Thursday, March 29, 2012

32nd Annual FNPS Conference Field Trips

We're All Over the Map
By Cindy Liberton, 2012 FNPS Conference Committee

For many traveling to the annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference, it's all about the field trips – exploring new territories and seeing how the ecosystems are expressed in a different part of Florida.

We have something for everyone this year, from the intrepid trekker to the cultural enthusiast.

Conference Field Trips

Preserving the Hydric Heart of Florida

We start with the Green Swamp and its huge mosaic of uplands and wetlands. Four rivers, the Hillsborough, Withlacoochee, Ocklawaha and Peace, reach out to provide much of central Florida’s water supply. The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) has purchased approximately 110,000 acres, known as the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve. When combined with another 63,522 acres of adjoining publicly owned land, there are about 172,988 acres of the Green Swamp under public ownership. An additional 6,000 acres of privately owned land are protected through conservation easements. Major funding came from Preservation 2000, Save-Our-Rivers, and Florida Forever.

The three trips to this region are led by those who know where best to see its special character. Thursday's Sandhill trip will visit a successful restoration site with those who restored it, taking 200 acres from Bahiagrass to high-diversity native groundcovers. A concurrent wetlands trip will experience the opposite aspect: marsh, wet prairie, wet flatwoods, swamp, hydric hammock, cypress pond and more. On Sunday, the Wildflower Special in Tract C is a tour of the best spots to see blooms. 

The Hillsborough River Paddle Trip will immerse you in one of the rivers originating in the Green Swamp. A designated Florida paddle stream, and one of the best wildlife rivers in Florida, it goes through an extensive floodplain with almost no signs of civilization along it.

Preserving the Heart of Florida through Local Government Action
We will also celebrate the success of our counties in preserving lands and bringing them to the people; the counties of the Tampa Bay area are rich with parks and preserves. The paths in Alderman Ford Park wind along the Alafia river, and the Lettuce Lake Park boardwalk takes you to a shallow lake within the Hillsborough River popular for its ancient cypresses and limpkins. The Brooker Creek Headwaters Preserve embraces its watershed, and is managed for threatened plants and animals such as the hooded pitcher plant, southern pine lily, and gopher tortoise. Upper Tampa Bay Park features coastal and near coastal ecosystems including nicely managed flatwoods, coastal hammock, salt marshes, and mangrove swamps.

Up in Hernando County, Cypress Lakes Preserve has lakes of many kinds, but it is remarkable for the diversity of its natural communities, and its efforts to manage its uplands of scrub and scrubby flatwoods.

Conservation and Restoration Efforts

In Polk County, Lake Marion Creek centers on a scrub island surrounded by hardwood swamps and seepage streams with short ecotones. This conservation area is a joint project by Polk County’s Environmental Lands Program, the SWFWMD and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect headwater areas of Lake Marion and Reedy Creeks, which supply the Kissimmee River, the Everglades and Florida Bay.

Those who visit the Little Manatee River South Fork Track Scrub Restoration will see how a scrub and scrubby flatwood habitat was restored to protect listed species and reintroduce species such as the Florida golden aster. The Cockroach Bay Restoration Area field trip highlights one of the premier ecosystem restoration efforts ever performed for Tampa Bay, one of a series of projects being performed for the bay.

Our trip to Circle B Bar Preserve, a birder’s paradise, has easy walking trails through oak hammock, freshwater marsh, hardwood swamp and along the shore of Lake Hancock. This property was acquired by the SWFWMD as part of a massive project to protect and improve water flows and water quality in the Peace River. The Connerton trip will show you mitigation at its best; an amazing effort that relocated full-sized trees a development site to frame a swamp environment that now mimics a natural one in every way.

If you’re into the nuts and bolts of restoration, you’ll want to attend the Restoration Workshop at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Brooksville Plant Materials Center.  This research facility seeks to improve availability of native seed sources and planting materials for restoration use. You’ll learn about seed establishment techniques and equipment used to restore and enhance plant communities in Florida. 

Our State Parks Preserve the Heart of Florida

If you join us at Hillsborough River State Park, you will experience one of the eight original Florida state parks. Developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936, the park features a mature hardwood forest where you can expect to see stately oaks dripping with epiphytes and a varied understory. It also features a series of small rapids in the Hillsborough River, a rare feature for west central Florida.

Discretely tucked away behind busy U.S. 19, in Port Richey, lies Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, a linear park bordering four miles of pristine coastline on the Gulf of Mexico. Consisting of approximately 4,000 acres, 3,200 of which are of wet or submerged land, it has ten natural communities in addition to ruderal and developed areas.

The Heart of Florida's Cultural Treasures

We are thrilled that Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales and the Florida Aquarium in Tampa have opened their doors to our guests! Bok Tower Garden has added science to the historic grace of its gardens with the Rare Plant Program and its Endangered Plant Garden. The Florida Aquarium portrays the natural water systems of Florida in its exhibits and works hard through its Center for Conservation to respond to threats to ecosystems and animals in distress. 

Exploring the Human Landscape

From ancient to contemporary, landscapes have been crafted by the people who live within. The Indian Mounds Tour takes us to Pinellas County to see a nicely preserved and restored mound and a mound complex that is in the midst of a battle between preservation and active recreation forces. Pinellas Point Temple Mound, an 800-year-old Tocobagan Indian site, is a preserved and restored mound complex with ancient red bays, live oak, saw palmettos and slash pines. Maximo Park and Archaeological Site is nearly 9000 year old as a series of mounds continuously inhabited until contact.  It features remnant shell mound plant species and a gentle profile. It is a study of the complex interactions that can occur when urban meets a natural landscape and ancient ruins. 

Fast forward to today to Jim Smith's Landscape, where you will see one of the most significant native gardens in Central Florida. Property owner Jim Smith, in an all out effort, built extraordinary butterfly and all native gardens on his 10-acre property. You will also see extensive restoration to the flatwoods ecosystem; a testament to what private landowners can achieve.

Field trips fill quickly: Register for Field Trips on line at

 Image Sources (in order of appearance) and Useful Links:

Green Swamp - Jim Philips

Hillsborough River State Park

Circle Bar Ranch Preserve - Sandra Friend

Little Manatee River South Fork Track Scrub Restoration Map - FNPS

layout and compilation by Laurie Sheldon

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Plant Profile: Pogonia ophioglossoides, Rose pogonia

Figure 1. Rose pogonia showing the beard-like labellum.
Photo credit:
This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student author: Morgan Derner

Pogonia ophioglossoides is commonly known as the rose pogonia or the snakemouth orchid and is famous for its scent that smells just like raspberry.

Pogonia comes from the Greek pogon for "beard" and refers to his beard-like labellum (Figure 1), and ophioglossoides may highlight the similarities in the orchid’s leaves to that of the fern Ophioglossum (Figure 2). In the months of June through August, this orchid produces one to three flowers per plant. Mostly bees pollinate the rose pogonia, although it provides no nectar.
Figure 2. Rose pogonia growing in a dense patch.
Photo credit:

The species can be found from north Florida all the way to the Everglades. Generally, rose pogonias are found in acidic boggy conditions of marsh meadows or grassy seeping areas. They can form relatively dense patches from vegetative growth (Figure 2). Sadly, rose pogonia is also a threatened species to Florida. If the right conservation methods are used and the species is left undisturbed, future generations will be able to experience its beauty.

Works Cited:
Pogonia ophioglossoides.

Sagebud. A Directory of Plants.

United States Botanic Garden. Plant Collections.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Plant Profile: the Ghost Orchid

Figure 1. Ghost orchid flower.
Picture Credit – M.Fournier HBI.  
 This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student authors: Danielle D’Amato, Shanda Larson, Rachel FrankCommon Name:

American Ghost Orchid
Scientific Name: Dendrophylax lindenii

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Orchidales
Family: Orchidaceae
Genus: DendrophylaxSpecies: Dendrophylax lindenii

Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants. With over 30,000 species of orchids found in just about every part of the planet. While most plants are rooted in the soil, orchids can grow “in the air” with their aerial roots attached to rocks and tree trunks. Found almost exclusively in southern Florida, Haitian, and Cuban swamps, these orchids grow best in high humidity and still air.

Dendrophylax lindenii or American ghost orchid is one of the most famous of the orchids that grow in the United States. It is known as the ghost orchid because the flower can appear to be floating in the air, due to the roots blending so well with the tree. The numerous roots are generally greyish-green with white marking and radiate from the base of the plant. Unlike many other orchids, the ghost orchid is leafless, leading researchers to believe that photosynthesis may occur in the roots.

Dendrophylax lindenii is an epiphyte, meaning that it is a plant that can be found growing on living plants or plant matter, like the occasional dead tree trunk. Normally ghost orchids are found attached to the trunks of pop ash or pond apple trees, but have also been seen on some cypress, live oak, and royal palm trees.

Each ghost orchid can bloom one to ten flowers that open one at a time from May to September; each flower can last up to two weeks. The white flowers are up to 5 centimeters across and 10 centimeters long. The flower itself has three green sepals, two green petals, and one larger white petal. This lip or labellum forks at the end, resembles the back legs of a jumping frog due to the elongated tips twisting slightly downward (Figure 1).
Figure 2. Giant sphinx moth, showing long proboscis.
Picture credit: Esculapio.

The major pollinator for these plants is the giant sphinx moth, which is the only local insect with a long enough proboscis (Figure 2). During hot and humid summer nights, the flower emits a strong apple-like scent to attract the moth. As these moths feed on the nectar, they pick up pollen on their heads and carry it to the next orchid. Seeds are produced 10-12 months after pollination.

The rare ghost orchid is listed as an endangered species, protected by both state and federal laws from unauthorized collection. The primary reason for the ghost orchid becoming endangered is due to humans poaching the plant. Climate change is another reason for the orchid’s decline. Florida has been experiencing freezes in the winter, and this affects the orchid’s growth. Approximately 2,000 Dendrophylax lindenii are thought to exist in Florida today. Ghost orchids can be purchased from authorized venders, but growing a seedling can be challenging.

It is possible to go and see these plants in their natural environment by visiting areas such as Big Cypress Swamp, the Fakahatchee Swamp, and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary located near Naples, FL.

Basic orchid care for beginners. About Orchids n. pag. About orchids . Web. 7 Nov 2011. .

BellaOnline's Orchids Editor. Web. 6 Nov 2011. .

Durkee, Debra. How to Grow Ghost Orchids Flowers. eHow home. 2011.

Ghosts of the Fakahatchee Swamp. Linda’s Orchid Pages. 1996-2011.

Ghost Orchid. Mahalo. Learn Anything. 2011.

Kingsley Taylor, Walter. "Dendrophylax lindenii." Wild florida photo n. pag. Wild florida photo. Web. 6 Nov 2011. .

Little, Chris. Ghost Orchid Info. Your Dendrophylax Lindenii Information Location.

Subrahmanyam, Prem. Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii). Florida’s Native and Naturalized Orchids. 2008.

Taylor, Susan. "Orchid plant profile-Dendrophylax lindenii." Minerva WebWorks LLC

Also see our previous blog posts: Florida Native Plant Society Blog: Ghost Orchid Controversy and Florida Native Plant Society Blog: Ghost Orchid Controversy Resolved

Reasons to Register NOW for the FNPS Conference

By Cindy Liberton, Hernando Chapter FNPS
Conference Committee Member

Registration is now open at If you know you’re going, you should register early. If you’re undecided, I'm going to try to persuade you! Consider this a sneak preview. Watch this blog for more details in the weeks to come... 

Hosted by the Hernando and Suncoast Chapters of the Florida Native Plant Society

Reasons to Register 

Reason #1: There’s Nothing Like It
Florida Native Plant Society President, Steve Woodmansee sums it up: "The FNPS conference is the premier annual gathering for all native plant lovers. Folks of various backgrounds from the bluffs of the Apalachicola River to the sub-tropical archipelago of the Florida Keys and all parts in between have an opportunity to join in fellowship, share ideas, strategize, and learn about the 'whys' and 'how's' of conserving and protecting Florida's flora."

Reason #2: The Field Trips
Early registration increases your chance of getting the top choice field trip you want! We have selected trips that immerse attendees in the natural heritage of the region. Led by plant experts and local hosts—on both Thursday May 17 and Sunday May 20 - the 20+ field trips are diverse in focus and difficulty, from strolling to paddling to pounding over tough terrain. Both full- and half-day excursions are offered. These trips fill quickly—many will sell out! Read the descriptions and see the map at:

The Green Swamp includes the headwaters of the Hillsborough, Withlacoochee, Little Withlacoochee, Oklawaha
and Peace River. Three field trips explore different aspects of this vast system: sandhill restoration, wetlands,
and wildflowers. Image by Jim Phillips, SWFWMD 

Reason #3: The People
Janet Bowers, from Suncoast Chapter (watch for her upcoming blog post) has attended the last three conferences. “You never know who you will meet and are sure to find friends at the conferences,” says Janet. Sid Taylor, Hernando Chapter, adds “There’s something for everyone: scholars, perpetual students, backyard naturalists, land managers, scientists, landscapers, butterfly enthusiasts, foresters, gardeners, outdoor lovers, and kids of all ages.” The diversity of people and professions offer points of view that create a lively exchange of ideas in the sessions, halls, and socials. 

Our Friday night social at Gigi's will bring out the little kid in you. A bit of fantasia in
Plant City, fanciful signage leads you through a labyrinth of paths and waterways
highlighted by whimsical sculptures and improbable waterfalls.
Image by Mark Hutchinson

Speaking of Socials, attendees are in for a treat. Thursday night offers a casual get together at the conference hotel, with an open mic, so start rehearsing now. On Friday evening, it is a short drive to the whimsical Gigi's Country Garden where art and water features combine in the most surprising ways. On Saturday, we’re thrilled to invite participants to Crystal Springs Preserve for our gala banquet. See Shirley Denton’s post on the history.

For our annual banquet, we will journey to Crystal Springs Preserve for an enchanting May evening waterside.
Crystal Springs is a Second Magnitude spring, discharging 40 million gallons a day. Image by Mark Hutchinson

Reason #4: The Agenda
Our theme is “protecting the natural heart of Florida” and we’ve honored it with our sessions. This year’s tracks - conservation and ecology, native plants in the landscape, current issues, native plant research, and FNPS initiatives - feature expert presenters on the status of native plants in natural areas, on the roadsides, at home, and in your community. Whether your interest is promoting the greenways, protecting the waterways or bringing a sense of place to your home landscape, you will leave knowing more about what you can do, and new ways to get it done!

For General Sessions, the conference will offer three unique perspectives on preserving the Florida landscape. Friday morning, you’ll hear from Tampa Bay Times Columnist and author Jeff Klinkenberg who has defined the Real Florida through the people who create its unique culture. On Saturday, Doug Tallamy from the University of Delaware returns to expand upon his work with Your Role in Building Biological Corridors: Networks for Life. We end the conference program on Saturday afternoon with Hillary Swain, Executive Director of Archbold Biological Station, with a prescription for Saving the Physical, Liquid, and Emotional Heart of Florida.

One of last year's sessions, which was standing room only. Discussions of topics spilled into
hallways and continued into the evening events. Photo by Ginny Stibolt.
Reason #5: Location, Location, Location
Each year, the Society’s annual conference brings us to a different area of the state to explore its unique character and provides attendees with current information on topics of interest. This year’s conference is held east of the Tampa Bay area and just south of the Green Swamp.

“Suncoast is proud to be hosting the 2012 Conference,” says Shirley Denton, Chapter President. “We are really proud of our local conservation areas, some of the best in the state, and looking forward to showing them off. We’re also enthusiastic about our venue – a really modern facility in an old Florida community. I’m really glad that we can bring to FNPS a strong local heritage, great nature, and wonderful talks. We’re very much enjoying working with our co-hosts, the Hernando Chapter, and together we look forward to presenting one of the best conferences ever." 

Native plants for sale? Yes, please! Photo by Ginny Stibolt.
Reason #6: The Shopping
We’ll have a wealth of native plants for central Florida landscapes! The conference site’s beautiful courtyard may be the best ever showcase for our plant vendors. We’ll also have a fine selection of arts and crafts, books, and the fabulous silent auction.

The early bird gets the worm, its pick of conference hotels,
AND still has cash left over! Illustration by Laurie Sheldon
Reason #7: Save Money
The discounted early-bird registration rates end on April 16 for both the conference and lodging... so what are you waiting for???

How to Register

Conference Registration
Register online at before April 17th for the early-bird rate. On-line registration ends May 4. Lunches are provided with advance registration only.

Conference Lodging
Make sure you get the special conference hotel rate by reserving your room now before April 17th! Please mention FNPS when registering. Continental breakfast is included at both conference hotels.

Conference Hotel: Red Rose Inn - $69 conference room rate!
(single/double occupancy +12% tax)
2011 North Wheeler Street
Plant City, FL 33563
Reservations: (813) 752-3141

Secondary Conference Hotel: Holiday Inn Express
2102 North Park Road
Plant City, FL 33563
Reservations:(813) 719-3800 Preserving the Natural Heart of Florida is sponsored by the Florida Native Plant Society with major support from the University of Florida's IFAS, Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

FNPS Trip to the Exumas

Diary of an Island Hopper
Written by Richard Brownscombe, edited by Laurie Sheldon

February 17, 2012
Miami to the Exumas
Today we pushed off the dock and embarked on the first and longest leg of our journey - the crossing from the Miami River to Nassau. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a moment of boredom in the 16 hours it took to reach our destination, which we spent eagerly anticipating the next week’s adventures and soaking up our new surroundings. As our boat plowed through the glassy blue, two varieties of flyingfish (Atlantic and Oceanic two-wing) leapt ahead of us, using their long pectoral fins to clear a floating mat of gulfweed.  Porpoises darted alongside and under the bow until they finally ran out of their seemingly inexhaustible energy.

February 18, 2012
R/V Coral Reef II - our transportation and 10-day home
We finally reached the Great Bahamas Banks and felt like we were in a tropical oasis. The carbonate limestone platform is only 25 meters deep, unlike the surrounding areas, which are incredibly steep. As such, the water looked like a shock of turquoise (especially when compared to the dark blue-green we’d been travelling over) and seemed straight out of a Conde Nast magazine. While in Nassau we visited a 1797 colonial jail round-house which was converted in 1873 to a library-museum of reading nooks with shuttered windows and old wood display boxes filled with all manner of artifacts, shells, and island basketry.

February 19, 2012
Rhachicallis americana (Hogbush)
We moored overnight at Allen's Cay in the Exumas Land and Sea Park and awoke to perfect warm weather and clear, calm water. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to deal with going cool water snorkeling, but after a minute or five my body temperature had acclimated, allowing me to concentrate on the world beneath the surface. The exquisitely-colored fish and coral seascape kept all of us captivated. An hour later, the ever-watchful Captain John came in the Zodiac to shuttle us back aboard the Coral Reef II to eat. Lunch exceeded my expectations - and how! Although it’s technically a research vessel, the gourmet spread was befitting of a luxury yacht.

Strumpfia maritima (Pride-of-Big-Pine) - rare in Florida but
ubiquitous in the sandy dunes and coastlines of the Exumas
After lunch, we took a botanical hike with Steve W., FNPS President, then created our first plant inventory and collected uncertain and abundant specimens. Both the botanical and common names were serious challenges for me - there were just too many of them, and not enough time to learn them all. Many of my shipmates were well versed in plant-speak; they repeated the names for me and pointed out species characteristics with tireless patience. Rhachicallis americana (Hogbush) was ubiquitous, and chameleon-like in form: some were flat, and growing in rock crevices, some resemble bonsai "trees", and others reminded me of the whip-like Ocotillo. Strumpfia maritima (Pride-of-Big-Pine) became a favorite with its wind-shaped form and delicate pink flowers. We coined another "Baby Powder" for its tiny sweet-scented white flowers; its botanical name was Antirhea myrtifolia. The specimen "landscape" plant everywhere was Joewood, Jacquinia keyensis. Clearly, its form was the byproduct of life under harsh circumstances.

February 22, 2012
Encyclia altissima  -  Hodge’s Butterfly Orchid
Each cay has been different, but all have had new botanical, archeological, and/or marine life to discover. We happened upon Hodge's butterfly orchid, Encyclia altissima, which had inflorescences so tall they were beyond our reach, and excitedly gathered around to capture it on film. On another cay we found a Tillandsia utriculata specimen that was three feet in diameter! We snorkeled into two caves with sun holes and stalactites hanging from their roofs. One of the caves was abundant with fish, which seemed to expect us to feed them.

February 25, 2012
Susan Walcutt hiding behind
Tillandsia utriculata (Giant Wild pine)
Today was our last day. We took the Zodiac through a mangrove-lined salt slough, where we saw a small shark and several rays, and emerged onto an idyllic beach. The water was warm and relaxing, and the setting stunningly beautiful. We lingered there, breathing in the scenery with a mix of sadness and ecstasy.

February 27, 2012
We arrived in Miami today, and must go back to our lives as we knew them. Our trip would not have been the same without:
  • Captains John Rothchild and Lou Roth, whose attention to safety and love and knowledge of the Exumas were critical factors in getting us there and back happy and whole,
  • Steve Woodmansee, who took us on“death-walks” in the hot sun and generously shared his unmatched botanical expertise,
  • Orvis, who provided an unstoppable flow of gustatory delights,
  • Patty Phares, who added an element organization to the mix - and prizes, and
  • All of the other shipmates, including Mary Rose, Annie Schmidt, and Susan Walcutt, whose wonderfully unique personalities made our traveling experience that much richer.
Our bold explorers
All photos except group c/o Richard Brownscombe; group pic c/o Capt.’s Lou Roth and John Rothchild

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Plant Profile: American Lotus (Nelumbo Lutea)

Figure 1: Nelumbo lutea flower. Figure credit: Robert H. Mohlenbrock.
USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide
to plant species
. Northeast National Technical Center,
Chester. Courtesy of USDA NRCS Wetland Science Institute.

This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student authors: Kelsey Irvine & Irene Julian

The American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is an unusual plant, as it can survive floating in fresh water! It is a plant native to the hot and cold climates of the United States and Canada, including Florida, as shown by the blue shading in Figure 2. The American lotus is found near the floodplains and tributaries of rivers, as well as muddy lake margins, marshes, and swamps. If you would like to see this lovely lotus, Lake Okeechobee and the Glades County would be excellent places to visit.

The American lotus grows mainly in the summer and can extend up to 3 feet in water! Because it can be relatively large, the plant requires ample depth to grow and space for its leaves to float along the surface of the water. The showy flowers are yellow/white in color and are typically 6 inches in diameter (Figure 1).

Figure 2. Native Distribution of Nelumbo lutea in the a. U.S. and b. Florida. Figures from
Many people confuse the American lotus (genus Nelumbo) with the water lily (genus Nymphaea), but an easy way to distinguish between them is to analyze their leaves (Figure 3). The water lily has indentations or cuts on its leaves, but the American lotus has leaves that are flat and circular (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Comparison of a. Nelumbo and b. Nymphaea leaves. Figure credits: R.H. Mohlenbrock and M. Manske.

In the past, humans have eaten parts of the American lotus for food: the roots baked like a potato, the seeds toasted like nuts, and the leaves cooked like lettuce leaves. They can be used for decoration along with other flowers. These fragrant water flowers are gifts to the waters of Florida, and can be a beautiful addition to your backyard pond.


Plants Profile: Nelumbo lutea. 2011. Retrieved from US Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service website:

American lotus. (2011). Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida. Retrieved from:

Native Plant Database: Nelumbo lutea. (2011). Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved from:

Gann, George D, Kieth A. Bradley, and Steven W. Woodmansee. Rare Plants of South Florida: Their history, conservation, and restoration 2002. The Institute of Regional Conservation. Retrieved from: