Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Find your "AWESOME" on a Conference Landscape Tour

Submitted by Sonya Guidry

The Pawpaw Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society recently held a South Volusia Landscape Tour that included many of the native landscapes  that will be featured on FNPS Conference Fieldtrip "K" Landscape Bus Tour on Thursday, May 19th. They ended their yard tours at the Marine Discovery Center, the location for the Kayak (paddle) - Lagoon Restoration Tour , FNPS Conference Fieldtrip"I"on Thursday, May 19th. 

Here is a glimpse of some of the  tour's native yards, and the Marine Discovery Center...

Renee Luedke's Port Orange home.  

Surprise, her front yard has no grass to mow! 

Elizabeth ponders the diversity of plants in Renee's front yard.

Most of the 16 tour visitors are gathered around Renee
as she talks about her landscape. 

 Mike visiting from the UK notes Renee's creative bird feeders...
including the log filled with peanut butter suet.

Elizabeth Flynn will be the leader of May 19, Landscape Bus Tour at the FNPS Conference.
 (I see a smile is as bright as the Beach Sunflowers in Renee's yard.)
She will make sure all on the tour have a great time.

Ray and Sonya Jarrett 's Landscape Carved Out of Nature

What a surprising number of diverse tropical species, such as the Strangler Fig intentionally set loose on the laurel oaks, Florida Orchid, Jamaican Caper, and subtropical species
...as Pinkster Azalea and Sassafrass!  

"It was remarkable to see the variety of plants and trees at the home of Ray Jarrett. He discussed his yard, along with the his journey of planting these trees, and how they grew over the past 15 years of his development of his home landscape. It was a real education in plants."  Carol Marie Vlack, Pawpaw member and tour participant. 

Rare this far north are Florida Orchids...
usually found in the Fakahatchee Strand

Mike from the UK, who gave a talk to the
Pawpaw Chapter on Florida's Wild Orchids last year,
was pleased to see the Florida Orchids.

Ray, Sonya and their little sunflower, Sasha,
with Elizabeth Flynn and Dot Backes 

Doug Hunt's New Smyrna Beach Native Homescape

Doug Hunt's gardening skills made us all envious as we made our final landscape stop for the half day Pawpaw Chapter tour.  He has  a wide variety of tropicals, which includes a newly installed TALL Gumbo Limbo Tree. How surprising to also see crop of jonquils 
in this New Smyrna Beach homescape!

The view of Doug Hunt's yard before everyone arrived.

"The company was genial, the rain held off, and the tour locations were diverse and all interesting to observe. However, it was  the extensive number of native plants and how they worked as a beautiful home landscape that made it  a fantastic learning experience." Carol Marie Vlack, Pawpaw member and tour participant.

 The view of Doug's front yard loaded with happy landscape explorers :
Carol Marie, Warren, Renee, Amelia, Renee,
Mike and Carol Parsons (from the UK). 

No doubt Mike and Carol Parsons find a Florida Native Garden Tour...quite different from one in the UK!

Are those hanging pots really an Orchid garden?
 Bill Kiel and Kim Johnson find a shady place
to just sit and admire the scenery.

Marine Discovery Center, New Smyrna Beach

The Pawpaw Chapter Landscape Tour ended at the Marine Discovery Center (MDC) where where a a butterfly garden was recently installed  by the NSB Men's Garden Club. They also visited a huge lagoon restoration area, where Warren Reynolds will lead a Marine Discovery Center Kayak (paddle) - Lagoon Restoration Tour , FNPS Conference Fieldtrip"I"on Thursday, May 19th.

Mike Parsons in foreground and Carolyn Kiel in the back ground inspecting the future kayak launch area at the lagoon restoration area. 
Warren Reynolds, Kayak Tour Guide for the Marine Discovery Center, 
talks about the MDC and the Lagoon Restoration Project. 
Warren will lead the conference kayak (I) fieldtrip at MDC on Thursday, May 19th. 

Newly installed Butterfly Garden at MDC  
So, how did the participants feel about the day? 

For me it was TOTALLY AWESOME.
Carol Marie Vlack

Don't miss out on the awesome...visit the 2016 FNPS Conference fieldtrip pages and make your field trip choices. Some fieldtrips will fill fast, so be ready to reserve when registration opens. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Camp Kulaqua: My First FNPS Retreat

by Mark Kateli, Tarflower Chapter

I thought I knew my FNPS tribe! We were the rough riders of the Florida landscape that understood natural beauty in a manufactured civilization. But here in Camp Kulaqua (run by Seventh Day Adventists) I found pillows, pressed sheets, and (gasp!) Wi-Fi.
Being a city boy this was certainly a welcomed sight as we are all accustomed to so many amenities that are taken for granted every day. That being said, this was certainly not the retreat I had envisioned in my head- chilly nights, encircled around a campfire in the middle of nowhere, listening to coyotes howling away, and cold showers in the morning. This was, comparatively, upscale living.

Opening Night

Friday was an informal social gathering in the evening by the entrance lobby. I did, as usual, hobnob with some other local chapter members. In particular, I had a long conversation with Ina Crawford of Sweetbay Chapter. It was as though the heavens were listening to my prayer as I was hoping for a very long time to connect with chapter member on the far west coast of Florida where things (including the weather) are a bit different from the rest of us in the peninsular area. Ina mentioned that her chapter is but 35 members strong but they still have monthly presentations and field trips. When asked if it was difficult for her to gather
Ian Crawford, an observant, enthusiastic,
and cheerful teacher 
presenters to come out to her chapter, she mentioned that her chapter actually has more trouble organizing field trips than anything else. We talked about a lot of various subjects including our love for the wildflower blooms along SR 65. We spoke about getting more kids involved with plants at great length and making inexpensive craft projects to help them develop an ongoing interest with nature. 

A Great Idea
Simple and to the Point
I also met with Gail Taylor of Crystal River’s Citrus Chapter. This chapter is in the middle of a total revamp and she had some great ideas for advertising such as buttons which cost her just $30 for 100 buttons Gail was a fountain of new ideas ranging from ideas on yard signage, clear table cloths for plant sales, to attracting “snowbird” memberships.

The Brochure is Alive & Well, Thank you

Saturday was packed with presentations- including Richard Brownscombe of Broward County’s Coontie Chapter. Donna Bollenbach of Suncoast Chapter, Richard, the Chapter of Council Landscape 101 Committee, and many others, worked together to create a beautiful folded brochure on native landscaping. The first of six versions is for the West Coast Region (Pasco through Collier counties). This has been
Richard Brownscombe presents the "nearly" final version of the
native landscape brochure for the West Coast region 
sent to selected FNPS members for final review, and if all goes well, Donna will be putting together the other 5 regions (which are delineated on the FNPS forum webpage) in the next few months. 

Craig Huegel has written an introduction in the brochure and there will be tips for native plant landscaping. There will be on-line references, such as our the FNPS website, that will motivate interested readers to further resources. 

These brochures will cost FNPS about $0.30 each to print. Richard has recommended that the chapters sell the final product at $1 per brochure to pay for future printing. Andy Taylor (FNPS Director of Development) and Richard will seek out $20K in funding to do 60,000 copies statewide.

Data for Dollars

Juliet Rynear spoke briefly on some data collected on the state and chapter level.  As most of you know, FNPS has been driving
Juliet Rynear is a lady
on a fact-finding mission. 
an initiative for members to track their volunteer hours and report them back to the state. Fifteen chapters replied out of 36 regarding volunteering hours. Of the 15 chapters, 7 of them tracked actually track their volunteer hours. Of these 7 chapters, it was reported they have 4200 accrued volunteer hours! Those 4200 hours are currently valued at $97K! 
Volunteer hours are worth money to the organization, especially when FNPS is seeking for sponsors and grants. 

Shirley Denton (Chair of the Communications Committee) has been looking into a software program for an automated system for logging volunteer hours. Everything that we invest in volunteering (from driving to an event, to a board meeting, to working at home individually for FNPS tasks) is valued at $23/hour! 

Juliet went on to cite some other data:  
  1. FNPS Chapters were involved with 16 pieces of native plant local legislation that were ratified on the county level, with 15 others that are still outstanding.  
  2. There were 91 outreach events with 2400 people attending, 33 education workshops, and 16 school-related activities (Pine Lilly chapter was mentioned as being most heavily invested in school programs). 
Most of this information was put together thanks to members who responded to a survey, or by information gathered from the FNPS website calendar. Juliet hopes that these facts help members prepare a “Two-minute elevator conversation” to spread the word and scope of what our society is achieving. She hopes that similar data in the future will help all chapters to grow.

Membership Matters

Jonnie Spitler from Nature Coast Chapter presented some additional data put together by Cammie Donaldson’s (FNPS Administration) team. In 2014-2015, the Villages Chapter got 113 members, however FNPS as a whole only gained 56 memberships in total. 

Jonnie emphasized enthusiasm,
Jonnie Spitler-an embodiment
of the go-getter spirit. 
inclusion of novices, and being persistent on getting new members to join chapters. Her own chapter has seen rapid growth due to her efforts- from 30 members to about 65 members total. At her chapter meetings, she said everybody begins the meeting by saying FNPS mission statement akin to an anthem. Jonnie mentioned that it’s very important to validate newcomers in front of the entire crowd every single month. 
When renewals are due, her chapter sends 3 courtesy reminder emails. This strategy has successfully worked for her chapter- Jonnie has reported new members joining her chapter almost every single month. 

Jonnie also emphasized in her presentation how important it is to have a fun meeting by engaging with people and encouraging happiness. She mentioned that even though FNPS can be science-driven, we should not forget the fun element in a meeting because that’s what will gain the most memberships from “common folks.” 

In the future, Jonnie will be in closer communication with other chapters on membership. She will be giving away prizes for the chapters that have risen most in percentage or numbers. She will keep pushing and focusing on membership at the chapter level, and if the chapter does not have a membership point of contact, she will start reaching out to each chapter president.

Gail Taylor, in her revitalization efforts for Citrus Chapter, mentioned that she hands out a welcome packet to new members. Each packet contains a Chapter Newsletters, native plant articles, resources, places to find natives, and more. Gail also sends out a ‘Thank You’ card to new members, as well as people that bring refreshments at the meetings. Just like Jonnie, Gail validates new members in front of her own audience but she also gives new members first choice on plants that are presented for the plant drawings. She hopes that through this visual cue, visitors will be encouraged to return.

Shirley Denton is busy gathering data on membership through the CiviCRM program. She hopes that through understanding our members more, we will be able to efficiently gather and connect with the right resources needed for any given project. For example, Shirley mentioned that she has gathered some information on who in the membership is a Master Naturalist, or a Master Gardener through the data, but it is based on an outdated 1998 membership survey. Members who would like to share information about themselves to help the society can reach out to Shirley Denton directly.

Andy Taylor and his undying passion
for the political theater
Political Fineness

Andy Taylor, FNPS Director of Development, did a presentation on elected officials and policy. He mentioned Google Alerts which can be found at google.com/alertsBasically, you search for any name of your local or state elected official, or a subject, and google alerts will email you current news and articles about that subject. For members who are leery of clogging their email inboxes with multiple google alerts, they can set it up once a day (such as at the end of the day when things have quieted down) in a single lump sum notification.

Andy also gave the following tips when dealing with local and state officials: 

  1. Let officials know that you support them (or vice versa) and that you would be happy to provide them more information on native plants. Invite them to an FNPS meeting to a chapter field trip.
  2. Keep the initial emails to politicians short (4 paragraphs or less) and establish yourself as an independent expert in this email, and offer resources for them to research our organization.
  3. Additionally, Andy noted that almost everything in an email to your policy maker in Florida is classified as a public record and therefore is traceable. He recommends to be careful in your word choice and the content of your email if you support or oppose policies- never bribe elected officials with votes or other favors. This may give developers reason to sue the city or county for a legal challenge in court which is counterproductive to our efforts. 
  4. When policies are approved or rejected, state and local governments have notification requirements for these decisions to the general public. For more information, you can visit MyFloridaHouse.gov or FLSenate.gov. You can sign up to get email alerts when anything happens on a specific bill. 
  5. If your chapter finds it hard to organize a group during working hours to visit government office, consider inviting the County or City Attorney to your chapter board meeting to present on the progress of a bill. 
  6. Many chapters want to influence ordinances to include more natives. But as far as ordinances are concerned, Andy said that unless you have a specific expertise in writing them, it is best not to write your own. County and City attorneys are paid lots of money and no matter what you do, they will have to review for the ordinance for compliance with state law, and revise your work for proper format and preferences.

Parting Words of Wisdom

In conclusion, I did enjoy my time at the camp and extended my native plant family even further. 

If you do make it out to Camp Kulaqua (this is at least the third time FNPS has used this facility), please be advised that due to their religious policies, no caffeinated products (coffee, tea, or soda) are offered. If you are a coffee drinker first thing in the morning like myself, please plan ahead by bringing your own supplies- including your own coffee mug. It will also be wise to locate the nearest hot water outlet or coffee pot in the vicinity before your crabbiness gets the better of you come morning time. 
The meals were above average, with a healthy assortment of fruit, vegetables (fresh and steamed), starch, and protein (fish for lunch, chicken for dinner). I also recommend planning ahead with some additional snacks as dinner was too early for me (5:30 pm), and meals were only available from Saturday morning until breakfast Sunday.

Do attend presentations and meetings, and take notes, but try to go out of your way to connect with other chapter members- after all, we are on the same journey and only together will we be able to make ever-bigger strides.

Posted by Donna Bollenbach

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Not So Tidy Yard

By Devon Higginbotham

If you are like me, you want your yard to look neat. So you mow the grass the moment it starts to look unruly, clip the hedges into geometric cubes, rake the fallen leaves and pick up the dead branches. You may even be compelled to eliminate any pesky bugs that may munch on your favorite shrub, leaving them with unsightly bite marks. Isn’t that the human way?

But why is it we feel it so necessary to be in charge of nature? We love how it looks in the parks and natural areas, but in our own yards we feel we must help out, somehow control and shape nature into our ideals of beauty.

Who are we landscaping for? A butterfly garden must support the caterpillars. 

Who Are We Landscaping For? 

But who I we really helping out? The leaf litter that falls to the ground eventually breaks down and supplies nutrients to the soil that help the surrounding plants (plants can’t just get up and move to a better spot if the nutrients are low). The dead branches attract insects that breakdown the fibers into more humus for the soil.  Insects, in turn, become a food source for birds that peck through the leaves looking for protein for their nesting brood or themselves. Lizards, frogs and small mammals all seek insects as a primary food source.
The caterpillars munching on your favorite shrub could be breakfast for nesting Cardinals or, if not eaten, may hatch into a Gulf Fritillary, Black Swallowtail or Luna Moth.

Dead pecan trees festooned with Spanish moss provides many homes.

Life after Death!

I have a couple dead Pecan trees in my yard and periodically they drop large dead limbs with gobs of moss.  It’s been a long time since I have seen a green leaf on either of them. The wood is so decayed and crumbly, it’s not difficult to collect the fallen limbs, but I have been dying to chop them down.

Last month, as I lugged another fallen limb to the trash pile, I looked at one trunk that had slowly dwindled down to 20 feet in height. There was a hole at the base of the tree large enough for a family of hobbits to pass through.  The interior dark and mysterious, I envisioned a raccoon charging out, obviously very inconvenienced by my snooping into his home. But peering in, all I saw was darkness.  No one seemed home.  “I suppose it’s time to get rid of them,” I queried to myself. I imagined my neighbors quietly asking the same question. “Why is she keeping those behemoths?  What an eyesore!”

So I decided, “It’s time to take them down!”  I made a mental note to call my neighbor, Jerry, the next day and have him push them over with his tractor and drag the hulking masses of decaying wood to the trash.  I would be rid of them!  My yard would be tidy once again.

But, the next day, while walking past one dead trunk , I heard the rat-a-tat-tat of a Woodpecker. Looking up I saw the shy creature as he slipped around to the backside out of view.  I suppose the Woodpeckers were still finding insects in the wood, but the trunks look so dead!  “The Woodpeckers will find food in other trees!”  I thought.

The week before, listening to Shari Blisset-Clark talk about Florida Forest Bats, she described how they spend the day in hiding in hollow trees and craggy bark and I thought about the Pecan snags in my yard, ideal habitat for sleepy bats.  “Maybe”, I thought, “I should let them linger”.  The bark was perfect for slumbering creatures and the gaping hole in the trunk must already be home to multiple species of wildlife, even though I didn’t see them.

Today, as I tidied my yard, I heard the distinct call of the Red-shouldered Hawk.  Looking up I caught a glimpse of two hawks mating at the very top of one of the snags!  “Yeah”, I thought, “the snags are staying!"

Landscaping for Nature, while keeping the Neighbors Happy

So how do we reconcile our human urge to “tidy up” with our need to preserve some sense of nature in our yards and not upset our HOA?  We all want to help the birds and the bees, right?  But how?

Wooded areas add shade and cool the air for us, but they also house many types of wildlife.

1) Keep your mowed lawn but shrink it.  A circular lawn in the front yard will create a tidy appearance and help you feel in control.  Surrounding it with curving wooded areas will let you have more trees and shrubs in the remainder of your yard to create habitat.

2) Keep a woodpile in your back yard, out of view, for the fallen branches.

3) Leave the leaf litter in the areas under the trees.  If the leaves are large, like the Sycamore, mulch them with your mower.  If grass won’t grow under the trees, it’s because of the lack of sunlight, not the leaves.  Plant native ferns in those areas.

4) Create wooded areas by planting more trees, shrubs and plants.  This will attract the birds that need to feel safe from predators.  Use native plants that provide a food source like the Dahoon and American Hollies, Walter’s Viburnum and Simpson Stoppers.  Oaks are terrific at attracting insects.  Don’t forget a water source but be sure to keep it fresh so you are not breeding mosquitoes.

5) If you are fortunate enough to have a snag in your yard that is not a threat to life or property and is not in direct conflict with your HOA rules, let it stay.  If you cannot tolerate the dead appearance, plant some vines at the base such as Passion Vine or Carolina Jessamine.  They will soon crawl up it and provide flowers for pollinators.

6) Use pesticides judiciously so you don’t kill the beneficial insects, the source of protein for so many animal groups.

Download a copy of “Planting a Refuge for Wildlife” 
By taking the time to think about how you can attract wildlife, you can marry the urge to tidy up and still create a yard that is much more than just something to look at.

For more information on attracting wildlife, order a copy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s “Planting a Refuge for Wildlife” booklet.

To find out more about the Suncoast chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, visit our website at suncoastnps.org or join us at one of our meetings at 7PM, the third Wednesday of each month at the Seffner UF/IFAS Extension office, 5339 County Rd 579, Seffner.

~ ~ ~
Posted by Ginny Stibolt and Donna Bollenbach

Monday, March 7, 2016


WHITE WORDLESS BUTTERFLIES...This is how poet Hogan Reiken (1779-1860) described Plum blossoms in his Plum Blossom Haiku 

Blog & Photography by Bill Berthet

Since 2003 I have looked forward each year to the start of butterfly season, beginning with the two to three week period in the month of February for the showy display of plum blossoms of Chickasaw Plum, Prunus angustifolia.


Plum Tree in Bloom

Flowers are white, small, five-petaled, and profusely showy in spring.  They mature into round, ½ to 1 ¼ inch-long, attractive red to yellow fruit that is used for making wine, jam, and jelly, along with providing food for birds. Leaves are alternate, lance shaped, 1-3 inches long, often reflexed upward from the midrib, shiny green above, with minute teeth along the margins. Bark is furrowed, Reddish brown, and somewhat scaly with age.

In Chinese culture the five petals of plum blossoms symbolize the “five blessings” referring to longevity, wealth, health and composure, virtue, and the desire to die a natural death in old age.
Plum Blossums

This tree occurs naturally in dry to moist, sandy soil, and is mildly salt tolerant. It ranges from
Delaware, southward to central Florida, and west to Texas in the hardiness zones 5 to 9. It is erect, many branched, and colonizing, and often forms dense thickets which provide valuable wildlife cover for song and game bird nesting, loafing, and roosting. It is also useful for soil stabilization.


There is a grove of 21 Chickasaw Plum trees in Ralph Simmons Memorial State Forest (RSMSF). The “champion” thicket in RSMSF measures around 38 feet high, 50 feet wide, 45 feet deep, and has 42 trunks!!! In 2016 only seven trees were in bloom.

Thicket of Chickasaw Plum
Over the years I have scratched my head, curious to know why the same species of butterflies can be found year after year perched or feeding in only several small areas in this grove of trees. It’s always an entertaining sight watching 3-5 Zebra Swallowtails flying together, daisy chaining in various acrobatic formations, then splitting off like a Blue Angels maneuver.

RSMSF is 3,638 acres, and supports twelve types of natural communities. The four primary habitats are sandhill, wet flatwoods, upland pine, and bottomland hardwood forests.

Acquired by the state of Florida in 1992, the forest borders Georgia for approximately 6.7 miles along the St. Mary’s river in the Northeast corner of Nassau County. This area is also home to Gopher Tortoises and the Southeastern Pocket Gopher, evident by the numerous burrows and mounds. .

Various habitats in RSMSF support state threatened or endangered plants, including Purple Honeycomb-head,  Balduina atropurpurea, Hartwrightia, Hartwrightia floridana, Silver Buckthorn, Sideroxylon alachuense, and Florida Bellwort, Uvularia floridana.


Among the 99 species of butterflies recorded in RSMSF {Berthet-Minno}, 14 are tracked by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory.
Creole Pearly-eye

Several of rare occurrence in Florida include:

Frosted elfin, Callophrys irus
Spring Azure, Celestrina ladon,
Wild Indigo Duskywing, Erynnis baptisiae
Creole Pearly-eye, Lethe creola,  a newly discovered, species of butterfly for the state of Florida.

Pipevine Swallowtail

The 23 species of butterflies observed this past decade nectaring on Chickasaw Plum blossoms include:

Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor
Eastern Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes 
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus
Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides marcellus
Palamedes Swallowtail, Papilio palamedes

Red-banded Hairstreak

Cloudless Sulphur, Phoebis sennae
Sleepy Orange, Abaeis nicippe

Gray Hairstreak,Strymon melinus
Red-banded Hairstreak, Calycopis cecrops
Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus
Henry’s Elfin, Callophrys henrici

Monarch, Danaus plexippus
Henry's Elfin on Eastern Redbud
Queen, Danaus gilippus

American Lady

Common Buckeye, Junonia coenia
Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta
American Lady,Vanessa virginiensis

Sachem Skipper
Long Tailed Skipper, Urbanus proteus
Fiery Skipper, Hylephila phyleus
Sachem Skipper, Atalopedes campestris
Whirlabout Skipper, Polites vibex

Zarucco Duskywing

Juvenal’s Duskywing,Erynnis juvenalis
Zarucco Duskywing, Erynnis zarucco 
Horace’s Duskywing, Erynnis horatius


Honey bees on Plum Blossoms

Plasterer, Mining, Carpenter, Honey, and Bumble bees have also been observed gathering nectar on Chickasaw Plum blossoms. I marvel at the audible noise level of the humming and buzzing created by the multitude of bees gathering nectar.

Another outstanding nectar source for our N.E. Florida pollinators in February is Eastern Redbud, Cersis Canadensis, host tree for the rarely seen Henry’s Elfin, but that’s another story.

Bill Berthet has been landscaping his yard in Mandarin, Florida, with mostly native plants, bushes, vines, and trees to attract our N.E. Florida pollinators and birds for the past 15 years.

B. Berthet, Butterflies of Ralph Simmons Memorial State Forest, M.C. Minno
Discovered at last Lethe creola is a resident of Florida S. Lepid. News 37:81-87, J.V. Calhoun, P.R. Leary, B. Berthet, & A.D. Warren
News of Lepidopterists’ Society Volume 57, Number 3, Notes on Erynnis baptisiae in Florida documenting its widespread occurance on northern peninsular counties, and a new larval foodplant, Andrew D. Warren, John V. Calhoun and Bill Berthet
Ten-Year Land Management Plan for Ralph E. Simmons Memorial State Forest Nassau Co. Prepared by Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and the Florida Forest Service p. 19-21
US Department of Agriculture Plant Database