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National Moth Week: Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus)

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Fun fact: Unlike butterflies, moths have fancy, feathery antennae — what the Xerces Society described as “the most flamboyant in the pollinator world.” A species that exemplifies that characteristic is the burly Polyphemus moth.

Along with the Luna moth, the Polyphemus is one of the larger North American moths, with wingspans varying from 3.5 inches to more than 5.5 inches. Named after the one-eyed giant of Greek mythology, the Polyphemus displays a distinct eyespot on the top of each hind wing.

Also like the Luna, the Polyphemus does not eat as an adult and prefers hanging out in deciduous forests, although it can be seen in suburbia if the right trees are present. Polyphemus caterpillars enjoy munching the leaves of numerous tree species, including Florida’s oaks (Quercus sp.). Adults emerge from cocoons such as the one shown here, and, according to Butterflies and Moths of North America, mate soon after, with females beginning to lay eggs the same day.

This member of the North Ame…

National Moth Week: Luna Moth (Actias luna)

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Do you remember the first time you saw a Luna moth? For many of us, it was an exciting childhood moment on a warm, humid summer night. With a wingspan up to 4.5 inches, this large, elegant green moth is a sight to behold. Named after the moon, the Luna moth is found in the eastern half of the U.S. as well as in southern Canada — nowhere else on the planet.

The moths themselves do not eat, so caterpillar host plants are crucial to the survival of the species. Caterpillars feed on a variety of trees, including these native Florida trees: persimmon, sweet gum, hickories, walnuts, and sumacs. Not surprisingly, these moths are typically found in deciduous hardwood forests.

While not a plant pollinator, this member of the North American silk moths (Saturnidae) provides service to ecosystems as food for bats, owls and other nocturnal predators. And its elegant showiness makes the moth a great representative for all moths—an emblem of these important and necessary creatures in the animal kin…

It’s National Moth Week!

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Butterflies may be considered the showiest of winged insects, but moths are pretty awesome, too. And there are a lot of them. In fact, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation says about nine moth species exist for every one butterfly species globally!

In celebration and appreciation of these typically nocturnal creatures, the 8th annual National Moth Week is July 20–28. Here at Florida Native Plant Society, we’re going to highlight seven moth species this week—one per day—that have lifecycle relationships with our native plants. We’ll kick it off tomorrow with a post about one of the larger, more well-known moths, the beautiful Luna.

National Moth Week events are being organized around the globe, and online registration is available for group and individual activities.

You can also participate in a citizen science project through iNaturalist. This project provides a place to share photos and contribute to the body of knowledge about moths. So far, more than 3,600 moth specie…

Land Management Review: Seminole State Forest 2019

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by Jennifer Ferngren, President of Tarflower Chapter, originally published in The Tarpaper, July 2019. Edited by Valerie Anderson.

On a wet and rainy day the group of about met under the pavilion at the Bear Pond trailhead (map) at Seminole State Forest. Patricia Burgos, of the Lake Beautyberry Chapter, was the lead for the Society and Jennifer participated as an observer/trainee. The forest encompasses 27,540 acres of disconnected tracts, including the Warea Tract, making it difficult to review the entire park in one day. The group took off in four-wheel drive vehicles, making occasional stops at areas of interest to discuss management of the habitat types. Highlights of the field review included scrub restoration sites, the threatened Giant orchid (Eulophia ecristata) discovered in an old pasture, endangered and endemic Florida Hasteola (Hasteola robertiorum) site in a hydric hammock, very good invasive species management, and lots of blooming tarflower (Bejaria racemosa)! …

Land Management Review: Lake Griffin State Park 2019

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by Brian Brandon, Tarflower Chapter, originally published in The Tarpaper, July 2019. Edited by Valerie Anderson.

On June 12, 2019 I had the opportunity to “shadow” Juliet Rynear and several local and state government representatives on a land management review at Lake Griffin State Park. Lake Griffin State Park is located in Lake County off of Highway 27 in Fruitland Park. The park consists of approximately 621 acres of mesic flatwoods, sandhill, scrubby flatwoods, xeric hammock, basin marsh, baygall, depression marsh, hydric hammock, and river floodplain lake habitats. Although the park is not located on Lake Griffin, there is access to the lake from the park via the Dead River which terminates within the park boundaries.

The park primarily operates to provide outdoor recreation to the public. The park is improved with a large parking area that accommodates the parks public boat ramp, providing access to Lake Griffin. The park also provides pontoon boat eco-tours, kayak r…

Native Plant Conservation Campaign News: Controlled fires help both forest and human health - Stanford Study.

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Botanists and ecologists have long maintained that controlled burns can improve the health and resilience of forests and other native plant communities. Many native plants and animals depend upon periodic fire to reproduce and thrive. Controlled burns can also help fight climate change by reducing the amount and toxicity of emissions from uncontrolled fires. However, opposition to controlled burns, sometimes citing health risks from their smoke, has made it difficult for land managers to use this tool as much as is needed.
A new Stanford University School of Medicine study has found, however, that emissions from controlled burns appear to be less harmful to humans than those from wildfires. Researchers reported children were exposed to higher air pollutant levels during a California wildfire than during a similar-sized controlled burn, and the difference was reflected by changes in immune markers in their blood. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, “the study, whic…

Recordings from the 39th Annual Conference

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We recorded some of the sessions for the 39th Annual Conference in Crystal River from May 16-19, 2019. For more information, see the conference website and photo album.

 Keynotes

Rising Seas, Retreating Forests, and other Rapid Changes in Coastal Ecosystems by Jack Putz, PhD
Download the audio (mp3) file here and watch the video here.

Florida Regional Landscape Conservation Obstacles and Opportunities by Tom Hoctor, PhD
Download the audio (mp3) file here.

Why is Florida So Rich in Biodiversity? by Reed Noss, PhD
Download the audio (mp3) file here.
SessionsHow to Lead the Best Field Trip Ever with Jacqueline Rolly
Download the audio (mp3) here.

Mockernut Hill Botanical Garden with Linda Duever
Download the audio (mp3) here.

FNPS Work to Save Florida's Imperiled Plant Species with Juliet Rynear and Susan Carr, PhD
Download the audio (mp3) here.

The seasonality of post-fire response in native pine savanna groundcover with Dr. Edwin Bridges
Download the audio (mp3) here.

Where Ethnobotany …