A New Chapter

Starting over
I recently relocated from the northeast corner of Florida to my hometown of sunny Miami. As such, I had to leave the Ixia chapter, which had become something of a family to me. Most of what I've learned over the past several years is the byproduct of being involved with that small, warm group of people. I am sincerely grateful that they were able to tolerate my obnoxious sense of humor long enough to identify specimens for me on field trips and during meetings. Nonetheless, the landscape in Atlantic Beach (where I'd lived for the past 4 years) is dramatically different than that which is found in "the 305," and I'm discovering that I’m not quite back to square one regarding my knowledge of local natives, but I'm far back enough to recognize that there's a whole lot more to know. I've always found that if I really want to learn about AND remember new species of flora, doing so in their respective natural settings is the best way to go. That said, on Saturday, January 11, I grabbed my notebook and camera and headed to F.I.U. for my first field trip with the Dade F.N.P.S. Chapter.

Group photo c/o Linda evans
Preserve map
Unbeknownst to many, the campus contains a 14 acre nature preserve which is managed by Ryan Vogel of F.I.U.'s Office of Sustainability. Established in 1978, Jack Parker and Joel Hynan are largely responsible for preventing development on the site, which is currently used by the Biology department (among others) as a living lab for students to learn in and from. A floristic survey of the site indicates the presence of 452 species of plants and animals, including 30 endangered and threatened plants. Historically speaking, much of the site was once a Freshwater Wetland similar to that which is found in the Everglades. Situated between runways at what had previously been the Tamiami Airport, the only ecological disturbance that the airport brought about was to clear cut the area to improve visibility for the ingress and egress of planes. After the airport closed, the substrate gave rise to what is currently a 35 year old Tropical Hardwood Hammock. The preserve also contains fragments of Pine Rockland - a habitat type that was once prolific in southern Dade County and, according to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, has since become, "one of the most endangered habitats in the world.”

Oliver, Vogel's dog, loves the tire path
Vogel has put an enormous amount of energy into making the preserve a popular destination for non-science folks as well. He was instrumental in getting the thumbs up to install a 6' wide path around the site, whereby encouraging recreational use and bringing students and faculty up-close and personal with nature. The path, made of recycled tires, is both aesthetically pleasing and easy on the joints. Further, he cleared an area of Schinus terebinthifolia (Brazilian pepper/Florida holly) that was literally 30' deep around one side of a previously hidden borrow-pit turned retention pond. Because of its steep dropoff, he had to add soil to create a sloping edge upon which he could plant littoral species. The pond is now the tranquil backdrop for numerous large, outdoor events held on an adjacent field.

Speaking of Brazilian pepper (boo hiss), the preserve is in no way devoid of invasive species - a fact that Vogel is very aware of. When we spotted and called his attention to Ardisia elliptica (shoebutton), he told us that pest plant removal on the site is targeted, largely because if he disturbs the areas containing invasives by removing them and doesn’t have anything to replace them with, the invasives will most likely make a repeat appearance. He has been actively girdling four large Australian pines in the preserve as a means of eventually killing them.

Chromolaena odorata
So… What new natives did I add to my knowledge base? Thanks to Gwen Burzycki, Mary Rose, Patty Phares, and our tour guide (whose brains I relentlessly picked), I can now identify:
Left: L. latisiliquum; right: D. regia
  • Chromolaena odorata (jack-in-the-bush)
  • Heliotropum polyphyllum (pineland heliotrope)
  • Physalis angustifolia (coastal groundcherry)
  • Tetrazygia bicolor (Florida cloverash) - this one is listed as threatened in the Preservation of Native Flora of Florida Act.
  • Lysiloma latisiliquum (false tamarind) - I thought this was Delonix regia (royal poinciana), which I knew/know is a non-native introduced to Miami by David Fairchild after one of his plant collecting trips to Asia. The Kampong, his former residence (in the Coconut Grove area), is presumably the site of that original accession. The leaves on both are bipinnately compound, with leaflets of about the same size. Their fruits, however, are significantly different (see image) and a good identifying feature for distinguishing one from the other.
  • Chrysophyllum oliviforme (satinleaf) - disclosure: I already knew and loved this species from my volunteer days at Fairchild, where they have a long allee of satinleaf trees leading to an overlook. I did not, however, realize it was native.

Round two
I imagine that the shady path at Secret Woods
Nature Center would feel great on a warm day.
My second field trip with the group was just one week later. Camera and notebook in hand, I set out for Secret Woods Nature Center, a 57-acre park in Dania Beach. Even at 10am it was still unseasonably cool (50-something degrees) for a south Florida winter, so I kept a brisk pace to try to stay warm. I was happy to see Richard Brownscombe from the Broward chapter in the crowd, and felt downright popular. Okay - who am I kidding?! He, Patty Phares and Mary Rose were the only folks with familiar faces, but that didn’t stop me from borrowing a pencil from a woman whose name I didn’t (and still don't) know when I discovered that my pen was out of ink, and promptly running off with it when the tour was over (oops!). Whoever you are - I have it in my car and I’ll bring it to the next meeting - I promise! Back to the trip… The site had a lovely boardwalk that ran through a laurel oak hammock, a cypress/maple wetland, and a pond apple/mangrove community. There were LOTS of familiar natives this time (YAY), which made me feel very plantsmart (yes, I just made that word up). I recorded the following species list with my semi-permanently borrowed pencil and didn’t pay attention to much else because I turn purple and become distracted at 55 degrees (how's that for a Miami native?!):

Plants I correctly identified
Osmunda regalis
  • Annona glabra (pond apple)
  • Ardisia escallonioides (marlberry)
  • Avicennia germinans (black mangrove)
  • Bidens alba (beggarticks)
  • Callicarpa americana (beautyberry)
  • Chromolaena odorata (jack-in-the-bush) - I learned this one the week before; go me!
  • Chrysobalanus icaco (cocoplum)
  • Coccoloba uvifera (seagrape)
  • Eugenia axillaris (white stopper)
  • Ficus aurea (strangler fig)
  • Ilex cassine (Dahoon holly)
  • Osmunda regalis (royal fern)
  • Pleopeltis polypodioides (resurrection fern)
  • Poinsettia cyathophora (paintedleaf)
  • Psychotria nervosa (wild coffee)
  • Rhizophora mangle (red mangrove)
  • Sabal palmetto (cabbage palm)
  • Sambucus canadensis (elderberry)
  • Taxodium distichum (bald cypress)
  • Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish moss)
  • Vitis rotundifolia (muscadine)
  • Zamia pumila (coontie)

Plants I incorrectly identified
Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) propagules

  • Myrsine cubana (colicwood) - thought this was wax myrtle

Plants that were new to me and those I had seen before but couldn’t identify
  • Acrostichum danaeifolium (giant leather fern)
  • Blechnum serrulatum (swamp fern)
  • Heliotropium curassavicum (seaside heliotrope)
  • Ipomoea indica (oceanblue morning-glory) - knew the genus; specific epithet, not so much
  • Pluchea sp. (camphorweed)
  • Psilotum nudum (whisk fern)
  • Psychotria sulzneri? (shortleaf wild coffee) - leaf is dull and more blue-green than that of P. nervosa
  • Rhabdadenia biflora (rubbervine)
  • Rivina humilis (rougeplant)
  • Sarcostemma clausum (white twinevine)
  • Zanthoxylum fagara (wild lime) - at least I knew it was in the Rutaceae because of the winged rachis

That’s about it. Starting a new chapter (in my life and in F.N.P.S.) has been pretty exciting so far!
Signing off from the south end of the state-

Laurie Sheldon
all photos by author unless otherwise noted


Hobo Botanist said…
Welcome back to Miami-Dade, the county with the most native plants species! Hope too see you tonight at the chapter meeting.
Thanks, Steve! Glad to be back =)

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