Learning from California

By Devon Higginbotham

Despite Governor Brown's pleas to conserve during the
ongoing severe drought, California's water use continues to rise.
Today, because of the drought in the southwest, the City of Palm Springs, CA (long considered a desert oasis) is returning to native plants. According to the New York Times, “Palm Springs has ordered 50 percent cuts in water use by city agencies, and plans to replace the lawns and annual flowers around city buildings with native landscapes. It is digging up the grassy median into town that unfurled before visitors like a carpet at a Hollywood premiere. It is paying residents to replace their lawns with rocks and desert plants…”   (See link at bottom for the entire article)

It’s too bad it takes an event as drastic as a drought to bring attention to the benefits of native plants, but once people realize the rewards to wildlife and the state’s water system, it becomes obvious, both in California and Florida. Hopefully California will learn and adapt to their climate and 20 years from now will “look” like an arid landscape should look.

Property surrounded by desert in Palm Springs. The state's current
landscape norms face an uncertain future as severe water shortages
have prompted a mandated a 25% reduction in non-ag water use.
Photo credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times
No doubt, the California Native Plant Society is revving into high gear, promoting the use of native plants in desert habitats. Every homeowner should be learning how to convert their yards to natives and conserve water, not just for a year but forever. Unfortunately there will be naysayers, like the man in the Times article that said, “I’m not going to stop watering,” said Matthew Post, 45, referring to the gardens around his Benedict Canyon home. “The state does not know how to arrange the resources they have, and so we have to pay for it….”

What can we learn from California?  Don’t wait for a crisis to change our concept of what is beautiful. We must be actively promoting and speaking out.

For the first time since 2007, FNPS is poised to top the 3,000 mark in membership. This is a monumental point in our growth which was diminished by the drop in the US economy.

Because of the graceful stewardship of Jonnie Spitler, FNPS now has a very capable Membership Chair who is uniting and supporting all the chapter chairs. We have a new FNPS brochure on the way to the publishers, smaller chapters are getting support and membership is growing.

This home in California's Yucca Valley is surrounded by native plants.
Hopefully more people will recognize its beauty as well as its functionality
and enviro-conscious appeal.
Also this year, thanks to the careful guidance of Karina Veaudry, we have a new chapter, The Villages, in Sumter Co which has grown in just a few months to over 60 members. Interest in Florida Native Plants is sparking in homeowners, politicians and governmental officials. But we need to continue growing and that means more members, more feet on the ground, more neighbors talking to neighbors!

Over the next few months, FNPS is poised to surpass our all-time high of 3145 members. This is not the end of our goal but merely the beginning.

Heather Cooley, water program director for the Pacific Institute, an environmental research group based in Oakland said,  “This will change what Californians see as beautiful”. Let’s not wait for a drought or dried lakes and streams or murky springs to change what Floridians see as beautiful.



Anonymous said…
Thanks, I read that article recently, and fairly good.

In some ways, Fla is probably ahead of California's and other states' desert communities regarding native plant use. Including not overwatering everything (including xeric natives). People out here are so spoiled with cheap, available water, clueless, and fight using some of the toughest, most unique plants to our region...always a fight and an excuse to avoid them. Like the guy in "Benedict Canyon home".
FNPS said…
Well said, Devon. I heard an NPR Report that native landscapers are busy in California and HOA's are changing their tune on native landscapes. I see progress in Florida through FNPS, but we still have a long way to go. We can certainly use California as an example to support our mission, but it may take a Drought or other environmental extreme to turn the tides toward natives in Florida as well.

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