Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Giving Tuesday Recap

By Andy Taylor

The Florida Native Plant Society was happy to participate in 2015 #GivingTuesday!  What is #GivingTuesday you ask? It is a global initiative of giving back following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  You can read more about #GivingTuesday here.

FNPS participated by using our social media pages to look back on some of the work the Society has done and opportunities to give, either financially or as a volunteer.

You can donate financially to FNPS at this link.

Did you know your employer could double or even triple your donation??  Until December 15, 2015, Double the Donation has made their database free to see if your employer makes donations.  Please check it out at

Sunrise at DeSoto Park by Georgia Wilson.

Some of the programs and projects we looked back at for #GivingTuesday:

FNPS chapter field trips: Georgia Wilson recently took this beautiful photo of the sunrise at Fort DeSoto park.  Most FNPS chapters take field trips, usually monthly. In September, the Pinellas chapter visited Fort DeSoto with an expert from Pinellas County to learn about the environmental restoration projects taking place there.

Website: Did you know gets thousands of hits every month? The most used page is  People visit all over looking for the name of that plant already in their yard or look what would fit best.

Research and Conservation Grants:  FNPS gives thousands of dollars every year in conservation and research grants!  Check out research page for 2016 deadlines for grants.

An FNPS-funded burn. Photo by Taylor Clark.
A gopher tortoise after the burn. Photo by Taylor Clark.
In 2015, one of our Conservation Grant recipients was Oakland Nature Preserve.  They used the grant to fund a specialized burn in a small area.  Photos are of the burn taking place and a post burn gopher tortoise foraging around newly growing wiregrass.  (Photo credit to Taylor Clark).

Education:  FNPS chapters are active in local schools teaching the next generation about native plants! The Florida Today highlighted the work funded by a grant from the Conradina chapter in this article: Butterfly project helps connect Brevard students to nature.

The Coccoloba chapter worked on a comprehensive initiative at Ft. Myers Middle Academy with numerous partners. Here are two photos featuring their work!

Dick Workman at Ft. Myers Middle Academy. FNPS chapter members work on a native plant installation.

Florida Native Plant Month: FNPS runs a comprehensive membership and outreach campaign in October.  This year, FNPS received 45 proclamations including from the state of Florida.  Here is a great photo from the City of Tallahassee proclamation presentation. Thank you to Mayor Andrew Gillum and Commissioner Nancy Miller for making it happen!

Scenes like this happened across the state as counties, cities, and towns declared October to be Native Plant Month. Gov. Scott also declared Native Plant Month for the state of Florida.
Conference: FNPS hosts an annual conference each year! It a great opportunity to learn, grow and network with others who love native plants! The 2015 conference was held in Tallahassee and the 2016 conference will be held in Daytona Beach from May 19-22. You can learn more at the: conference web page.

Conferences have native plant sales.
Conferences have interesting and informative presentations. This is Roger Hammer.
Conferences have socials where you can get to know FNPS Members from other chapters in relaxed settings.
A Palmetto from 1994

Member Benefits: Did you know ONLY FNPS members receive a quarterly magazine?  The Palmetto features everything from scientific articles, the latest tips on landscaping, and news on the Society. Here is a cover of The Palmetto from 1994. For more details on the Palmetto see this profile on our blog.

You can join FNPS as a member and start receiving your copy of The Palmetto on our website.

This is just a small sample of all that FNPS and the chapters do throughout the year! All of these activities could use your financial support OR your time as a volunteer.  We hope you will consider a financial donation or joining as a member of FNPS here.


Andy Taylor is the FNPS Development Director

Edited, formatted, and posted by Ginny Stibolt

Monday, November 2, 2015

Doing some online holiday shopping?

You can help FNPS while you shop and it won't cost you anything!

Use our Amazon links to buy
all your merchandise.
We have listed books here on the blog and on our website dealing with Florida native plants, native ecosystems, and sustainable landscaping with links to Amazon. If you use our links when you purchase these books, FNPS receives a referral fee.

BUT you can also help FNPS when you purchase anything from Amazon. Just use one of our book links to get into Amazon and then search for other items on your list from there. FNPS will receive referral fees for your whole shopping list.

See? Wasn't that easy??

Here are some new or interesting books you many be interested in for yourself or as a gift:

Principles of  Ecological Landscape Design
by Travis Beck
Your Florida Guide to Butterfly
 A guide for the Deep South

by Jaret Daniels
Attracting Hummingbirds and
Butterflies in Tropical Florida

by Roger Hammer

Everglades Wildflowers: A Field Guide to
the Wildflowers, Trees, Shrubs and
Woody Vines of the Florida Keys

by Roger Hammer
Native Florida Plants for
Shady Landscapes

by Craig Huegel
Forgotten Grasslands of the South
by Reed Noss

The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape by Ginny Stibolt (Note: 50% of the royalties will be paid directly to FNPS.) Native Florida Plants by  Robert Haehle & Joan Brookwell Florida's Best Native Landscape Plants 200 Readily Available Species for Homeowners and Professionals
by Gil Nelson
Your donation supports the FNPS Mission

As the year draws to a close, please remember to support your Florida Native Plant Society with an extra donation.
FNPS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your donation is FNPS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your donation is tax deductible. To provide funds that will enable us to protect Florida's native plant heritage, please consider joining or renewing at the highest level you can afford.. 

The Mission of the Florida Native Plant Society is to promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Florida.

The Society fulfills this mission through:
  • Support for conservation land acquisition
  • Land management that enhances habitat suitability for native plants
  • Education
  • Public policies that protect our native flora, especially rare species
  • Research on native plant species
  • Encouragement of local landscaping practices and policies that preserve Florida's native pla

Thanks to all our members, a group of hard working and dedicated volunteers who work on behalf of our beautiful state.

Written & posted by Ginny Stibolt

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Walk in the Florida Dry Prairie

A FNPS Education Committee Project

By  Debra L. Klein, Chair with members Richard Brownscombe, Ellen Broderick and Kirsi Johnson


A Walk in the Florida Dry Prairie began serendipitously at the May 2014 FNPS conference while at the Saturday night dinner social.  The Education Committee had an impromptu meeting with Richard Brownscombe, Ellen Broderick, joined by Kellie Westervelt, Cammie Donaldson and myself in attendance.  The idea of filming a field trip was floated with proposals of who should guide and what location.  Cammie suggested that the Friends of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park had asked Roger Hammer to guide a field trip planned for November 1, 2014.  Subsequently, Craig Huegel was also asked to join. Christina Evans of both the Florida Native Plant Society and Friends of KPPSP suggested that we use Jennifer Brown of Into Nature Films to do the video shoot.

Work Plan

With the whole team assembled, the Education Committee produced the following Work Plan with assistance from the Executive Director, Kellie Westervelt, and the Communications Committee:

Project Title:  “Walk with the Wildflowers” at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

Project Description:  This project will film the above titled field trip hosted by Friends of the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park on November 1, 2014.  The film will capture well-known naturalist and Society member Roger Hammer as he describes the plants, habitats and history of the preserve.  Mr. Hammer will be accompanied by other Society members, such as Craig Huegel.  The field trip will be filmed by Jennifer Brown of Into Nature Films.

Craig Huegel addressing the field trip attendees
• To educate a broad audience about Florida native plants and Florida native plant communities through the medium of film.
• To promote the Society’s mission, membership and field trips that provide education about Florida’s native plants in their communities and habitats and special places like Kissimmee Prairie.
• To develop a pilot film/prototype to test effectiveness of the medium and distribution in promoting the Society in general and FNPS field trips specifically.  If successful, could launch a film series showcasing a variety of excursions into nature led by knowledgeable and personable FNPS members and/or partners.
• To create an educational and marketing tool as a springboard to develop or expand other FNPS programs (e.g. educational field trips; existing field trips; education and outreach).
• To record for prosperity footage that captures Florida’s unique landscapes as they exist today and document the botanical knowledge, personality and style of some of our most iconic field trip leaders through a series of videos. 

Target Audience: General adult and young people curious about native plants, teachers, local population and visitors to the Prairie, individuals who have never attended a FNPS field trip, CPALMS (a clearinghouse for educators sponsored by the State of Florida).

Distribution: Shoot film at the highest resolution possible to keep all distribution options open.
• FNPS Website (page dedicated to field trips with unique URL).
• All FNPS social media outlets.
• Write blog, Facebook, and other online articles about film with download link or link to embedded video and employ viral strategies to direct traffic (e.g., email contacts, twitter, etc.).
• You Tube:  FNPS can create a You Tube Channel, where this, and any subsequent films can be uploaded and number of hits tracked, e.g. the Knowledge Network.
• Educational Websites such as CPALMS and LEEF
• Possibly PBS/Public Television
• Physical Installations like Visitor Centers (DVD format).

Evaluation Mechanisms: 
• Track number of hits from FNPS Website, YouTube Channel, Twitter statistics on “film” hashtag; etc.
• Track number of teachers using the film through CPALM (need to determine how and what they capture from downloads)
• Include question on how participants learned of FNPS field trips using Survey/Sign-In formats to determine films effectiveness at promoting field trips.
• Develop Field Trip page on FNPS Website with a unique URL so number of hits can be determined.

The Work Plan was a good starting point and guide, although it was modified as needed while filming guide  in order to achieve the best final product.

Filming and Editing

Ultimately, the title was changed to “Walk in the Florida Dry Prairie." Jennifer Brown began  filming on October 31, 2014 - the day before the walk was scheduled to take place.  She interviewed Roger Hammer and Craig Huegel while they scouted out the best areas for viewing wildflowers and other interesting components of the Dry Prairie Ecosystem.

Roger Hammer and filmmaker Jennifer Brown
November 1, 2014 was the official field trip day. It was cold, windy, beautiful, and FUN! Two walks took place - one in the morning and another in the afternoon. The number of people who could attend each walk was determined by the maximum capacity of the swamp buggies that took them into and out of the prairie while providing a rich panoramic view.
Filming the field trip and its participants

After filming was over, the drafts were reviewed by the Education Committee, Shirley Denton and Craig Huegel.  The first draft was presented to the FNPS Board of Directors and Council of Chapters 2015 February Retreat at Archbold Biological Station. The film was finally finished after the Education Committee considered all feedback and comments and made any necessary corrections. We hope you enjoy it! Here's the link again, for good measure: A Walk in the Florida Dry Prairie

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why Florida Native Plant Month?

A New Initiative

As the weather turns nicer and chapter events start increasing, the Florida Native Plant Society is starting a new initiative for the fall this year.  Welcome to the first ever Florida Native Plant Month!   You can find a list of events at

The St. Johns County Proclamation of October being Florida's Native Plant Month 
We are working on a coordinated outreach and membership campaign to tell everyone we can find in the state about the work FNPS does.  As part of this, we are building relationships with local elected officials, media and organizations who may not know much about us.

The proclamation document.
There are currently 36 scheduled proclamations across the state for an event FNPS decided to proceed with in late July.  We have already found people that share a similar mindset as FNPS who were not members.  One of the coolest stories so far is a City Commissioner reaching out to us because he wanted to do a Florida Native Plant Month proclamation.

St Johns BOCC Chairwoman Rachael Bennett said “My backyard, much to the dismay of my HOA, looks very much like a natural Florida environment.” A nice touch from the Sea Oats members in attendance to give a loud round of applause after that line!

In Highlands County, we were able to highlight our friends at Archbold Biological Station’s use of native landscaping that won a 2015 FNPS Landscape Award.

Proclamations are purely ceremonial but allow for promotion of the FNPS mission state and reach the general public on the benefits of native plants.  They are a great tool to be in front of your County Commissioners or your city elected officials to talk about native plants and celebrate the work that your chapter does. You may be surprised how many people keep an eye on what happens at their local government meetings.

Tips to use your proclamations: display at plant sales and chapter meetings, press releases with a picture of your members receiving the proclamation to your local media (especially newspapers with an ‘Around Town’ section).

Florida Native Plant Month aids, including press release templates, digital logos and flyers/posters can be found at here. The organizing committee still has some of the original printed posters that can be sent. Remember there are FNPS membership brochures available for you to have at events.

One of the reasons we were able to have printed materials is the support of our generous sponsors that believed in a first year program. Thank you to Conversa, NAUI Green DiverInitiative, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Please contact FNPS Development Director Andy Taylor or committee chair Donna Bollenbach for details on Florida Native Plant Month.

Florida Native Plant Month sponsors:
We thank our sponsors.

Post by Andy Taylor.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Speak up for Florida!


Most of Florida's County Legislative Delegations have scheduled local meetings over the next couple of weeks. Your Legislative Delegation meeting provides local constituents with a rare opportunity to speak directly with the state lawmakers who represent them in Tallahassee. You may also have a chance to speak more personally with your delegates during breaks and/or at the conclusion of the meeting.

(Find your representatives: Find your Florida senator and Find your Florida House representative. )


As a member of the Florida Native Plant Society or someone who cares for Florida's wild spaces and their native ecosystems. We ask you to attend your local delegation meeting to express your support for Florida.

Please consider attending and speaking at your local meeting and emphasize the points below:

Be organized because you'll only have 3 minutes to
make your point. (G. Stibolt at a Clay County
Delegation meeting.)


1. Restore Florida Forever funding. 
Let them know that when you voted in support of Amendment 1, you intended for a large portion of the funds to be used to conserve land. Annual funding for Florida Forever should at least equal the $300 million that was allocated before funding was cut in response to the recession. This amount is not cost-prohibitive given that annual Amendment 1 funding exceeds $700 million.

2. Manage Florida’s conservation lands responsibly. 
The land we have already conserved represents a valuable investment and proper management is necessary to protect our investment. Management shouldn’t be short-changed by inadequate staffing or funding. Funding should be sufficient to implement the management plans that have been adopted for each property.

3. Do not spend Amendment 1 funds on items previously provided from other funding sources, such as staff salaries. Amendment 1 was intended to supplement funding for conservation, not replace pre-existing funds that came from other sources.

4. Adopt a comprehensive approach to protection of our water resources.
Such an approach must account for the water needs of our springs, rivers, estuaries, and other water-dependent natural systems. 


The procedure differs depending on the county. To find out the procedures to be a speaker call any one of the offices for your senator or representative and a staff member will forward your request to the representative in charge of that meeting's agenda. Some counties require you to sign up several days ahead of time  but others have speaker request forms available at the meeting, and if this is the case, you should submit one immediately upon arrival to ensure you will be allowed to speak. 

Senator Rob Bradley and FNPS member Ginny Stibolt.

Tips for making a good impression

1. Dress appropriately: Wear business casual clothing.
2. Be polite: Even though we may be disappointed with the house and senate actions, be respectful to your individual representatives. No yelling.
3. Be Prepared: You may only have 3 minutes to make all your points.
4. Offer to be a resource if they have questions. 
5. County officials, who will also addressing the delegation will be in the room, so your audience is much larger than just the representatives. Chances are good that most of these people have never considered that native plants might be important.
6. Bring handouts with your contact information and the major points you want them to to know. (I print mine on green paper so they don't get lost in the shuffle.)
7. Come early and/or stay late so you can mingle with your representatives, their staff, and the county officials. Bring a camera and take a photo with them and then email them the photo for their use. Be memorable.

If we all speak up on behalf of Florida in will be HUGE!

Thank you for all your efforts.

Thanks to Gene Kelly for organizing the talking points.

Posted by & Photos by

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Our Beautiful Subtropical Garden

By Mary Ann Gibbs

When my husband, Tucker, and I bought our house in Miami some 16 years ago, we inherited a yard that was mostly grass with five large melaleuca trees, several Queen palms and a Surinam cherry hedge. We tore all of that out and evolved our yard into what it is today – a haven for people and wildlife. There is a sense of beauty and peace in the garden where we can observe the birds, butterflies, bees, squirrels and other critters that share our space with us.
A more than 15-year-old lignam-vitae tree on left is the standout in our new hedge planted with many young native trees and bushes, including here coral-bean, golden dewdrop, satinwood and Florida Keys blackbead. Growing up the chicken wire around a fishtail palm to the right of the lignam-vitae is passion vine, a larval host for heliconian butterflies. The bromeliads in the front will come out as the young slow-growing natives fill up and out.
We have never liked grass in our yard. We replaced most it with winding garden beds lined by coral rocks and gravel paths. We always kept some grass for our daughter for playing outside. Now that she is an adult, we decided to eliminate the rest of the grass and add more native plants in a garden makeover that started last winter.

We finished tearing out the Brazilian cloak privacy hedge we had initially planted. Now our hedge is mostly made up of native trees and bushes, such as spicewood, Jamaican caper, bay cedar, butterfly-sage, golden dewdrop, white indigo berry, Bahama strongbark, beautyberry, Florida Keys blackbead, snowberry, privet cassia, wild-lime, marlberry, Florida tetrazygia, lignum-vitae, wild coffee, maidenbush, necklace-pod, locustberry, firebush, Florida privet, coralbean and all the stoppers – red, red-berry, white, Simpson and Spanish. I had been growing the lignum-vitae, wild-lime, Florida privet and Spanish and Simpson stoppers for years so they have grown into handsome specimens. The white stopper, planted nearly five years ago, had become such a beautiful small tree that I bought a second one.
Another view of the young hedge featuring the lignam-vitae looking down our street. The native bushes here from back to front are coral-bean, spicewood, Florida Keys blackbead, golden dewdrop, and white indigo berry.
It might seem that this is a large number of plants for a hedge. However, our quarter-acre yard is long and narrow, spanning the bottom of the horseshoe-shaped cul-de-sac on which we live. We needed many plants to create the native hedge and fill garden beds.
Mistletoe cactus (Rhipsalis baccifera), a native endangered plant,
establishing itself on a cabbage palm, a favorite spot.
My husband and I preferred to mix natives along our property’s perimeter rather than plant just one kind, such as the commonly used red tip cocoplum, because diversity is beautiful, more interesting, offers less opportunity for disease and provides food and habitat for a variety of wildlife. We planted for birds, butterflies, bees and other animals that want to share in the bounty.
Our goal was to provide a sanctuary for animals and endangered native plants that have lost their natural environment to development. In our neighborhood, which was once pine rockland, many houses have grassy yards accented by mostly non-native plants – just like ours once was. Our U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Zone is 10b.
Quailberry (Crossopetalum ilicifolium)  specimen has been
happily growing in this spot for some 15 years.
Behind the native hedge, we broke the yard down into beds for different purposes, such as butterfly and kitchen gardens and a shady area for understory plants under a large live oak. These beds host subtropical greenery as well as a variety of native plants, that include coontie, joewood, pineland croton, corky passion flower and passion vines, blue porterweed, sea lavender, swamp sunflower, rice button aster, blanket-flower, tickseed, blue-eyed grass, yellowtop, purple flag iris, beach verbena, star rush, wild plumbago, quailberry, rouge plant, goldenrod, little strongbark, wild lantana, pineland lantana, spiderwort, beach sunflower, wild petunia, mimosa, Dutchman’s pipe vine, climbing aster, frogfruit, helmet skullcap, scorpion-tail, loosestrife, violet, tropical sage, wood sage and creeping Charlie.
Sea lavender (Argusia gnaphalodes) in a butterfly garden.
Over the years we have also planted many native palms, including the silver thatch, buccaneer, cabbage, Key thatch, saw palmetto and Florida thatch palms.
Since I have been butterfly gardening for more than five years, we have cultivated a variety of butterflies in our yard by planting many native host and nectar plants. This summer we’re seeing Monarch, Zebra, Giant Swallowtail, Gold Rim Swallowtail, Gulf Fritillary, Mangrove Buckeye, several Sulfers and Pharon and Pearl Cresent butterflies. We’ve even seen a tiny blue butterfly that could be either a Cassius Blue or Ceraunus Blue. They fly so fast we cannot quite tell what they are. We planted coonties all over the yard and hope someday to attract the rare Attala butterfly.
This silver thatch palm (Leucothrinax morrisii ) is more than 20 years old. 
I learned about native plants when I took the Florida Master Gardener course some 20 years ago. I have been building on that knowledge by reading books and taking classes about gardening. I decided what plants I wanted in my garden and then bought them at local native plant nurseries, such as Casey’s Corner Nursery in Homestead, Florida, and plant shows by plant societies, such as the Dade chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.
When I find out about an endangered plant, such as the crenulate lead-plant, I buy it to help the plant from becoming extinct. We have three crenulate lead-plants in our butterfly beds. As a bonus, the critically imperiled lead-plant is a larval host for the Cassius Blue butterfly.
We have found gardening with native plants to be very rewarding. Not only are we helping to preserve habitat for the beautiful animals that live with us in South Florida, we are creating a beautiful green space in the city where when we step outside, we are at peace in nature.

 ~ ~ ~
Thanks to Mary Ann for sharing her yard and its stories. Would you like to share your yard? Let us know.
Posted by Ginny Stibolt

Friday, August 7, 2015

Finding Native “Apples” in Florida

The Story of a Field Trip Leader who Just Wouldn’t Give Up

By Sande Habali

Native “Apples” in Florida!  “Apples” in Volusia County?  Thanks to the dedication of our intrepid field trip leader, Sonya Guidry, the two year search for the endangered Harrisia fragrans is over!  Pawpaw chapter members located a Prickly “apple” orchard in southern Volusia County!

Sonya and I first met Dr. Jon Moore from Florida Atlantic University, Wilkes Honor College, where he presented a paper on the Prickly Apple at the 2012 FNPS Conference in Plant City. His research paper was entitled "Transplantation of the Endangered Fragrant Prickly Apple Cactus, Harrisia fragrans, in St. Lucie and Indian River Counties." He explained the scrub habitat and conditions of its survival historically and that it exists now in St Lucie and Brevard County coastlines. He mentioned it could “possibly” be found in Volusia County and gave Sonya the coordinates. When he said it would be “hard to find”; I think that was all the challenge she needed to make it her mission to go out and locate this important cactus!

First, Sonya tried by land to find the little guys. If anyone has ever been to Castle Windy Midden in Canaveral National Seashore  (CNS), you know why the area is known as Mosquito Lagoon. Sonya and I battled swarms of mosquitoes while we traipsed through the dense foliage in search of Harrisia fragrans. And by “we,” I certainly mean Sonya!  I was too busy trying to find sunlight to relieve the buzzing noises and discomfort that follows. Of course, we realized we were a bit too far north and we were not looking in the right terrain. We needed to be in scrub-like conditions.

But Sonya was not ready to give up. She began asking anyone and everyone she met with a boat to take her by water to find the Fragrant Prickly apple.  She continued to keep the subject “alive,” by discussing her quest and speaking with Dr. Moore again at another event.

The fuzzy fungus on the endangered
Fragrant Prickly Apple Cactus (Harrisia fragrans)


Eventually, Sonya added another feather to her cap and became a tour volunteer and plant ID guide at CNS. Naturally, her enthusiasm for finding Harrisia fragrans, carried over to the other volunteers who then enlisted the help of a CNS Park Service boat with Captain Walt at the helm. The exploratory group of CNS volunteers, fellow Pawpaw members Dot Backes and Sonya, and MDC’s kayak specialist, Warren Reynolds set off in early April. Success! Not only did they find lots of cool treasures, but they found the Prickly Apple, Gumbo Limbo (Bursera simaruba), and strangler fig. Sonya’s determination paid off.

Now she wanted to share her findings with her Pawpaw Chapter folks and friends. An outing to Canaveral National Seashore became our June field trip in 2015.

Fruit of the Fragrant Prickly Apple Cactus (Harrisia fragrans)

The fruit of the Fragrant Prickly Apple Cactus (Harrisia fragrans)

Looking for “apples” and other treasures located in Canaveral National Seashore will be part of the field trips offered by  Pawpaw Chapter at the 2016 Conference. 

Photos by Sonya Guidry
Posted by Ginny Stibolt

Monday, July 27, 2015

Planting a Feast for Nature

By Marlene Rodak

Creating Bird and Butterfly Habitat at Middle School

A tiny butterfly on bloodberry (Cordia globosa), which is one of the native species
that will be planted at Fort Myers Middle Academy on Tuesday
The school corridor to be planted
A spectacular event will take place the morning of Tuesday, July 28 at Fort Myers Middle Academy.  Florida Forest Service employees and volunteers from the Florida Native Plant Society are planting hundreds of native plants in an outdoor corridor, which will transform the area into important bird and butterfly habitat.  This planting will demonstrate how natural, native landscaping functions in the environment by providing food and shelter to wildlife.  Best of all, the entire project is provided to Fort Myers Middle Academy and Lee County Schools FREE OF CHARGE!

FNPS Coccoloba Chapter President
Martha Grattan shoveling mulch
at Fort Myers Middle Academy
Florida Native Plant Society is coordinating the planting with Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, Florida Forest Service, Covanta Energy, Lee County Solid Waste, All Native Garden Center, Deep South Native Nursery, Hickory Hammock Native Tree Farm, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Nursery and others.  Costco, Bass Pro Shops, and Estero Community Park Recreation Center donated the cardboard and newspapers that volunteers placed over the entire 105' x 20' area. This will both recycle these materials and help prevent weeds for about a year. After laying the cardboard and newspaper, they covered it in mulch. Subsequently, they will install about 340 one-gallon plants in openings they make through the cardboard, with the mulch moved to the side then returned under the plants' dripline. Volunteers have already driven to Sweetbay Nursery in Parrish, Florida to acquire plants for the project that were not available at local nurseries.

After the planting is finished, the school will be provided with a plant maintenance manual . Monthly visits will also take place to monitor the new landscape's progress.

Fort Myers Middle Academy, located at 3050 Central Avenue, Fort Myers, FL 33901, was in the news in March when student Jeffery Thompson won the Lee County Spelling Bee by correctly spelling the word ESCARGOT. The school, which celebrates its 60th year anniversary this year, is in one of the most economically challenged areas of the city.

Would you like to learn more about native plants and landscaping in southwest Florida?  Do you want to help a school that deserves our attention?  Call (239) 273-8945 to learn how you can participate.  Visit for more information about the Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society.

Below are some work-in-progress photos. Looking great, Coccoloba Chapter!

Already an improvement!
posted by Laurie Sheldon

Monday, June 1, 2015

2015 FNPS conference: Native Yard Tour

A conference field trip

by Donna Legare with photos by Lilly Anderson-Messec

On Thursday, May 28th Native Nurseries led a tour of native yards in Tallahassee for the Florida Native Plant Society's 35th Annual Conference. The tour featured three yards.

1) A rain garden and more...

The first illustrated what could be done with a blank slate in a neighborhood that was previously a cow pasture with scattered large live oaks. Landscape designer, David Copps designed the native landscape for Mark and Linda Powell, whose home is certified as LEED Platinum. The native landscape helped them earn this designation. David described how he implemented his design, beginning with very heavy mulching of existing vegetation. He included a rain garden in a natural depression and created a future forest of mixed hardwoods in one section and a small longleaf pine grove in the back yard. Jody Walthall, owner and landscape designer at Native Nurseries talked about what is involved in maintaining this type of landscape.

The group gathers to discuss the creation of this native landscape, just beyond the rain garden of bluestem palmetto, senecio, blue eyed grass, loblolly bay and other native plants that fills a natural depression on the property.

Field trip participants admire one of the largest sweetbays
in the state at Eleanor Dietrich's.

2) A large sweetbay magnolia

The second site visited was the home of long time Magnolia Chapter member Eleanor Dietrich. Eleanor's house is perched above a beautiful ravine with huge sweetbay, American beech, blackgum and other hardwoods. Over the years the woodland had become crowded with invasives - nandina, ligustrum, ardisia to name just a few. Inspired by Doug Tallamy's book, Bringing Nature Home, Eleanor embarked on a long term and intensive project to remove the invasives and replant with natives with the help of two professional gardeners.

3) Invite the birds

The last stop featured a typical in-town house and yard, the home of Native Nurseries' owners, Donna Legare and Jody Walthall. When they purchased the house in the early 1990s, 100% of the landscape plants were non-native, except for the large trees. This landscape illustrates what two busy people, running a business and raising a family, can do over time to convert to mostly native with the goal of increasing diversity for wildlife.

We gather at the the bird-window to watch birds up close among the native plants in the backyard at the Legare/Walthall residence.

And to top it off... 

The tour ended with home-made oatmeal cookies and iced tea at Native Nurseries, where participants had fun shopping for native plants, perusing the nature gift shop and getting a close-up view through a spotting scope of two baby red-shouldered hawks in a nest, high in pine tree over the parking lot.

In addition to the people mentioned above, I would like to thank Lilly Anderson-Messec, manager of Native Nurseries and Vanessa Crisler of Trillium Gardens Nursery for their assistance during the tour.

Posted by Ginny Stibolt