The purpose of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) is to promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. This blog presents ideas and information to further the cause of Florida's native plants and ecosystems.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to growing new native
plant species is obtaining seeds and germplasm for them. Germplasm is a term
used to describe any plant material used in propagation. It could be seeds,
cuttings, air layers, or tissue (root or otherwise). By and large, the plant nursery industry often
prefers cuttings or tissue culture as they present the easiest/cheapest way to
mass produce plants, as well as preserve certain plant characteristics. Seeds
are generally the preferred method ecologically, as each seed will present a
unique set of genetic material thereby assuring genetic diversity within a
species and preventing things like artificial genetic drift (i.e. plants will
no longer be selected for survivability), disease susceptibility, inbreeding,
Not all plants are the same when it comes to harvesting,
storing, & germinating seed/fruit. First things first, when harvesting wet
or pulpy fruit, in general it is best to clean remove the flesh and have clean
seeds. If you don’t have time to clean the fruit right away, store it in a
lidless bucket with some water for less than 24 hours (Figure 1). If you need more time
place them on some netting in the sun so that the flesh may dry out. It is okay
if ants eat the flesh off the fruits for you. Then you can soak the fruit in a
bucket for 24 hours or less and clean them. You may need to cover the
bucket/netting to prevent the birds from eating all your harvest. For plants
with very small seed (e.g. Corkystem passionflower, Ficus spp., or blueberries),
one can crush them on newspaper and let it dry out over the afternoon. Once
dry, it is not necessary to painstakingly separate the seed from the dried pulp
when storing them. Some plants, such as native Crotons & Heliotropes, have
seed in fruit which is a capsule that dehisce (fancy botanical jargon for
opening up), one can collect these fruit and place them in a paper bag in a
cool dry place, under an air conditioner vent, or even in the sun (Figure 2). The capsules
will pop open and eject the seeds, so it is important to keep it tightly closed.
For some plants, such as many wildflowers, it is unnecessary to clean them, and
they can go straight into storage containers.
Once seeds are clean, store them in paper bags, paper
envelopes or glassine envelopes like the ones from the Post Office (Figure 3). If they
are in a container be sure and have it ventilated at the top by placing a hole
in the lid of the jar/can. Store all seed containers in a cool dry place that
is well ventilated. Heat, especially moist heat, is the biggest threat to seed
storage. Although there may be some exceptions such as cold storage, seeds
should never be kept in sealed containers or plastic bags of any sort or they
may have fungal issues and rot. For some species, the older the seed, the less
likely it will germinate.
Some other tips on seed storing:
• Temperate plant species generally have seed that store
well over time, and they may need a period of cold in order to germinate (e.g.
Dahoon Holly, Oaks, & blueberries).
• Tropical plant species from moist habitats (such as
hardwood hammocks) and palms generally do not have seed that store well over
time (e.g. Lignum vitae, capers, & strongbacks).
• Large seed, wildflower seed, and legume seed (members of
the pea family) often have seed that may store for many years (e.g. Jamaican
dogwood, milk peas, skyblue clustervine, & tickseed).
FNPS members John Lawson of Silent Native Nursery and Rob
Campbell of Signature Palms contributed to this article.
Other Names: Dwarf Mulberry, Beautybush, Filigree, French Mulberry, Beautyberry
Introduction: Purple berries clinging around stems with bright green foliage make Callicarpa americana stand out from late summer to winter. It is easy to see how beautyberry got its common name. Don’t let its looks fool you though; Callicarpa is more than just eye candy. Callicarpa americana is useful medicinally and as food for wildlife and people. American Beautyberry is not fussy about location, soil or light requirements. This tough plant is an American Beauty in every sense of the word. Its name comes from Greek: Kalli, means beautiful; Karpos means fruit.
Historic Medicinal Uses:
Native Americans had many uses for beautberry, both internally and externally. According to Taylor (1940), Native Americans used beautyberry externally as a steam and topical application. All parts of the pla…
Australian pines seem to be everywhere in the coastal regions in the bottom half of Florida. Their name is deceiving because, while they are native to Australia, they aren't pines or even conifers. They are flowering trees with separate male and female flowers, and what look like needles are really green twiglets with close-set circles of tiny leaves that drop at the first sign of a drought. In the photo to the right, the light-colored lines are where leaves where once attached. Most of the photosynthesis takes place in the twiglets.
There are three species of Australian pine (Casuarina spp) that have been imported into Florida for various purposes. They were widely planted to soak up the "swamps" in Florida, stabilize canals, and hold beaches. Unfortunately for Florida's ecosystems, the "pines" accomplished all this and more--like seeding prolifically, growing five feet or more per year, producing dense shade, and emitting an herbicide that kills most a…
These perky natives have numerous and endearing charms. Authors and growers disagree about the proper Latin name, but they are in complete agreement that more people should use more coonties in their landscapes.
What's to like?
Coonties are spritely and graceful in their form, tough as the dickens, bright green all year, and host plant for the beautiful blue atala
hairstreak butterfly. In fact, coonties are the only larval food for atalas. You can use them as specimen or accent plants, mass them together for ground cover, or use them in a line as a border. And to top that off, they have an interesting sex life. A subject we hardly ever get to talk about around here. More on that later. See more in Roger Hammer's 1995 Palmetto article, The Coontie and the Atala Hairstreak.
Slow growers, coonties are more expensive to buy than some other natives by relative size, but don't let that put you off. They are well worth the investment. They can be planted in full sun or fairly …