The purpose of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) is to promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. This blog presents ideas and information to further the cause of Florida's native plants and ecosystems.
Plant Profile: Sea Oats (Uniola paniculata)
Figure 1. Sea oats growing along the dunes.
This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student authors:Jennifer Scaduto and Lori Waite
If you have ever been to a sandy beach in the state of Florida then you have likely seen sea oats. This grass can grow up to 6 ft tall and the individual grass leaves can be as big as 2 ft long and 1 in wide. Like most grasses, the leaves are long and tapered.
These grasses are extraordinarily tough. Naturally growing in coastal dunes, they thrive in the hot sands, where the top layer can reach temperatures between 120⁰ and 127⁰ F. Unlike many other dune plants, sea oats are found along the dune crest and can tolerate daily exposure to sea spray. They even can withstand hurricane winds and periods of drought. The plant has a special relationship with vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal (VAM) fungi. The fungi bind to the roots (in a positive way!) and thereby increase access to nutrients for a plant growing in such a challenging habitat.
These plants are important in the preservation of Florida sand dunes. Once a plant is established, their roots can be very extensive (up to 30 feet in length!). The roots and rhizomes help to stabilize shifting sands along the foredune and dune crest, thereby preventing erosion.
By helping to protect the dunes, sea oats provide habitat for many plants and the seeds are food for animals such as the federally endangered beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus) and songbirds. The base of sand dunes is where the highly endangered sea turtles lay their eggs.
Sea oats therefore have a great environmental and economic value to the state of Florida. In fact, these plants are protected by state law. The plants are far from being endangered, but it is still illegal to pick wild sea oats, even the seeds. So please, take care of our sea oats!
Barbour, M. (2000). North American Terrestrial Vegetation. Cambridge University Press.
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By Lilly Anderson-Messec The red and yellow blooms of tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica , are ubiquitous in Florida butterfly gardens. This non-native milkweed has exploded in popularity as demand for milkweed grows to support declining monarch butterfly populations. This tropical species is native to Mexico and very easy to propagate, so growers are able to quickly produce plant material to meet the milkweed demand. It’s also very showy, blooming prolifically all season and regrowing quickly after being decimated by hungry caterpillars. Unfortunately, tropical milkweed has been an increasingly invasive species in Central and South Florida for many years, and has begun spreading in North Florida as well. It’s fast growth and prolific re-seeding have resulted in large monocultures of tropical milkweed in natural areas. This unchecked growth replaces native plants and disrupts the native ecosystems that both wildlife and humans rely on. The invasive quality of this plant is is j