trying to learn more about landscaping and gardening with natives. I focus mostly on restoration and habitat re-creation techniques, so I do spend a lot of time in my yard.  That all being said, any opportunity to pull off the side of the road and go botanizing, I still take up.  I am also trying to pass on the legacy my folks brought to me to my own family.

Steve finds a Polyradicion lindenii in Big Cypress

Polyradicion lindenii - Bear Island Strand
Steve deep in a Taxodium distichum swamp, Cow Bell Slough
It is hard to say what my favorite place is, as I have been botanizing all over South and Central Florida, and each place has its own value.  I will always hold a soft spot for the Big Cypress National Preserve. I spent the better part of three years researching there while at IRC, and we made many great discoveries.  It has over 1,100 native plant species, over one third of all native plants in Florida, and more native plants than Everglades National Park!

Sue: Thanks, Steve for this inside look! I can see that  FNPS is really going to benefit from your unique and extensive experience.

Steve: I truly am honored to hold the esteemed position of President for the Florida Native Plant Society.  The vision is pretty much established, however implementing it will be the big challenge. I believe there is a leverage point in accomplishing our mission.  It will take all of us to help, and I plan on unveiling more about this in the upcoming Sabal Minor issue.

Sue: I agree with you about the need to leverage what we're all doing. I'm looking forward to reading your article. Good things are coming! 

Steve chairs, and sponsors through his business, the Native Plant Workshop
That's Steve in 2002, standing at back in green shirt

 sue dingwell

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Brief Pause

The Conference is over for this year, and as the photo suggests, we are taking a little time for reflection. The blog has taken up a lot of our collective time over the past 18 months, and we have come to some decisions we want to share with you, our readers.  For starters, we have decided to post a little less frequently: once a week instead of twice.

We, in this case, being the two "survivors," me, Sue Dingwell, and Ginny Stibolt, co-blogger from the beginning, and now, friend as well.

As many of you heard in the extract from the Annual Report at the Conference, during May of last year the blog, barely three months old, was getting 51 visits a week. In its busiest week since then, it had visits from nearly 700 people. Our readers are from Florida, but also from Georgia, Texas, California, and Arizona; and those are just the states we know about because of comments received. The message about the importance of native plants is being carried forward by interesting groups all over our nation. It's great fun to be in touch with them here. But, we have almost three thousand members in our society, and we would like to bring more of them (you) into the conversation.

FNPS, this is YOUR blog. A blog is a place where information can be shared and discussed. It is a platform for dialog, and Ginny and I have both most certainly learned a lot from the comments and questions you have sent in. We know that it is not always easy to comment here, but each post is linked on our Facebook page, and it is super easy to comment there -  We want to talk about what is important to you, and to hear the varied perspectives and experiences that bring greater knowledge to us all.

So we will be spending more time on  bringing in:
  • more of our FNPS members, and
  • more writers (this means you) 
You do not have to be a "blogger' to write for one!! You just have to have something you want to share with others. This could be an explanation of how to do something, a report on a project your chapter is working on, a review of great place to see native plants, a plant profile, a book review, an explanation of a scientific subject related to native plants or their communities or anything you think is of common interest. We can do the actual posting on the blog for you, or let you do it yourself if you wish. So drop us a line at if you have a post to share, or if you would like to suggest a topic for one.
    Believe me, we know how hard it is to write! But what great exercise for the mind. We need you. 

    Let's grow together, FNPS. 

    Mark Renz photos    ~

    sue dingwell