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Showing posts from November, 2013

THEY are the Champions

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by Laurie Sheldon

In the Beginning
American Forests magazine has maintained a list of the biggest trees of each species in America since 1940. It began as the "American Big Trees Report," was re-titled the "Social Register of Big Trees" in 1961, and in 1978 it became the "National Register of Big Trees" - a publication in which more than 750 champions are crowned each year. To see the most current edition, click here. The Big Tree Program is active throughout the U.S., and its message has been the same for over 70 years: regardless of size, all trees are champions of the environment. Its goal is to preserve and promote the iconic stature of our country's living monarchs (its remarkable trees) and to educate people about the key role that trees and forests play in sustaining a healthy environment.

The Makings of a Champion
To be eligible for the National Register of Big Trees, a tree must be recognized as native or non-invasive naturalized in the United…

Life in the Slow Lane: A Profile of the Gopher Tortoise

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By Laurie Sheldon

Joseph Butler, a U.N.F. Biology Professor and herpetologist, was a guest speaker at one of  the Ixia chapter's recent meetings. He hoped to study snakes when he moved to Florida, but found that they were hard to pin down, so to speak. He turned his attention to Gopher Tortoises, which proved to be a much more reliable subject to study, as they live long lives (50 years +) and there are over 400 burrows on campus.The gopher tortoise is federally protected as a threatened species except in Florida, where it is listed as a Species of Special Concern by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are native reptiles that can be found throughout the southeastern U.S.. They prefer sandhill communities, which are typified by longleaf pines and turkey oaks growing in loose, sandy soil. Much of the longleaf pine in Florida has been replaced with slash pine, which grows significantly faster; the unfortunate byproduct has b…

F.N.P.S. Board Retreat #2, August 2013

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By Laurie Sheldon

On August 11, 2013, the F.N.P.S. Board of Directors, along with Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Ellen Bristol of the Bristol Strategy Group, attended a two day retreat at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. A typical B.O.D. meeting was held first thing Saturday morning. After that, we were all subject to Rebecca and Ellen's poking and prodding. These two women were hired to help F.N.P.S. actualize its potential. It was the second Strategic Planning Event they were facilitators for. I was not at the first one (held in February 2013), but Ginny Stibolt was, and she wrote the following blog about it: 2013 FNPS Board Retreat. They felt that, given the way that the organization currently operates, it has maxed out on its potential for expansion and development. Further, they suggested that the only way for us to continue to function and grow would be to make some significant changes to our current system of governance, and soon... otherwise we were headed for a short walk o…

Florida Native Plant Communities

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Have you ever wondered what the heck a scrubby flatwoods is or what the difference is between a slough and a wet prairie?

Well, wonder no more! The FNPS website includes a Native Plant Communitiespage with all of Florida's complex ecosystems explained and illustrated by photos.

The communities are organized into 13 broad 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 Lakes & Ponds. There are two or more specific communities under each broad category. Isn't Florida amazing?

Why is it important to be familiar with all this? Whether you are just planting natives in your yard or working on a true restoration project, it's important to know what is likely to have been there 500 years ago.  Knowing Florida's native plant communities or ecosystems and the plants that grow there will help you…