Thursday, January 31, 2013

Florida Needs Your Help

Dear Friends and Native Plant Enthusiasts,

Protecting our waters, cherished natural areas and wildlife is fundamental to a healthy and vibrant Florida. It’s not too late to make 2013 the year in which you make a difference. How? By helping FNPS and Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Campaign place a critical conservation amendment on the November 2014 ballot.

Good karma will come back to those who gather signatures!
Given the glorious weather of late, it is no wonder there will be so many outdoor festivals in the coming months throughout Florida. These offer some of the most productive signature gathering opportunities that this campaign can benefit from. For this reason, we need volunteers now more than ever.

To put the Water and Land Conservation Amendment on the 2014 ballot, we will need to gather 480,000 signatures (in addition to those we’ve already collected); we have less than one year to make this happen. Right now, the most important thing you can do to protect our rivers, springs, beaches and the places you hold dear to your hearts is to volunteer.

You have a chance to make sure that state lawmakers continue to invest in conservation by:
  1. Protecting clean water for people and wildlife,
  2. Restoring important natural areas like the Everglades, and
  3. Safeguarding our springs, among other magnificent treasures, for future generations to enjoy.
Florida needs your help. Please visit Florida’s Water and Land Legacy website to learn more about the campaign and consider signing up to volunteer today.

Articles by other news sources regarding this amendment (listed from most to least recent):

Florida Forever keeps flesh on Florida’s precious bones

Stand up for Florida Water and Land Legacy (page 15)

An amendment that is good for Florida

Graham backs new environmental land-buying amendment

Protecting the best of Florida

Green Florida

Proposed constitutional amendment would guarantee money for environment

A way to protect Florida’s treasures

Posted by Laurie Sheldon

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Plant Profile: Lemon Bacopa/ Blue Waterhyssop, Bacopa caroliniana

By Jacqueline Maxwell, Joshua West, and Megan Van Fleet

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

Figure 1. Succulent leaves of lemon bacopa.
Photo credit: Shirley Denton.

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Plantaginales
Family: Plantaginaceae
Genus: Bacopa
Specific epithet: caroliniana

Bacopa caroliniana, commonly known as lemon bacopa or blue waterhyssop, thrives in both fresh and brackish water.
This aquatic herb can be found in both ponds and wetlands throughout the state, where it prospers in shallow water. Lemon bacopa is one of three native Bacopa species in
Figure 2. B. caroliniana with bronzed leaves
& flowers held above water.
Photo credit: Roger Hammer.
Florida. Some taxonomists may place the genus in the family Scrophulariaceae.

The plant's common name is derived from its bright green, succulent leaves (Figure 1), which, when crushed, have a lemony scent. The leaves can also change color,
turning red or bronze with increased light intensity,(Figure 2).  Lemon bacopa is not very tall (4-6 inches), but its lateral growth is significant. It appears to creep across the surface, sprawling in all directions. Of the species found in Florida, it is the only one to produce blue flowers and these are typically found above water (Figure 2).

Looking for a plant to accent your home aquarium? Lemon bacopa is fairly easy to grow, so give it a shot. Contact the Florida Association of Native Plants to find a vendor near you. After you’ve got one, you can propagate it from the side shoots and share it with a friend!


Image Sources
Figure 1.
Figure 2.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Feast of Flowers: a One-Man Show at the Cummer Museum

Does that passionflower look familiar? It should, because Jim Draper graciously allowed the 2013 FNPS conference committee to use his image as the logo graphic for the conference. It is prominently displayed as part of his "Feast of Flowers" exhibit at the Cummer Museum and Gardens in Jacksonville.
Jim Draper with his beautiful rendition of the
Catesby lily.

Jim Draper is the keynote speaker on Friday morning May 17th at the 2013 annual FNPS Conference.  He explained that the title of this show is a direct translation of "Pascua de Florida," the name give to the land on Easter Sunday 1513. He said that this title is also a metaphor for Florida's natural resources being consumed, not only from the early days of the hungry European settlers, but that our consumption of Florida is even greater today.

Unfortunately this exhibition will close in April, so our conference attendees, will not have the opportunity to view this whole collection, but parts of it will be on display at the Mayo Clinic, just down the street from University of North Florida, our conference site.
There was a large turnout for the community reception at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville
for Jim Draper's exhibition, "Feast of Flowers."

FNPS member Sally Robson and Jim Draper.

There were a number of Ixia chapter members at this reception, including Sally Robson, who has two responsibilities for the conference. She's gathering a wonderful collection of items for the silent auction and she's also your contact for inside exhibitors and vendors.

See the conference pages for more information on speakers, vendors, sponsors, field trips and more:
The formal gardens at the Cummer Museum overlook the St. Johns River.
While the gardens are dominated by a gigantic live oak, the majority of the plantings are non-native.
Native trees and shrubs have been tucked into various nooks to celebrate the "Feast of Flowers" exhibition.
Jake Ingram, Ixia member and landscape architect, managed the installation of more natives into the garden. He wrote about them in the Cummer blog: Native Plants to Accompany Feast of Flowers Exhibit; Bald Cypress; Yellow Jessamine; Dwarf blueberries; and Spruce pines.

Jake and fellow Ixian Laurie Sheldon will be offering the special hands-on workshop for homeowners on Saturday May 18th 12:45pm to 3:45pm. See the webpage on Workshops for more information.

Photos by Ginny Stibolt and Laurie Sheldon.

Ginny Stibolt

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Walking the Walk

By Laurie Sheldon

2425 County Rd. 13 South, Elkton, FL 32033. This is where my chapter (Ixia) was meeting for a Saturday morning field trip, lead by Mike Adams. Adams is the owner of Adamscience (an environmental resource management company) and purveyor of "one of the finest examples of sustainable multiple-use forest management in Florida." I plugged the address into the GPS on my cellphone and hit the road. Little did I know just how out-of-the way this place was. To describe it as being just north of Hastings (potato capital of Florida) and due east of Bostwick (the blueberry pancake hot-spot) might give you a clue. I lost my cell signal a few minutes after exiting I-95 (uh-oh), but after a good bit of guessing, and a few turns determined by a coin toss, I finally arrived at my destination.

With about a dozen or so Ixians standing in the port-cochere of Adams' lovely home, he began our tour. After purchasing the 94-acre piece of land from Rayonier in 1989, he enlisted the aid of his father and set about building his family a home there, starting with a pump, then a house, and eventually a barn. Even today, the closest grocery, bank, and hardware store are about 10 miles away. He named the site Saturiwa, an homage to the native Timucua Chief whose subgroup of the tribe extended from the mouth of the St. Johns to downtown Jacksonville, and along the Atlantic coast from St. Augustine north to the St. Marys River. The property (shown at right) graduates from pine flatwoods to hardwood swamp, kisses 1/2 mile of shoreline on the St. Johns, is punctuated by cypress domes, and hums with wildlife. It is nothing short of lovely.

Sign from early grant.
Adams gave us a bit of background information, then we began walking. He told us that the property was once a pristine longleaf pine forest, and in fact, 90 million acres of longleaf pine once stretched from southwest Virginia to eastern Texas. Demand for timber prompted the harvesting of millions of those acres. Trees that were not harvested were often used as a source of turpentine. Saturiwa was once a turpentine camp. Adams' plan was, and is, to replace the Pinus elliotti (slash pines) that surrounded us with the majestic Pinus palustris (longleaf pines) that historically populated the area. One of his earliest efforts to achieve this end was subsidized by a grant from US Fish and Wildlife that provided him with the means to plant over 3,000 of such pines. Shortly after they were installed, feral hogs ripped through the site like young, engaged women at a Filene's basement wedding dress sale...  and it was back to the drawing board. I asked if he did any prescribed burning, to which he responded with an emphatic "yes," although drought over the last three years has prohibited him from doing so.

After telling us this story I began pointing in the air and saying, "ooh, ooh, ooh,"  in a very Arnold Horseshack way, so Adams turned and asked what I had seen. "An eagle, I think, although its feathers were mottled." "Probably an immature eagle," he replied, without seeming even remotely disturbed with me for interrupting, "there are several nests around here." Exciting! I liked him already. We moved on along the trail, past several large clumps of Hypericum suffruiticosum (pineland St. John's-wort), Sarracenia minor (hooded pitcher-plant, photo at right), and Osmunda (cinnamon) fern (all of which are natives, f.y.i.).
Adams stopped at a pine that had beeen gouged out, and had two pieces of metal wedged into its trunk. On the opposite side of the same tree, a similar chunk had been carved out of the bark, with a terracotta-type pot that seemed to float in the middle of the injury. We learned that this is how turpentine was collected, and this tree had been double-tapped. What I mistook for a pot was called a "herty cup," a vessel for collecting the sticky substance as it flowed from the tree. Apparently, Herty is the man who invented the cup. Cups with a scalloped lip (shown on left) are described as "cat-faced." The whole process would eventually kill the tree. As longleaf pines may take up to 150 years to mature, and can live to be 500 years old, you can imagine how devastating this was... especially because there's no fast track to bouncing back.

We reached the hardwood swamp and the dense tree canopy filtered out the blinding sunshine, which gave the scene an ethereal glow. As hardwood swamps are subject to fluctuating water levels, and occasionally home to water moccassin (one of which we walked by as it showed us its pearly whites), he had a boardwalk built over it which extended out into the St. Johns river. "What good is it to live on this fabulous river if there's no place to do a cannonball jump from?" Adams said, his son behind him with a mile-wide grin. Among the natives we spotted in the swamp were titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), red maple (Acer rubrum), giant leather fern (Acrostichum danaeifolium), and an enormous overturned live oak (Quercus virginiana), which I was convinced was mooning me.

In the hardwood swamp
 The canopy opened to a clear sky, with Symphyotrichum carolinianum (climbing aster) as a sort of fencepost. I ceeded the front-of-the-line position on our march toward a sizeable covered dock when I felt the whir of the only cloud around - a swarm of gnats (or something gnat-like) - close to the water's edge. Shortly after we all reached the dock, my immature eagle made an encore appearance, then an osprey swooped in close to us to literally "grab" a bite to eat. We learned that ospreys have specialized spicules (barbs) on their talons (feet) to help them hold onto slippery fish, and that they usually position the fish they catch head-first, as they are more aerodynamic to fly with like that. Who knew?!

This is a male crab
Tommy, Mike's son, had been quiet until then. He pulled a cage out of the water which he used for crabbing, and, after a bit of reluctance, with his father's encouragement, he removed a few crabs and showed us how to identify the males from the females while his father played Vanna White, holding its pincers. It's all about the grooves on the underside of their shells; males have a distinctly phallic shape, and females have a pyramidal shape. Neat!

The Adams' Home.
We wrapped the trip up, and walked back to Adams' home, which is a museum in and of itself. He has all sorts of skulls and stuffed animals and an enormous, in-tact (though inactive) hornet nest. Some of us stayed and ate lunch on the large, wrap-around porch, while others headed back north to our respective houses. Naturally, I got lost again... probably because I had so many new things to think about. It occurred to me, as I wound my way around those county roads, that Mike Adams and his family were living the textbook that Doug Tallamy wrote... They were Bringing Nature Home.

All photos and graphics by Laurie Sheldon

Adams was named Timber Grower of the Year in 2005 by the St. Johns County Timber Growers' Association. Four years later,  he, his wife Carole and son Tommy were honored as the Forest Steward Landowners of the Year. The following year,  Adams received the Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award, which was presented to him by (then) Commissioner of Agriculture Charles H. Bronson. To see a video and to learn more:

Going to the 2013 FNPS Conference in Jacksonville? Lucky for all of us, Adams has agreed to run a guided field trip of Saturiwa. Check out Field Trip W for details.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Native Plant Myth Number One

by Shirley Denton
Have you ever read a newspaper article or website that makes a statement like this:

"Planting natives will save water."?

This is an example of a native plant myth. Most myths, including this one, come from broad generalizations that are only sometimes true. Likewise, the converse, "planting non-natives will waste water" is a broad generalization that is not always true either.

This article covers this myth, and future blog posts will address some others. Stay tuned...

Florida's varied ecosystems

Florida has a broad range of native ecosystems that support characteristic plant communities. We have rosemary and sand pine scrubs and sandhills (very dry), we have flatwoods (moderately wet to moderately dry), we have hammocks (some wet, some dry), we have wetlands such as swamps (very wet), and a long list of other ecosystems. A good summary of these and others is found on the FNPS website resource article: Native Plant Communities.

Semi-wild St.Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)
If you plant most wetland plants, native or otherwise, in a dry upland and want them to live, they will require lots and lots of water. No savings will come of it. In fact, St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) is considered by most taxonomists to be a native Florida plant, and it is found in nature most often in shady, moist settings near the coast and near floodplain edges. Of course, St. Augustine lawns are usually specific strains (cultivars) and do not closely resemble the native form. Some cultivars require more water than others, but given its preference for moist sites when growing in the wild, it's not surprising that this native turns out to be a huge water waster when planted in the typical suburban lawn. After all, most of us do not want to live in the swamp and our lawns are perched on dry fill pads.

On the other hand, coming from some part of the world other than Florida does not necessarily mean that a plant will be a water waster in the landscape. Plants that naturally come from dry places, such as ornamental cacti and succulents, originate from dry regions of the world or from very well drained sites in areas of moderate rainfall. These drought-adapted plants can be just as effective as our drought-adapted natives, if your only goal is to save water.

So why the myth? Usually myths come about for some reason.

I have a theory, though I can't prove it. When I walk through many retail plant stores, I see plants that are inexpensive. This means that they have to grow fast and be easy for the nursery to supply in bulk. I see plants that can be teased into blooming profusely to encourage us to take them home. I see plants that need a lot of water (and nutrients) to get them to do this. If the nursery is selling them from some combination of fast to grow and responsive to water and nutrients, it's not surprising that they will still need lots of water and nutrients when we put them in our landscapes. Luckily, in more recent years, there are "Florida friendly" with signs indicating that they will require less water. My theory is that this myth originated from the characteristics of plants that have been the easiest and cheapest to buy.

Island of native plants in a dry home landscape that relies on rainfall
(even the grass is not watered).
So the take-home message--grow the right plant for the right place! If you have a natural soil with its natural drainage, choose plants from the types of ecosystems that would have been where your home is now. If you live on fill, plant plants that are found naturally in our drier ecosystems. Clearly, I'm biased, I plant natives because they are much more likely to benefit our native butterflies, native bees, and wildlife and they also showcase our Florida natural heritage. But if you are going to grow non-natives, choose ones that come from places with soils similar to where you intend to plant them and climates that are relatively similar to ours, and by all means, avoid invasives!

The message to minimize lawn is also usually consistent with this. St. Augustine grass is a moist site plant and (at least in newer developments) is our most common lawn grass. Some other grasses are much less wasteful. If you replace the water-guzzling grass with beds of plants adapted to the local soil and ambient rainfall, much less water will be wasted. I again prefer natives, but I prefer them for the reasons I've already indicated--I like butterflies in my yard! I like birds!

It is worth noting, plants grow naturally where they grow for more reasons than water. Some plants may grow in wet places because these are less likely to burn in a wildfire. Others may grow there because their seeds are dispersed by water, or maybe they need a certain microbe found only in damp soil. Our yards are not native ecosystems, but with due diligence in selecting appropriate native plants, we can develop a good imitation of one with the all rewards of all those birds and butterflies. As a bonus, you'll also be helping to preserve Florida's water supply.

Broad generalizations make new myths!

Outreach is an important part of the FNPS mission, but the next time you are talking to the public about how great natives are, be sure that you are not over-generalizing!