Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Where Have All the Pygmy Pipes Gone?

By Carmel van Hoek

I haven’t heard any mention of pygmy pipes in quite a while, and the last collections, according to the USF Plant Atlas, were made in 2012 in Pasco and St. Johns Counties. I wonder if these little endemic, state endangered obscurities are taking another sabbatical as they have sometimes done since the late 1800’s when they were first discovered.

Photograph by Betty Wargo. Courtesy of The Atlas of Florida Plants
Photograph by Rita Lassiter
. Courtesy of 
The Atlas of Florida Plants
In December of 1884, in east Florida near St. Augustine, Mary C. Reynolds found several small plants that obviously lacked chlorophyll as they displayed no hint of green. They looked somewhat like Indian Pipes, Monotropa uniflora, except that these plants were smaller, some barely visible above the leaf litter. And they were suffused with colors of pink and pale lavender instead of being ghostly white. Instead of a single flower atop the stem as in Indian Pipes, these stems held a cluster of flowers.
Photo by Rita Lassiter
Courtesy of The Atlas of Florida Plants
Mary made a collection of the different-looking species and had them seen by Dr. Asa Gray, a well-known botanist of that period. Dr. Gray recognized the plants as a new species thought to be related to other achlorophyllous herbs of Ericaceae or Heath Family. His description of the species was subsequently published as Monotropsis reynoldsiae, named in honor of the collector. This first ever collected specimen of pygmy pipes is vouchered at the Smithsonian Institute and can be viewed online. 

I assume that as the Florida weather began to warm from winter into late spring Mary Reynolds’ little plants gradually disappeared, never to be seen again...Until December of 1977, that is, 93 years later! 

Botanist Rita Lassiter was the first one to rediscover pigmy pipes in a hardwood hammock in Hernando County, and it created quite a stir in botanical circles. Frequent sightings were reported during the winters of 1977-79, all in Hernando County, and several collections were made for further study of the fungus on which the plant feeds as well as of the plant itself. Gradually the range of Pygmy pipes has spread as collections have since been made in Pasco, Marion, Volusia and St. Johns Counties.

Photo by John Kunzer
Courtesy of The Atlas of Florida Plants
Monotropsis reynoldsiae is found usually in rich woods of oak hammocks and flowering dogwoods. They have been found as early in the year as November until late February. Its stems can be 1.5 to almost 5” long, and some of their length can be buried in leaf litter. A thick cluster of flowers, pale pink and white-mottled, top the stem, nodding bell-like at first and later straightening in age. Be looking for them until spring. 

For more information on Montoropsis reymoldsiae, visit the species page on the USF Atlas of Florida Plants. 

Carmel van Hoek is a member of the Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and recipient of the the FNPS Mentor Award in 2015. 

Posted by Donna Bollenbach

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Produced and Submitted by Mark Kateli, Tarflower Chapter

This was yet another great year with the "sister society" collaboration for the Central Florida Native and Wildlife Friendly Yards Tour

Florida Native Plant Society Tarflower and Cuplet Fern chapters, and the Orange Audubon Society,
host this event annually. It's a great exercise to help strengthen our bond around a common mission. This year, we had well over 100 attendees. 

A special thanks to noted environmental journalist Kevin Spear that published an article in the Orlando Sentinel that promulgated the event to people outside our usual sphere of influence.
Being Tarflower chapter Treasurer, I firmly believe that as we prosper, so will our neighboring chapters. 

I look forward to hearing from chapters that border Orange County- Lake, Osceola, Brevard, Volusia, and Polk chapter Treasurers- for more collaborative ideas that amplify attention to Central Florida and it's unique native plants.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Rain gardens for Florida

Florida's 5-month wet season produces
50% to 70% of annual rainfall. (Data from NOAA)
by Ginny Stibolt

Too much rain or not enough

Florida's 5-month wet season (aka hurricane season), from June through October, accounts for almost 2/3 of our rainfall. In general, the more southern counties experience the more dramatic differences between their wet and dry seasons. In contrast, New York City's rainfall is more evenly distributed from about 3.5" to 4.5" each month.

Our weird patterns of rainfall help make the case for using Florida's native plants in our landscapes. Also we receive huge amounts of rain all at once on a regular basis. In most cases, all that excess water is rushed from our properties out to the streets where our stormwater then ends up in the nearest waterway. At that point it's no longer just water, but it will have collected pollutants from our landscapes and the streets. This is called nonpoint source pollution, which is not regulated and not monitored.

Nonpoint source pollution (NPS)

In addition to rainfall, over-irrigation is a common cause of NPS in Florida.
Rainbows of pollution headed toward the nearest
body of water.
Some people think that NPS is the most significant cause of water quality deterioration because it cannot be monitored effectively. This may be true, but I think that we can make a difference by sequestering as much rain water as possible through the use of rain barrels, cisterns, and rain gardens. We can reach out to others to help them do the same.

The EPA webpages on NPS include definitions, solutions, success stories, outreach tools, information about grants, and events. One of the solutions that homeowners and communities can implement is rain gardens.

Rain gardens

The downspout delivered water to the lawn, which became
a muddy, soggy mess throughout the wet season.
Because of Florida's long dry season, the selection of plants that can withstand both flooding and drought are quite limited. For instance, suggested rain garden plants for the Mid-Atlantic states and northward, often include the cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), but it won't work for Florida's rain gardens, even though it's native down through Central Florida, because it is not drought-tolerant.

Rain gardens can be small like this downspout garden, which was expanded over a few years. First, I took out a few feet of lawn and created a small dry well by digging an 18" cube under where the tray dumps the water and filling it with coarse gravel topped in with some fake river rock  I planted some blue eyed grass, soft rush, and some ferns in the area. A couple of years later I expanded it by digging a good sized swale beyond the original dry well and overflow drainage through a French drain to a larger dry well near our front pond.. You can see details of this effort in this series of posts.
After a couple of expansions, this downspout rain gardens
 can handle any amount of rain.

Rain gardens can be large community projects which are designed to absorb all the runoff from parking lots or roads. The Lasalle Bioswale Project in Jacksonville is a good example of how various members of the community came together to build a highly visible rain garden to handle the stormwater runoff beautifully.

A likely spot for some rain garden plants to better absorb the parking lot runoff. At this point the lawn maintenance is skinning the roots of the trees, but groupings of good rain garden plants such as rushes, sedges, shrubs would do a better job of absorbing the water. 

White-topped sedge (Rhynchospora colorata) is a beautiful addition to rain gardens.

The 2016 FNPS conference

The 2016 FNPS conference will be in Daytona Beach.
I will be giving a presentation on rain gardens at the FNPS conference in Daytona Beach on Saturday May 21. I will provide details on siting and sizing rain gardens, a plant list for Florida rain gardens, and ideas for community rain garden projects.

After my talk I'll walk through the native plant vendors to talk in more detail about good rain garden plants and rain garden designs.

In addition, University Press of Florida will be a vendor for the conference and I'll be signing books during the lunch breaks on Friday and Saturday. I've dedicated whole chapters to rain gardens and rain barrels in "Sustainable Gardening for Florida," which include even more details and ideas for sequestering rain water on your property.

We all live in a watershed!

Ginny Stibolt

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Is the Florida Native Plant Society Conference for Me?

Submitted by Sande Habali, Pawpaw Chapter

Many new members ask themselves this same question and many other questions like it. I know because I used to ask them myself.  Maybe you’ve wondered about the conference as I did.

There are many people in my group who know so much about plants. They are “experts” and I’m not.

 Visit the Park of Honor 755 Olive Street,  South Daytona. The Pawpaw 
Chapter maintains a section in exchange for a meeting place at the 
nearby Piggotte Community Center. Just enter the park, 
turn right and look for the pollinators!
While it is true the Florida Native Plant Society is a scientific based organization (and aren’t we glad it is?), the rest of us get the benefits of all the science based information out there. With the help of FNPS, we can make decisions about our yards, our neighborhoods, and our general community based of facts.  The conference is the best place to learn from the real experts!

It is a huge time commitment and I have other obligations.
This was also part of my hesitation to attend a conference. So, I started in small bits. I attended one conference for a day and was hooked with all the excitement of learning so many new things all at one time. On other occasions, I was only able to attend one field trip per conference, rather than two.  This year the basic field trips are free. Each trip is included in a day’s conference fee.  The field trips are unique to the area, but you learn so much about our state by just being there!

Do I really want to attend the socials?

Some people think skipping the socials is a way to cut down on the cost of the weekend. But, in reality, the socials are a way to “unpack your brain” after a day filled with information and meet new, like-minded folks from around the state.  Also, the socials provide a way to showcase the area of the convention. In Daytona Beach’s case, we get to enjoy the beautiful beach atmosphere at two of our venues. The Saturday venue features our newest attraction: The Cici and Hayatt Brown Museum of Art, adjacent to the Museum of Arts and Sciences.  The MOAS tells us this collection is the largest collection of Florida-based art in the world.  All this is included in the cost of the social! 

The Cici Brown Museum of Art is located in a natural habitat and has recently been landscaped with many native plants. The Tuscawilla Preserve is open to the public and features boardwalks and nature trails. You may want to arrive a bit early to enjoy this beautiful area. (Art featured below building, From left to right: Louis Comfort Tiffany; Natural Limestone Bridge at Arch Creek, Miami, 1920Emmett John Fritz; Keys Shrimper, J. Ralph Wilcox; South Beach Street, Daytona)

The cost of the conference seems high.

This is a big factor for many folks and takes a bit to get over. But, think about how good and refreshed you feel just spending the day on a chapter field trip, or maybe after hearing an inspirational speaker at a meeting; and that is how you will feel after an entire weekend (or day).  You get value for the event because you are learning from the best.  You can off-set ½ of a daily fee by volunteering at the conference for ½ a day. Contact for more information on this. Volunteer spaces are filling up quickly, so act soon!

So, is the Florida Native Plant Society Conference for me?
These Suncoast Members said "Yes" to the Conference in 2014
 and have returned year after year. 

The answer is, “yes!”  Now I look forward to this special weekend every May. I return to my Chapter with new enthusiasm, new knowledge, new friends, and new commitments and maybe a few new plants I didn’t know I “needed.” It is like a mini-vacation! And also feel good about knowing money goes back into the FNPS mission for Conservation, Preservation, and Restoration.  

Sign up today and see if you don’t feel the same way! Oh. And by the way… I am still no expert, but I am a life-long learner!

Daytona Beach Resort and Conference Center
The conference offers you a great rate to stay at the Daytona Beach Resort and Conference Center, so you can consider
your time there like a "mini-vacation."