Monday, August 29, 2011

FNPS Seeks Executive Director

The Society is seeking an innovative dynamic individual, self motivated with strong leadership skills to fill the position of Executive Director (ED). The responsibilities of this position include: furthering the Society’s mission, goals and objectives; fundraising; and organizing and coordinating the FNPS annual conference. Applications will be accepted by the Society’s Vice President for Administration, via email to: Submit your resume and cover letter of no more than 7 total pages no later than October 5, 2011. Position starts January 2012.


The Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS), is a 3,000+ member, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization founded in 1980. The mission of the FNPS is the preservation, conservation and restoration of native plants and native plant communities. The Society is seeking an innovative dynamic individual, who is self motivated with strong leadership skills to fill the position of Executive Director (ED). The responsibilities of this position include: furthering the Society’s mission, goals and objectives; fundraising; and organizing and coordinating the FNPS annual conference. Knowledge of environmental issues and/or environmental organizations is preferred. This individual must be able to work effectively in a team environment, have experience with event planning, event management, and contract negotiation, and have worked in, or with, an association or other non-profit or membership-based organization. Experience will include the preparation and writing of state, federal, and private foundation grant applications, with demonstrated success in procuring grant and sponsorship funding. Strong written/verbal communication skills and the ability to make presentations to groups of varying sizes and backgrounds groups are essential. Requisite skills include experience in MS Office suite, social media, and internet applications. Evening/weekend hours are required.

The Executive Director (ED) is accountable to the Executive Committee (ExComm) and the Board of Directors (BOD) but reports directly to the FNPS President. The ED provides guidance on the organization’s achievement of its mission and provides strategic and operational support of the Society.

Individuals, partnerships, or companies may submit applications to perform all three tasks: 1) Society Outreach, 2) Fundraising and Membership, and 3) Conference Planning. Applicants may apply solely for tasks 1 and 2, or solely for task 3, Conference Planning. Upon accepting the terms of the contract, the ED must reside in Florida within one month of date of signed contract. No relocation expenses are available. Applicant must also have a current driver’s license, a reliable vehicle for travel throughout the state, and be (or become) a member of the Florida Native Plant Society. Position requires a Bachelor’s Degree and five (5) years of relevant experience, preferably in the non-profit sector, or any equivalent combination of related education, training, and experience which provides the required knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the essential job functions. Applicant will perform as a contractor with compensation not to exceed $40,000 per year for all three responsibilities (exclusive of approved contract-related expenses). Applications will be accepted by the Society’s Vice President for Administration, via email to: Submit your resume and cover letter of no more than 7 total pages no later than 5 October 2011. Position to start January 2012, with possible December overlap.


I. SOCIETY OUTREACH AND COORDINATION: The Executive Director (ED) executes outreach efforts of the FNPS to further its mission and goals, and serves as the contact for federal, state and local officials and other State and national level environmental organizations, and other duties.
Incumbent identifies actions, resources and timelines necessary to carry out the strategic plan and mission of the FNPS. Carries out actions and coordinates Society-level presence at key city, county and state conservation and public education events. Contacts and interacts with federal, state, and local officials for identification of relevant Society resources. With guidance from the President, Executive Committee, and Board of Directors, interprets the function and position of the FNPS to the community through direct involvement, public relations programs, personal contact, program literature, and interaction with the media. Attends official FNPS meetings and provides coordination or consultation on persons and materials to represent and promote the Society’s message. Maintains appropriate relations with other professional, environmental and social groups in the state and serves on relevant committees. ED maintains up-to-date information on key contacts including partner agencies and organizations for use by Committees and the Society.

II. FUNDRAISING AND MEMBERSHIP: The ED works with the Board of Directors and others to develop resources to achieve the FNPS mission, membership and fundraising goals. The ED provides leadership while facilitating resource development activities for the Society, to include grant writing and management, fundraising, and membership development.

1) Identifies and executes external funding opportunities, including partnerships, grants, sponsorships, etc., to promote the mission of the Society, and leverages the expertise of the Society to construct successful proposals. Incumbent serves as manager for Society’s fund raising initiatives, such as Earthshare, Good Shop/Good Search, endowments, charitable gift annuity plans, monthly donations, and periodic targeted campaigns, etc. This includes management responsibility for (a) fiscal management for externally funded initiatives; (b) maintaining required documentation as outlined in proposals; (c) ensuring timely completion/submission of deliverables; and (d) facilitating subsequent dissemination of products to Chapters and the public.

2) The ED implements strategies for the cultivation and solicitation of a portfolio of major gift prospects, including corporate, foundation, institutions, and /or individual donors. Develops and implements membership growth efforts through legacy, estate planning, corporate benefit programs. Coordinates fundraising activities through membership development, writing letters and proposals, making presentations and participating directly in requests for money and soliciting sponsorship of Society activities, and continual acknowledgement of donors.

III. CONFERENCE PLANNING: The ED will provide expert direction and consultation to the hosting chapter(s) on the management, planning, development, and execution of the annual, multi-day, multi-track conference held at a different hosting chapter(s) site in Florida. The ED ensures that the conference events and content reflects the mission and goals and objectives of the FNPS Board of Directors. These activities include but are not limited to coordinating execution of all conference events, timelines, deadlines, scripts, financials, administrative, volunteer staff, entertainment, audio visual and production, catering, hotel, guest rooms, sponsorship, promotion and could include all registration arrangements. In conjunction with Chapter Conference Committee members, develops a draft conference budget at least two years in advance and obtains FNPS Executive Committee approval of the draft budget. Coordinates final budget, obtains Board approval as part of that year’s FNPS budget. Holds hosting Chapter Conference Committee to approved budget. Maintains event support resource toolkit based on current best practices. Sponsorship registry has been maintained, updated and communicated to Executive Committee.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Eat Clean, Green, and Sustainably!

Elderberries, one of our native fruits 
A guest post and a request for recipes by Kari Ruder of Naturewise:

This past May during the FNPS state conference, I went on the very interesting and informative native yards tour around Orange County. One of the things I noticed then and at other native yards is that owners of native yards are also very interested in growing herb and vegetable gardens. We grow native plants in our yards to preserve our natural communities and wildlife without the use of pesticides, and we grow vegetable gardens to feed ourselves healthy food, also free of pesticides. It was my interest in both native and edible plants that led me to start my native and edible plant nursery Naturewise, and partner with other local farmers to create our farm and garden co-op, The Green Marketplace, located in Cocoa, FL.

Meadow garlic, a florida native.
See our post on FNPS blog: A Native Herb ...
One of the really fun things about my job is sharing recipes with customers for using various fruits and vegetables as well as recipes that use native plants. We've been able to experiment making food from native plants like salads with edible native flowers, tea from leaves of dotted horsemint, pennyroyal, and Brown's savory, and even root beer from the root of those weedy smilax vines. This year I even tried making wine from beautyberries and it smells like it's going to be really good! I just have to wait for it to age a bit again before I can try it!

Catbriar tubers were the basis for Sasparilla and root beer.
Given the growing number of people wanting and supporting local food and native plants and incorporate edible landscaping in their yards, we decided we would publish a cookbook with recipes that are made at least in part from locally grown and native ingredients. We concluded that if people had more ideas on how to use traditional as well as lesser known ingredients that we grow here, such as calalloo, roselle, muscadine grapes, etc., more people would eat healthier and more sustainably. The goal is to encourage people to "eat clean" or make the switch from processed food to making more food from scratch, with simple, locally available and diverse ingredients.

Do you have a recipe that utilizes one or more ingredients that can be grown in central Florida? Then please submit your recipe for our cookbook!
Anyone can submit recipes, and every time you do (up to 5 recipes), you will be entered into our drawing for prizes from The Green Marketplace. You will enter your recipes online. Read the submission details on our website at:

Elderberry flowers are edible, too.
Just make sure you submit your recipes by Saturday, August 27th!

Once published, our cookbook will also be for sale on the FNPS shop website, helping to raise money for the society too!
Here is an example of a recipe that will appear in our cookbook:

Mixed Berry Crumble
5 cups mixed berries, such as blackberries, red mulberries, strawberries, blueberries, or elderberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If fruit is frozen, thaw and drain. If fresh, chop strawberries if using those, otherwise place all fruit in an ungreased 2-quart baking dish. Stir in the sugar. In a mixing bowl, combine oats, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles crumbs. Sprinkle topping mix over the fruit. Bake at 375 degrees until fruit is tender and topping is lightly browned. Serve warm with ice cream or fresh cream from your local dairy!

Kari Ruder, M.S.
(321) 536-1410

Monday, August 22, 2011

Garden Design Round Table: Sunshine Mimosa, a Lawn Alternative for Florida

Sunshine mimosa makes a great groundcover.
Florida native, sunshine mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa), which is a legume and vining groundcover, makes a great lawn alternative. While it does take a while to get it started, it will grow in lousy soil and stays low enough so it can be mowed several times per year to keep the other plants cut back while it's growing in. After it's established an annual mowing is all that is needed.

Mimosa takes moderate foot traffic and it lives up to its other common name, the sensitive plant, because the leaves fold up when touched.

Members of the bean family, the legumes, have the ability to work with Rhizobium bateria in their roots to capture nitrogren from the air and turn it into useable fertilizer for the plants. In soil where other legumes such as clover the bacteria will already be in the soil, but if you plant it on a sterile subsoil, it will take several months to a year before nitrogen-fixing root nodules will form.

This mimosa plant is starting to spread. You can let it go
it's own way or you can trim back the runners and root
them to make new plants. 

It's best to start sunshine mimosa with plants spaced out over the area where you want to populate. You can also start mimosa with seeds, but they take a long time to sprout and to become established as I related when I wrote about a meadow project in St. Augustine, FL.

"To increase the germination rate, the volunteers covered part of the meadow with black plastic for six weeks before sowing the seeds to kill off the competition. Now they have a good stand of this wonderful native groundcover..." where it plays well with other Florida natives.

Mimosa in a meadow with scarlet sage & tickseed coreopsis.

This meadow is mowed once a year and receives no fertilization or irrigation above the normal 50" annual rainfall.

See more details on this meadow see my article onThe Lawn Reform Coalition: A St. Augustine Meadow Project.

The Florida Association of Native Nurseries (FANN) provides a list of their members who carry sunshine mimosa.

University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS) article: Native Wildflowers: Mimosa strigillosa
The Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants provides the native range and additional photos for Mimosa strigillosa

A lovely, easy-to-grow groundcover. Don't you want some?
This post on a lawn alternative is part of a blog roundtable hosted by Garden Designers Roundtable and The Lawn Reform Coalition. Read about other lawn alternatives and ideas posted in blogs across the Internet today:

Susan Harris : Garden Rant and Gardener Susan’s Blog : Takoma Park, MD
Billy Goodnick : Cool Green Gardens : Santa Barbara, CA
Evelyn Hadden : Lawn Reform.Org : Saint Paul, MN
Saxon Holt : Gardening Gone Wild : Novato, CA
Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA
Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT
Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA
Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO
Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA
Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN
Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT
Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold: Garden, Life, Home : Atlanta, GA

Sunshine Mimosa for the Sunshine State!
Ginny Stibolt

Friday, August 19, 2011

Landscape Award Winners Gain Publicity

Richard Stauffer and Julie Wert, who live just south of the Hernando-Pasco line in Aripeka, won the Florida Native Plant Society’s second-place award for amateur residential landscaping at the 2011 annual conference in May.

Julie Wert states, "This article was in the St. Petersburg Times recently about our yard. The columnist, Dan Dewitt, was concerned that the Hernando County Commission had allowed twice a week watering rules again. He heard about our award from FNPS and came out to use it as contrast to typical suburban yards. I sent him home with a copy of Doug Tallamy’s article in American Forester and “Bringing Nature Home”. I just heard the article was picked up by newspapers in Indiana and South Carolina."

Read the article online at:
From the article: "Their yard, 1½ acres of coastal uplands just south of the Hernando-Pasco line in Aripeka, recently won the society's second-place award for amateur residential landscaping.

"It didn't win because it fits the definition of that tiresome word "sustainable," though of course it does. It won because it's beautiful — paths of hardy volunteer turf grass wrapping around dense gatherings of yellow-fringed Indian blanket blooms. ...

"Wert has strung a hammock in the yard, and I can see how lounging there could be somebody's highly acceptable vision of heaven."

This is a great example of getting "the word" out about native plants. Great that this article has gone viral to a degree. Julie's smart interaction with the reporter by providing a copy of Doug Tallamy's article and book lays the foundation for his next piece on native plants and the enviromnet. We all need to speak up for Florida's environment. If you have a story you'd like to share on your Florida native plant/environment action or publicity, please let us know.

Do you have a great looking yard, a fantastic business landscape? If so, you should apply for next year's award. The 32nd Annual FNPS conference will be at Plant City May 17-20, 2012. It will be hosted by the Hernando and Suncoast Chapters. Hope to see you there!

sue dingwell
Ginny Stibolt

Monday, August 15, 2011

FNPS Position State on Park Development

Letter outlining the official position of the Florida Native Plant Society regarding the development of campgrounds in state parks.

July 18, 2010

Bob Ballard., Chairman
Environmental and Restoration Council
Douglas Building, Room 1021D
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard, M.S. 44
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000

SUBJECT: ARC Review of Proposal to Develop Campgrounds at 56 State Parks

Dear Chairman Ballard:

The Florida Native Plant Society (Society) was pleased by the recent decision to forgo development of a family campground at Honeymoon Island State Park.  Although camping is a compatible recreational activity in many of our State Parks and provides an outstanding way for the public to enjoy these special lands, any decisions about the expansion of public uses or development of additional facilities must be carefully weighed against the potential for such uses or development to degrade the natural resources the State Parks are mandated to protect.

The Society believes the combination of relatively small size (less than 500 acres of upland habitat), extremely high public visitation rates, and presence of rare and sensitive natural habitats render Honeymoon Island unsuitable for campground development.  We are also concerned about the ability of the other 3 parks currently under consideration to withstand the impacts that would result from campground development.

The decision by Governor Scott and Secretary Vinyard to end the expedited review of these proposals was an important step towards ensuring that a comprehensive assessment of potential environmental impacts and public concerns will precede any final decisions. The facilities required to accommodate family camping, as described by your staff’s site-specific proposals, are extensive and reflect the intensity of this form of camping activity.  We ask the Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) to adopt a posture on this issue that places resource protection concerns above acquiescence to pressure to open any parks to campground development that would compromise protection of either the natural resources or the recreational experience of current users.

We are also concerned by ARC’s apparent position that any such facilities could be developed and managed by private interests who will certainly place a higher priority on profits than on resource protection.  During these difficult economic times, the state might well be looking for ways to generate revenue; however, our State Parks are a public treasure held in trust by DEP for the future enjoyment of all Floridians. They should not be perceived as cash cows, nor be expected to earn a profit.  It is difficult to conceive of an approach to allowing private development and management of campgrounds in our State Parks that would be supported by the Society.  Who better to develop and manage such facilities than the DEP staff who share our love of these magnificent parks and have demonstrated a superlative ability to be good stewards?

We would also like to document some of our concerns specific to the proposed development of family campgrounds at Fanning Springs, De Leon Springs and Wakulla Springs.  The spring and spring run systems that serve as the centerpieces of those State Parks have already been seriously degraded by declines in water quality.  Nitrate levels exceeding 1mg/liter have been documented in the spring discharge emanating from all three parks.  These nutrient levels exceed historic background levels by 100-fold and more, and are responsible for declining conditions in the plant communities and habitat conditions of the spring runs and downstream waterbodies.   Although Fanning Springs and Wakulla Springs are served by sewage treatment systems, De Leon Springs is not.  Non-point inputs from campgrounds would serve as another potential input of pollutants.  We ask that ARC show a greater interest in the implementation of actions that would improve water quality within these systems than in recreational development that could lead to further degradation.

Like Honeymoon Island, Fanning Springs (198 acres) and De Leon Springs (606 acres) are relatively small parks.  The campgrounds proposed for those sites would require conversion of approximately 10 percent of the total park land area in order to accommodate one of the most intensive recreational uses that can be accommodated by a State Park.  The scale of the campgrounds, relative to the land area of the parks, would certainly overwhelm their natural character and degrade the recreational experience of other users.

Most of the proposed development appears directed towards sections of the parks that were altered by previous human activities, e.g., logging at Wakulla Springs that pre-dated establishment of the park, and we concede that altered sites are preferable to undisturbed sites for the development of park facilities.  However, we also assert that a higher priority should be placed on restoring, rather than developing, altered sites within State Parks. If the State of Florida won’t pursue a management strategy in our State Parks that places resource protection and restoration above recreational development, then where will such conservation take place?

Again, the Society appreciates the recent decision to end the expedited review of campground proposals for the State Parks and we hope that decision reflects a more circumspect attitude towards the development of family campgrounds.  We ask you to consider the concerns we have enumerated above and look forward to reviewing any additional proposals for such facilities.  Please let me know if the Society can be of any additional assistance.


Steven Woodmansee, President
Florida Native Plant Society

Cc:    Governor Rick Scott
     Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr, FDEP
    Jim Farr, Staff Director and Environmental Manager, FDEP ARC
    Al Gregory, Office of Park Planning, FDEP

Florida Native Plant Society
Post Office Box 278, Melbourne, FL  32902
Telephone:  786.488.3101

The Not Bored Board: FNPS Directors Meet in Orlando

The FNPS Board of Directors meetings are anything but boring! As the Committee chairs, chapter representatives and elected officials from all over the state converge in one small space - and any space is small when this group gets together! - the air is absolutely electrified with ideas, news, reports, and passionate speeches on an astonishing variety of topics. Saturday's meeting at the beautiful public library in downtown Orlando was no exception.

This blog post is no way meant to take the place of  minutes, which, by the way, are accessible to the whole wide world on our website. Peg Lindsay, a recent guest blogger here, is our secretary, and she took very complete notes, as always. But since I'm just a blogger, I get to tell this story!

One thing I was very anxious to hear about was the report from our Policy and Legislation Chair,
Gene Kelly, who had recently returned from the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference. You may remember that last year, native plant societies from the southeastern states were invited to attend the FNPS Annual Conference and discuss common interests and possible future collaboration. The group met, decided to continue the alliance, and to convene again at Cullowhee this year, calling themselves the Summit of Southeastern Native Plant Societies.

Gene reported that representatives from Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia attended the three-hour Summit at Cullowhee in 2011.  Mississippi and Louisiana were at the Conference but unable to attend, but Mississippi confirmed  their Society's interest in participating in the continuing activities of the coalition.
Sawtoothed oak    Quercus acutissima
It turned out that one of the hot-button topics for this group was invasives. The Kentucky Native Plant Society (KNPS) asked for assistance in opposing  an ongoing project by the Kentucky state government to promote widespread planting of the sawtooth oak, Quercus acutissima. This is an oak that is native to East Asia. It has gotten a reputation for producing more mast, (heavy crop of acorns) than some of our native oaks. Interstingly, when I went to look for some pictures of this tree, I found one I was allowed to use from the St. Louis Botanical Garden, but they listed the mast as being of "low" food value.  

The Global Invasive Species Programme includes sawtooth oak in a list of species demonstrated to be invasive, but still included in lists of plants being considered for biofuel crops. Well, in Kentucky they are thinking that great amounts of mast will support more deer which will in turn support sport for hunters. It's hard to imagine that anybody wants more deer, isn't it? Other Summit participants note that their states had also promoted the sawtooth oak, going so far as to  provide free seedlings to landowners. I know. Good grief. 

The coalition representatives agreed to research occurrence of the species in their states and also evidence of invasiveness, so that all could be better prepared to form a joint-state opposition to the promotion of this tree, as it appears likely that other states may follow Kentucky's example. In addition, they decided to meet regularly throughout the year by teleconference, and to work on getting a website up to explain who they are and document actions taken. They all agreed that Gene really ought to continue as their unofficial leader. Thanks, Gene! 

Several committees were involved with the issues that surround the placement of new, privately funded campgrounds in state parks, and with opening new lands to hunting: see blog posts of July 29, hunting,  and July 6, parks. I am going to share the letter that states FNPS's position in a separate post today,  it has already been sent. The letter with FNPS's position on hunting will be posted when available, soon.
Progress is being made on the new FNPS website which is going to have an awesome searchable plant database among other things...

Esmeralda Marsh Conservation Area

Checks have been cut for this years' Conservation grant awards, one for the Esmeralda Marsh Conservation Area Hardwood Restoration project, and one for the  Reintroduction of the Fragrant Prickly Apple-Cactus project. Esmeralda is an amazingly beautiful spot, and it's wonderful that hardwood restoration will be happening there, thanks to donations from FNPS donors.

Rainlilies blooming at Esmeralda Marsh

 There was lots more, of course, but to conclude here, think about this. The theme for next years'
conference (2012 - yes, we're thinking about that already) is going to be

Preserving the Heart of Florida

Which is, after all, what FNPS is all about. Have you joined yet?

sue dingwell
communications chair


Monday, August 8, 2011

Paradise Tree: Beautiful and Useful

"The native Paradise tree is more useful than Google, and easy to grow."

And how could any blogger resist leading off with this intriguing quote from the Key West Garden Club? I am a Master Gardener and a Master Naturalist, but I only know so much; so I always check out  statistics from experts before posting information about plants. I have a beautiful Paradise tree in my yard, it came from the raffle table at my chapter's program night about six years ago.
Paradise tree                Simarouba glauca

For the first six years the little tree had a perfect, closed, cone shape; but just this summer I was astounded one morning to walk out and notice that my tree had changed. The canopy had begun to open up, there were open spaces between the layers of branches. It seemed to happen overnight. Proving again that a garden is constantly in motion, which is one of the fascinating things about observing them.
Pinnate leaves of the paradise tree

The leaves of the paradise are glossy green and have a roughly textured look that makes it stand out from plants nearby. They are pinnate in form. Pinna is latin for 'feather.' Just as the strands of material that form a feather are joined together on two sides of the shaft, so the pinnate leaves are joined side by side on a common stem, called the rachis.

Plant Creations in Homestead had some fun with this declaration that "Pinnate compound leaves are a sign  that this is a intelligent tree."
I think so, too!

The new growth is a completely different color when it first appears. The pinnate structure is very apparent here.
"New growth emerges as flames of red and gold."
says Plant Creations
Last night Palm Beach County got a big blast of wind that had the leaves and branches dancing outside. And my Paradise tree had another surprise in store for me. As the wind lifted the branches upwards, the mass of the lime-colored undersides formed a marked contrast with the deep green of the leaf topsides, reminding me of snowfall on evergreens up north! I had never noticed the undersides before. The effect was very dramatic.
"Snow effect" of wind exposing undersides of leaves
My husband thought so too - as the thunder and lightening began, "Sue, what are you DOING out there?!"

I  have heard complaints that the paradise tree, like the gumbo limbo, drops its branches in high winds. Our local native growers, though, point out that this is the tree's adaptation to storms; and because it can shed branches when it needs to, it also doesn't fall over.

Which brings us to the next commonly heard statement that the paradise and the gumbo limbo will blow down during hurricanes. I know personally of several examples of both kinds of tree that are hugely mature and have indeed survived all hurricanes to date. On the bicycle trail in Palm Beach, right on the edge of the Lake Worth Lagoon, which the old days we called the Intracoastal, there is a gigantic gumbo limbo with a trunk too big to get your arms around. It has been there at the very least since the early sixties when I first saw it. Several of our FNPS chapter members have huge paradise trees in their gardens.

I think the lesson is that placement is a key factor for ANY tree in a hurricane.  As these urban legends are passed around, we have to look to for facts, which are not always on the surface. I found no corroborating support for labeling the paradise as an especially hurricane damage-prone tree.

Berries deepen to dark purple when ripe

Speaking of facts brings me back to the opening statement about the paradise being useful. It turns out that when my tree gets a little older it will have flowers and bear fruit. Paradise trees are dioecious, meaning "it takes two." All paradise trees bear flowers, but some have male flowers and some have female flowers. This is the opposite of a plant which is monoecious, where both sexes of flower appear together. The female flowers are followed by fruits that "are sweet and eagerly sought by birds and other wildlife," says Craig Hugel in Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife. The falling fruits can be a liability if the tree is placed near a driveway or sidewalk.

According the research done by the Key West Garden club, the Paradise seed produces 65% edible oil which is used in baking in Central America and India, and its oil does not contain bad cholesterol. They also claim the  fruit pulp is sweet and is used to make beverages when the birds don't eat them, the oilseed cake (what's left after the oil is squeezed out) is full of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash and makes a good fertilizer. Futhermore the shells can be used to make particle board and the termite resistant wood makes furniture, toys, matches and paper. Now that's pretty darn useful! Maybe even more useful than Google!!

I did discover that as the tree matures its roots, which are close to the surface, can become a hazard  to paved surfaces, causing upheaval. Although the University of Florida says that these are great trees for median strips. I am fortunate in that my tree is not near either of these things.

The paradise tree is denizen of coastal habitats, preferring moist, well-drained situations in full sun or light shade. It reaches 40 to 50 feet in height if it is happy. Some organic content in the sand will help it feel happy. It may have a crown as much as 30 feet across. That would be in an unrestricted space of course. It can be grown from seed, but de-pulp these and plant quickly, they don't stay viable for long periods of storage. This is a tree for south Florida, although along the coastal borders, it grows as far north as Cape Canaveral.

The research journey for the Paradise  tree was so entertaining. I have to end with two quotes I came across. The first from the U. of Florida: "Not particularly outstanding." And the second from our south Florida horticultural bible, A Gardener's Guide to Florida's Native Plants, by Rufino Osorio: "The visual effect as the leaves rustle in the wind, first flashing glossy green and then pale, milky green, is extremely attractive and makes this one of the most visually striking trees native to the United States. It is widely used as specimen or accent tree in parts of southern Florida, even by gardeners who otherwise have little interest in native plants."

Can you guess what I think?

sue dingwell

AFTERNOTE: In reply to several inquiries, the photos are all mine - use at will for any project you deem noble.

Plant Creations:
U of Florida Tree Fact Sheets:
Key West Garden Club: ttp://

Friday, August 5, 2011

Southeastern Native Plant Confernce in Cullowhee

Southeast Native Plant Conference
Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC

It had been 19 years since I last attended the Southeast Native Plant Conference (SNPC) in Cullowhee North Carolina, so I jumped at the chance to return as a speaker.  For one, who wouldn't want to spend a few days in the Appalachians in July while the rest of the Southeast is baking in mid-90 degree temperatures?  And, could there be a better place to see plants and be around plant people than this conference?

The conference in Cullowhee has a long history.  Based at the campus of Western Carolina University, it has attracted native plant enthusiasts from throughout the Southeast for more than 30 years. This year, the conference committee invited me to speak on a topic suggested by last year's attendees - Gardening with Native St. John's-worts. I came armed with potted plants I had assembled over the past months and a powerpoint based on images I have been taking for what seems like forever.

Hypericum cistifolium           Roundpod St. John'swort
{Editor's note: following are excerpts and photos from Dr. Huegel's blog}

Roundpod St. John's-wort (Hypericum cistifolium) is one of the five-petal St. John's-worts and it occurs statewide in Florida in the edges of wetlands and in moist pine flatwoods and savannas.  In these habitats, it can be abundant.  Outside of Florida, this species occurs throughout the Southeastern Coastal Plain from Texas to North Carolina.

Roundpod St. John's-wort is distinctive.  It generally grows as a single stem and reaches a mature height between 2 and 3 feet.  The leaves are deep green, linear and the edges fold inwards.  These traits make it easy to identify, but because of its narrow growth form , individual plants tend to disappear into the background when they are not in bloom. Look for this distinctive St. John's-wort in flatwoods and open savannas in summer and enjoy its simple beauty.

Hypericum myrtifolium   Myrtle-leaved St. John's-wort
Myrtle-leaved St. John's-wort (Hypericum myrtifolium) has foliage that looks somewhat similar to that of four-petal St. John's-wort (H. tetrapetalum), but the flowers of this species have five petals.  Myrtle-leaved St. John's-wort is a wetland species; found in a variety of locations nearly statewide.  It is confined to the Deep South and occurs only in nearby states -Alabama to South Carolina. Regrettably, it is only rarely offered by commercial nurseries for the home landscape.   Should you locate a source, use it at the edge of ponds or shallow wetlands. Plant it in mass as individual plants are rather thin and to take advantage of its showy blooms.

The SNPC is both similar and very different from the annual conferences hosted by the Florida Native Plant Society. The similarities are based on the general structure of the conference.  SNPC has wonderful field trips the day before the paper sessions, keynote speakers, and concurrent talks for several days following the field trips. The talks are varied and the speakers are top notch.  Of course, I like the vendors as much as anything.  Walking through the various aisles of native plants is like being a child in a candy store for me and each aisle is overflowing with plants native to the forested mountains and pinelands of areas I truly love.  Most would never grow in west-central Florida, but I could dream. And, there was the largest collection of nature-oriented books I have ever seen in one place...

The SNPC also is a great time for social events. Everything is well planned and well organized. It culminates at the Saturday night social when, after dinner, there is an attendee talent show judged by the crowd.  Serious performers and wacky wannabees take turns on the stage for more than an hour and its just plain fun.

What is most different to me between SNPC and the FNPS Annual Meeting is the focus of the talks.  There is less focus on using native plants in home landscapes and more attention on ecological topics.  That may be due to the more regional nature of the SNPC and the difficulty of making home landscape talks fit the varied types of landscape conditions found among the regional audience that attends, but I suspect it's more of a cultural difference between the two groups.

Plumleaf azalea  "You can look but you can't bring it home!"
says Dr. Huegel

I would encourage anyone who has never attended the SNPC to give it a try.  The setting is absolutely beautiful, the conference is interesting and expertly run and there are a great many fascinating botanists to talk plants with.  Fight the urge to buy native azaleas and wildflowers we can only dream about and bring a vehicle large enough to carry home the stuff you will purchase regardless.  I know that I will be back next time much sooner than 19 years from now.

Dr. Craig Huegel
Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife

Monday, August 1, 2011

Snakes and Flying Squirrels

 FNPS Secretary Peg Lindsay reminds us that our native plants are providing some of the most basic needs of other inhabitants of an ecosystem...

Red touch yellow - Coral snake
Two extraordinary things happened at our Highland Lakes home.

The first was the appearance of a snake. A snake in Florida is not so unusual; we’ve found quite a few in many colors and sizes over the years here. Snakes are generally benign and benevolent creatures, whose diet is any creature smaller than they are. We’ve seen them in our garage, gardens and patio. Most of the time we let them be. Occasionally we relocate them where they can live peacefully without having to encounter any lawn mowers.

With the coming of the summer rainy season, my husband was cleaning out the gutters. I had the job of turning the water off and on while he was up the ladder removing the leaves. One obstruction in the downspout would not wash out. I told him he would have to take the downspout apart, and I went into the house to fix dinner. A few minutes later he came in. “Get your camera and come outside quick! Is it red-on-yellow or red-on-black?” He was telling me he had either a coral snake (venomous) or a king snake (harmless).

For those of you who haven’t heard the poem about the coral snake:

Red on yellow kill a fellow.
Red on black friend of Jack.

Outside, I photographed the largest coral snake I had ever seen. It was in the 30-to-36-inch size range. I really didn’t want to get close enough to measure it. My husband put on his leather gloves, picked up a small rake, and proceeded to put the snake in a bucket with a lid. He then relocated the snake to a place safe from any further human encounters.

Kissimmee prairie                               Shirley Denton
We looked up the Eastern Coral Snake in our field guide and learned the following facts. The record length is 47½ inches. They prefer a dry habitat, such as dry scrub or pine flatwoods. Their primary diet is small lizards and other small snakes. They have a very small (compared to other snakes) head and mouth, so although they are venomous, it would be extremely difficult for them to bite a human. They can bite the webbing between your fingers or toes. So, when cleaning your gutters, wear gloves!

Note the webbing stretching between front
and back legs.

The other extraordinary thing that happened at our home was some new tenants in our bird house. My husband put up a standard bluebird house in our back yard in hopes of attracting a family of bluebirds. Instead we have flying squirrels!

Away we go!
Again, we went to the field guide for more information. The Southern Flying Squirrel is strictly nocturnal. It feeds on a variety of seeds, nuts, insects and bird eggs. Nests are normally found in abandoned woodpecker holes but they will build nests of leaves, twigs and bark in the crotch of large trees. Our field guide notes they like to spend winters in your attic.

Until they moved into our bird house, I had never seen one. I’ve heard them at night, in the large oak trees near the clubhouse. If you have large oak trees in your yard, go outside at night and listen. If you hear what sounds like birds chirping, you are hearing flying squirrels.

Florida has over 21 species of oaks, and
all of them provide acorns. Oaks are
one of THE most important trees for wildlife
according to Doug Tallamy in "Bringing Nature Home."

 One of the threats to flying squirrels (and other cavity-nesting birds) is the absence of nest cavities. We humans tend to cut down and trim back any dead trees or dead limbs, thus eliminating many nest cavities which would otherwise make homes for the birds and squirrels.
Red cockaded woodpecker building nest in tree caity

The Environmental Committee has purchased a selection of bird houses which will be installed in the fall, when some of our handier members return to Florida and Highland Lakes. Consider adding a birdhouse to your back yard, and tell me what moves in. I would love to hear from you.

Editor's note: And we would love to hear from you, too! Peg wrote this article in her capacity as Chair of her HOA's  Environmental Committee, a job she does in addition to her work as our Society's secretary. Do write in and let us know what you are doing for the benefit of plants and wildlife!