Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lasting Legacies

Bob Egolf (right) with Anne Cox.
Photo © Shirley Denton.
It’s always difficult to lose long-standing friends to the ravages of time. The best we can do is to remember our friends and honor their memory by continuing the good work of the Society that engaged them to begin with. Sometimes, these friends honor us as well, by remembering the Florida Native Plant Society in their wills, and other times we honor them through tributes and memorial gifts. Two recent losses to the Society come to mind when speaking of the impact the Society has on the lives of our members, and the lasting legacy their commitment to the protection of native plants and natural communities has on the Society.

When Bob Egolf passed last year, the Society mourned this immense loss. An avid gardener, promoter of native landscapes, and a conservation-minded advocate for nature protection, Bob was a dedicated leader of the Florida Native Plant Society. He served the organization in so many capacities, from his position on the Serenoa Chapter Board to his service on the state Board as Chapter Representative, Publications Chair, Vice-President for Administration, and finally as President. His wonderful personality, giving nature, leadership and service to our mission has been truly missed, but it should not have been a surprise when we learned that Bob remembered us in his will. As we have honored Bob, he in turn, has honored us.

Betty Wargo (left) with Angus Ghoulson.
Photo © Shirley Denton.
The Society faced another loss of a longtime member in 2013. Betty Wargo, a member since the Society’s earliest days, passed last year to the sadness of all who knew her. Active in her chapter on field trips, performing surveys, and photographing Florida’s native flora for publication in the Suncoast chapter’s first book and the Atlas of Florida Plants. Betty was also a regular FNPS Conference goer, where the anecdotes are legend, such as her penchant for quietly driving the cost of auction items up to help the Society, then going home with more than she likely envisioned. There was also a time when one of the Society’s conferences was faced with a financial crunch and Betty quietly wrote a check to bridge the gap. Quietly is a key to Betty’s legacy. Though she never sought an active role in leadership, she was a leader non-the-less.

The Suncoast Chapter has established a Tribute Fund to honor our memories of Betty Wargo. The chapter has donated $2,500 to the 2014 Conservation Awards in her name. For those who knew Betty and would like to add to her Tribute Fund, please fill out a donation form online or simply note the Betty Wargo Tribute Fund in the memo field of your check to the Society.

It often happens that as we honor the memories of those we have lost, we are honored in return. It is this sense of belonging and reciprocal commitment that encapsulates what it means to be a member of the Florida Native Plant Society. And, we, the Society are better for it.

Kellie A. Westervelt
Executive Director

posted by Laurie Sheldon

Monday, March 17, 2014

Florida's Native Shamrocks

Aye and begorrah - Saint Patrick’s Day is upon us, as are all things green. Whether or not you choose to indulge in a green beer is your call, but one thing that will be nearly impossible to avoid today are shamrocks.

Medicago lupulina (Black medick)
is one of the four "shamrocks"
commonly worn in Ireland
For starters, shamrocks are neither part sham nor part rock, so what's with the name? The Irish word for clover is seamair, and its diminutive is seamróg; an American ear will hear this as shamrock. Incidentally, shamrocks are registered as a trademark by the Irish government.

So now that we're past the etymology, what genus and species of plant is this "little clover"? Apparently, not even the Irish have reached a consensus about this. A 1988 survey conducted at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin revealed that when the Irish wear the "shamrock," it can be any one of four different plants (none of which are Florida natives), including Black medick (Medicago lupulina) and three different species of Trifolium. As if that wasn't enough, a number of members of the Oxalis (Woodsorrel) family are also worn as shamrocks.

Trifoliate leaves have three leaflets
How did they all come to be considered shamrocks? That's easy - they're all trifoliate, or, in layman's terms, their leaves are compound and contain three leaflets (see image at right). The significance of the number three is believed to be rooted in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which Saint Patrick is said to have demonstrated by pointing to a shamrock, whose three leaves are united by a common stalk. Religion aside, we're talking plants on this blog, so let's leave that one alone.

Since we've already established that there is no "Real McCoy" species of shamrock, I think it's fair to say that Florida has at least four native shamrocks:
- Trifolium carolinianum (Carolina Clover)
Trifolium reflexum, Buffalo Clover
- Oxalis macrantha (Tufted Yellow Woodsorrel)
- Trifolium reflexum (Buffalo Clover)
- Oxalis corniculata (Common Yellow or Creeping Woodsorrel)

Carolina Clover is only found in the north portions of the state, and Tufted Yellow Woodsorrel is limited further to the northwest part of the panhandle. As for Buffalo Clover - I'm stumped. Either we haven't been looking for it hard enough or it is extremely picky about where it will grow. There are vouchered specimens from only five of Florida's 67 counties, and only two of the five are adjacent to one another.

Oxalis corniculata (Common Yellow
or Creeping Woodsorrel), a FL native,
can be found throughout the state
The Common Yellow Woodsorrel is, you guessed it, the most common of all of them, and can be found in almost every county in the state (and all over my backyard). It is a facultative upland plant with cheerful flowers that bloom year round. It stays low to the ground, produces a capsule that explodes with seed, and tends to root at its nodes. Bees seem to adore it, so if you are allergic and don't have an epipen within reach, you might want to forgo rolling around in it. Another bit'o'info that's worthy of mentioning - although both Oxalis corniculata and Oxalis macrantha are said to be edible, they contain oxalate compounds that, if eaten in large quantities, can be toxic to livestock.

So... If you think you see a leprechaun in the Sunshine State today, you might want to check in with your optometrist, but if you see something gold at the end of a rainbow, it might just be a field of Florida's most common shamrock.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Native Orchid Names

By Chuck McCartney

Naming conventions
Scientific names of naturally occurring plants (and animals, too) seem to “scare” the average person when they really shouldn’t. In botany, the first part of the italicized name (the genus) is always capitalized. The second part (the species) is always lowercase (in modern usage), even when it’s derived from a proper name. Thus, the Dollar Orchid of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties is Prosthechea boothiana, even though the species is named in honor of William Beattie Booth, the grower for wealthy 19th Century English orchidist Sir Charles Lemon. (The rules for names of man-made hybrids and cultivated varieties are different.)

These seemingly strange-looking plant names are made up primarily of Latin or Greek words, with some names derived from the names of people or places.
But if you understand the meanings of these plant names, they might not be so intimidating. Here are the meanings of the scientific names for some of South Florida’s more well-known species of tropical epiphytic (tree-growing) orchids:

Epidendrum nocturnum

Epidendrum nocturnum 
The name for this largest-flowered Florida member of this genus comes from the Greek words epi (upon) and dendron (tree) and literally means “upon a tree,” referring to the fact that most of the 1,400-plus members of this New World group grow as epiphytes, using a tree as a support. The species name (epithet), nocturnum, for the Night-Scented Epidendrum comes from the Latin word for “night,” referring to the alluring incense-like nocturnal fragrance emitted by the flowers to entice their moth pollinators through the darkness.

Encyclia tampensis
Encyclia tampensis 
This most common of South Florida’s epiphytic orchids takes its genus name from the Greek words meaning “to encircle,” indicating how the side lobes of the lip (the odd petal) of the flower grow around the bloom’s central reproductive structure (called a column) in many species of this New World group.  The species epithet denotes the Tampa Bay region from which the first plant of this species was sent to England, where it was described in 1847 (as an Epidendrum). This is the species often commonly called the Florida Butterfly Orchid, although, oddly, it looks nothing like a butterfly and is not pollinated by butterflies.

Prosthechea cochleata; photo by Shirley Denton
Prosthechea cochleata
This genus name for the Clamshell Orchid may not look familiar to longtime orchid enthusiasts because it previously was placed in Epidendrum and later Encyclia. Prosthechea comes from the Greek for an appendage or addition, referring to the appendage of tissue located on the back of the reproductive column of the flower. The species epithet comes from the Greek word for “shell” (think of marine cockleshells), referring to the upward-pointing, dark-purplish lip of the flower, which has a distinctly clamshell-like appearance.

Oncidium ensatum
Oncidium ensatum
This species is one of the exceptions to the word “epiphytic.” Most members of this big New World genus, which now numbers approximately 317 species due to recent taxonomic realignments, are epiphytes. However, in Florida, this species is generally found growing on (not in) the ground, even though on rare occasions it has been seen growing epiphytically as well. The genus name comes from the Greek word oncos, meaning a swelling or tumor (also the source for the word “oncologist,” a doctor specializing in the treatment of tumors). For the orchids, the name refers to the callus, or swelling of tissue, near the top of the flower’s lip, which functions in the orchid’s pollination mechanism. This native of Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas has long been known as Oncidium floridanum (named for the state of Florida), but now orchid scientists believe it is the same as the Mexican/northern Central American Oncidium ensatum. That species name comes from the Latin word for a type of sword, referring to the long, sword-like leaves on the large plants of this beautiful yellow-flowered orchid. 

Ionopsis utricularioides
Ionopsis utricularioides 
Both names of this pretty little Oncidium relative compare it to the flowers of other plants. The genus name comes from the Greek words ion (violet) and opsis (having the appearance or likeness of) because to German botanist Carl Sigismund Kunth, who created the genus in 1815, the flowers resembled some of the true violets in the genus Viola. (Remember that so-called African Violets in the gesneriad genus Saintpaulia are unrelated to true violets.)

Swedish botanist Olof Swartz’s 1788 species name for what he called Epidendrum utricularioides compares the flowers of this orchid to those of some species of carnivorous Bladderwort in the genus Utricularia. Worldwide, many Utricularia species do have pretty bilaterally symmetrical, orchid-like flowers. The oides suffix on the end of the orchid’s species name is similar to -opsis in the generic name and indicates a resemblance to something else.

Cyrtopodium punctatum
Cyrtopodium punctatum 
This largest of Florida’s tropical epiphytic orchids is commonly called the Cowhorn Orchid or Cigar Orchid because of the shape of the large, elongate pseudobulbs that, when leafless in the winter, do, indeed, resemble either of those well-known objects. This New World genus takes its name from a combination of the Greek words kyrtos (curved) and podion (little foot), referring to the curved “column foot” at the back of the reproductive column that connects it to the lip. The species epithet comes from the Latin word punctatus, meaning “pricked” or “spotted,” alluding to the prominently speckled flowers of the species.

Posted by Laurie Sheldon
All photos by the author unless otherwise noted

Friday, March 7, 2014

Falling Waters State Park, a profile

Sunrise is an excellent time for a hike at Falling Waters (or pretty much anywhere else) because the light is interesting for photos and there are fewer people on the trail. On this hike we didn't see anyone else in two hours even though the 25-site campground in the park was almost full.
Falling Waters State Park, at the highest elevation of Florida's state parks at a whopping 324', is lovely park in Florida's Panhandle about an hour west of Tallahassee and just a few miles south of I-10. It has 25 campsites, a swimming hole and the state's highest waterfall with a drop of 70' into a 100'-deep sinkhole. There are other sinkholes as well because of the karst topography where the rain water eats through the limestone bedrock. There's a good assortment of trees, shrubs, grasses and other understory plants. Well worth a visit.
The trail starts out through the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and wiregrass (Aristida stricta var. beyrichiana) habitat, which the park maintains through controlled burns.

Early morning lake reflections.

The 2-acre dammed lake was built at the beginning of the park's history to control the flow of water over the waterfall. The overflow from the lake leads to one of the original feeder creeks to the waterfall. This way, it looks good on a year-round basis and not just during the wet season. They stocked the lake with fish and created this sandy beach to bring more people to the park.

The water was flowing, but we think that maybe the volume was turned down during the night when no one would see it and it hadn't been turned back up again. A rainy front had passed through over night so maybe the flow was affected by the extra volume.
But when you look into the gap the fall into this perfectly circular sinkhole is pretty spectacular.

There is a trail loop around some of the sinkholes in the area.
Beautiful southern maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) decorate the walls of the sinkholes.

A magnolia root system at work trying to keep its topside upright.

Snags left over from a previous burn provide housing for a number of different birds.

Adams needle (Yucca filamentosa) dot the landscape.

Young longleaf pines are fire adapted with no lower branches and buds protected by a thick mat of hairs.
This is one of Florida's 170 state parks. Show your appreciation by visiting them on a regular basis. The number of visitors is an important metric when parks plead for state funding, so vote for parks with your money and as a bonus you'll keep you family in touch with "The Real Florida."

Photos and story by Ginny Stibolt.