Protecting native plants nationally with USDA-NRCS

by Eugene Kelly, Policy and Legislation Chair
The Society recently had an opportunity to speak in support of native plants on a national basis. The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) accepted comments on the Practice Standards they use while implementing Farm Bill[wikipedia] programs. Landowners can apply for funding assistance – typically on a cost-share basis – to make changes to their agricultural practices that achieve a variety of conservation benefits. The general substance or goal of a particular Practice Standard can often be surmised from the title. Examples of Practice Standards promoted by NRCS include Field Border, Forest Stand Improvement, Hedgerow Planting, Streambank and Shoreline Protection, and Upland Wildlife Habitat Management. And the conservation benefits of the practices are aligned with such Farm Bill objectives as reducing erosions, enhancing habitat for wildlife, and attracting pollinators.
One notable deficiency in current Practice Sta…

SB 82 - The Front Yard Veggie Garden Bill has passed

by Bonnie Basham, President of Sarracenia Chapter
Senate Bill 82, which prohibits local governments from regulating whether a homeowner can have a veggie, herb, or fruit garden in their front yard, has passed the legislature. All bills filed for consideration by the House and Senate, have unique folders which contain the history of that bill as it travels through the process. The front of SB 82’s folder will be signed by the House Speaker and Senate President and then presented to the Governor for his signature.

If the bill is signed and presented to the Governor by Saturday, May 4 the Governor will have 7 days to sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

However, if the bill is signed by the presiding officers after May 4, the Governor will have 15 days to sign, veto or allow it to become law without his signature.

Because several hundred bills are passed the last 10 days of session, some bills may not reach the Governor’s desk until June 15. This is because t…

Warty Sedge, Carex verrucosa

Warty Sedge, Carex verrucosa

Don't be turned off by the ugly name, Warty Sedge (Carex verrucosa) is a chunky sedge that defies the stereotypes that sedges are all small, green, boring, and indistinguishable. It has seriously spiky inflorescences and seedheads that are striking in the field. It doesn't have any other common names that I'm aware of, so that makes things easy.

C. glaucescens was described in 1817 by botanist Gotthilf Muhlenberg, for whom the genus Muhlenbergia is named (the very common landscape grass Hairawn Muhly, M. capillaris, is a member of that genus)2,3.  It is vouchered for 45 out of the 67 counties in Florida. It can be found throughout Florida, from the Green Swamp (map) to the Chuluota Wilderness Area (map) and scattered throughout the panhandle3. It's also a fairly impressive full-sized plant, as you can see.

Warty Sedge is within the Glaucescentes section of the Carex genus4, which means that it is closely related to other chunky-fruited Flor…

Clustered Sedge, Carex glaucescens

Clustered Sedge, Carex glaucescens
Clustered Sedge (Carex glaucesens) is another sedge, like the previously profiled False Hop Sedge, that defies the stereotypes that sedges are all small, green, boring, and indistinguishable. Also known as Southern Waxy Sedge, is an wet understory sedge of the Southeastern US but doesn't go far south into Central Florida1. It's restricted to the panhandle, Northeast Florida, and Lake County.

C. glaucescens was described in 1824 by botanist Stephen Elliot2.  It is vouchered for 26 out of the 67 counties in Florida.

Clustered Sedge is within the Glaucescentes section of the Carex genus3, which mean that it is closely related to other chunky-fruited Florida sedges: Cypress Swamp Sedge (C. joorii) and Warty Sedge (C. verrucosa).

Clustered Sedge is listed as endangered in Arkansas and Maryland4. This sedge is so charismatic that we specifically went to visit it during the Annual Conference in Gainesville in 2007. Field trip leaders Geoff Parks and…

Skyblue Lupine, Lupinus diffusus

Skyblue Lupine's flowers are fading in Central Florida and the fuzzy seed pods are becoming prominent yet this amazing pollinator plant is in peak bloom in North Florida. Just like the White Wild Indigo profiled last week, Skyblue Lupine is a legume, meaning it associates with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and has a certain "beany" flower shape.
Skyblue lupine has a long, sensitive taproot and likes dry soils, so is found in sandhills, scrubs, openings in xeric hammocks, and dry flatwoods. It is very difficult to transplant and grow from seed so it is not available from nurseries for your home landscape or for restoration.

It's leaves are eaten by the Frosted Elfin (Callophyris irus) butterfly, which is Listed Endangered in Florida1. It's also eaten by Grey Hairstreak (Strymon melinis) larvae, Genista Broom Moth (Uresiphita reversalis) larvae and many other butterflies and moths that use members of the Fabaceae family.

The flowers are visited by many species of bees…

False Hop Sedge, Carex lupuliformis

False Hop Sedge (Carex lupuliformis) is now blooming. This species is often found in floodplain forests and wetlands of Florida throughout the Eastern US all the way to Eastern Canada1,2. Members of the Carex genus (sometimes called Carices) have interesting flowers that are often overlooked. False Hop Sedge has both male and female inflorescences, as visible in the following photo.
C. lupuliformis was described in 1848 by physician-botanist Henry Sartwell3 and was published in 1850 by botanist and anti-slavery activist Chester Dewey4.  It is vouchered for 46 out of the 67 counties in Florida.
It has been documented in iNaturalist along Arbuckle Creek, the Myakka River, the Econlockhatchee River, Trout Creek (Hillsborough), the Hillsborough River, Tootoosahatchee Creek, Long Branch (Orange), the Fakahatchee Strand, Sixmile Cypress Slough (Lee County), the St. Johns River, in the Natural Areas Teaching Laboratory at UF, Clear Lake (Alachua), and more.

False Hop Sedge is within the Lup…

White Wild Indigo, Baptisia alba

If you're out in the dry pinelands and sandhills of North Florida right now you might be blessed with seeing the blooms of the White Wild Indigo, Baptisia alba.

White Wild indigo is a handsome member of the Legume family. Standing at over 3 feet tall, this spring bloomer waves above the surrounding vegetation and is very attractive to pollinators.

There are nine species of Wild Indigos or Baptisias in Florida. Wild White Indigo(B. alba)is in the B. alba - B. tinctoria Cladeof the Genus Baptisias. This means that it is more closely related to Apalachicola Wild Indigo, Baptisia megacarpa, than any of the other seven species of Wild Ingidos in Florida1.

White Wild Indigo is occasionally available from native nurseries and Jaret Daniels recommends it as a pollinator-friendly wildflower for use in naturalizing roadsides2. Make sure you are buying a Florida ecotype of this plant, as its natural range is throughout the Eastern US3.

White Wild Indigo is a larval host plant for the …