Stop. Hammer Time!

By Laurie Sheldon

The Man, the Myth, the Legend
Knowledgeable, respected, boyish and charming, he sported a tropical short-sleeved shirt, pulled his long hair into a ponytail at the nape of his neck, and delivered the opening presentation on day two of the 33rd Annual F.N.P.S. Conference, held in Jacksonville this past May. His name is Roger Hammer, and he's got swagger. He began by admitting to being pleasantly surprised with his second visit to the area; the conditions under which he'd previously been in our neck of the woods were undeniably less favorable. Then twenty-something, he'd been out surfing in his hometown of Cocoa Beach when his mother flagged him down. "You have a letter from the President," she exclaimed, obviously very excited to have her son tear it open. It was a draft card, and off to Jax he went. He moved to Homestead after serving and became a naturalist with the Miami-Dade Parks Department, where, among other things, he encouraged a generation of young people to get out and explore Florida's natural areas. Like a rockstar, he is continually approached by those youths, now grown-ups with children of their own, told of the profound influence he had on their lives, and the effort they each have put into providing their kids with similar outdoor experiences.

Hammer sharing his expertise with the staff at Big Cypress Preserve.
He spent many years as an eco-camp counselor at Castellow Hammock Nature Center.

Great Floridians
To tie into the conference theme, "Celebrating 'La Florida,' the Land of Flowers," Hammer briefly referenced the state's list of designated "Great Floridians," to which Ponce De Leon (responsible for naming the state) was recently added. His description of the explorer's "accomplishments"  left no one guessing as to whether he felt that the designation was justified. (For a detailed description of the Ponce De Leon story, please see the "Executive Summary" at the top of our last blog.) He came prepared with a few comical props for levity, including a plastic morion and an arrow headband (see photo below). Among the other "Great Floridians," Hammer recognized Henry Flagler as the gentleman responsible for "facilitating the great Yankee migration into this state," and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, the conservation pioneer/voice of the Everglades (and one of his personal friends).

A character and showman, Hammer's quick costume changes gave his presentation a little punch.
He met Mrs. Douglas at age 38, when the snappy woman (then in her late 90s) presented him with the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas award. She subsequently invited him to visit her at her home in Coconut Grove. Upon arrival, she asked him if he wanted a drink. He said, “I’ll have whatever you’re having.” She brought out 2 shot glasses of J & B whiskey, and proceeded to drink him under the table.

Great Florida
He segued into the crux of his presentation without skipping a beat. Aside from the patrons at the Garden of Eden, a rooftop clothing-optional bar in Key West, Hammer noted that Florida's endemic* and near-endemic species are truly some of the most inspiring individuals borne within its boundaries. Despite their significant contributions to this state, sadly, they are absent from the lengthy roster of official "Great Floridians." As such, Hammer forged their names onto his own list of Florida greats, and began, one by one, to introduce his favorites... (The following represents just a portion of the species Hammer presented; please refer to this link for the complete list).

Dicerandra: Lamiaceae; 8 endemic species, including D. christmanii, D. cornutissima, D. densiflora, D. frutescens, D. immaculata var. immaculata, D. immaculata var. savannarum, D. modesta, and D. thinicola.
Distribution of endemic Dicerandra species; image shown: D. frutescens. (scrub balm)
Callisia ornata: Commeliniaceae
Callisia ornata (Florida scrub roseling) distribution.
Berlandiera subacaulis: Asteraceae
Berlandiera subacaulis (Florida greeneyes) distribution.

Helianthus debilis ssp. debilis: Asteraceae
Helianthus debilis ssp. debilis (east coast dune sunflower) distrubution.
 Chromolaena frustrata: Asteraceae
Chromolaena frustrata (Cape Sable thoroughwort )distribution.
Liatris: Asteraceae; 4 endemic species, including L. gholsonii, L. ohlingerae, L. provincialis and L. savannensis
Distribution of all endemic Liatris species; image shown: L. ohlingerae (scrub blazing-star)
Phoebanthus tenuifolius: Asteraceae
Phoebanthus tenuifolius (pineland false sunflower) distribution
Dalea carthagenensis var. floridana: Fabaceae
Dalea carthagenensis var. floridana (Florida prairieclover) distribution.
Lantana depressa: Verbenaceae
Lantana depressa (rockland shrubverbena) distribution
Chamaesyce deltoidea: Euphorbiaceae; 3 endemic subspecies, including deltoidea, pinetorum, and serpyllum
Distribution of the 3 endemic subspecies of Chamaesyce deltoidea;
image shown: C. deltoidea ssp. pinetorum (pineland sandmat)

Jacquemontia: Convolvulaceae; 2 endemic species, including J. curtisii and J. reclinata
Distribution of all endemic Jacquemontia species; image shown: J. reclinata (beach clustervine)
Linum: Linaceae; 3 endemic species, including L. arenicola, L. carteri var. carteri, and L. carteri var. smallii
Distribution of all endemic Linum species; image shown: L. carteri var. smallii (Small's flax)
Ruellia succulenta: Acanthaceae
Ruellia succulenta (thickleaf wild petunia) distribution
Justicia crassifolia: Acanthaceae
Justicia crassifolia (thickleaf waterwillow) distribution
Harperocallis flava: Tofieldiaceae
Harperocallis flava (Harper's beauty) distribution
Polygala rugelii: Polygalaceae
Polygala rugelii (yellow milkwort) distribution
Lobelia feayana: Campanulaceae
Lobelia feayana (bay lobelia) distribution

Hymenocallis palmeri: Amaryllidaceae
Hymenocallis palmeri (alligator lily) distribution
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*Native to a specific region or environment and not occurring naturally anywhere else.

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