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