Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2017 FNPS Conference: Connections: Above & Below

submitted by Donna Bollenbach

Connections: What an all-encompassing term! It implies links, associations, bonds, assemblies, and networks. But it also refers to the way things relate and interact. So, when destiny took us to Westgate River Ranch Resort, a venue in heart of the state and the historic Everglades Watershed, choosing “Connections” for the theme of the 2017 Florida Native Plant Society seemed natural. 
Historically, the Headwaters of the Everglades watershed flowed like a sheet of water that moved through grasslands and prairies to the Everglades. This flood plain filtered the water of its impurities, like the heart oxygenates blood, before delivering it to the other parts of the land body. But the natural path of water has been greatly altered resulting in water that is nutrient-contaminated and being rechanneled to our east and west coasts, causing a host of environmental problems that have a negative impact on plant communities, wildlife, our health and economy. 

Waterflow in the Everglades in historic conditions, current conditions, and predicted conditions Source:http://www.geog.ucsb.edu/events/department-news/769/frank-davis-heads-everglades-restoration-project

 Restoration of the Everglades has long been recognized as an environmental priority in Florida, and no place in Florida is more connected to the health of the Everglades than the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, which includes Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Avon Park U.S. Air Force Bombing Range, Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, Disney Wilderness Preserve, Lake Kissimmee State Park, KICCO Wildlife Management Area, Lake Arbuckle State Park, and South Florida Water Management District’s Kissimmee River Restoration Project. The preservation, conservation, and restoration of natural lands and plant communities in these areas protects the health and stability of our regional ecosystems and of our rivers and beaches.

The 2017 FNPS Conference will explore Connections on many levels:

Connections to the Landscape:  We will explain how the acts of preservation, conservation, and restoration of natural lands in central Florida safeguard the health of our entire state.

Connections at the Edge:  We will show how to improve and manage the interface between developed landscapes (urban, suburban, and agricultural) and wild ecosystems.

Connections of Plants, Wildlife and People:  We will learn why life, from single-celled organisms to human beings, is dependent on connections to nature.  And, in turn nature is dependent on us to protect natural areas for the benefit all living organisms in our state.
    Connections from Roots to Canopy:  We will examine networks that connect plants above and below the ground.  
    * Imatge: Natural roots, d'Angela Vandenbogaard

    Connections in the Field: Our venue is in the center of the historic Everglades Watershed. Conference Fieldtrips will demonstrate what is being done to support landscape-level ecological function and connectivity and what more needs to be done. There are many examples of natural landscapes and corridors. Participants will experience examples of intact habitats that filter our water, support biodiversity and thriving populations of native species, provide food and cover for wildlife, and give us reason to pause and appreciate the beauty of Florida and the need to sustain these lasting connections in our state.
    Don’t miss your Connection, make your lodging reservations now: Westgate River Ranch Resort is an upscale but secluded resort is just off SR 60 south of Lake Kissimmee. You have a choice of 3 rustic lodge accommodations, or if you prefer an outdoor feel, you can go “Glamping” in a luxury air-conditioned tent. There are also RV and tent camping spots on site. Would you like to extend your stay to enjoy the other activities offered by the resort, such as the Rodeo, Horseback Riding, Swamp Buggy and Airboat rides? The special FNPS lodging rates are extended for three days before and after the event. There are a limited number of each room type available at our special rate, so to make sure you get the accommodations you prefer, make your room registrations now.

    To reserve your room and view conference updates, go to the 2017 Conference  page on the FNPS website. Fieldtrips will be posted by January 1st and registration for the conference will begin in early 2017. 

    Sunday, October 23, 2016

    Discovering Grassy Waters Preserve

    Richard Brownscombe, Coontie Chapter

    Ilex cassine, Dahoon Holly (female) 
    and Taxodium ascendens, Pond Cypress
    Last month James Lange, Researcher and Field Biologist at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, took us on a wonderful walk in Grassy Waters Preserve just an hour north of Fort Lauderdale in West Palm Beach. This wetland is an example of doing the right thing to build a sustainable urban environment. The naturally clean waters of the preserve are supplying the drinking water for West Palm Beach and helping keep the aquifer healthy. At the same time, all these wetland plant and wildlife species have a place to thrive and townsfolk have easy access to this beautiful place.

    The facilities of the parking lot, restrooms, picnic tables, waterside deck, canoe and kayak launch, rain shelter, benches, and boardwalk, say "Welcome. Enjoy." We were so fortunate to have "our botanist", James, along to name the plants and point out many interesting things we would not have known. As a few other couples, groups, and individuals passed by us, I wanted to say, "Stop! Did you see this!" (I did engage one or two, but people are doing their own thing, too.)

    Nymphaea odorata, American Waterlily
    The others who came on the walk spotted quite a few interesting flowers, butterflies, birds, and insects that neither Jimmy nor I saw. With many excited eyes looking around, we found many more interesting plants and wildlife than we would have seen otherwise. It is interesting to observe how people's different experiences allow them to each discover different things to see in the wild.

    The Lubber grasshopper, a native and beautiful in orange
    Photos never do justice to the experience. The wildlife is especially difficult because it moves. This still Lubber was an exception. 

    Peltandra virginica, Green Arum
    Arum has an interesting encased white spike in the flower that we can try to capture on another visit. This would make a nice pond plant if you have a water feature. The long stems are spikerush. 

    Hydrolea corymbosa, Skyflower

    This photo fails to capture the wonderful blue intensity of this blue-like-the-sky Skyflower. These flowers are less than an inch, but easily catch your eye.

    Diospyros virginiana, Persimmon
    The tasty Persimmon needs to be fully ripe to enjoy that great flavor without the overly-astringent bite of the under-ripe fruit.

    Vittaria lineata, Shoestring Fern

    This pleasant epiphytic fern with young uncoiling leaves might be available from an enthusiast grower, but it needs a place of high humidity and favors the Sabal palmetto. 

    Fraxinus caroliniana, Pop Ash, Blechnum serrulatum, Swamp Fern,
    and Thelypteris interrupta, Interrupted Maiden Fern (in front)
    Both ferns shown here were abundant. If you find ferns confusing, keep looking and comparing the pinnae (leaflet) margins and veins and look at the underside of fertile fronds to see the pattern of the sori (spore capsules that become brown). This closer look shows off their many differences.

    Magnolia virginiana, Sweet-bay
     This Magnolia is another reason to visit again in spring or summer to see its bloom. The flower is not the grand one of the non-native Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, but it is also lovely. The leaves are aromatic when crushed. If you have wet soils, you might want to consider this accent tree for your garden. The Institute of Regional Conservations says, "Most botanists would consider this to be the most primitive tree native to South Florida," meaning of course, that its ancient origins are manifest, for example, in the flower structure.

    Nymphoides aquatica, Big Floatingheart and Taxodium ascendens, Pond Cypress (branches reflected)

    These would seem to be the perfect pad for a smaller pond. The flowers are not like the American White Waterlily, but small, simple, white, and delicate.

    Hypericum cistifolium, Roundpod St. John's-wort

       The seedpods of this Saint John's-wort are a glossy mahogany color, distinctive and as showy as the flower.

    Hyptis alata, Musky Mint

     The flowers and square stem help identify this as a mint (but not so much, the smell).

    leocharis cellulosa, Gulf Coast Spikerush
    Beware those common names, this spikerush is native on our Atlantic coast, too.

    The similar Pipewort listed for Grassy Waters Preserve is called Flattened Pipewort, Eriocaulon compressum, and this button looks quite puffed up, so we are going with Eriocaulon decangulare. Let us know of any misidentifications. We welcome learning and passing the information on.
    Eriocaulon sp
    These are probably the leaves of the Pipewort, but the photographer in me was just enjoying the reflections.

    Note: James Lange contributed to the identification and some of the information, but any foolishness is likely our own.

    Thursday, October 13, 2016

    My Habitat Garden: Attracting Butterflies-Bees-Birds & Other Forms of Life, Zone 9a

    By Bill Berthet, Ixia Chapter

    In the year 2000, with the help of Ron Davis (Butterfly Gardens-Jacksonville) and plants from Edith
    and Stephen Smith (Shady Oak Butterfly Farm-Brooker) I started to transform my newly purchased property into a N.E. Florida pollinator habitat.

    The many benefits of gardening include: stress-relief, moderate-intensity exercise, hand strength and dexterity (wearing gloves helps prevent fire ant bites) brain health & risk reduction for dementia, and depression and mental health. For me, going through a nasty divorce, gardening was key in bringing more balance to my life.

    Polydamas Swallowtail w chrysalis
                 It’s exciting to raise butterflies in your yard. It gives one the opportunity to take witness and share the miracle of metamorphosis with others. Plus, you get a real sense of accomplishment when releasing adult butterflies, increasing their population and diversity in your area. The added bonus is their progeny will visit your garden in the future.

                 Since 2003, with the right selection of host and nectar trees, plants, bushes, and vines, I have been rewarded with documenting 61 species of butterflies in my .31-acre property, with only .19 acres developed for habitat gardening.  The diversity of butterfly Families and Subfamilies include, 8 Swallowtails, 2 Whites, 7 Sulphurs, 6 Hairstreaks, 1 Blue, 3 Milkweed, 4 Longwing,6 True Brushfoots, 2 Admirals and their relatives, 1 Emperor, 2 Satyrs, and 19 Skippers.

    Julia ovipositing on P. biflora tendril 
    Creating a Habitat Garden to attract Butterflies requires research of what species fly in your area and, most importantly, what host plants these species use. Selecting the right host plants greatly increases the possibility to attract females to oviposit on these plants, then of course, the males will not be far behind!!!!!   Put the same host plant in multiple locations in your yard to help increase the survival rate of eggs and caterpillars from predators.  Identify the sunny to shady areas, and the dry to moist areas in your garden.

    My sweetheart and I enjoy watching wildlife from the inside comfort of our home from three outside viewing areas. I have focused on planting the most effective host and nectar plants, dovetailed with bird feeders, in these areas and am rewarded with constant entertainment from butterflies, birds, and other four legged critters. I recently painted and added a tile backsplash all around the kitchen, During the day I would see 7 or 8 species of butterflies nectaring inches away from the window.

    Arbors and Decks
    Architectural Features  
    5 large wood arbors
    76 linear ft. of Trellis
    3 tiered 20 x 20 wooden decks
    1-15 x 10 and 1-18 x 30 wood decks on water
    2 heavy duty treated wood potting benches
    1-8 ½ x 12 ½ ft. Rion Greenhouse
    3 water features
    1 Bat house
    1 Mason Bee house
    Rock gardens
    3 bird feeding stations
    1 Yankee Droll type feeder
    1 suet cage
    Varity of Talavera Pottery
    Irrigation for about 3/5 coverage of garden
    6 wrought iron vine stands.                                                                             

    The trellises are on the property line to provide privacy and cover for critters. They are covered with native vines, including Purple Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata, Woolly Dutchmen’s Pipe, Aristolochia tomentosa, Carolina Jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens, Cross Vine, Bignonia capreolata, Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, Scarletcreeper, Ipomoea hederifolia,  Muscadine, Vitis rotundifolia, and Virginia Creeper,  Parthenocissus quinquefolia, providing an assortment of berries for birds. The 5 arbors add height and visual appeal. They are also covered in vines.

    I use ½ whiskey barrels for planters to grow grasses: Fakahatchee grass, Tripsacum dactyloides, Muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, and Lopsided Indian grass, Sorghastrum secundum. The Indian grass is reminiscent of the large stands of this beautiful grass swaying in the breeze in the wet and dry prairies in Bull Creek and Three Lakes Wildlife Management Areas in Osceola County, where I love photographing the rare Loamm’s and Arogos Skippers that uses this grass as a host plant.

    Insect Landing Strip

    To attract flying insects in my area I created a 60 x 10 ft. long “landing strip” in the sunny area of my front yard featuring a mix of the nectar sources that work in my garden.

    Plants That Like Wet Feet

                 We custom built a small running water feature that I used for years, however I got tired of the birds skewering the pond fish, so I turned this area into a small wetland habitat. I also used a pond liner to create a 10 x 15ft. rock lined pond in the backyard, and a small plastic tub filled with sand and dirt to create another wetland habitat.

     Spicebush Swallowtail Cardinal Flower  
                 The wetland habitat, running along the creek, allows me to grow Lizard’s Tail, Saururus cernuus, Elliot’s aster, Symphyotrichum elliottii, and Spotted Water Hemlock, Cicuta maculate. The first week in June, I always look forward to Eastern Black Swallowtails ovipositing on the flower heads of the Water Hemlock.
    I also planted Bandanna-Of-The Everglades, Canna flaccida, host plant for Brazilian Skipper, Coastal Sweetpepperbush, Clethra alnifolia, Southeastern tickseed, Coreopsis gladiate, Cinnamon fern, Osmunda cinnamomea, American elderberry, Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis, Maiden fern, Thelypteris spp., Red Maple, Acer rubrum, and Beaksedge, Rhynchospora spp.

                 Excellent nectar plants that like wet feet include Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis, Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, TiTi, Cyrilla racemiflora, and Pickerelweed Pontederia cordata, a skipper favorite.

    Creating a 5 to 15 ft. High Habitat using Small Trees and Large Bushes

    High Habitat

    High habitat is important for shelter, perching areas, host plants for butterflies, feeding stations for lizards, and berries for birds. The central areas of my backyard are planted with American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, Wild Lime, Zanthoxylum fagara, Southern Bayberry, Myrica cerifera, Black Cherry, Prunus serotine, Smallflower  PawPaw, Asimina parviflora, Red Bay, Persea borbonia, Walter’s Viburnum, Viburnum obavatum,   Southern Arrowwood, Viburnum dentatum asheii, Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria, Simpson’s Stopper, Myrcianthes fragrans, Holly, Ilex spp., Wild Olive, Osmanthus americanus, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, Swamp Doghobble, Eubotrys racemosa, Saw Palmetto, Serenoa repens,  Chickasaw Plum, Prunus angustifolia, Parsley Hawthorn, Crataegus marshallii, and Gallberry , Ilex glabra. Over the years some pruning will be necessary for height control.

        The understory for this habitat includes:  Muscadine, Vitus rotundifolia, Marlberry, Ardisia
    escallonioides, Sand Blackberry, Rubus cuneifolis, Switchcane, Arundinaria gigantea, attracting the Southern Pearly-eye butterfly, Painted Leaf, Poinsettia cyathophora, Coral Bean, Erythrina herbacea, Twinflower, Dyschoriste oblongifolia, Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, and Pinxter Azalea, Rhododendron canescens.


    Oak Snag
    Several years ago a large part of a rotting oak tree came tumbling down leaving a hollowed out ten-foot-high tree trunk, creating a focal point in the backyard. I left the trunk undisturbed and have been rewarded with a shelter for four legged critters and other forms of life. Vines use the snag for support, while birds peck away at it for insects, including Pileated Woodpeckers.  My neighbor and I also decided to leave a 25 ft. tall, multi-branched, decaying trunk of a large Pignut Hickory Tree, Carya glabra in the landscape, which hosts insects and birds.  Barred Owls and Ibis use it as a perch.

    Host Trees, Plants, Bushes, and Vines in my Yard

          Live Oak and other Oaks, Quercus spp., Carolina Willow, Salix caroliniana, Red Bay, Persea borbonia, Hackberry, Celtis laevigata, Northern Spicebush ,Lindera benzoin, Southern Bayberry, Myrica cerifera, Beggerticks, Bidens alba, Fogfruit, Phyla nodiflora, Partridge Pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata, False Nettle ,Boehmeria cylindrica, Florida Pellitory, Parietaria floridana, False Indigo, Amorpha fruiticosa, and  Groundnut, Apios Americana.

    Nectar Trees, Plants, Bushes, and Vines in My Yard

    Zebra Long-wings Roosting

    Snow Squarestem, Malanthera nivea, is by far the best nectar plant in the yard!!!!! Beggarticks, Bidens Alba, Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa, Giant Ironweed, Vernonia gigantea, Firebush, Hamelia patens, Fogfruit, Phyla nodiflora, Blue Porterweed , Stachytarpheta jamaicensis, (I have to dig it up and put into greenhouse to survive winter months) Scarlet Rose Mallow, Hibiscus coccineus.

    Nectar Plants for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in My Garden

    Firebush, Hamelia patens, Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis.

    Memorial Gardens

                 I have created two small memorial garden areas to remind me of those persons who were mentors in my life. One contains the original plant given to me by this person in 200, and the other a plant that this person really liked.

    Rion Greenhouse

    The Fine Points

    • I like the surface of my potting benches to be 35 or 36 inches high, which allows for a more comfortable posture when working.
    • When pruning, leave several dead stalks 3 to 6 feet high for dragonflies to perch on.
    • Use a lawnmower to mulch tree leaves.
    • Include windbreaks in your design, such as fences, dense shrub planting, buildings.
    • Weediness encourages butterflies and is a lot easier on arthritic hands than a manicured bed.
    • Take photos and start a list of butterflies, bees, birds, and other life forms.
    • For the suet cage:  Hot Pepper No-Melt Suet by Wild Birds Unlimited is a real winner!
    • Take the time to research a plant before you dig it up, you may have a plant that belongs right where it is.
    • The returns on investing in a quality Rion Greenhouse far out way the initial expense. It allowed me to develop the skill of rooting plants from cuttings and growing from seed; enabled me to transfer cold sensitive plants during cold weather; and provides additional storage. 

    The Verdict

         Around 6 years ago the City of Jacksonville gave me a Chapter 518 Code Violation, excessive growth of weeds, grass, or noxious vegetation. My home is zoned residential.  I appeared in court to explain to the Magistrate why my yard looked this way and the benefits it provides to a wildlife, and I have not been bothered by the City since.


    Note: The vast majority of Trees, Bushes, Plants, and Vines in my yard are native, however for color, growing a species I liked while traveling in another country, and adding the range of nectar and host sources to increase numbers and diversity for critters in the yard I also have some species that are Exotic and Naturalized.