Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Bird Garden and a Challenge

By Peg Lindsay

My husband and I are birders. People frequently stop us and ecstatically tell us about such-and-such a bird they saw at their feeders, or describe a bird and ask us to help identify it. When my neighbor had Mourning Doves nesting in her trellis, I thrilled at peeking at the baby doves and watching them change and grow. I get excited when I see the first “snowbird” blue-gray gnatcatcher return from its summer home up north. I feel joy when I hear the bugling call of sandhill cranes and proud when I see tiny chicks begin to toddle after their parents. My love affair with birds runs deep, to say the least.

That said, it makes sense that I jumped to volunteer at the Palatlakaha Environmental and Agricultural Reserve (P.E.A.R.) Park Bird Garden. I had planned to write this article about all of the plants it contains, some of which are more bird-friendly than others. The species (listed at the bottom of this article) were selected for very particular attributes, including:
Ron Plakke teaching proper planting technique
  • The presence of seeds or berries which attract and feed the birds
  • Being native to central Florida, climate-adapted and low-maintenance
  • Drought tolerance
  • A dense growth habit which provides shade, cover and nesting locations for the birds
I learned volumes about plants and wildlife by working alongside Dr. Ron Plakke (the Bird Garden's designer) and all the other PEAR Park volunteers. We planted, weeded, watered, got to know each other, studied plants and birds, and had fun doing it. The garden won a design award at the annual Florida Native Plant Society conference and we were recognized by President Bush for volunteer service. PEAR Park was a featured event site at the recent Wings and Wildflowers festival because its gardens and meadows are bursting with wildflowers. When I consider the accolades our volunteer group has received, I can't help thinking, “Wow! I was part of that!”

Under the leadership of Barbara Plakke, the Central Florida Women’s Club planned, planted and initially maintained the Butterfly Garden at PEAR Park. If you have not seen it, it’s worth the trip. Because of Ron and Barbara’s enthusiasm, the Highland Lakes Garden Club joined the PEAR Association (the not-for-profit volunteer organization responsible for park restoration) and helped with many of our planting projects. At a recent PEAR Association meeting, all those in attendance found themselves looking around the room at each other, and realizing that there were no unfamiliar faces at the table. We challenged one other to bring at least one new person to join our group. I'd like to extend that challenge to F.N.P.S. members: get involved, volunteer locally, learn something new, have fun, and get a friend to join you.

P.E.A.R. Park Volunteers; Peg Lindsay and Peg Urban are both members of F.N.P.S. Lake Beautyberry Chapter.
You can learn more about PEAR Park at the Lake County website or at the PEAR volunteers website

P.E.A.R. Bird Garden Plants
Bumelia tenax, tough bumelia
Calicarpa americana
, beautyberry
Capsicum annuum
, bird pepper
Eragrostis elliottii
, lovegrass
Eragrostis spectabilis
, lovegrass
Forestiera segregata
, Florida privet (male and female)
Ilex coriacea
, gallberry
Lonicera sempervirens
, coral honeysuckle
Myrsinites fragrans
, Simpson's stopper
Psychotria nervosa
, wild coffee
Vaccinium arboreum
, sparkleberry
Vaccinium darrowii
, Darrow's blueberry
Vaccinium myrsinites
, shiny blueberry
Viburnum obovatum
, Walter’s viburnum
Zamia pumila
, coontie

I'd be remiss if I didn't include some bird photos as well...
Bobwhite quail calling from Hercules club @ the P.E.A.R. Bird Garden
Male house finch perched on beautyberry @ the P.E.A.R. Bird Garden
Mockingbird preparing its nest in the coral honeysuckle @ the P.E.A.R. Bird Garden
Image Credits
Park map adapted from Lake County website
Plakke and volunteer group photo c/o Peg Lindsay
Remaining photos c/o Peg Urban
Posted and edited by Laurie Sheldon

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Post Conference Get-Together

Well, we had a great time at the conference didn't we? Barbara Jackson, the conference chair, did a magnificent job and *things* went off without a single hitch. Yay!  The last conference event was a "Thanks to our volunteers party" at Jim Draper's art studio in Jacksonville.

There were great refreshments; we looked at the FNPS Flickr photos of the conference and past conferences (Click the link to see them yourself.); and we enjoyed the ambiance of the art studio.

Artist Jim Draper on the right was a keynote speaker at the conference and he offered his art studio for the post-conference party.

Barbara Jackson (in the green shirt) was the conference chair. She's way more relaxed now!
Laurie Sheldon (in the red dress) is the FNPS social media chair.  Doesn't she do a great job?

Art on the wall includes native orchids and sundews as seen on a recent field trip.

Drawers full other more art.
We've blogged about the 2013 conference several times, but if you missed the posts, here they are:

Live blogging from the FNPS 2013 conference - Florida Native Plant 5/17.
Florida Native Plant Society Blog: Live blogging from the conference 5/18.
Florida Native Plant Society Blog: Live blogging from the conference 5/19.
F.N.P.S. 2013 Landscape Award Winners 5/22
Ponce De Leon, Celebrating La Florida, Jim Draper and the Feast of Flowers 6/2
Stop. Hammer Time! 6/11

2014 Conference!

Now mark your calendars for May 15th - 18th, 2014 and we'll see y'all in Ft. Myers. The members of the Ixia Chapter who served on the conference committee wish Marlene Rodak and her committee all the best in getting next year's conference organized. Time in the last year, moves quickly!

Save the date! See y'all in Ft. Myers next year.
Photos and post by Ginny Stibolt

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Attracting and Creating Habitat for Native Pollinators, Part 3

By Laurie Sheldon

For the beginning portions of of this blog, please refer to Native Pollinators, Part 1 and Part 2

Now that we've covered why pollinators are important, what pollination is, who the major players are, and what their lifestyles are like, we can comfortably move on to the last portion of this blog, in which we'll learn how to turn your home landscape (or a portion of it) into a pollinator-friendly habitat.

What is a habitat?
It is the area in which an organism lives. It consists of both abiotic factors (sunlight, temperature, moisture - physical conditions) and biotic elements (other living organisms - plants, people and predators alike).

It follows that, in order for you to create a habitat that can sustain a population of pollinators, you must first take into consideration your site's existing abiotic and biotic attributes. Which spots get the most sun? Are there any damp, shady areas? Is the climate tropical, subtropical or temperate? These items essentially determine which plants you can grow and where to plant them. If you've got plants already, make a list of what you have, noting their height, which month(s) they bloom in (if at all), the color of their flowers, if they are native, and whether they are larval hosts. Record this data in spreadsheet form if possible (see the following link for an example: pollinator garden planning).

To create a habitat that both draws in pollinators and encourages them to stick around, you must provide your intended guests with what they need to survive and reproduce: food, water, and shelter.

Food (Flowers and Plants)
Flowers provide pollinators with the food they need to sustain themselves: nectar (a carbohydrate with necessary amino acids) and pollen (a protein). Unless you want your new flying friends to either starve or leave indefinitely to find food, you should make sure to have something flowering throughout the year. Take a look at the "bloom time" category on the plant list you just made. Are all of the months covered? In more temperate climates, you may be limited to months in spring, summer, and fall (the "growing seasons"). Either way, consistency is key. An overlap of blooming is great; a flowerless period is not.

Maximize your pollinators' potential by planting in drifts.
How are your flowering plants arranged? One in a corner of your property, maybe a few under a tree in front of your house, and one in a pot on the back porch? You'll increase pollination efficiency by installing groups of the same plant together. If a pollinator can visit the same type of flower over and over, it won’t have to relearn how to enter the flower and can transfer pollen to the same species instead of squandering it on unreceptive flowers.

What colors are the flowers in your landscape? A "moon garden" (all white flowers) will be great if you're only into moths and maybe an occasional bat. If your goal is to attract a diverse group of pollinators, then go for the rainbow! Refer to this chart of "pollinator syndromes" (discussed in part one of this blog) for some general guidance regarding the flower colors that various pollinators are attracted to.

On to plants... Specific plants evolved with specific pollinators, right? (just nod your head) So it makes sense for you to plant natives if you want to get native pollinators to come around. Remember what you learned in part 2 of this blog about native bees and their non-native counterparts? To refresh your memory, it takes 80 non-native bees to do the work that one native bee does per day. These guys stay busy! PLUS most of them are solitary nesters, so they won't sting you! If you want your landscape to be buzzing with activity, be sure to include a good number of native plants. For your reading enjoyment, here's a nowhere-near-complete list of which crops and flowers our native bees pollinate: flowers, crops, bees.

Swallowtail caterpillar eating fennel
While butterflies and moths may be after nectar to take care of their own energy needs, flowers simply will not cut it for their caterpillar offspring. Most caterpillars need to feed on very specific plants in order to grow big and strong enough for metamorphosis. These are known as host plants. I hate to state the obvious, but just in case... You may have plenty of butterflies and moths fluttering and floating around your landscape, snacking on all of the nectar you've laid out for them, but when they are ready to lay eggs if you don't have the host plant(s) their caterpillars need, they will leave you faster than corn through a goose. For a short list of host plants and the butterflies they give rise to, please see the following link.

Your pollinators' water source
needn't be enormous to be effective.
A clean, reliable source of water is essential to pollinators. If you're lucky enough to have naturally running water (a pond, stream, etc) on your property, you've got this category covered... mostly. Just be sure that there's a shallow or sloping area for your pollinators to approach the water from without drowning. I'm a sucker for critters, but I won't be giving cpr to your beetles. Human-made water features (fountains, birdbaths, etc) can provide pollinators with the same drinking and bathing opportunities, so don't fret. Keep the water fresh, do not add chlorine to it (sorry, you're probably sensible enough to know that, but I'd prefer to err on the side of caution) and you're good to go.

My bee box is awesome; if only
they had decent room service...
Pollinators need protection from severe weather and predation and a place to nest and roost - just like you and I do (although they can deal without having a garage). Remember that list you meticulously compiled of all of the plants in your landscape? You thought you could get away with just reading it and not actually making it, didn't you? Tisk, tisk. Those of you who actually made the list should look at the height column now. Have you incorporated different canopy layers by planting trees, shrubs, and different-sized perennial plants? If not, try to mix it up a bit - this alone will help out your pollinators with their housing needs. You already know that, as discussed in part 2 of this blog, the majority of our native bees build their nests underground. Some areas of uncovered soil will make it easier for them to access and build their tunnels. If you don't have existing snags for your new stem and tree-nesting pals to move into, you may want to make a simple bee box for them. Take one end off of a coffee can, fill it with open-ended sections of bamboo, and you'll have created a 4-star pollinator hotel.

A waste of money
NOT To Do List
Your plants are in, your water feature is bubbling, your bee box has a few less vacancies, and your host plants are being snacked on. Maintenance is something we should quickly run through before wrapping up this blog.
  • DO NOT be fooled into buying one of those ridiculous "butterfly houses" with the little slits in it. A fur coat in Miami will get used more often.
  • DO NOT be meticulous. Your goal here is not to re-create a mini version of Versailles. Allow for a little messiness - for the pollinators' sake and your own. Take the time you would have spent on landscape cleanup and invest it in quiet observation. Consider keeping a log of garden visitors, noting which pollinators came when, and what they were attracted to. Simple notes like "yellow butterfly on blue lobelia in summer" are totally fine. When/if you want more details, check out the field guides at your local library; consider purchasing the one that seems most useful.
  • DO NOT pick up all of the goodies that have dropped off of your fruit trees. Fermenting fallen fruits provide food for bees, beetles and butterflies.
  • DO NOT pull every weed you see. I know - I'll really have to twist your arm to comply with that. Truth be known, there are a handful of plants that many people call "weeds" that are a good source of food for your pollinators as well. Learn what to leave alone.
  • DO NOT go overboard raking up leaf litter. It's an ideal place for beetles to pupate, plus, hey - free mulch!
  • DO NOT use pesticides. If you have an insect problem, explore controlling it with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) rather than busting out the Ortho or Bayer products. Chemicals have a way of killing more than you bargain for. 

That's about it. I hope that you've learned something new over the last few posts. If you take away only one thing from this blog, let it be this: as you while away your time in the upcoming months, spending weekends at the beach or springs and barbecuing with friends and family, remember that the towel you'll dry off with, the beer you'll drink, the watermelon seeds you'll spit, the hamburgers you'll eat (and the ketchup, mustard, or pickles you'll put on them), and the checkered cotton blanket you'll sit on until dark, when the fireflies (beetles) begin mating... none of these would exist without pollinators.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Attracting and Creating Habitat for Native Pollinators, Part 2

By Laurie Sheldon

For the beginning portion of of this blog, please refer to the following link: Native Pollinators, Part 1

Creating habitat for pollinators means much more than knowing which color flowers a given insect is attracted to. It involves knowing the life span and understanding the forage and shelter needs of each individual pollinator at various stages of life. For that reason, I'll begin part two of this blog with a bit more detail about the life cycles of Florida's most important pollinators.

Pollinator Life Cycles
Although bats and birds CAN pollinate flowers, the majority of the world’s pollinators are insects. We can divide these insects into 4 major groups: bees and wasps, flies, butterflies and moths, and beetles. They all go through the same basic life cycle: egg to larva to pupa to winged adult. Where the eggs are laid, larva mobility, what they eat during their life stages, and duration of each stage is highly variable.

Bee: Eggs in protected brood cell in nest. Larvae not mobile, stay there a month. Larva defecates, weaves silk cocoon around itself and pupates in cell. Adult life is from 3 weeks to a year .

Fly: Eggs laid close to or on the food they need to eat and grow, which can include rotting wood, soil-dwelling invertebrates and aphids. Larval length varies due to weather, how palatable the food is, and time of year. Parasitic larvae defecate, usually killing host, then pupate either within or on host. Adult life ranges from a few hours to several weeks.

Butterfly: Eggs laid on or near caterpillar host plant. Larval stage varies due to weather, palatability of food and time of year. Wanders away from host plant to avoid predation, forms chrysalis and pupates. Adult life is usually only 1-2 weeks with a few exceptions.

Beetle: Eggs laid close to or on larval food, which may include rotting wood, soil-dwelling invertebrates and aphids. Length of larval stage varies due to weather, amount and palatability of food and time of year. May stay with food source or drop to ground and pupate in litter on soil. Short adult life ranges from a few hours to several weeks.

Wasps and Bees
Bees evolved from wasps 125 million years ago alongside flowering plants. Because of this, their nesting needs are very similar (see chart at right). Of all of the pollinators, the most important group is the bees – specifically native bees. What are some of the differences between native bees and honey bees (which are from Europe)? See the chart at the right (hey - it's a very useful chart!). Two of the most important differences are that (1) they are more efficient than non-natives when it comes to pollinating and (2) they are mostly solitary nesters, so they are not aggressive. There are 6 families and 360 genera of native bees in Florida. Their varied tongue length is a determining factor in selecting flowers to obtain nectar and pollen from; so is their overall size. Smaller bees cant travel as far for nectar or pollen as the big guys can, so be aware of which bees you have and how large they are when considering where to place an artificial hive or flowering plants. Further, some bees exhibit flower constancy, which means that they visit one particular plant species per foraging trip. This is great for pollination, because it means that pollen wont be wasted by being delivered to an unreceptive flower.

Bee cells, top to bottom:
polyester, mason, leafcutter
Nesting needs
So we know that bees and wasps spend most of their lives in their respective nests. What do these nests look like and where are they? First we can divide the nesting into two groups – solitary nests and colonial/social nests.

Solitary nests
constitute 90 % of Florida’s native bees, 70% of which are built in the ground; the remainder are built in wood or stems. Cactus bees (Diadasia spp.) and polyester bees (Colletes spp.) are solitary ground nesters, the latter of which gets its name from the waterproof, plastic-like glandular secretion it makes to separate its brood cells. Ground nesting bees often pile soil around their nest opening like ants do. Carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.), mason bees (Osmia spp.), and leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.) are solitary wood/stem nesters. While mason bees separate the chambers of their nests with mud walls to protect the brood from predators, leafcutter bees protect brood cells in rolled up leaves or flower petals.

Bumble bees (Bombus spp.) - and some sweat bees (family Halictidae) - are colonial/social nesters. They typically occupy abandoned rodent nests or patches of dried grass, usually lined with soft plant material. Their colonies are annual, so by the end of the season most of the bees are dead; a few holdovers restart the process. If you are going to be stung by a bee or wasp, it will likely be a colonial nester protecting its family... that’s just how they roll.

Top: hover (Syrphid) fly
Bottom: Tachinid fly

Flies are generalist pollinators (visit many species of plants), so you might want to put that swatter down and let them go about their business. These insects are much more complex than the common housefly we've all seen and spastically waved our arms at. There are several that have mastered the art of deception (a.k.a. mimicry), disguising themselves as wasps (Syrphid flies) and bees (Tachinid flies) to try to avoid becoming another critter's main course. Very sneaky! While that still might not make you adore them or want to have one as a pet, at least give them the credit they deserve... they're responsible for pollinating some of our most recognizable and well-loved natives, including American pawpaw (Asimina triloba), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), and members of the carrot family (Apiaceae).

Above: to each its own
Below: Luna moth antennae
Butterflies & Moths
Butterflies need open areas to bask (e.g. bare earth, large stones), moist soil from which they may get needed minerals, and prefer flowers that provide a good landing platform. Fortunately, these can be provided without much effort. Butterflies will also eat rotten fruit and even dung (see image at left)... a good justification to leave those little messes in your garden alone. They are infinitely pickier where their offspring are concerned, as each species requires a specific "host" plant to provide the nutrients their caterpillars need to grow and eventually become butterflies themselves.

Moths are easily distinguished from butterflies by both physical and behavioral characteristics. Moth antennae never have the swollen tip typical of butterflies, and can often be beautiful and feather-like. Further, their bodies tend to be wider and hairier than butterfly bodies, and their wings are generally less colorful. Moths are generally active at night, when the white/pale colored flowers they pollinate are open and easiest to see. Butterflies, on the other hand, are diurnal and prefer brightly colored flowers.

Magnolia with Longhorn beetle
(l) and Flower beetle (r)
There are over 4,675 species of beetles (Coleoptera) within the state of Florida, of which about 12% are endemic. Unfortunately, they've managed to develop a bad reputation because, to be honest, they act like that friend who can't hold their liquor. They're messy, frequently causing unnecessary damage to the plants they eat, they wander between different species, often dropping pollen, and they've a penchant for plants with large, strong scented flowers with exposed sexual organs. Such behaviors make them some of the least efficient pollinators out there, but let's cut them some slack... the natives that they pollinate (Magnolia, sweetshrub and yellow pond lilies) are so incredibly beautiful that they could make even the soberest among us feel a little dizzy.

That's all for Part 2. You should now be comfortable with who the major pollinators are and what their lifestyles are like. Please check back with us for the third and final portion of this Pollinator-Week inspired blog, in which we'll learn how to turn your home landscape (or a portion of it) into a pollinator-friendly habitat. Wings up!
Addendum: here's the link for Part 3.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Attracting and Creating Habitat for Native Pollinators, Part 1

By Laurie Sheldon

Like juicy strawberries? Thank a pollinator.
Why Care?
Aside from the fact that it's National Pollinator Week, why should you care about pollinators? Assuming that you are probably human if you are reading this, you personally benefit from pollinators in at least three ways. The first of these is physical (corporeal if you want to be really specific). You and I (I'm a human as well) eat and drink to maintain our own energy, maybe for other reasons, but let's stick to the perfunctory stuff. The presence of a pollinator was necessary to create at least one out of every three mouthfuls of food and drink you take. The second reason you should care about pollinators is financial. Insect-pollinated plants bring in 25 BILLION dollars each year. Those figures double when we include indirect products like milk and beef from cattle that fed on alfalfa, oil crops (sunflower and canola) which can be used as biofuel, and fibers like flax and cotton... "the fabric of our lives". The third, and possibly most obvious way that pollinators impact our lives is psychological. Exposure to flowering plants and trees in outdoor settings bolsters our ability to learn and gives us a sense of spiritual and/or emotional well-being. Fine, being outside might make some of you sneeze - get an antihistamine (claritin, benadryl, etc) and get over it already! Just kidding. (Please note I am not an allergist. Any medicinal suggestions should be considered as pure rubbish when they come from my mouth/computer. Consult a professional before taking anything)
Anoles think pollinators are delicious!

Back to pollinators. Humans aren't the only ones on the receiving end of their services. They are ecologically advantageous as well. Pollinators keep our plant communities (re)productive and are indicators of healthy systems. Their assistance with seed production facilitates the production of plants that can stabilize soil (willow) and colonize disturbed habitats (goldenrod). They can bore holes in weakened tree limbs to initiate decay (which is a good thing), are tasty snacks for birds, lizards and spiders, and assist in the creation of the fruits and seeds that both mammals and birds like to nosh on.

Parasitoid pollinator
But wait - there's more... Pollinators can help with pest management! It's true! Syrphid fly larvae, for example, just can't get their fill of aphids. Parasitoid pollinators (tachnid flies, brachonid and ichneumonid wasps) lay their eggs inside plant eaters like caterpillars and aphids. It's like Alien, only better - because it's REAL!

So what's the difference between native and non-native pollinators? Isn't a half dozen of one as good as six of the other? In one word: NO. Non-native pollinators may use up resources intended for native pollinators without contributing to the pollination process. For example, a new hawkmoth species was brought into the western U.S. with the intention of using it in I.P.M. (Integrated Pest Management). The goal was for its caterpillars to eat off a rather invasive type of spurge. As it turns out, its adult form has a proboscis (tongue) long enough to nectar on a Platanthera species of orchid without bumping into the orchid’s pollinia, whereby reducing its incidence of pollination and seed set. That's a big deal - particularly when the orchid species in question is dwindling. Consider this as a prelude. I'll elaborate on the native and non-native pollinators in a bit, so sit tight!

Equipment for pollination
Perhaps before going any further it would be good to briefly review the pollination process. How does pollination work in flowering plants? Essentially, pollination is fertilization, so we have male and female parts that work together to fertilize a seed. The female parts are collectively called the pistil, and contain a sticky or feathery end called a stigma, a style, which is basically a tube, and ovaries. The male parts are collectively called the stamen, which is easy to remember if you notice the word “men” in there. These consist of the anther, which contains the pollen, and the filament. Not all flowers have both male and female parts. Those that DO are referred to as either bisexual or perfect. Although some plants can self-pollinate, most require cross pollination, which is the movement of pollen among flowers on different plants. This results in a mixing of genetic material which produces successive generations of more robust plants.

Odor, color, and nectar guides
Pollination Syndromes
Pollination syndromes are a basic set of characteristics that you can take into consideration when trying to discern what a particular flower’s pollen vector might be. These include:
Odor -  flies are drawn to the smell of rotting meat, so it makes sense that Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria) is pollinated by flies, as it has a scent that has little potential in the perfume trade
Nectar guides - these are markings on a flower that show a pollinator the way to its nectar. To insects like bees, these may appear to glow.
Color - Not all pollinators can see or smell the same things. Bees can distinguish only four different colors in the visible spectrum: yellow, blue-green, blue, and ultraviolet (which we humans can't see). They are red-blind. It follows that most red flowers are pollinated by either hummingbirds or butterflies.
Fragrance - Although it is the subject of debate, many scientists have confirmed that most birds are unable to smell. As such, hummingbird-pollinated plants generally have little fragrance.
Amount of nectar/pollen - Pollinators aren’t just pollinating to be nice; they’re searching for food, either in the form of nectar, a carbohydrate, or as pollen, a protein. Plants that are wind pollinated have no need to create nectar or produce showy flowers... these activities would be a waste of precious energy. For this reason, wind-pollinated flowers are usually pale green or brown, loaded with pollen, and nectarless.
Shape - the shape of a flower and position of its nectaries should fit its pollinator’s pollinating apparatus. This means tubular for hummingbirds, relatively shallow for bees, and with a spur for butterflies and moths with a long proboscis.
Time of day open - If there’s one thing that probably most of us have seen, a light turned on outside at night attracts moths. this is because they are nocturnal creatures. At night, white is the most visible color flower. Flowers that are fragrant and open at night like moonflower are usually pollinated by moths.
This chart shows the standard pollinator syndromes, although, as most of us are aware, few things in nature are so cut and dry. It's sometimes right, and sometimes wrong, but it gives us at least some sort of foundation for understanding what the various pollinators are attracted to.
Pollinator Life Cycles
Creating habitat for pollinators means much more than knowing which color flowers a given insect is attracted to. It involves knowing the life span and understanding the forage and shelter needs of each individual pollinator at various stages of life.We will delve into that subject (and more) in part 2 of this blog, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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
*Native to a specific region or environment and not occurring naturally anywhere else.