Monday, December 31, 2012

Celebrate Florida in 2013

Little Talbot Island by Shirley Denton

Florida has so many wonderful parks and wild places to visit.

Show your support by visiting a bunch of them this year. The parks are working on slimmer budgets these days so your visits not only help them balance the budgets, but greater use also helps them justify their existence to the budget deciders in the state government. You can also support your state parks by volunteering on a regular basis and also by letting your state representatives know how you feel about our wonderful state parks.

Recently on Facebook, John M. sent us a message:

"Next week two of us from Birmingham Botanical Gardens will be traveling from Birmingham to Lee, FL, then to Florida Caverns State Park, and finally to the Pensacola area to participate in a sarracenia rescue. We are interested in visiting some botanically interesting areas along the way. Might you have any suggestions?
Kind thanks,

Instead of trying to answer the question myself, I posted it to the FNPS page to see what our fans had to say. Here are some of their suggestions:

1) Kristin: Chazhowitska Springs, Rainbow Springs, Blue springs, Everglades Weeki wacki springs and believe it or not, I like to walk around Busch Gardens and observe their plants.

2) Kelly: Wakulla Springs, St Andrew's State Park, Apalachicola River, any one of the hundreds of amazing natural springs in Northwest Florida. Falling water State Park

3) Jerrie: Near the area you will be Torreya State Park and a drive down SR 65 Apalachicola Wildlife and Environmental Area managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Also along that route the Apalachicola National Forest.

FNPS field trip at Torreya State Park. Read my two-part blog post about it here.
Photo by Ginny Stibolt.

4) Gail: St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla Spings State Park, Apalachicola National Forest

5) Stroppy: Tiger Creek Preserve, The Nature Conservancy, Babson Park

6) Peggy: I purchased year passes for ten family members to Florida State Parks for Christmas. We are so looking forward to family time in our beautiful home state!

7) Sandra: Ocala National Forest

8) Terry: Kanapaha Garden in Gainesville & Paynes Prairie State Park: On the dike there are tons of gators and sandhill canes are in this time of year.

9) Bob: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

10) Marilu: Hiking at Little Big Econ is a visit to old-time Florida, and Blue Springs to see the manatees.

11) Bill: The Dwarf Cypress swamp in Tate's Hell.

12) Patty-Kay: Silver River State Park. Beautiful and natural.

13) Carole: I'll be at the rescue also. In Gulf Breeze you may enjoy the Naval Live Oaks Reaserve. Here is the link to Florida Birding Trail Guides. Here is a nice trail at Edward Ball NatureTrail. For Ft Pickens here's a guide to Guide to the Flora and Fauna. Close to the rescue area you can visit: Jones Swamp Wetland Preserve and Nature Trail.

Thanks for all the suggestions and we know that there are many more treasures in Florida waiting for your visit and support. The good news is that the pitcher plant rescue where 5,000 of them would have been transplanted was cancelled! A deal was worked out so the land will remain undeveloped. Yay!

So here's to a greener new year! Please help to protect Florida's parks, springs and wildlands. And oh yes, please join FNPS and add an extra donation so we can continue our mission to to promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. Go to to join today!

Ginny Stibolt

Central Florida live oaks. Photo by Ginny Stibolt

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas in Florida

American holly (Ilex opaca)
 Christmas in Florida
    by Jim Moore

The visitor sadly shook his head
As he basked in the tropical sun;
"Call this Christmas?" to me he said,
"Well, not where I come from."

"Christmas needs snow and ice and cold,
And the sound of the sleighbells ring.
As for me, I can't be sold
On weather that feels like Spring.

Santa Claus in a bathing suit?
No sir, it just isn't right.
Cranberry sauce and tropical fruit
I think it's an awful fright."

"My poor misguided friend," I said,
"Your lament does not ring true.
You're mixed up by the things you read
From a myth you take your clue.

Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)
For no snow fell on Bethlehem
On the night the star first shone.
There was no blizzard nor howling gale
That swept with a shriek and a moan.

The breezes were soft and what is more,
The night that the Christ Child came,
Hibiscus bloomed near the stable door
As Mary murmured His name.

Bougainvillea of a violet hue
Arched in a graceful bower,
Poinsettias wet with the midnight dew
Enhanced that sacred hour. *

The heavenly host in the sky
Proclaimed the birth of the King,
And rustling palms echoed the cry
As the whole earth seemed to sing.

We find here in our sun drenched land,
Untouched by the ice and snow,
That the spirit of Christmas is near at hand,
And we feel God willed it so.

*Poinsettias would NOT have been in the holy lands 2,000 years ago. They are native to Mexico.

So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa
AND a Greener New Year!

From your friendly FNPS bloggers,
Laurie Sheldon and Ginny Stibolt

PS. We'd love to have more guest bloggers in 2013. We know you and your chapter are doing great things. Please share your stories.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

When you plant a tree, you believe in the future.

The Mayan Calendar for sale in a Mexican shop.

On the Winter Solstice, 12/21/12 at 6:12am EST, the Mayan calendar stops. I can't decipher the calendar, so I personally don't have any way to verify that this assessment is true, but this impending date has engendered many interesting responses. As an example, see the dire weather forecast for this week, which has gone viral on the Internet.

So..., we'll see what happens tomorrow.
An interesting weather forecast!

But if you believe in the future, you'll plant a tree before the day ends because…

When you plant a tree, you believe in the future.

If we all plant at least one tree today, maybe our collective efforts will prevent the world from ending. Of course, I'd highly recommend a native tree from local stock. So go to the FANN (Florida Association of Native Nurseries) consumer website, to find the nearest FANN member with the trees you'd like to plant.

Plant some more trees on Florida's Arbor Day, which is the third Friday in January. This year it's 1/18/13--that is if we are still around.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.
The second best time is today.
                     – Chinese Proverb

Thank you for helping to in the effort to save the world.
Ginny Stibolt



Trees & Shrubs: the "Bones" of your Landscape, my article, which includes directions for how to plant a tree and how much irrigation a tree needs to survive depending upon its size. This is important information when planting trees in the winter, Florida's dry season.

∙ Trees brighten city streets and delight nature-starved urbanites. Now scientists are learning that they also play a crucial role in the green infrastructure of America’s cities. "What is a tree worth?" by Jill Jonnes and published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

∙ For some regional recommendations for the best native trees to plant, more details on Arbor Day history, and how it's celebrated in Florida, read Florida's Arbor Day: third Friday in January.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Holly-days

My Yaupon Holly Christmas Tree! Photo by Laurie Sheldon.
By Barbara Jackson

In search of a Florida native holiday tree, I found the perfect one: Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria). The form of this evergreen small tree, or large shrub, is upright, with multiple stems, making it perfect for holiday ornaments. I purchased one around 6 feet tall, and will plant it in my landscape after December.

The female Yaupon Holly produces small red berries in the fall and winter, if a male specimen is close by. The fruit is attractive to birds and other small mammals when natural food supplies are dwindling. It also produces dense clusters of tiny white flowers in the spring, and attracts pollinators. This holly is fairly fast growing, highly salt tolerant, and is also noted for its high hurricane wind resistance. It will reach a height between 8 and 25 feet tall and spread 5 to 15 feet. It can be planted as a single specimen, or kept in pruned hedges. Yaupon Holly is highly drought tolerant once established and will grow in full sun or part shade. It can be propagated from stem cuttings. According to Gil Nelson in his book Florida’s Best Landscape Plants, there are “more than 30 cultivars known, 8 of which are available in Florida.”

According to a Wikipedia article, “Native Americans used the leaves and stems to brew a tea, commonly thought to be called asi or black drink, for male-only purification and unity rituals. The ceremony included vomiting, and Europeans incorrectly believed that it was Ilex vomitoria that caused it (hence the Latin name).” While this plant may not induce vomiting, it is toxic to humans and the berries should not be consumed, nor should anyone try to brew a tea. But many birds will enjoy the berries, especially in the winter, when you plant this tree in your yard.

Yaupon Holly may be purchased at many nurseries around the state. The website of FANN (Florida Association of Native Nurseries) indicates that a number of their members show it as being in stock.

So have a Merry Yaupon Holly Christmas Tree!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Family Profile: The Cactaceae

By Jennifer Hoffman and Chelsea Warner

Figure 1: Opuntia corallicola, semaphore pricklypear.
Photo credit: T. Ann Williams.
This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Plant Taxonomy students at Jacksonville University. FNPS blogger Laurie Sheldon assisted the students with their initial drafts, providing suggestions for editing and content development.

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Cactaceae

Leaves: typically reduced as spines
Fruit: berry
Flower: zygomorphic or actinomorphic, with tepals rather than sepals and petals

Figure 2: The specific epithet of Harrisia fragrans  may
allude to its sweet smelling flowers.
Photo credit: Keith Bradley.
The cactus plant family or Cactaceae is specially adapted to survive in hot and dry conditions. For example, many species have sharp spines to protect them from predation, direct rain runoff towards their root system, and reduce internal heat loading by reflecting light away from the plant (Fig. 1). In addition, the dermal cells are thick-walled and lined with a cuticle or waxy layer. The cuticle helps the plant retain water and to reflect light, thereby reducing internal temperatures.

Figure 3: Lophophora williamsii has no spines .
Photo credit: Kauderwelsch
 Photosynthesis, the production of sugars, commonly occurs in the leaves of most plants. As the majority of species in the cactus family have reduced leaves, they conduct photosynthesis primarily along their stems or areoles. These shoots are also where the cactus retains its water, expanding and contracting to accommodate the changing quantities of water being absorbed from the roots.

The root system of the cactus remains relatively close to the surface while extending out up to 15 meters! During heavy amounts of precipitation, the roots will begin to grow new root extending from the previous roots to increase water absorption. During times of drought the roots will begin to shrivel and deteriorate creating an air gap that can help trap water.

There are 23 species of Cactaceae in Florida, 12 of which are native. Among the native species, 7 are listed by the state as endangered. Examples of these include Opuntia corrallicola, semaphore pricklypear, and Harrisia fragrans, Caribbean applecactus (Figs. 1 and 2). Found in Texas, Peyote or Lophophora williamsii is known for psychoactive effects (Fig. 3).

Judd, WS, Campbell, SC, Kellogg, EA, Stevens, PF, and Donoghue, ML. 2008. Plant systematics: A phylogenetic approach. Sinauer Associates, Inc. Massachusetts, USA

Image sources
Figure 1:
Figure 2:
Figure 3:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Good Plants Gone Bad

By Shirley Denton

We bemoan the prevalence of invasive species in our landscapes. From cogon grass to Brazilian pepper and Japanese honeysuckle, we don’t want them. I personally fight with natal grass, guinnea grass, skunk vine, and lantana, all of which insist on coming into my landscape.

But I love species such as water lily and red mangrove – and sometimes us humans have spread them beyond their native ranges. I thought it might be instructive to see how some of them have behaved in their new homes.

Global Invasive Species database

I just scanned through 3065 records in the Global Invasive Species database looking for Florida natives that can misbehave when moved into areas where they don’t grow natively. I found a dozen of them, but since I was scanning through the list, there could be more. And this is just the species that are considered to be problems in the areas where they are introduced. Some of these I knew about. Others were surprises. A couple, I didn’t even know grew in Florida!
Opuntia stricta

Opuntia stricta, erect prickly-pear cactus. This is probably the best known problem species that is native in Florida where it is not a pest. It was introduced into Australia on the first wave of western colonization where it was used as a living hedge. In Australia, it is known as the “pest pear.”

Ambrosia artemisiifolia, ragweed. Guess what, this native species of disturbed places has found its way to around the world and adds the seasonal misery of hay fever sufferers wherever it has gone.
Spartina alterniflora is the dominant species in this saltmarsh.

Spartina alterniflora, smooth cordgrass. Cordgrass is one of our important coastal marsh grasses, and on the southeastern coastline, it is important for marsh stabilization and as a nursery for estuarine fishes. It was introduced into the northwest (esp. San Francisco Bay and Pudget Sound) and New Zealand for salt marsh restoration. Unfortunately, it not only stabilizes areas that need stabilization, it takes over and eliminates habitat for wading birds and other inhabitants of mud flats.

Acacia farnesiana

Acacia farnesiana, sweet acacia. This spiny native shrub is found mostly in coastal areas and it is appreciated as a native landscape plant. It was introduced into several South Pacific areas including Fiji, Polynesia, New Caledonia, and the Solomon islands for erosion control, wood, bark, and ornamental uses. I can just imagine that thorny thickets are less than appreciated!

Andropogon virginicus, broomsedge. Broomsedge was introduced to Hawaii where it is apparently is a fire hazard encouraging fires on native landscapes that ordinarily have a much lower natural fire frequency.

Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa monnieri, herb-of-grace. This low mat forming wetland edge species has a broad natural distribution. But that does not include Grand Cayman Island where it is listed as a pest.

Ceratophyllum demersum, coontail. Coontail is a submersed aquatic, found broadly across Florida in lakes and slow-moving streams. Apparently it behaves much like hydrilla when loose in places like Europe, Asia, New Zealand, and Egypt.

Juncus tenuis, path rush, poverty rush. This small rush is found predominantly in moist places in North Florida and in much of North America. It has travelled broadly is is an agricultural weed. But what put is on the invasives list is its introduction to several islands, notable Hawaii and St. Helena where it threatens native wildlife habitats including the nesting habitat of the wirebird on St. Helena.

Paspalum vaginatum, seashore paspalum. This native has become pan-tropical and is noted for reducing biodiversitiy in areas where it forms monocultures. It is valued as a turf grass and forage grass. It is noted as problematic in New Zealand and the Galapagos Islands.

Rhizophora mangle

Rhizophora mangle, red mangrove. Very important in Florida for coastal stabilization, someone introduced it into Hawaii. Somehow, I don’t imaging mangrove thickets having much appreciation in Oahu.

Sagittaria platyphylla, delta arrowhead. This aquatic, highly similar to Sagittaria graminea, has been recorded in three Florida counties. It is uncommon enough, that the Florida Plant Atlas has no photos of it. It is listed as a problem plant for Australia and New Zealand.

Nymphaea odorata

Nymphaea odorata, white water-lily. Ouch. A wetland favorite for me that is native to much of eastern North America. It has been introduced into the northwestern North America where it grows far too well.

And so...
A dozen of over 2871 native Florida taxa as documented by the Institute for Systematic Botany. Not too bad. Would that we only had a dozen misbehaved non-natives from the rest of the world!

Acacia farnesiana, sweet acacia: its thorny thickets may be  less
than appreciated in Fiji, Polynesia, New Caledonia,
and the Solomon islands !


Global Invasive Species Database. 2012.

Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2008. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants.[S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa.

Photographs: Shirley Denton,

  Posted by Ginny Stibolt

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Apply for Grants and Awards

Do you have a pet native plant project that needs recognition or some funds to get it off the ground? Now is the time to apply...

Native Plant grants
FNPS is inviting researchers on Florida native plants to apply for small grants to support their research.  Research grant applications are granted on the basis of importance to the protection, preservation and restoration of Florida native plants and subject to funds availability.  The deadline for the 2013 grant cycle is March 1, 2013.  For more information on the grants and submittal process, please view and download the award application.  For examples of past grant recipients, please see:

Native Plant Conservation Grants
FNPS invites you to apply for a Florida Native Plant Conservation Grant. When funding is available, grants will be awarded to applied plant conservation projects that will promote the preservation, conservation, restoration, and/or protection of Florida’s rare or imperiled native plant taxa and Florida’s rare or imperiled native plant communities. The deadline for the 2013 grant cycle is March 1, 2013. For more information on the grants and submittal process, please see the award application.

Native Plant Landscape Awards
Each year at the Annual Conference, FNPS gives awards for high quality native plant landscapes in the categories of residential, commercial, institutional, transportation, preservation, restoration, mitigation and wildflower/butterfly garden. For information on the submittal process, please see the award application.  

There is no money involved, only recognition of a job well done.

The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council has announced availability of its 2013 grant.
FLEPPC Kathy Craddock Burks Education Grant for 2013

Program Information
The intent of this grant program is to provide funding to organizations or individuals who will educate Floridians about non-native invasive plants and their impacts on the natural areas and economy of Florida. Proposals will be accepted from individuals, public or private nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions. The FLEPPC Education Grant Committee will review all applications. Winners will be announced during the business meeting at FLEPPC’s annual symposium in spring 2013. Winning applicants/organizations must present their results (poster or presentation) at the next annual symposium or provide a summary article for Wildland Weeds magazine.

Evaluation criteria
Award preference will be given to proposals that meet the following criteria:
  • Involve plants listed as Category I species on the FLEPPC 2011 List of Invasive Plant Species, found on (projects involving Category II species will also be considered);
  • Include an educational message that will reach a large segment of the community;
  • Heighten community awareness about non-native invasive plant identification, management, prevention, environmental and/or economic impacts;
  • Involve an active component (passive programs such as signs, brochures or websites should be enhanced to promote an event or an action involving the target audience);
  • Include an evaluation process of project success or failure (example: “we will measure success by counting the number of participants,” or “we will describe why our goal was or was not achieved”).
  • Demonstrate matching funds or in-kind contributions;
  • Include partnerships (please specify type and degree of involvement for partner entities);
  • Include a detailed timeline of grant activities;
First time applicants and new/startup projects will be given preference, although repeat applicants and established programs will be considered. The deadline for proposal submission is 5PM on Friday Feb 15th, 2013.

For further information, or contact:
Jennifer Possley (email preferred) at, or 305-667-1651, ext. 3514

Florida Wildflower Foundation grants help the Foundation accomplish its strategic goals by providing knowledge about and exposure to Florida's native wildflowers.

Grants are available primarily for research and planting projects. Within our research program, a recent grant funded the development of a scientific database that includes more than 260 species. Other research projects identified and developed seed germination and storage protocols and evaluated new species for landscape use. All three projects aim to increase the availability of native wildflowers.

Planting grants beautify communities, schools, parks, roadsides and other public places while elevating awareness of Florida’s natural landscape and its myriad benefits.
If you have an idea for a project that would help the Foundation accomplish its strategic goals, email us at

So get your project organized and apply now for funds and/or recognition.
Posted by Ginny Stibolt
Photos by Ginny Stibolt

Monday, November 26, 2012

Plant Profile: Populus deltoides, Eastern Cottonwood

Figure 1. Populus deltoides.

By Jeffrey Petterson and Ashley Knight

This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Plant Taxonomy students at Jacksonville University.

Family: Salicaceae (Willow)

Populus deltoides (figure 1) is a North American hardwood tree. It is usually found by rivers or mud-banks and in canyons or valleys. They specifically like the swamps of Florida’s panhandle.

Figure 2. Toothed leaf margins.
Cottonwood bark is yellow green in the adolescent stage and gray when mature. The alternating leaves are large and triangular with toothed edges (figure 2). The tree is dioecious or having male flowers on separate trees from those that have female flowers. The flowers bloom in the spring with purple male catkins and green female catkins. The ‘male’ cottonwood produces pollen, which is carried by the wind to fertilize the ‘female’ cottonwood. The ‘female’ trees have a cottony seed inside the capsule that matures in summer. These seeds create cotton- like clouds that are helpful for wind-dispersal (figure 3).

Figure 3. “Cottony” seeds.
Fun Facts
  • P. deltoides is a larval host and/or nectar source for both the Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) and Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) butterflies.
  • Cottonwood can grow up to 100 ft tall and 60 ft wide, and quickly! As a result they are often used for making paper products.
  • Early Kansas settlers frequently planted this tree because of its fast-growing habit; as such, Eastern Cottonwood is referred to as the state's "pioneer tree."


Image Sources
Figure 1., Credit: J. S. Peterson
Figure 2., Credit: Erv Evans
Figure 3., Credit: G. Edward Johnson

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Post-Thanksgiving Post

By Laurie Sheldon

I’m a firm believer in themes - both as literary devices and design tools. Themes provide one’s ideas with structure and organization, and assist in the creation of meaning, whether expressed linguistically or artistically. That said, when I realized that this blog was to be posted on Thanksgiving, I felt the need to write something relative to the holiday - a thematic piece. Naturally, I put way too much time into finding a topic that could be both compelling and informative.


First I considered exploring the connection between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans as a means of transitioning into some deeper statement about natives in general. A day of research later and I tossed that idea out the window. Truth be known, the REAL Thanksgiving story isn’t half as lighthearted as the one we’re taught in grade school, and, quite frankly, I’d rather not be “Debbie Downer” on a national holiday.

The advice I was given as a design student - “K.I.S.S.” (keep it simple, stupid) - kept coming to mind. I stepped back and thought about Thanksgiving and native plants in terms of symbols, hoping to find an overlap for critical examination. A nightlight-sized bulb flashed on in my head, and the next thing I knew I was driving, camera on the passenger seat, in search of Quercus laevis - the turkey oak.

The Turkey Hunt

My first (and only) stop was the Jacksonville Arboretum. I’d only been there once before, and admittedly, I wasn’t paying much attention to the plant communities on the property. In fact, the only things I was sure of were that I had a better shot of finding turkey oak there than where I live, because the site’s elevation is higher than that of my beachside neighborhood, and it is miles from the salt spray that the tree is intolerant of. Nonetheless, I was on a mission, and time was quickly fleeting. I planned to leave the next morning to be with my own family for the holiday, and I knew that I would neither be up to writing a blog after driving 300+ miles in high volume traffic, nor would I have the opportunity to write on Thanksgiving Day because I already had a full schedule of family activities.

After parking, I made a bee-line toward the trailhead, where I learned that the Arboretum wasn’t always a place where one might go to commune with nature. From 1944 through 1961, the 120-acre site was used for strip mining. It was purchased in 1970 by the City of Jacksonville to meet the buffer requirement for an EPA grant that would help fund the construction of a water treatment facility in the area. For the next three decades, the site saw few humans, save for some illegal dumpers, and Mother Nature was allowed to run the show. Finally, in 2004, a group of citizens expressed an interest in the property’s potential as a natural recreation area, and by 2006 they worked out a deal to lease the site from the City. Two years later, in November of 2008, the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens officially opened to the public.  All of the trails, benches, boardwalks, and picnic tables in the Arboretum were built by community volunteers.

Lake Ray, dotted in Nuphar advena,
the native spatterdock
 With one of the trail maps in hand I got on my way. The sun was bold in the cloudless sky but the tree canopy above pinned down a layer of cool comfort; it was a perfect day for a hike. Lake Ray, just 100 feet ahead of me, begged my attention and pulled me in for a closer look.

"Back to business," I thought to myself, and returned to the Lake Loop Trail. Not ten seconds later I was sidetracked by what looked like a gopher tortoise burrow, then again by a tree with ties to Christmas - the native chestnut or chinquapin, Castanea pumila.
Gopher Tortoises are a "keystone species" in dry upland habitats. Their burrows (above left) are
used by many other animals. Castanea pumila (above right), a native member of the chestnut family.
I wound my way around the lake and veered left on to the Live Oak Trail, where I hoped to find that elusive turkey oak. No dice. The vegetation was dense - sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboretum) and two species of Lyonia flanked my left and right sides while long, meandering caudeces of Serenoa repens formed angles across the foot path. Live and laurel oaks, stunted by the lack of nutrients in the sandy soil, formed a broken canopy overhead, allowing just enough light in for an abundance of lichens to grow.
Above left: the live oak trail. Above right: Lichen-covered bark made tree trunks look pink. I believe this lichen
is Herpothallon rubrocinctum, sometimes called the Christmas lichen because of its vivid colored edges.
A field of reindeer moss
I reached a wooden footbridge - the entrance to the Rosemary Ridge Trail - and noticed a slight shift in the vegetation. Grasses held a place here where previously I'd seen none, and the tall bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) listed in the breeze. I was passing over a tiny finger of Jones Creek. The nature of the plants shifted several more times along this trail; their subtle transitions seemed to wash over the landscape. When I finally reached a small gated area I spotted a wholly foreign scene - now THIS was exciting! Pale green and silver reindeer moss (Cladonia sp.) covered the area in a fluffy blanket and looked like what a puppy might be sitting in the midst of, after investigating the inside of one's couch cushions. It was beautiful.

Ceratiola ericoides, Florida rosemary
Just a few steps beyond it, a clump of Florida rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides) sprang from a sandy patch of ground. Another new species for me! I was snapping photos left and right when I realized I still hadn't come across any turkey oak, and it was starting to get darker out.

Turning Back

I decided I should probably start making my way to the car, and (sigh) come up with a different subject for this blog. On my way out of the arboretum, I stopped for a moment to look back at Lake Ray, and came across a familiar, prickly vine: Mimosa quadrivalvis, or sensitive brier. It brought back memories of my childhood summer camp, where I was first introduced to touch-me-nots, and subsequently felt the need to find and touch as many as possible. I reached out and touched the sensitive brier, watched its leaves slowly fold up, and realized what I needed to write about. It wasn't a plant profile or a political statement. It was about being thankful for this state's extraordinary natural areas, for the mild winters that invite outdoor exploration, for the sense of wonder that wells up inside of me when I find a plant whose identity eludes me, and for the members of this organization who've familiarized the unfamiliar and helped me chip away at the unknown.

Sensitive brier, Mimosa quadrivalvis var. angustata
All photos by Laurie Sheldon; trail map c/o the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens
Going to the 2013 FNPS Conference in Jacksonville? The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens is one of the sites we'll be stopping at on Thursday, May 16. Check out Field Trip E for details.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Shoreline Restoration and Habitat Creation in Palm Beach County

The Snook Island project, a public/private restoration in Palm Beach County, was dedicated on November 2, 2012.  This project includes, planting mangroves, spartina grass, and other native plants on the shoreline and on islands and jetties built with rubble from the old drawbridge here. Some of it had been left in place after the new bridge was built and had been used for many years as a fishing pier, but it had become unsafe. So instead of transporting the spoils to a landfill, the cement blocks were used to create the substrate for the plantings and as an artificial reef for the new fishing pier. Other niceties included here are the benches, a boardwalk along the mangroves for the birdwatchers, a launch platform for kayaks and canoes, water taxi docking stations, and reconfigured parking for the trailers. So now instead of a rotting cement bridge and an eroding shoreline of the public golf course, the local residents have a beautiful recreational resource and cleaner water in the Lake Worth Lagoon.

We have been watching this project over the last couple of years, so we thought it was time for an update and a reminder of what can be accomplished by a dedicated consortium of public and private groups and agencies to benefit the community and Mother Nature.

Here's the view of this project last month from the Lake Avenue Bridge in Lake Worth:

In this photo and the one below, you can see the new fishing pier in the foreground, the turnaround area and the floating pier for the kayakers, the completed boardwalk, and the growing mangrove population along the shoreline and on the new spits of land.

Here is a view of the project last year.  Some of the mangroves had been planted a few years previously, so they were already well established, while newly planted mangroves are just getting started.


This aerial photo shows more details of one of the islands north of the Lake Avenue Bridge and closer to West Palm Beach.  Note the protected mini-estuary in the center of the island. The longer the actual shoreline is, the more habitat is created for fish, shellfish, and birds. Also, you can also see that many sabal palms were planted on windward (eastern) side of the island.
Photo from Palm Beach County.

The majority of the mangroves used for this project are red mangroves with their stilt-like root systems that do such a good job of breaking up the wakes and other waves and also creating all those nooks and crannies that are so important for wildlife.

These islands and and other land extensions planted with natives will also help absorb storm surges and high winds.

Some lessons for the rest of us...

Big environmental projects can be accomplished when local government officials and agencies, private enterprise, and non-profit groups all work together for to benefit the whole community. This project and others (which we'll cover in a future post) make this community more attractive to prospective residents and also to businesses that will cater to the higher population and that might be looking for an attractive area for new offices or manufacturing.

Patience is required for large projects because they might take several years to complete.

So now that the election madness is over, have you contacted your new state and local representatives to express your opinions? Maybe you can use this project as an example of what could be accomplished in other parts of the state. I have and will continue to do so.

Resources and previous articles on this project:

Florida's Marvelous Mangroves

Shoreline Habitat in the Intracoastal Waterway

National Estuaries Day: Sept. 24, 2011

We All Live in a Watershed!

Posted by Ginny Stibolt
Photos by Ginny Stibolt unless otherwise stated.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Plant Profile: White Mangrove, Laguncularia racemosa

By Kelsey Cooper, Rebecah Horowitz, and Katie Kara

Fig. 1. L. racemosa - pneumatocysts & paddle-
shaped leaves. Photo credit: T. Ann Williams.

This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Botany students at Jacksonville University.

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Myrtales
Family: Combretaceae
Genus: Laguncularia
Specific epithet: racemosa

Laguncularia racemosa, or white mangrove, is a sprawling, woody shrub found in coastal habitats along West Africa, Northern South America, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and Florida. It can grow to be approximately 40 feet in height. In Florida, it is known to occur along the coast from Volusia County, around the southern tip of the state and northward on the Gulf side to Levy County. Laguncularia is a monotypic genus.

Figure 2. L. racemosa - flowers.
Photo credit: Glenn Fleming.
White mangroves' paddle-like leaves are oppositely arranged along the stem (figure 2). They have extra-floral nectaries -  glands at the leaf base that produce a sugary substance that wasps and ants like to eat. In turn, it is believed that these insects assist in protecting the plant from predation. Another interesting facet of white mangrove leaves is their ability to  "sweat" out salt.

Although it tends to occur close to saltwater, this is not because it requires salt, but because it tolerates salt - an attribute which gives it a competitive edge over many other plants. L. racemosa can survive periods of inundation in part because of structures called pneumatocysts (figure 1) which provide its roots with access to oxygen.

Figure 3. L. racemosa - fruits.
Photo credit: T. Ann Williams.
White mangrove produces relatively small white clusters of  flowers which blooms in the spring, (figure 2). Their petals are distinct, meaning they are not fused or connate. Small green fruits are produced from the flowers, with ridges running down the length of each fruit (Figure 3). The calyx that once made up the white flowers remains with the fruits. As with other mangrove species, the seeds remain on the mother plant during the period of seed maturation, detach, and then spend a required amount of time floating before they can establish.

The white mangrove is an important plant for numerous reasons. It serves as a windbreak along the coastline, its roots help slow erosion, and it provides birds, fish, and crustaceans with habitat for breeding, feeding, and nesting activities. Its wood is extremely durable and resistant to dry wood termites, but don't even consider cutting it down for this quality, as it is protected by the 1996 Mangrove Trimming and Preservation Act. Finally, its flowers are valuable to bees and apiculturists alike.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day, Flowers, and Inspiration

By Laurie Sheldon

Woodrow Wilson on Armistice Day
The Eleventh Hour
A popular expression to indicate something done at the last minute (like when I wrote this blog), the root of this phrase dates back to November 11, 1918, when an armistice (an agreement to cease hostilities) between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, signifying the end of "the war to end all wars" - World War I. One year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the date as "Armistice Day", a day of parades, pride in our country's heroic servicemen, gratitude for its victory, and silent reflection at 11am. In 1938 it became a legal holiday, and in 1954 it was re-named "Veterans Day" to extend the holiday's respect to those who served in World War 2. Members of the British Commonwealth of Nations  now refer to the date as "Rememberance Day," and both France and Serbia continue to observe the date as it was originally named.

John McCrae, circa 1914
A specific flower or plant is often associated with many national holidays - clover for St. Patrick's Day, holly or poinsettia for Christmas, resurrection lilies for Easter, etc. Since its earliest inception, Armistice or Veterans day has been associated with poppies. Those who wonder why must only envision the numerous ground battles in Belgian Flanders and the soil disturbance they caused, along with the burial of soldiers in the field. Encouraged slightly warmer weather, dormant poppy seeds on the broken ground began to germinate and grow.

John McCrae
On May 2nd, 1915, a young Canadian Lieutenant was killed by an exploding German artillery shell at that site. John McCrae, the brigade's military doctor and a friend of the fallen officer, was asked to conduct the burial service. When drafting his eulogy, he  noticed the unusual juxtaposition of the bright red flowers and the graves of the fallen, and composed the following poem:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Moina Michael
More than three years later, on November 9th, 1918, the 25th Conference of the Overseas YMCA War Secretaries was in progress at their New York  headquarters. A woman named Moina Michael was working in the headquarters' reading room that day when she came across the poem in the November issue of the "Ladies Home Journal." She was so deeply moved by its last verse that she vowed to always wear a red poppy as a sign of rememberance, and wrote the following poem, entitled "We Shall Keep the Faith," in response to McCrae's piece:
Moina Michael
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
She then rushed out to purchase red poppies to bring back to headquarters, put one in her own lapel, and disbursed two dozen more to the Conference delegates. After almost two years of campaigning to have the poppy become a national symbol of remembrance, the National American Legion Conference adopted it at a convention in Cleveland.

Buddy Poppies are all made by disabled veterans
The French Poppy Lady
Anna Guérin, a representative of the French YMCA Secretariat, attended the Cleveland conference and was inspired by Michael's efforts. She decided to expand on the significance of the memorial poppy by making cloth poppies to sell, the proceeds of which would go toward restoring her war-torn country and helping children who were orphaned because of the war. After returning to France, she founded the "American and French Children's League," and sent representatives of the organization to France's World War I allies. The organization fell apart just a year later, but Guérin was determined to further its mission. She enlisted the aid of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the United States to distribute the cloth poppies in America. Millions were sold. The VFW started making them stateside, and patented the name "Buddy Poppy" for the silk flowers, which reminded the veterans of their buddies who never returned from the war.  Other countries, including England, Scotland, and Australia followed suit shortly thereafter by adopting similar poppy-centric fundraising campaigns.

Fast Forward
The seeds of Papaver rhoeas, called Flanders or
corn poppies can remain dormant in the soil for
eighty years or longer. They plants are considered
agricultural weeds in many parts of Europe.
Today, almost a century later, Veterans Day in the United States honors our servicemen and women from World Wars I & II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Persian Gulf War, and the Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. If there's one thing all Americans would agree on, it's probably that this is the greatest country on earth and it's worth fighting for.

The red poppies of McCrae's poem are Papaver rhoeas, natives of Europe. If we are to honor the poppy as a symbol of Memorial Day, shouldn't we select distinctly American poppies? It is the message carried with the flower, not the color of its petals, that shows our solidarity and support for our military and our country. Those who live on the Pacific coast will have no problem finding native poppies; golden  poppies, Eschscholzia californica, are prolific in California (and are its state flower!) In Florida, however, there are only 3 native genera in the Papaveraceae (poppy family): Argemone, Corydalis, and Sanguinaria. Of these, only one species, Argemone mexicana, has the cup-shaped flower typically associated with poppies, but, because of its prickly leaves, it would make an uncomfortable choice for wearing. Perhaps that's what makes it so appropriate for Veteran's Day, though, as it reminds us of both the pain and loss of wartime, and the clear, bright, forward face of peace.

Argemone mexicana, Mexican pricklypoppy, is a Florida native and member of the Papaveraceae.

Image Sources

Woodrow Wilson on Armistice Day
John McCrae, circa 1914
Poem illustration
Moina Michael
Buddy Poppy advertisement
Papaver rhoeas
Argemone mexicana