Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Green Swamp - Should Hunting Be Allowed Here?

Editor's note: Thanks to the dedicated and ongoing efforts of people like Lorraine, the Hampton Tract is currently being recommended for no expanded hunting. However, there is one more public meeting where comments will be heard on Hampton and three other tracts. This post is a tribute to the fact that your voice counts. The following two links will take you to the SWFWMD's page on the hunting evaluation process and the specifics for the next meeting:

The next meeting is set for December 5th:

Chipping sparrow in the Green Swamp, Hampton Tract
The Green Swamp, a huge Southwest Florida Water Management District property holding purchased over time for aquifer recharge and conservation is probably the second most important property collection in the state after the Everglades.  The Hampton tract is one of the newer acquisitions, not many of you know it, but my husband Don and I got to know a bit of it and to experience the beauty and importance of this magnificent 11,000 acres recently.

We have requested a permit to perform an avian survey on the tract in January. Paul Elliot, the land manager was our expert guide to the property.  Mr. Elliot is probably the most knowledgeable person that I have ever met as a land manager; his institutional knowledge and understanding of linked ecosystems and the creatures that they host is astounding and to be treasured. Some places MUST remain a refuge without undue disturbance, and the Hampton tract is one of them.  It is now at risk to being opened to season-long hunting under the hunting evaluation process that Swiftmud (SFWMD) is currently engaged in.

American Robin

There were hundreds and hundreds of American Robins at the Hampton Tract today, (Nov. 19th) feeding to restore themselves after a long migration to their winter home here.

Swallow-Tailed kites and Southeastern American Kestrel nest here!

We weren’t even actively birding for real because we were trying to learn the paths and habitat in order to plan our survey. But we got some great birds without even trying.

Elliotts aster - Symphyotrichum elliottii, near the pit. A wonderful native fall wildflower. What glory...beautiful masses of lavender flowers. I’m in love with this place!

Eastern Phoebe enjoying the tranquility of Cypress Swamp

See my husband Don's eBird list (a neat electronic reporting system for tracking bird populations)  below the pics, and remember, we weren't birding, we were learning.......but trust me, come January this bird list will most certainly be greatly enhanced by our survey teams!!!

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

 When you look up through the Bald Cypress canopy in the Green Swamp Hampton Tract, the world is at peace. We were privileged to be shown an incredible bromeliad-laden cypress dome swamp reminiscent of visions in the Fakahatchee Strand. Sacred land where the creatures around you know they are safe.

What a beautiful place, so pristine in every way.

Let’s keep it that way!

Lorraine Margeson

Wouldn't you like to visit this beautiful place? Well, you can! It's on the field trip list for the Florida Native Plant Society's Annual Conference next May. A great, sustainable gift for someone you know? Like you? Check it out:

sue dingwell
roving blogger

Don's e-bird list:

Hampton Tract, Polk, US-FL
Nov 19, 2011 9:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
12.0 mile(s)
37 species

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)  3
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)  11
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  8
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)  2
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  2
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata)  1
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  6
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)  1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  2
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  11
White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus)  1
Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  3
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  8
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)  4
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  19
Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)  3
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)  4
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  5
Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis)  3
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  6
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  400
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  3
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)  2
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  6
Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)  19
Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus)  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  24
Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor)  2
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  8
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  5
Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)  1
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)  4
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  4
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  3

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reflections on the "Real Florida"

Family and friends at the "jumping" tree at
Fisheating Creek in Glades County.
Photo by Helen Woodmansee, ca 1975.
A letter from Steve Woodmansee, FNPS president

FNPS members recently received my letter describing childhood adventures in South Florida's outdoors – memorable experiences made possible thanks to preserved lands and my parents' initiative. I dug up some photos of these family trips to share with you. The quality of these photos is not the greatest - they were scanned from prints - but many readers probably have photos like these (maybe even older!) and can relate to a time without cell phones, the Internet or cable television.

At this time of year, we are grateful for our families, and also organizations like FNPS, which works every day, through grassroots volunteer members, to preserve, conserve and restore the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. As I said in my letter, my childhood experiences led me to being part of FNPS, because I believed in the mission before I even knew there was an FNPS.

You know FNPS, our mission and the many great things we do, described on this blog. I hope you share my gratitude and will consider donating now to the Florida Native Plant Society's Annual Fund Drive. We appreciate any contribution of any size, and donations are fully tax deductible.

Woodmansee clan just outside our Dodge Camper, which we took all over Florida.  I'm the little guy on the left in the green shirt and swimsuit.  Site locale is somewhere in the Florida Keys (Bahia Honda State Park?).  Photo by Ralph Woodmansee (father), circa 1976

Sister Helen, Brother Marc, and a partial of my mother "Jo".  The inside of the camper was a nice respite from rainy days, many good times were had, and many board and card games were played (and much teasing).  Photo by Ralph Woodmansee, circa 1976.

My mother, who seemed to have a fashion all of her own.
Photo by Ralph Woodmansee, circa 1976

Me, at 8 years old, fishing in the Florida Bay, America Outdoors Campground, Key Largo.  I remember witnessing in the water, not far from there,  a large hermit crab using a beer can for its shell while we were netting Florida Pink Shrimp some winter night.
Photo by ???, circa 1979.

Me on my 10th Birthday at America Outdoors Campground.  Yes, that is a Mr. Bill shirt.
Photo by??, 1981.

Squirrel in the subtropical trees of Key Largo.  An early attempt to connect with nature with limited technology.  Photo by Steve Woodmansee, 1981.

Thank you,
Steve Woodmansee, President
Florida Native Plant Society

Click to donate:

Click to read Steve's original letter:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Plant Profile: The Sensitive Fern-Bead Fern

Figure 1: Vegetative and reproductive fronds of Onclea sensibilis;
note reproductive bead-like pinnacles and 8 pairs of
pinna that make up the green vegetative frond;
with photo credit to Kenneth J. Satsma at
This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student authors: Jennifer Hoffman and Marie Chrest

Common name: Sensitive Fern- Bead Fern
Scientific name: Onoclea sensibilis
Classification:  Kingdom Plantae
Subkingdom:  Tracheobionta
Division:  Pteridophyta
Class:  Filicopsida
Order: Polypodiales
Family: Dryopteridaceae
Genus: Onoclea L.
Species: Onoclea sensibilis L.

Onoclea sensibilis’s name is derived from the Greek root words “ono,” meaning “vessel” and “kleio” denoting “to close,” referring to the ferns reproductive gametes present in the sealed vessel-like beaded pinnacles (Figure 1). The second half of the ferns name sensibilis which is Latin for “sensitive,” is from the plants vulnerability to quickly wither and die at the first sight of frost in the winter. Onoclea sensibilis is found in the southern states of the US such as Florida. The fern is typically associated with swamps, marshes, floodplains, and ditches where the soil is very moist and slightly acidic. The sensitive fern stores water from its surrounding environment in its’ bead-like reproductive structures which makes it better at surviving in drought. Although Onoclea sensibilis is adapted to withstand direct sunlight it prefers to be in partial or full shade.

The sensitive fern is easily identified by its medium to large fronds with wide leaves and visible reproductive fronds. Each mature vegetative frond contains exactly eight pairs of “leaves,” or pinnae (Figure 1). Vegetative are the light green and leathery fronds. The reproductive fronds are produced around August and September; they are usually shorter than the vegetative fronds and brownish in color (Figure 1). The reproductive fronds contain the bead-like pinnacles which are made up of spores. A spore is a reproductive structure that is adapted to maximize dispersal and withstand harsh environmental conditions. During the spring time pinnacle begins to dry out and eventually cracks open unveiling the spores which are dispersed away from the parent plant via wind or water current. These spores enclosed inside of the beaded structures are composed of lipids, or fats, which make them a good source of energy for other animals. Not only can the fern use the stored fats as a food source, but corn earworm and fall armyworm are examples of two organisms that eat these beaded structures for the fats that the spores contain.

Onoclea sensibilis can benefit species such as the fall armyworm, but also be disadvantageous to other organisms too. The sensitive fern has been shown to be a host for the pathogen which causes wilt in rice. Also, parts of the fern are toxic when ingested. On the other hand, there are many advantages that Onoclea sensibilis have on its surrounding environment. Herbalists have claimed that certain species of ferns, including the sensitive fern, help in treating ulcers, intestinal infections, as well as other sicknesses. Ferns are mostly garden plants, but since ferns historically were a part of the dominant terrestrial plants living on Earth, the fossils of these late plants have contributed in large amounts to the formation of our fossil fuels. These fossil fuels include coal, oils, and natural gas that are extremely important to us as humans. Now that you have read about a common Florida native fern and know how to identify it, see if you can find one at your local national parks!


1. Ensiminger, Peter A. 2011. Ferns- Importance to Humans- Plants, Plant, Species, and Allies. November 1, 2011. [online]. Importance-humans.html.

2. Nelson, G. (2000). The ferns of Florida: A reference and field guide (1st ed.). Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc.

3. No Author. 23, January 2010. Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern). Northwoods. November 1, 2010. [online]. -lis_(Sensitive_Fern)

4. No Author. 2004. About Ferns- Sensitive Fern. November 1, 2010. [online].

5. Rook, Earl. 26 February, 2004. Onoclea Sensibilis- Sensitive Fern. November 1, 2010. [online].

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fragrant Ladies’-Tresses

Florida native orchid:
Fragrant ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes odorata)
 A post by Roger L. Hammer

There are eighteen species of Spiranthes native to Florida, along with two varieties of one species, and three intergeneric, naturally-occurring hybrids involving five different species. All are known as ladies’-tresses because of the spiraling habit of the flowers up the stem, which superficially resembles braided hair.

One of my favorite members of this genus is the fragrant ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes odorata) and this past Wednesday (11/16) I encountered a flowering colony of them in the flooded prairies of Everglades National Park, where I’ve seen them each Fall over the past two decades. The species name, odorata, refers to the intensely fragrant flowers, so it’s very worthwhile to get your feet wet to get a whiff of the perfume that emanates from the flowers. It’s quite intoxicating.

Although very localized, this native orchid is frequent throughout much of Florida, except the Florida Keys. Look for it in wet prairies, along river banks, edges of ponds, and sometimes even along roadside ditches. November is the best month to look for them.

Roger Hammer's books would make a great gift set for anyone who explores south Florida: Florida Keys Wildflowers and Everglades Wildflowers. And when you make your online purchases here, you support FNPS and it doesn't cost you one extra cent.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Searching for Florida's Indian Pipes

Monotropa uniflora, the pink form
John Freudenstein and Mike Broe from the Ohio State University Herbarium asked us to pass along this research request:

We will be visiting Florida in mid-December on a plant collecting fieldtrip. We are specifically looking for Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora), the white form and particularly the pink to dark-pink forms. This research is part of a worldwide study on the monotropoid group of plants. If any of your members could supply information on locations where we might find these we would be most grateful! We have found that local knowledge can be crucial to successfully locating monotropoids. You can contact us at

Indian pipes and their close relatives (pinesap, pinedrops, pigmypipes, etc.) are fascinating because they completely lack chlorophyll: this means they depend on other plants for food. It used to be thought that they were parasites, but in fact they are part of a three-way symbiosis: an underground fungus forms a bridge between the roots of the Indian Pipes and the roots of a tree that is the ultimate source of food. The seeds also require the presence of the fungus to germinate: this is one reason they are so darn hard to find! In fact, these plants are often mistaken for fungi at first glance, and it is difficult to establish detailed family relationships by looking at the plant's morphology. We are isolating DNA from both the plant and the fungus to establish family relationships within the monotropoids.

Northern Indian Pipes are usually white, occasionally pale pink. In Mexico they can be much larger flowered, and dark-pink to salmon-colored. We are trying to establish if these southern pink forms - which have also been reported in Florida - are a distinct species, and just how closely they are related to the white forms.
Again, you can reach us at with locality information, or any other questions about these unusual plants!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Enticing new members with dinosaurs and smiles

The Naples FNPS Chapter knows how to attract new members! This account is by Karyn Allman, membership chair, and Philip Tadman, The Coontie Man.

Earth Day special: 11 native plants when you join the Naples FNPS Chapter
Last year the Naples Chapter, with the gracious help of native plant grower and FNPS member Philip Tadman, gave away small nursery trays with 11 native seedlings as an incentive to join the plant society at an Earth Day festival. During the event, we gained three new members, and all three greatly enjoyed their new native plants.

As the new 2011-2012 season of the Naples Chapter rolled into action in September, so did Philip. This time around, Phillip had the help of Mr. K.C. Klein from Duck Lake Trees and Shrubs, and they were able to gather twenty-five 3-gallon Zamia pumila (coontie) and have them ready for the two day Collier County Yard and Garden show in Immokalee in October. Prior to the event, Harriet Heithaus of the Naples Daily News interviewed Philip and placed an informative article in the local newspaper. The article not only let everyone know they could obtain a free plant with membership, but it touted the beauty and ease of care of the Zamia and other natives. (See below for the original press release.)

The offer: A free coontie when you join FNPS
 The morning of the first day of the event, the Native Plant Society booth was festooned with Zamias and other native plants, but also an eye catching sign reading

Danger - Dinosaur
Feeding Area!

A large plastic dinosaur was placed by the sign with a sprig of Zamia in its mouth. The dinosaur grabbed the attention of those who wandered by the booth, and opened the door to questions and conversations with the FNPS members at the booth. The dinosaur was, of course, the Zamia itself; a member of the cycad family – meaning living fossil  that has survived through the ages as a part of the natural Florida ecosystem. In addition to the dinosaur, while selling native plants at his personal booth, Philip would send folks over to the FNPS booth, boosting our number of visitors.

The booth attracted  a lot of attention.
Despite the occasional gusts of strong wind and off-and-on rain from the far offshore Hurricane Rina, the event was a great success. We far exceeded our lofty goal of 10 new members with 16 new members! The new members walked away with not only a Zamia, but a packet of information on the Naples FNPS Chapter, native plants in general, and a schedule of upcoming events with the Naples Chapter.

The Naples Chapter is looking forward to the rest of the season and hopes to find lots of new faces at meetings, field trips and other events. Thanks to everyone who helped make the Yard and Garden show such a great success.

Karyn Allman, Membership Chair

How could anyone resist?
Philip explains, "My whole idea was to attract new young blood to our chapter. The 'Danger Dinosaur Feeding Area' sign resulted from my trip to a Fire/Safety store to get my fire-extinguishers re-certified. It orginally read 'Danger Hard Hat Area.' I knew it would stop people dead in their tracks. The bouquet of native wildflowers and grasses (about 30 different species) was a member's contribution. It not only looked great, but it got people enthused and asking questions.

Humorous Observations
As Events Unfolded

I think Zamia Chapter is shell shocked, not getting much coherency from them; like the exact number of new members.

Our booths at the fair were supposed to be together, but the Society for some reason ended up in the boonies. As a repeat offender, I mean vendor, from the inauguration of the annual Yard and Garden show, eleven years ago to the present, I have a permanent and very nicely shaded spot.

When I get up on someones shoulders I can see Jean way over by the parking lot signaling me by holding up her hands. (both of them) since we are long past five new members.

Let's see, now was that five fingers on the left and three on the right, or maybe that was a double flash on the left or is she just swatting flies? Okay I'm sure it's five plus five plus three.

Good Lord, thirteen? Impossible! another finger up? The coontie are flying off the shelves. Jean has gone mad grabbing handfuls of air, fingers going in all directions.

Oh dear, the member whose back I've requisitioned has just collapsed and I with her. I keep forgetting dear Eva is 82. Fortunately we both land in my wildflower section.

Looking eyeball to eyeball with a black-eyed susan is an experience not to be forgotten. Almost as thrilling as signing up another seven members that singular sensational sunny Sunday. My apologies to that rather indignant calaminta under my chin, but what a gorgeous scent.

Someone realized that a cootie leaf fit very nicely in steggie's mouth.
Delighting the kids, including me! And of course, a rose being inappropriate
(not Mesozoic), I lunched in a similar fashion.
I expect the chapter will shortly contact FNPS with the final figure. Unless of course they haven't taken all that loot and gone to Paris.

I kind of think we made history!

Philip Tadman

P.S. Next incentive: Earth Day 2012. Top Secret!

Here's the Press Release:

At Yard and Garden Show a genuine Florida 'living fossil' offered with membership

On Saturday Oct 29 and Sunday Oct 30, the Naples Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society will be manning a booth at the SW Florida Yard & Garden Show, at the Collier County University Extension Office on Immokalee Road. Members of our Zamia chapter will be on hand to answer all your 'going native' questions with information and friendly advice on how to create a wildlife-friendly Florida yard.
The purpose of FNPS is to preserve, conserve and restore the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. The encourage you to join our society, we are making a very special offer. During these two days anyone who joins will receive (along with their membership) a beautiful 3-gal Florida coontie. This complimentary plant, officially named Zamia pumila, is an education in itself. Coontie is a cycad--a 'living fossil.' These primitive plants were a dominant form of plant life during the dinosaur age and were relished by those long-gone behemoths. Once common throughout the state, coontie is now rarely found in the wild due to intense collection in the past for starch production. The starch, called Florida arrowroot, was extracted from its underground stem or caudex.

From the article in the
Naples Paper
Coonties look like small palms or ferns and can be planted in full sun or deep shade. With its high drought and cold tolerance, it is an ecellent choice as a low-maintenance landscape plant and is quite happy living out its long uneventful life in a pot. Cycads are long-lived and at the age of an Encephalartos altensteinii, on display at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew England, is estimated at 220 years! If you've read this far, you have successfully passed Coontie (101) and haven't aged a day. You may proceed directly to our booth this weekend and pick up your very own stegosaurus munchie. Your membership will help support the preservation and restoration of wildlfie habitats and biological diversity throughout Florida and be assured that coontie will come in handy if, by chance, a hungry velociraptor crossses your beautifually landscaped wildlife-friendly path.

The cycad will be included with individual, family or student membership; the dinosaur will not be.
As a result of the above press release, we received good press coverage in the Naples News.

Wow! What a great membership drive. Has your chapter had success in gaining new members? We'd love to hear about it. Send article ideas or text and photos to

Ginny Stibolt

Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Eco-tour of an Estuary on Sept 24th (Estuary Day)

To FNPS blog readers: from Joan Bausch (Cocoplum member, and the Native Plant Detective)
Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area (Flagler County)

Hoorahs and congratulations are in order for/to Mark Wheeler and the PawPaw Chapter for offering an eco-tour (Sept 24) to see and learn about the Salt Marsh Restoration/Reclamation Project at Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area (Flagler County) and the North Peninsula State Park (Volusia County).

Wheeler coordinated with Barbara Roberts, park manager, and Paul Haydt, St. Johns River Water Management District, the project coordinator, to pull off a great morning-- even keeping the 60% chance of thunderstorms away!

The group waiting to board. 

Over forty people from as far away as Jacksonville (Ixia) and Martin County (Cocoplum) responded, filling the pontoon boat run by the International Marine Ecological Research Solutions. What a great vessel, perfect for looking, learning and keeping the sun off our heads. Paul Haydt explained the work of reclamation and restoration and then we saw it for ourselves.

The pontoon boat

The Work (in really brief summary): reduce the vegetation to smallest pieces possible; scrape off the dirt to marsh level soil (could be up to, and more than 10 feet-- this was old dredge spoil from when the intracoastal was created); haul it away (this has gotten more complex since economic downturn); plant some Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass) along the edge; and let nature take its course.

The new grasses are filling in.
The Results: “Sweet” according to Paul, can be seen at Gamble Rogers south of the boat ramp, and further south below Highbridge Road, see the area just beginning the reclamation. This part looks “just awful, said Paul.” Actually, you can drive south on John Anderson Highway from High Bridge toward Ormond Beach and look in over the fences to see these newer phases.

The impacts from intracoastal dredging and mosquito impoundments are being offset, and restoration of a healthy salt marsh has begun. What do we know? The marsh is the most productive habitat in the area (baby shrimp love it); the salt marsh occurs naturally on the west side of barrier islands; the salt marsh does not harbor mosquitos; the salt marsh protects small marine animal nurseries; the marsh is a good buffer, holding nutrients and run-off, knocking down waves. A healthy marsh will have a variety of grass types, both high and low. We saw black mangroves growing along the edges. Normally a freeze event would knock these back.

Paul Wheeler (on left) organized this great FNPS field trip
Paul brought maps to show the extent of the marsh area prior to human intervention. Marshes filled the area between the barrier island and the western tree line with meandering creeks running through it.

The trip was highly rewarding to this native plant detective (not sure if PawPaw made any money, or if costs for the vessel were covered). Not only did we meet new people--society members, but we had a chance to catch up with Don Spence who had been active on the state board when I also served. Don is on a track to earn his PhD very soon, just passed his oral exam. Good News!

Thanks to FNPS for putting notice of this event on its website home page. It coincided perfectly with a trip to visit family in Flagler! Would love to hear of other eco-tours to Florida’s native plant communities. Chapters, think what you have to offer in your neighborhood that you love, and others would want to know about. Yes I know we put our calendars on the website, but when you go the extra mile to put on something like this ecotour, it creates a really special event. Thanks Mark and Paw Paw Chapter!

Joan Bausch (Cocoplum member, and the Native Plant Detective)

PS Also learned that the northern-most coastal colony of the Florida scrubjay reside in a 300 acre scrub in North Peninsula State Park….. need to plan another trip!
An osprey uses this piling as a vatage point to spot fish.