The Evolution of a Conference Attendee

Erysimum sp., known commonly as
wallflowers, are not native to Florida
or FNPS conferences
FNPS member Janet Bowers reflects on a half decade of conferences

I joined the Florida Native Plant Society several years ago to find out where to buy native plants. I decided to go to a chapter meeting a couple years later, which truly I enjoyed. A schedule change shortly thereafter prevented me from attending other meetings. Although I received the statewide newsletters and info about the yearly conference, I was hesitant to attend since I didn’t know anyone in the organization.

Author Janisse Ray, happily signing
books after a great lecture
The first conference I attended was in Gainesville in 2007. I actually went as a vendor to volunteer at the Bok Tower plant sale table outside. The selection at the sale was incredible. Awed by the sheer volume of plants, I quickly filled my car with purchases. When I discovered that Janisse Ray was the keynote speaker, I read her books, prepared for a great talk, and was not disappointed. Her lecture was both inspiring and entertaining. I asked her to autograph my books and chatted with her for a few minutes. I would have paid the price of admission just to hear her presentation. I met many interesting people while sitting at the plant table and attended the evening socials. While they were in interesting locations, I felt a little out of place since I didn’t know many people.

Trout lilies in bloom
In 2010 the conference was in Tallahassee. I attended Saturday and Sunday but skipped the social events. I got to know many friendly people from around the state and enjoyed the various seminars. One of the highlights for me was Bailey White’s presentation, entitled The Joys and Horrors of Inheriting an Old Family Garden. I laughed so much that tears were streaming down my face. I went to an informal lunchtime meeting and learned about a massive conservation area nearby that was covered in blooming trout lilies – the pictures were incredible. Another lecture that I absolutely loved was all about Pitcher plants as art. I had already signed up for a field trip to see pitcher plants and I like to paint water colors, so I suppose that was a given.

White pitcher plant, Sarracenia leucophylla
The field trip topped off a great two days. It was like rediscovering Florida’s wild side. Our easy walk was led by knowledgeable people eager to answer questions and share their passion for the subject. Of all the native plants we saw, the grassy orchids and pitcher plants were definitely the showstoppers. Seeing the pitcher plants made the trip to Tallahassee worthwhile and the cost of the field trip a bargain! I volunteered to drive and, as luck would have it, one of my riders was the co-author of a great Appalachian wildflower reference book. You never know who you will meet! I surely made friends at this conference. As an added bonus, there were a wide variety of vendors (from T-shirts and note cards to wild flower seeds) and a silent auction with one-of-a-kind items, for which the proceeds benefit FNPS.

Disney Wilderness Preserve
The Maitland 2011 conference featured some great speakers and field trips. I went on the Disney Wilderness Preserve hike and saw several plants I’d never seen before, in addition to jumbo bee nest high in a tree. I bought some native milkweeds and a few other plants that are quite happy in my yard.

Welcome to Plant City!
The 2012 conference will be about 5 miles from my house so I plan to volunteer for most of it. I am very excited to be welcoming native plant lovers to Plant City. The field trip lineup is excellent and the socials look great. A special homeowner workshop will take place on Saturday afternoon. Let your friends know that for $25 they can learn a ton about natives and purchase them all in the same place.

Please come and join us - there will be something for everyone!

Hoping to see you there,
Janet Bowers

Image sources, in order of their appearance:
Wallflower
Janisse Ray
Trout lilies
White pitcher plant
Disney Wilderness Preserve
Plant City Water Tower


Editing, formatting, and photo representation by Laurie Sheldon

Comments

Susan said…
When will the conference be and what presentations will be available? Thanks.
Hi Susan. Glad you asked. The conference is May 17-20th; the bulk of the speakers are scheduled on Friday the 18th and Saturday the 19th, with numerous field trips planned for the Thursday before and Sunday after. All of the presentations are listed in this agenda:
http://www.fnps.org/pages/conference/files/tentativeconferenceagenda.pdf
Hope to see you there!
Desert Dweller said…
That sounds like a great conference. Even though I'm in the southwest, it might be enjoyable just to see somnething different. I really enjoyed a few more natural areas around Eustis, while there on a project in '09.
Absolutely. The variety of speakers makes it impossible not to find something you're interested in, and plenty of the topics are applicable well beyond the Florida borderline. Then there are the field trips :) Discovering new environments through hands-on/in-the-thick-of-it activities lead by super-knowledgeable people is like a little bit of heaven for most plant lovers, myself included. Plant City is a neat little town too. You should go if you can!
Thanks so much. Hope to see you there.
I appreciate that. Hope you can go to the conference!

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