Enticing new members with dinosaurs and smiles

The Naples FNPS Chapter knows how to attract new members! This account is by Karyn Allman, membership chair, and Philip Tadman, The Coontie Man.

Earth Day special: 11 native plants when you join the Naples FNPS Chapter
Last year the Naples Chapter, with the gracious help of native plant grower and FNPS member Philip Tadman, gave away small nursery trays with 11 native seedlings as an incentive to join the plant society at an Earth Day festival. During the event, we gained three new members, and all three greatly enjoyed their new native plants.

As the new 2011-2012 season of the Naples Chapter rolled into action in September, so did Philip. This time around, Phillip had the help of Mr. K.C. Klein from Duck Lake Trees and Shrubs, and they were able to gather twenty-five 3-gallon Zamia pumila (coontie) and have them ready for the two day Collier County Yard and Garden show in Immokalee in October. Prior to the event, Harriet Heithaus of the Naples Daily News interviewed Philip and placed an informative article in the local newspaper. The article not only let everyone know they could obtain a free plant with membership, but it touted the beauty and ease of care of the Zamia and other natives. (See below for the original press release.)

The offer: A free coontie when you join FNPS
 The morning of the first day of the event, the Native Plant Society booth was festooned with Zamias and other native plants, but also an eye catching sign reading

Danger - Dinosaur
Feeding Area!

A large plastic dinosaur was placed by the sign with a sprig of Zamia in its mouth. The dinosaur grabbed the attention of those who wandered by the booth, and opened the door to questions and conversations with the FNPS members at the booth. The dinosaur was, of course, the Zamia itself; a member of the cycad family – meaning living fossil  that has survived through the ages as a part of the natural Florida ecosystem. In addition to the dinosaur, while selling native plants at his personal booth, Philip would send folks over to the FNPS booth, boosting our number of visitors.

The booth attracted  a lot of attention.
Despite the occasional gusts of strong wind and off-and-on rain from the far offshore Hurricane Rina, the event was a great success. We far exceeded our lofty goal of 10 new members with 16 new members! The new members walked away with not only a Zamia, but a packet of information on the Naples FNPS Chapter, native plants in general, and a schedule of upcoming events with the Naples Chapter.

The Naples Chapter is looking forward to the rest of the season and hopes to find lots of new faces at meetings, field trips and other events. Thanks to everyone who helped make the Yard and Garden show such a great success.

Karyn Allman, Membership Chair

How could anyone resist?
Philip explains, "My whole idea was to attract new young blood to our chapter. The 'Danger Dinosaur Feeding Area' sign resulted from my trip to a Fire/Safety store to get my fire-extinguishers re-certified. It orginally read 'Danger Hard Hat Area.' I knew it would stop people dead in their tracks. The bouquet of native wildflowers and grasses (about 30 different species) was a member's contribution. It not only looked great, but it got people enthused and asking questions.

Humorous Observations
As Events Unfolded

I think Zamia Chapter is shell shocked, not getting much coherency from them; like the exact number of new members.

Our booths at the fair were supposed to be together, but the Society for some reason ended up in the boonies. As a repeat offender, I mean vendor, from the inauguration of the annual Yard and Garden show, eleven years ago to the present, I have a permanent and very nicely shaded spot.

When I get up on someones shoulders I can see Jean way over by the parking lot signaling me by holding up her hands. (both of them) since we are long past five new members.

Let's see, now was that five fingers on the left and three on the right, or maybe that was a double flash on the left or is she just swatting flies? Okay I'm sure it's five plus five plus three.

Good Lord, thirteen? Impossible! another finger up? The coontie are flying off the shelves. Jean has gone mad grabbing handfuls of air, fingers going in all directions.

Oh dear, the member whose back I've requisitioned has just collapsed and I with her. I keep forgetting dear Eva is 82. Fortunately we both land in my wildflower section.

Looking eyeball to eyeball with a black-eyed susan is an experience not to be forgotten. Almost as thrilling as signing up another seven members that singular sensational sunny Sunday. My apologies to that rather indignant calaminta under my chin, but what a gorgeous scent.

Someone realized that a cootie leaf fit very nicely in steggie's mouth.
Delighting the kids, including me! And of course, a rose being inappropriate
(not Mesozoic), I lunched in a similar fashion.
I expect the chapter will shortly contact FNPS with the final figure. Unless of course they haven't taken all that loot and gone to Paris.

I kind of think we made history!

Philip Tadman

P.S. Next incentive: Earth Day 2012. Top Secret!

Here's the Press Release:

At Yard and Garden Show a genuine Florida 'living fossil' offered with membership

On Saturday Oct 29 and Sunday Oct 30, the Naples Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society will be manning a booth at the SW Florida Yard & Garden Show, at the Collier County University Extension Office on Immokalee Road. Members of our Zamia chapter will be on hand to answer all your 'going native' questions with information and friendly advice on how to create a wildlife-friendly Florida yard.
The purpose of FNPS is to preserve, conserve and restore the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. The encourage you to join our society, we are making a very special offer. During these two days anyone who joins will receive (along with their membership) a beautiful 3-gal Florida coontie. This complimentary plant, officially named Zamia pumila, is an education in itself. Coontie is a cycad--a 'living fossil.' These primitive plants were a dominant form of plant life during the dinosaur age and were relished by those long-gone behemoths. Once common throughout the state, coontie is now rarely found in the wild due to intense collection in the past for starch production. The starch, called Florida arrowroot, was extracted from its underground stem or caudex.

From the article in the
Naples Paper
Coonties look like small palms or ferns and can be planted in full sun or deep shade. With its high drought and cold tolerance, it is an ecellent choice as a low-maintenance landscape plant and is quite happy living out its long uneventful life in a pot. Cycads are long-lived and at the age of an Encephalartos altensteinii, on display at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew England, is estimated at 220 years! If you've read this far, you have successfully passed Coontie (101) and haven't aged a day. You may proceed directly to our booth this weekend and pick up your very own stegosaurus munchie. Your membership will help support the preservation and restoration of wildlfie habitats and biological diversity throughout Florida and be assured that coontie will come in handy if, by chance, a hungry velociraptor crossses your beautifually landscaped wildlife-friendly path.

The cycad will be included with individual, family or student membership; the dinosaur will not be.
As a result of the above press release, we received good press coverage in the Naples News.

Wow! What a great membership drive. Has your chapter had success in gaining new members? We'd love to hear about it. Send article ideas or text and photos to fnps.online@gmail.com

Ginny Stibolt


Anonymous said…
What a great effort! Congrats go to all the chapter members who coordinated this membership drive.

V. Avery
Anonymous said…
The neat little pinklet sitting behind the dinosaur in the second picture is stenandrium dulce. That it makes a “delightful little pot plant” (Osorio) I quite agree. Everyone should have one. It never fails to delight; the intense pink blossoms are a joy, suddenly popping up when you least expect them.
Anonymous said…
Our notorious coontie, zamia floridana (aka pumila,integrifolia,angustifolia,latifoliolata,
media,debilis,portoricensis,umbrosa,silvicola) has a distinction – the most names of any cycad. This spring and summer,the Zamia research team at the Montgomery Botanical Center, Coral Gables Fl., collected over 800 DNA samples, numerous herbarium specimens, and precise, fine-scale geographic data from the Panhandle to the Everglades, to better understand Florida’s only cycad and its relationship with the other Caribbean zamias. The Florida fieldwork is part of a multi institutional project led by Javier Francisco-Ortega of FIU/FTBG with the support of the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society, to study biographic and conservation genetics of Caribbean Zamia.
Will the real Florida coontie please wave a frond and identify your self.

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