Friday, June 27, 2014

Study: Roadside Vegetation Can Provide $1.5 BILLION in Ecosystem Services

A recently released Florida Department of Transportation study conservatively estimates that roadside vegetation along the state highway system performs nearly a half-billion dollars worth of ecosystem services. The study found that value would increase to $1 billion if sustainable vegetation management practices such as reduced mowing were adopted. The value would triple to $1.5 billion if wildflower areas were incorporated into roadside landscapes. Ecosystem services include carbon sequestration, runoff prevention, and support of crop pollinators and other insects, as well as contributions to air quality, invasive species resistance and roadside aesthetics.

Native roadside wildflowers in Florida's Panhandle
The Florida Wildflower Foundation requested the Florida Department of Transportation study on behalf of the Florida Native Plant Partnership, which includes the foundation, Florida Association of Native Nurseries, Florida Native Plant Society, and Florida Wildflower Plant and Seed Growers Association.

"These findings are a significant step toward fully understanding the benefits of vegetation, including wildflowers and native plant communities, along Florida's state highways. It's clear such vegetation, which is often viewed as a financial liability, has significant value to every Floridian in terms of the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the waterways and springs we enjoy," said Lisa Roberts, Florida Wildflower Foundation executive director.

SR 47 roadside view
Research found that the $33.5 million cost of vegetation management during FDOT's 2011-12 fiscal year was more than offset by the value of carbon sequestration alone, a service that potentially could generate income for FDOT with the sale of carbon credits. The University of Florida-IFAS report, "Economic Impact of Ecosystem Services Provided by Ecologically Sustainable Roadside Right of Way Vegetation Management Practices," also concluded that FDOT could reduce its costs by 30 percent by implementing sustainable management practices, such as reduced mowing. Jeff Caster, FDOT's State Transportation Landscape Architect, suggests, “The roadsides where wildflowers occur naturally may be the best places to reduce mowing.”

FDOT manages about 186,000 roadside acres - about one-half percent of Florida’s total area.

To view the full report, visit

Press release by Lisa Roberts
Posted by Laurie Sheldon

Friday, June 20, 2014

Two Florida scrub endemics

The welcome sign for Hickory Lake Scrub.
I visited Hickory Lake Scrub, a 57-acre preserve,  in May and I loved that I found quite a number of plants that I'd never seen before. A scrub habitat is not to be rushed through.  To begin to appreciate it, you need to slow down —way down.

Besides the plants there is a rich ecosystem filled with critters.  It's fun to examine the tracks in the sandy soil to guess what has taken place.

Here are two endemic plants that I found:

Scrub morning glory (Bonamia grandiflora)

Scrub morning glory with its pale lavender flowers.

Bonamia grandiflora distribution
The scrub morning glory or lady's nightcap is obviously a member of the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae), but it belongs to a different genus than the majority of  the morning gloriesBonamia not Ipomoea. This is the only species in this genus native to the US.

It is threatened and endangered and various sources state that there are only 100 populations remaining. Most of them have been lost due to development and fire suppression. This plant is not only adapted to fire with its deep roots, but it requires the fire to clear out overhead vegetation

Isn't it gorgeous? 

For more information read the profile at The Center for Plant Conservation. It's interesting to note that "Bonamia grandiflora is fully sponsored and the primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is Bok Tower Gardens."

Hickory Lake scrub is only a few miles from Bok Tower.

 Feay's palafox (Palafoxia feayi)

Feay's palafox, a shrubby member of Asteraceae.

Palafoxia feayi distribution
The daisy family (Asteraceae)  is one of the largest plant families, but there are not many members that are shrubs or trees. The most common in Florida is the groundsel tree (Baccharis halimifolia), which most of us know, but I wasn't thinking of this family when I spotted this shrub.

The flower head doesn't have the typical petal-like ray florets, just the central disk florets, but they were so pretty. I was relieved when I eventually figured it out. I love the cool palafox name—who knew? It was named for a Spanish general who fought against Napoleon.

It is endemic to Florida, but is not listed as threatened. 

There are 3 species native to Florida, but Texas palafox (P. taxana) has only been vouchered for 1 county in the Panhandle. The coastal plain palafox (P. integrefolia) is a little more widespread: it also occurs in Georgia and is more often found in the native plant trade, but is not as shrubby as Feay's palafox. 

Read Craig Huegel's profile of Palafoxia feayi and the IRC's listing including the 37 conservation areas where it occurs.

The scrub habitat is critical

Visit the scrub conservation areas and be sure to sign the book or register your presence so managers have real numbers to report back to justify their conservation. Please let your elected representatives know that you want these habitats to be preserved and vote "Yes!" on Amendment #1 in November.

Have enjoyed your scrub today?

Written and posted by Ginny Stibolt
Photos by Ginny Stibolt

Friday, June 13, 2014

Grieving the loss of a small bit of nature in my neighborhood

By Alex Farr (Sea Oats Chapter member)

I first saw the sign on a walk around the block, on my way to the corner swamp.  "Oh, no.  This can't be good!"....flashed through my mind, and all of the horrors of the bulldozer followed that thought.  But that was in October, still not much building happening, and anyway, with all this talk of global warming, water rising, huge hurricanes, impossible insurance rates (if any insurance at all), would  make these lots a hard sell.

How hard would it be to sell these lots?

Late February---I heard that all too familiar sound of beep, beep, beep, diesel engines, swoosh, the sickening sound of trees falling.  But I was off to work, not time to investigate.  Turning down my little lane that afternoon, I was horrified to be able to see the next street over, and the condo's on the next street.  The trees and entangled growth that blocked that view were gone.  It was the site of that For Sale sign back in October!

I realized how complacency had also settled in over the 25 years I have lived in this wonderful little pocket of a neighborhood.  My home was built in 1920, built lightly on the beach as a "social club," a place for families and friends to gather for a day at the beach.  A very few small, bare bones cottages followed, clustered at the end of a dirt road, with large areas of native growth untouched.  These spaces were part of the property owned by the handful of people who had built their beach place out here.  Very little changed, some porches were enclosed, and a few conveniences added.  The dirt road was paved not too long ago, and the dunes have shifted even further inland, and the ocean began lapping at doorsteps.  Ocean front property---now it must be protected by beach "nourishment."  But with this latest intrusion, I was outraged.

Grieving the loss
And the grieving process is now ongoing.  It isn't about the loss of privacy, the more populated neighborhood, wondering what kind of junky houses might be going up.  What was lost is something that is becoming critical to our own existence.  Loss of habitat.  The homes of marsh rabbits, tortoise, snakes, hawks and song birds, frogs and toads, and those pesky raccoons and opossums, are now destroyed.  Loss of monarda, one of the best plants for our pollinators, red cedars, wax myrtles, hollies, wild blackberries, climbing asters, gallardia, dune sunflower, and various grasses...just the few I would see see from the edge of the thicket until now.  Most beach goers and new home owners aren't even aware of the variety of plants we do have growing naturally right up to the dunes.  Our new neighbors-to-be- probably never even saw those plants, and if they did, it wasn't a tidy little affair, so it wasn't significant.

The homeowner who backs up to this nightmare had discovered  the new owners live up north, the wife is on assignment in Africa, and their new "beach" house will have a nice big wall around the perimeter of the property, enclosing the cement deck of a pool in back, and parking space and garage in the front.  My hopes that maybe some native landscape would be in the picture were squashed!
While it may be too late to do much about this tragedy, and we are not politically powerful when up against the money of a developer,  we must become more vigilant.  Digging up plants?  Relocating animals?  You bet I would be there, along with a few other neighbors...if only we had gotten honest information in time to act.  Could we have started as soon as the For Sale sign appeared?  Would we need the approval of the seller, could we get it?  I don't know, but I will risk threats of trespassing charges next time.

And would a letter to the new neighbors be in order, a friendly "chat" about the benefits of our native plants, even if they are in a pot or three?  I'll let you know.
Time for a chat about the beauty of natives?

I still have too many questions.  What are yours?  And how do you feel about the continuing development in our state, especially where you live?  We can only start in our own neighborhood.  And that really does help.

~ ~ ~

Thanks Alex for sharing your story. We would love to share your native plant and native habitat stories, too. Contact us at if you have a story idea.

Story and photos by Alex Farr.
Posted by Ginny Stibolt