Thursday, June 28, 2012

Plant Profile: Devil’s Walking Stick, Aralia Spinosa

Figure 1. Aralia spinosa, devil's walking stick;
note the compound leaves and terminal flower
arrangement. Photo credit: Gil Nelson.
By Nnamdi Ofodile

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

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Apiales
Family: Araliaceae
Genus: Aralia
Specific epithet: spinosa

Aralia spinosa, Devil’s walking stick, is the only Aralia species in Florida (Figure 1) and is an aromatic spiny shrub/small tree of the Ginseng or Araliaceae family. You can find this plant in the northern and central
counties of the state, and in moist soils that are partially shaded by a canopy, where it typically grows between 12 and 15 feet high.

Figure 2. A. spinosa with notable prickles.
Photo credit: Shirley Denton.
Figure 3. Drupes of devil's walking stick.
Photo credit: Virginia Ducey.
Lean against the thin trunk of Devil's walking stick and you'll quickly figure out where the plant's name comes from. The stems are armed up and down with exceptionally sharp spines, hence spinosa (Figure 2). To add insult to injury, the petioles and surfaces of the pinnately-compound leaves, which can be 3 feet long and equally wide, are covered in pointed prickles. The flowers are creamy white and have a lemony scent. Undeterred by the prickles, pollinators such as bees, butterflies visit the flowers for the nectar (Figure 1). The fruit, a purplish-black berry-like drupe, is eaten by birds during autumn months (Figure 3).


As with other members of the Ginseng family, this species has medicinal properties. It has been used to treat tooth aches, fever, and snakebites, among other ailments. In the Victorian era, A. spinosa was planted as a novelty for its tropical foliage and prickly stems.

• 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.

Image Sources
Figure 1.
Figure 2.
Figure 3.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pollinator Week Wrap-up: Advanced Butterfly Gardening

By Laurie Sheldon

Edith Smith
In the spirit of Pollinator week, the Ixia chapter invited butterfly breeder Edith Smith to speak at their meeting in Jacksonville last week. Two days later, Edith gave the chapter a tour of Shady Oak Butterfly Farm in Brooker, FL, which she and her husband Stephen own and operate.

At the Meeting
Because the majority of our chapter members are well versed in the basics of butterfly gardening, Edith's presentation focused on some of the more advanced concepts involved in butterfly and moth rearing, including nutritional requirements, parasitoids, and diseases of viral and fungal origin. She also made sure we knew that, contrary to popular belief, butterflies do not sleep in "butterfly houses" (bird houses with narrow vertical entrances).

Butterflies "puddling" on manure.
Photo credit: Kris and Kevin Brady
"Puddling," a phenomenon wherein butterflies gather to sip from wet sand or soil, is an important activity to males of the species. They do so to get the nutrients they need to bolster their fertility. In the wild, males frequently feed on cow pies and carrion. Rather than incorporating damp sand into your butterfly habitat, Edith recommended providing manure or damp cat food to maintain the health of male lepidopterans. She also has nectar feeders filled with Gatorade at her farm.

We also learned that not having the space for host plants does not preclude you from raising Painted Lady caterpillars and butterflies. Stonefly Painted Lady Artificial Diet can be used as a substitute, which is good news for educators and apartment dwellers alike.

These tachinid fly larvae just emerged from the
adjacent chrysalis. Photo credit: S. Altizer.
Unlike parasites, which feed on other organisms but don't necessarily kill them, parasitoids mean certain death. All stages of the lepidopteran lifecycle are threatened by parasitoids - from eggs and caterpillars to chrysalises, and adults. Tiny wasps can inject their eggs into the soft shells of butterfly eggs; these hatch and eat the matter inside of the caterpillar egg, then use their mandibles to cut open the egg and escape. Newly formed chrysalises can also be attacked in a similar manner. Adult wasp and fly eggs will infest the bodies of caterpillars as well, either by injecting their eggs in with a stinger-like structure, or laying eggs on foliage that the caterpillars will eat. Aleiodes, brachnoid, chalcid/yellow chalcid, copidosoma, eulophid, ichneuman and trichogramma wasps, euplectrus ectoparasitoids, and tachinid flies are common parasitoids in Florida.

Fungal and Viral Diseases
Nuclear polyhedrosis (NPV) is one of the more contagious viruses lepidopterans are susceptible to. It basically causes caterpillars to melt. Beauveria is a fungal disease that attacks caterpillars (and many other insects). Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) and Nosema are single-celled spores that grow and multiply with their host organism. OE is exclusive to Danaidae, the Monarch family of butterflies. For more information about OE, see the resource list at the bottom of the page.

Left: Gypsy moth infected with NPV. Photo credit: Whitney Cranshaw.
Right: Monarch larva infected with Beauveria. Photo credit: S. Altizer.
Several years ago, I gave a milkweed plant with monarch eggs to a 9-year old boy as a birthday gift, hoping to interest him in something other than video games. A week later I called to see how the caterpillars were doing, and he told me they started producing a bright green liquid, then died. You can imagine how awful I felt, especially because I just didn't understand what happened. I'd reared hundreds of butterflies in my lifetime, and never came across anything of the sort. Edith told us that the bright green "puke" was caused by insecticide! Apparently, the plant was sprayed with a systemic product before reaching the nursery where I purchased it. Lesson learned. Be careful where you buy your plants from.

The Ixia chapter gathered around as butterflies took flight.
When we say White Peacocks like
Florida natives, believe it!
Butterfly Release
Junonia coenia, Common Buckeye
After her presentation, Edith took out a large mesh box containing about 20 butterflies native to the Jax area. We followed her outside to the grassy open space adjacent to Regency Square Library and released them one at a time. There were Buckeyes, White Peacocks, Monarchs, and a Phaeon Crescent - some took off immediately, while others seemed content to perch on our hands and necks. The evening was perfect for generating interest and enthusiasm about visiting Edith's farm that weekend.

At the Farm
The Shady Oak Butterfly Farm Complex
We drove in a caravan Saturday morning to the tiny city of Brooker, about 65 miles southwest of downtown Jacksonville. Edith greeted us and we promptly entered the complex, which contains multiple greenhouses, breeding "apartments", an egg washing/early stage containment room, an outdoor bleaching station, a late stage containment/feeding area, a screened vivarium, a chrysalis storage room and a shipping station. The amount of work they do at this facility is incredible. If you think it's hard to keep a small family fed, imagine the effort it takes to feed thousands of butterflies every day - especially when they are in hundreds of separate containers!

Inside one of the greenhouses
The greenhouses are full of host plants, predominantly milkweed, since the highest demand is for Monarchs. Vines, grown espalier-style, include two species of Aristolochia and plenty of Passiflora sp.

From Mating to Shipping
All of the mating and egg-laying is done in the "apartments," which have two layers of screening to prevent predators like mice and snakes from entering. Edith told us that mice have a penchant for butterfly abdomens, but will leave the rest of the body in tact (yuck!).

Once the apartment females lay eggs, they are removed and taken to a washing facility. Because the first meal a freshly hatched caterpillar eats is its own egg, it is important that the eggs are free of diseases like OE. Eggs are washed in a solution of 19 parts water to 1 part bleach - this must be done very quickly, because the eggs will begin to dissolve after just over a minute. After they have been disinfected and dried they are put into small plastic containers with mesh lids where they will hatch and grow for a short while.

Outside of the "apartments"
They are subsequently transferred into larger boxes - the number of caterpillars in each box is written with a wet-erase marker on the lid. If and when a caterpillar dies, a note is made on the lid. When two die, the whole box will be frozen and destroyed. Yes, it is heartbreaking, but it is a necessity. They go to great lengths to prevent the spread of disease and make sure that customers receive healthy caterpillars. They also send caterpillars for laboratory testing each month, and bleach all containers after each use for the same reasons.

Shipment is done in nesting boxes with a faux-ice cool-pack, which slows the metabolic process. Caterpillars and eggs travel in small plastic containers, chrysalises go into special foam inserts, and adult butterflies are put in glassine envelopes, with wings positioned in the same manner they hold them while asleep. By the time the package heads out the door it is able to withstand the Samsonite gorilla test.

Edith gave us several awesome demonstrations. The first one was to illustrate the one of the functions of wing scales - waterproofing! She told us at the meeting that butterflies can fly from under water, but seeing is definitely believing. Rather than describing it, just check out this video:

Another thing she showed us was how moths are situated in the large cocoons they form. These are basically just fluffy sleeping bags, and can be cut open to reveal a pupating moth without injury.

Summing Up
With all of the forces working against butterflies it's easy to get a bit choked up. The important thing to remember is that, even though the vast majority of these beautiful creatures will fall victim to one of numerous diseases, parasitoids, or predators, if they all lived we simply would not have enough food to sustain them. It is nature's way of dealing with carrying capacity, keeping them in check, or maintaining ecological balance - whatever you call it, it's nothing short of wonderful.

Image Sources*
Manure puddling
Chrysalis and fly larvae
*unlisted photos were taken by Ixia chapter members Ginny Stibolt and Laurie Sheldon

Additional Resources
Shady Oak Butterfly Farm:, and

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Plant Profile: Canada Goldenrod

By Sarah Bailey

Figure 1. Solidago canadensis var. scabra.
Photo credit: Shirley Denton.
This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Plant Taxonomy students at Jacksonville University.

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Solidago
Specific Epithet: canadensis
Variety: scabra

Botanical Name: Solidago canadensis var. scabra
Common Name: Canada Goldenrod

Although Solidago canadensis var. scabra (Canada goldenrod) is found primarily in the northwestern portions of Florida, it grows in the state's interior as well (Fig. 2). You can find this plant in meadows, waterways, ditches along roads, and large fields that are not tended to or grazed by animals. Its growing season extends from July to October.

Figure 2. Distribution in Florida.
Canada goldenrod belongs to the Asteraceae (sunflower) family and can easily be identified by its panicles of bright yellow flowers (Fig. 3). Individual flowers are relatively small and found at the tips of the stems. Leaves are alternately arranged along the plant's stems and are bigger at the base of the plant. The leaves are covered with tiny hairs, have jagged edges, and are 5-12.5 cm long. The stems can range from 20-214 cm in height. S. canadensis is rhizomatous - it has underground stems that produce roots and upward-growing shoots. Goldenrod fruit is an achene, which is a dry fruit that does not open to release its seed. Native bees, honeybees, and butterflies play a large role in pollinating the flowers, especially in the late summer and fall. It also attracts pollen-eating beetles!

Figure 3. Solidago inflorescence.
Photo credit: Shirley Denton.
Growth Habit
Solidago canadensis var. scabra is somewhat difficult to control - its rhizomes enable it to form large beds. In some areas it is considered a weed and is currently on the Invasive Species List in Europe and East Asia. To prevent unwanted spreading, consider growing it in a pot, so it does not outcompete other plants for space in a garden. It is also useful to remove the flower heads before the seeds ripen to prevent spreading.

There are many uses for Canada goldenrod. It is used to re-vegetate disturbed habitats because it is fast-growing and able to spread easily. It is also useful as food for cattle, sheep, and horses! The plant has even been used as a natural dye for wool. It has many medicinal properties. In fact, the name Solidago means "to make whole or to heal". Infusions of the flowers and roots have been used to treat fevers, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms including sore throats and body aches.

Coladonato, Milo. 1993. Solidago canadensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S.
     Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory
     (Producer).  Available: [2012, April 3].
Pavek, P.L.S. 2011. Plant guide for Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). USDA-Natural Resources
     Conservation  Service. Pullman, WA.
Solidago canadensis: Canada Goldenrod (2002). Earl J.S. Rook. Retrieved on April 4, 2012, from

Image sources
Figure 1.
Figure 2.
Figure 3.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Celebrate Pollinator Week: Support your pollinators

The US Senate unanimously approved the motion to designate the last week in June as pollinator week. Who says the Senate can't agree on anything? In the past five years the pollinator week celebration has become an international event. This year it's June 18--24.

Much of the focus of pollinator week is on our food supply.  Every third bite of food we eat depends upon pollinators. But since 2006, the colony collapse disorder of the European honeybees has alarmed the beekeeping experts. Honeybees have been used as pollinators for hire. Beekeepers move their hives into an area where a large crop (often a monoculture) awaits pollinators in order for fruit to be formed. For example, a female squash flower, needs to be visited eight to ten times by bees or wasps that have also visited the male flowers for a fruit to form.

The Pollinator Partnership is the sponsoring agency for the pollinator week. They encourage you to "Invite pollinators to your neighborhood by planting a pollinator friendly habitat in your garden, farm, school, park or just about anywhere!" They provide many resources including posters of pollinators and guidelines and suggested plants to use in your landscape. Note: these are quite broad and most of Florida is included in the Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Forest Province, (an 11 MB pdf file) with a range from the Mid-Atlantic states to eastern Texas. You'll have the most success, if you also use more local resources for native plants suggestions such as the FNPS website:

In addition, the Pollinator Partnership keeps a calendar of pollinator events and allows you or your group to add an event to their calendar for free publicity. What are you waiting for?

What does a European bee and huge agricultural crop production have to do with the Florida Native Plant Society?

The problems of large agriculture operations can serve as a trigger to help ordinary people, like you and me, take action. Plus, our native pollinators are extremely important for native fruit production, which feeds our birds and other wildlife.

We can all have a positive effect on our neighborhood or community ecosystems by encouraging the pollinators. Smaller edible gardening operations can rely solely on the native pollinators for fruit production, if the growers use organic methods for crop production and use ecosystem gardening. This means that in areas near their crops, the growers plant native plants (or simply allow them to grow), build brush piles, and leave some areas of soil un-tilled, uncovered, and unmulched so solitary bees and wasps have cover and places to build their nests.

See my post "Jaret Daniels and His Charismatic Pollinators" for details on his program working with Florida farmers. They include several rows of native wildflowers in the midst of, or at the edge of, their fields. Research has shown that when these rows are left untilled for several years, that the pollinator count is much higher.

FNPS has a L-O-N-G History of Supporting Pollinators

To prove this point, here are some links to old Palmetto articles:

1) A 1995 piece by Roger Hammer, "The Coontie and the Atala Hairstreak."

Roger includes some detailed history. Did you know that a product made from the root of our native coontie was used as an ingredient in Animal Crackers? He relates how the atala hairstreak was almost lost:
"Several factors probably contributed to the atala's initial demise, including habitat destruction, freezes, hurricanes, spraying for mosquitoes, larval food competition with the echo moth (Sierarctia echo), over-enthusiastic butterfly collectors, and--most devastating of all--the wholesale harvesting of its larval food plant.

"Fortunately for the atala, and for the butterfly gardeners of southern Florida, a small population persisted (or re-colonized from the nearby Bahamas) on Key Biscayne in Dade County. This population was discovered in November, 1979, and local conservationists began to rear larvae on cultivated coontie plants and move them back into natural areas within the atala's historic range."
2) "Butterfly Gardening with Native Plants" by Eve Hannahs was published in 1984. She advises,
"To have resident populations of butterflies in your own yard, food for the larvae must be included in the garden. … And, of course, you may nevermore use insecticides or pesticides. (In 1979, Butterfly Conservation was adopted as a state project for The Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc. to educate the members concerning the plight of the butterfly, and to encourage saving butterfly habitat and the planting of "butterfly gardens." The project was so successful that it was adopted by the National Council of State Garden Clubs, Inc. in 1983, and is now promoted nationwide.)
3) "Butterfly Counting" by Mary Keim was published in 1993. The subtitle is "Finding butterflies involves finding the plants they live on." She related that the Christmas butterfly count over a 15-mile-diameter area was organized and carried out by various FNPS members on June 26, 1993. She said,
 "Butterfly watching is a natural offshoot of your enthusiasm for native plants. Find and join a butterfly count next year, and get started on your butterfly garden."

There are several excellent books available for Florida native plants that we've listed along the right-hand side of this blog. In addition, here are a couple of butterfly gardening books specifically for Florida.  Get started right away by adding more butterfly and pollinator gardens to your landscape. (The links to purchase books from Amazon from this site, support FNPS.)

Florida Butterfly Gardening by Marc C. Minno & Maria Minno, University Press of Florida, 1999.
Here is a link to a review by Sharon LaPlante from a 2000 Palmetto

Your Florida Guide to Butterfly Gardening by Jaret Daniels, University Press of Florida, 2000.

Adding butterfly and other pollinator habitat and food sources for both larval and adult stages makes a big difference. Just look at the success of the atala hairstreak butterfly, which was on the brink of extinction here in Florida.  You don't want to lose more species on your watch do you?

Let us know what you do for pollinator week (and every week) to improve the situation for pollinators in your neighborhood.

Bee happy! And butterfly happy, too.

Ginny Stibolt

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: 2012 Conference Highlights, Part 3

By Laurie Sheldon

Sonny Vergara at the 2012 FNPS Conference
Sonny Vergara knows what he’s talking about… and he’s not one to mince words. As former Executive Director of both the St. Johns and the Southwest Florida Water Management Districts, and general manager of the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, he is one of Florida’s most experienced water managers. So when I learned that he was scheduled to give a presentation entitled “Water Management District Issues: What's Going On?” I sat front and center, and was all ears.

The Big Question

Sonny began his lecture by querying his audience: Can fiscal conservatism and environmental conservatism co-exist in a financially challenged Florida?

Prior to the economic collapse, fiscal conservatism meant limited taxes and government size, the promotion of personal wealth, support for sustainable initiatives, and the pursuit of an enhanced quality of life. The importance of our environment to the quality of our lives was recognized, and efforts were made to protect it and integrate it into our daily living.

Since the economic collapse, the call for limited taxes has turned into an intolerance of any new taxes, a demand to downsize our government has replaced the need to merely limit its extent, personal wealth has become something to protect rather than promote, and goals like sustainability and enhanced quality of life have been balled up and tossed into the circular file.

The answer to his initial question was already coming together, as least for me, like the last few cheerios in a bowl of milk. Rather than being accused of indoctrinating his audience, however, he let the question linger, laid the following facts on the table, and allowed the audience to reach its own conclusion.
State-owned submerged land

Legislative Changes

House Bill 1103 - Ordinary High-water Mark
Filed at the close of 2011, this bill, sponsored by Florida cattlemen, would have triggered the loss of tens of thousands of acres of navigable, state-owned, submerged lands at the edges of rivers, lakes and streams by redefining the "ordinary high-water mark" (which designates the boundary between public and private ownership). It died in Civil Justice Subcommittee in March of 2012.

House Bill 639 - Reclaimed Water
Filed mid-November, 2011, this bill states that once water is reclaimed it will no longer be considered water - it will be deemed “an alternative water supply.” This will take the control of reclaimed water - about 660 million gallons in Florida municipalities alone - out of the Water Management Districts’  hands, effective July 1, 2012.

House Bill 695 - Development of Oil and Gas Resources
Filed mid-November, 2011, this bill would have permitted onshore oil and gas exploration on Florida’s environmental lands, provided that the state would gain near-term revenues from such exploration. It died on second reading in March of 2012.

Thankfully, HB 1117 was vetoed
 House Bill 1117 - Conservation of Wildlife
Filed late December, 2011, this bill would have allowed zoos and aquariums to use state and water management land for their exotic animals to roam around on. It was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott in early April, 2012.

Senate Bill 268 - Sponsorship of State Greenways and Trails
Filed mid-September, 2011, this bill will allow for concessionaires and commercial sponsorship displays on state greenway & trail facilities, effective July 1, 2012.

Senate Bill 1986 - Water Management Districts
This bill forces each of the Water Management Districts to submit their budgets to the Legislative Budget Commission and Governor’s office, who will have the power to review and approve/reject said budgets, effective July 1, 2012. The companion bill, House Bill 5001, passed in late April of 2012.

House Bill 7207 - Growth Management (dismantling thereof)
This bill eliminates the Department of Community Affairs (an agency that safeguarded against the runaway growth that damaged the state in the 1960s and '70s) and replaces it with the Department of Economic Opportunity, an agency intended to promote growth. In addition, the bill de-funds Regional Planning Councils and gets rid of statewide master planning, effective June 2, 2011. It passed in early March, 2012.

Changing of the Guard

3 WMD Exec Directors have recently been replaced
The St. Johns River WMD, driven by directives from Tallahassee to lower taxes and focus on their core duties, cut almost 20% of its staff. Similarly, the South Florida WMD laid off 134 workers just two months ago. Job cuts in these two districts alone combine for a loss of hundreds of years of institutional knowledge.

It’s not only scientists and engineers who have gotten the axe. The Suwannee River, Northwest Florida, and South Florida Water Management Districts have all replaced their Executive Directors with DEP employees. According to Tom Swihart, who spent three decades as a water manager for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, this is unprecedented. The governing boards of the WMDs have steered clear of selecting EDs with ties to Governor's office and/or DEP (state agencies), and favored individuals whose loyalties were with their own district/region. This fostered healthy, public disagreements between the regional and state level of water management. Florida effectively now has a unified state Department of Water Management rather than a state water agency that works in partnership with regional water agencies. Swihart is the author of "Florida’s Water: A Fragile Resource in a Vulnerable State."

Florida's Federally Owned Land
 Land Conservation Changes

The Preservation 2000 (P2000) program, enacted by the Florida Legislature in 1990, provided $300 million annually for ten years to protect Florida’s unspoiled lands, which were recognized as being critical to the quality of life here. In 2001, Florida Forever took over where P2000 left off, providing the same annual funding for another 10 years, to be used for the same purpose (land acquisition). Once Florida Forever had run its decade-long course, however, there was no other program to hand the baton to. ZERO dollars were designated for land conservation in 2011.

When the 2012-2013 state budget was signed (less than two months ago), Florida Forever got the green light to move forward, with a TINY decrease in funding  - from $300 million to $8.4 million. An additional $30 million was allocated specifically for Everglades restoration. Does this leave us at two steps up and one step back, or two steps back and one step up? Don't answer just yet.

The WMDs have been asked to review how much of the conservation land they have is truly needed, and to designate surplus land for sale. Given the decline in Florida land value over the past few years, and the premium it was purchased at, what is the rationale behind selling now, when we would only recoup a fraction of the cost of our original investment? We can’t manufacture more green space, nor can we repair our disconnected natural communities with the chump change we’ll have once it’s gone.
Another conference attendee chimed in when the subject of designating surplus land came up. She had recently been to a meeting at which it was suggested that a piece of land should be sold off as surplus… that land was adjacent to the headwaters of the Peace River.

Changing Direction

Vergara closed his presentation with his own predictions for water in Florida: a shortage for natural systems and an increase in cost to homeowners. Not an unreasonable forecast, all things considered. Still, focusing on the future does little to change the present. If you believe, as I do, that Florida Forever meant FOREVER, that nothing could be more out of place than a sign for Twinkies at a trailhead, that statewide master planning is critical to both the development of connected natural systems and the prevention of urban sprawl, and that the WMD Executive Directors should not be marionettes with strings tied to Tallahassee, then STAY INFORMED. Check out Sonny’s blog . Write to your Senators and Congressmen. Attend public meetings about surplus designation. And ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS exercise your right to vote.


Upcoming Land Surplus meetings
St. Johns River Water Management District
  • June 25, 6:00 PM - Gainesville City Hall, 200 E. University Ave., Gainesville, FL
  • June 27, 6:00 PM – St. Johns County Auditorium, 500 San Sebastian View, St. Augustine, FL
  • July 2, 6:00 PM – City of Palm Bay Council Chambers, 120 Malabar Road SE, Palm Bay, FL
  • July 5, 6:00 PM – Winter Garden City Council Chambers, 300 West Plant Street, Winter Garden, FL
Image Sources

Sunday, June 10, 2012

FNPS has a brand new website

The Florida Native Plant Society's new website has been under development for years, but as of last week, it's live. While it's available for us to us now, the website committee is still adding new features. It's more than just a nifty new design; it's a whole new editor and content manager. This offers much more flexibility and many more resources for both the membership and the public.

On the home page there is a rotating header with live links to the four areas highlighted: education, research, landscaping, and natural lands.

Under the header is a varying list of news, and below that is the most recent post of this blog, with links back to the most recent blog posts.

The footer highlights some important sections of the website and offers resources for members and its chapters, including the FNPS handbook, which is now a series of wiki pages. (We'll cover the handbook in the later post.)

When you mouse over the top menu items, all but one (Chapters) displays a drop down box with a choice of specific pages. Once you choose a page, there is a navigation feature near the top of the page called breadcrumbs that lets you know where you are and you can click each item to return to a more general page.

On the Mission page, for instance, you can see that it's under the submenu of Who We Are. Be sure to watch the cool slide show that illustrates our mission better than a few words.

My favorite resource is the page on Florida's native plant communities. Each community is illustrated by at least one photo (all by Shirley Denton) and a detailed description. The communities are grouped under the general categories: Xeric Uplands, Dry Mesic Uplands, Mesic Uplands, Wet Flatlands, Seepage Wetlands, Moving Water Wetlands, Floodplain Wetlands, Basin Wetlands, Rocklands, coastal Uplands, Coastal Wetlands, Flowing Water Systems, and finally, Lakes and Ponds.

I know when I was new to the state, I wondered what the heck a flatwoods was. By reading through this informative page, people will have a much better understanding of Florida's ecosystems.

There are other interesting and useful website features that we'll cover in later posts, such as the plant locator.  The website committee has done a fantastic job. Thanks to everyone!

Ginny Stibolt

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Plant Profile: Eastern Purple Coneflower, Echinacea Purpurea

By Summer Gagel and Raya Chouk

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

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta    
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae/Compositae
Genus: Echinacea
Specific epithet: purpurea

Echinacea purpurea, or eastern purple coneflower, is the only native Echinacea species in Florida, although it is found elsewhere in the United States and Canada. E. purpurea is endangered in Florida, where the only vouchered specimens exist in the calcareous hammocks of Gadsen County.

This perennial plant, which grows in clumps, may have individual stems of up to 3 feet high (Figure 1). Although you could probably guess that the specific epithet, “purpurea,” points to the purple tint of its ray flowers (Figure 1), did you know that its genus is attributable to the appearance of its inflorescence as well?
Echinacea is Greek for hedgehog - a reference to its prickly, dome-shaped disk flowers.

The nectar of E. purpurea is a favorite among bees, wasps, butterflies, and hummingbirds. In turn, they act as the plant's pollinators, whether or not they realize it. Upon landing on a flower, these animals end up with pollen stuck to their bodies; they deposit this pollen onto the subsequent flowers they visit. Other animals take advantage of the dry fruits or achenes.

People may drink teas or take supplements made from the plant's roots and flowers, which are purported to promote a healthy immune system (Figure 2).

This is a great plant for beginners because is drought-tolerant and relatively low-maintenance. Interested in growing your own? Consider purchasing from a member of the Florida Association of Native Nurseries:


  • Echinacea purpurea. © 2012 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, n.d. Web. 11 Apr 2012.
  • Coreopsis. Floridata LC, n.d. Web. 11 Apr 2012.
  • Schwartz, E.. "Plant Adaptations." Biology of plants. Missouri Botanical Garden, 2009. Web. 11 Apr 2012.
  • Wunderlin, RP and Hansen, BF. 1998. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida.
Image Sources

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Florida Narrative: 2012 Conference Highlights, Part 2

By Laurie Sheldon

Jeff Klinkenberg, delivering the first Keynote Address
at the 2012 FNPS Conference in Plant City.
Jeff Klinkenberg, The first keynote speaker of the 2012 FNPS Conference in Plant City, delivered without a PowerPoint or as much as a notecard, yet his message was no less vivid than those accompanied by fabulous macro images - a testament to his skill as a storyteller. The following is what I took away from his presentation, entitled “Skeeters, Poison Ivy and Other Things I Love About Real Florida.”

Today there are about 19 million Floridians. Perhaps the fact that we have the unique opportunity to die from an alligator attack makes us brethren, in a sense, while it differentiates us from New Yorkers. Beyond our potential-death-by-reptile commonality, however, our own narratives about Florida are as distinct as our fingerprints (some of which, incidentally, may be found in the bellies of alligators).

Early influences
As Floridians, our sense of place is derived from both the places we are exposed to and what we become attuned to while we are there. In Klinkenberg’s case, it all began in the Keys, where his father introduced him to fishing and fish identification. Road trips were spent alongside his younger brother Marty with “The Dictionary of Fishes” (a reference written by member Jan Allyn’s grandfather) in hand, from which the boys would spend hours quizzing each other. His parents, originally from Chicago, moved to Miami for the opportunities it presented to musicians looking for work. His dad, a piano player, held fast to the message of “Moon Over Miami” and quickly embraced all that Florida had to offer. Although Jeff claims that his mother was not a “nature girl,” her keen insight into human nature was fodder for a great number of stories. She could walk down the block and come home with something to say about all of their neighbors. As such, Jeff entered adolescence outfitted with a sensitivity and appreciation for both the “real wild Florida” and the characters that inhabit it, himself among that merry lot.

The Monroe Station
Airboat ride! Ervin Rouse with fiddle (left); son of the
Gator Lodge owner, Jack Knight Jr., driving (right).

At 16, Klinkenberg and his friends had their priorities in order. They called themselves the “Boys without Dates Club,” insinuating that their budding interest in snakes and shared love of fishing was a byproduct of not having girlfriends. They were in bed by 9pm on Friday night and up at 4am Saturday morning to go bass fishing off of US41 (the Tamiami Trail). As the sun rose they passed by the Monroe station, a decrepit landmark for getting gas and miscellany, then hit the loop road in Collier to look for snakes. With one guy behind the wheel, the rest would hold pillowcases, poised on the hood of the car to catch snakes, identify them, and release them. Imagine the smell of snake musk and blood from an occasional bite, combined with the sketchy hygiene habits of teenage boys, then ask yourself if it wasn’t their collective stink that kept the girls away. After snaking they’d hit up another landmark - the Gator Hook Lodge - for an RC Cola and Redsmith pickled egg. This joint was ripe with the culture of Gladesmen, whose stoic lifestyle, even after Americans were walking on the moon, had yet to include air conditioning. The sign on the building read “no guns or knives inside” - what 16 yr old boy could drive past that without at least peeking in? Irving Rouse, the eccentric composer of the Orange Blossom Special, was frequently a patron.

Lucky Cole, shutterbug and historian
Full Circle on the Loop Road
Fast forward 35 years, more or less, to the first time Jeff went to meet with Lucky Cole. I think he said he was shot at, although maybe that’s me just having a bout of creative remembering. Regardless, Jeff’s description of Lucky as a ”giant of a man whose everglades home had a Dr. Seuss quality” allowed more of a whimsical impression than a bloodcurdling one. Lucky eventually invited Jeff onto his porch, which was furnished with a dentist’s chair, a barber’s chair, and an enormous photo of a scantily clad middle aged woman. Naturally, Jeff could not help looking at this image. Jeff probed a bit further and discovered that the woman in the photo was Lucky’s wife, whereafter he was challenged to keep the conversation - and his eyes - appropriately focused. As it turns out, Lucky is an amateur photographer. I’m tempted to call him a “boudoir” photographer, only his photos aren’t likely to be taken in a bedroom; an above-ground pool, a  disconnected outdoor tub and the lawn in front of a motorhome are some of his more popular milieus. His website is easy to find if you want to see for yourself. Why was Jeff there to begin with? To have his own Everglades "Glamour Shots" taken? No. Actually, he was doing research. Lucky is one of only a few remaining inhabitants of the Loop Road area, which once was home to over 200, and is the de facto area historian.

Written in response to Thomas Barbour's "That
Vanishing Eden," this text by Archie Carr put a
positive spin onFlorida and its existing resources.
Florida’s Voices
Some may claim that Florida’s uniqueness is long gone. Sure, we tried to dry the swamps by tossing Melaleuca seeds from a helicopter over the Everglades, dealt with excess rainfall and low elevation by digging canals, and bulldozed countless untouched acres to create gated communities. The sad truth is that we didn’t fully understand the impact of our actions back then. Published in 1944, “That vanishing Eden: A Naturalist's Florida,” Thomas Barbour‘s contribution to Florida-centric literature, explores the natural world of a remote, undeveloped state. In response, Archie Carr penned “A Naturalist in Florida: A Celebration of Eden”- one of Klinkenberg’s favorite tomes - which expresses our need to focus on the half full part of the glass, to relish in what is left, and not to give up on Florida. Then there’s the narrative of bizarre Florida/Floridians that Carl Hiaasen is so adept in describing, with characters like Skink whose honesty and efforts as governor to protect the state’s natural resources and prevent rampant land development are met with such hostility that he resigns to become a hermit. Although Jeff did not mention them, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ autobiographical novel, "Cross Creek," (1942) and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’ “The Everglades: River of Grass” (1947) are two of the most influential bodies of literature to come out of this state (go ladies!).

Now, sixty years later, the voices of this state’s narrative may be different, but their songs are one and the same: Wild Florida still exists! We can’t denude our environment and plead ignorance anymore. The Statute of Limitations on that one went away with parachute pants and the advent of the internet.

Maybe the take-away message from all of this is, quite simply, books just aren’t enough to foster a deep-seated sense of stewardship and love for this state. Granted, they are fabulous for voicing that love, but who is on the listening end? Is it not the lot of us who, like Jeff, grew up in a Florida where adventure waited just OUTSIDE the front door? Am I deluded in thinking that affection for Florida narrative stems from an existing fondness for Florida, which itself is rooted in hands-on experience. Or that the call to write about Florida shares an identical connection to experience? If we are to hope for a future in which “Wild Florida” has a voice, then now, more than ever, we need to teach our youth to fish.


Jeff Klinkenberg is a Miami boy, UF Gator, and adjunct journalism professor who writes about Florida’s cultural phenotypic variances. He left South Florida to join the St. Pete Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) 35 years ago, and his work has allowed him to travel and “eat great food from Pensacola to the Keys”. In addition to his journalistic publications, Jeff is the author of two best-selling anthologies and a collection of essays, entitled “Seasons of Real Florida”, “Land of Flowers”, and “Pilgrim in the Land of Alligators” respectively. He is currently working on two writing projects: a profile of Patrick Smith, the award-winning author of “A Land Remembered”, and a history of Cedar Key’s “Taxi Judy,” a woman who knew to pick up passengers from the airport because of the incredibly low altitude and proximity to rooftops at which they arrived. When asked about his own style of narrative, Klinkenberg responded, “I do my best to keep it natural.”

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