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 http://fnps.org/news/plantmonth.

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. fnps.online@gmail.com
Posted by Ginny Stibolt