Preserving, conserving, and restoring the native plants and native plant communities of Florida.


Thursday, December 1, 2016


Submitted by Donna Bollenbach

Courtesy of Wikimedia 

The Wildlife Tree

SNAGS, often referred to as “The Wildlife Tree”, are dead tree trunks that are still standing.

They provide perches, food and nesting sites for birds and other wildlife. Wildlife also uses dead wood as landmarks for navigation, basking platforms, perching and nesting.

Cavity Dwellers

Nearly 40 species of birds and several species mammals in Florida nest in tree cavities.Woodpeckers, are a “primary excavators.”

Owls, Blue-birds, Squirrels and Nuthatches are a few of the “secondary cavity users.”

Photo by Donna Bollenbach

Snags as Perches

Many birds perch high on snags so they can spot prey below.

Some birds perch on snags for the greater visibility to a potential mate.

Snags as Cover

Birds and small mammals take shelter in the cavities of trees

Bees may also create hives in tree cavities.

Snags for Nesting

Ospreys and eagles will build their nests in the tops of snags, especially if they are located close to a body of water that will provide them fish for their young.

Woodpeckers, wrens, wood ducks, tree swallows, owls gnat catchers, and fly catchers are just a few of the birds that nest in tree cavities.

SNAGS as food source

Wildlife eat the insects that live and reproduce in the decaying wood of the snag.

Raccoons, bears and other wildlife will also search snags for high protein grubs and other insects

This old tree will eventually be a great snag

What makes a good SNAG?

Wildlife will use snags of both deciduous trees and evergreens. The height, diameter and type of wood (soft or hard) may determine when and how it is used. Hardwood trees, such as oaks, maples and elms, may develop cavities while they are still alive. Softwoods, such as pines and cypress trees, are more likely to have cavities after it dies.

Palm trees that lose their top (bud) during a storm, will eventually die. In natural areas that have been impacted by storms, you may see clusters of cabbage palm snags. Woodpeckers will search for insects and a dig cavities in live and dead palm trees.

If you have a dying or nuisance tree in your yard, you may have a potential wildlife snag.

Trees you may want to make into a snag:
  • Weak wood, or disease,
  • A shade tree in an area where you want sun,
  • A tree with invasive roots threatening a drainage or septic system,
  • A tree in a group that needs thinning out
  • A tree in an area where there aren’t any snags

Photo by Donna Bollenbach

Snags, Logs and Woodpiles in Your Landscape

Like vegetation, you should provide different heights of dead wood in your landscape. If you have a lot of property, you might consider having a variety of dead wood features. You can work deadwood into your landscape design for both function and beauty.

You may even “plant” small snags for songbird perches or in water features.

Snags also provide support for native vines, orchids, and bromeliads.

Photo by Donna Bollenbach

If leaving a snag standing is not safe, consider leaving the stump, or the cut logs in a far corner of your yard to rot and serve wildlife.

Logs are essentially fallen snags, and they serve much benefits, for wildlife that prefer to stay closer to the ground.

Also, instead of throwing out branches or other deadwood in your landscape, consider making a pile of it for wildlife.

So, before you remove a tree, consider its value to wildlife...
PLEASE don’t cut down that SNAG!

Photo by Donna Bollenbach

For more information:

Dead Wood: Key to Enhancing Wildlife Diversity in Forests
By Holly Ober & Patrick Minoque, University of Florida IFAS Extension.

Living With Wildlife: “SNAGS” The Wildlife Tree Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Landscaping Backyards for Wildlife: Top Ten Tips for Success by Mark Hostetler, Greg Klowden, Sarah Webb Miler and Kara Youngentob, University of Florida IFAS Extension.

Florida Native Plant Society: Comprehensive information on native plant landscaping and landscaping for wildlife. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Wildflower Portraits: 10 Tips for Taking Great Close-up Images of Native Plants

Submitted by Donna Bollenbach, Suncoast Chapter / Nature Photographer

Taking great close-up images of wildflowers is no different than taking great photographs of people, except the wildflowers won’t ever tell you they look “too fat” or “too old” or “too plain.” But, like people portraits, there are a few tips to taking outstanding wildflower portraits:

1. Get close, but be mindful: If it is the flower you are after, get as close as you can without damaging the plant or the habitat. If you want people to be able to identify a plant from your image, be sure to include features that are unique to the species, such as leaves, fruits or seeds.

Celestial Lily,  Nemastylis floridana, a rare endemic.

2. Be level: The closer you are to a subject, the less depth-of-field you will achieve. So, position your camera so the lens is parallel with the flower, or other feature of the plant, that you want to be the sharpest. If you have a depth of field preview on your camera, use it.

Green Metallic Bee, Agapostemon spp. on False Foxglove, Agalinis spp.

3. Use a tripod: Lenses with optical stabilizers are great when carrying a tripod is prohibitive, but whenever possible, I use a tripod. A tripod not only helps me achieve a higher percentage of sharp images, but it forces me to slow down and consider the composition, background and depth of field before releasing the shutter.

Pineland Water-willow, Justicia angusta 

4. Control the background: Background clutter probably ruins more photographs than poor light or poor composition. Control the background by repositioning the camera, using a longer lens (which will blur the background), or coming in closer to eliminate the background. The best advice when it comes to backgrounds is to “keep it simple.”

Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides marcellus, on Yellow Colic Root, Aletris lutea

5. Watch the weather: Too much light and wind will make wildflower photography more difficult. Overcast days with little or no wind are ideal, but not always possible. If the light is too harsh, wait for a cloud to move in, or use a man made diffuser (such as a white umbrella). Constant wind makes close-up photography nearly impossible, but in a mild breeze, there will usually be a break when you can shoot. Flash can be used to to fill in shadows or increase shutter speed, but should be used sparingly. 

Drumhead, Polygala cruciata

6. Choose the best blossom: If you are shooting wildflowers at their peak, and you have more than one flower to choose from, look for the one that is most attractive and representative of its species. If applicable, make sure it has all its petals, good color, and appears healthy and vibrant. Of course, if your intent is capture the beauty of a wildflower after it goes to seed, you would focus on other details.

Adam's Needle, Yucca filamentosa

7. Find Perspective: A photographer’s ability to find a unique perspective on a common subject is what separates a mediocre image from a great one. Many beginning photographers shoot from wherever they happen to be standing. Often, this means they are shooting down on the subject. A seasoned nature photographer knows that sometimes you need to get low, even on your belly, to get a great shot. Before pressing the shutter, walk around your subject, stand-up, lie-low and change between zoom and wide-angle lenses to find the best perspective.

Yellow Pitcherplant, Sarracenia flava
8. Diversify:  Next time you photograph a wildflower, think of it as a person, and consider using one or more of these portrait perspectives to capture its unique features:

           Profile: The profile, or side view exudes grace and beauty. Lines are prominent. 

Scarlet creeper, Ipomoea hederifolia

Forked Blue Curls, Trichostema dichotomum

Three-quarter : The ¾ or “Look over my shoulder” view accents form and shape.

Yellow Butterwort, Pinguicula lutea
Scarlet creeper, Ipomoea hederifolia

Frontal: The frontal or full face view defines symmetry and balance.

Purple Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata

Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia spp. 

8. Bugs are a bonus: Bees, butterflies, moths, flies and beetles add a special dimension to wildflower photography. Consider them a bonus. If one happens to fly in the frame when you are shooting, just keep shooting. But, don’t rely on luck. Patience is the key when photographing insects visiting flowers. Rather than chase bees and butterflies around a field, it is much easier to stay focused on one flower and wait for a pollinator come to you.

Progressive Bee Fly ,Exoprosopa spp, on  Blushing Scrub Mint, Dicerandra Modesta,

9. Tell a story: Capturing a close-up of a wildflower does not mean you cannot capture some of the environment where it lives or its relationship to wildlife. One of my favorite techniques is to use a wide-angle lens to get close to my subject, yet show enough of the background to reveal its natural habitat. Even without the habitat, your close-up image will tell a story if it reveals the form and function of a wildflower. 

Donna Bollenbach has been photographing nature for over 20 years. She has written articles, taught workshops, and published an e-book on the art of nature photography. The last five years her primary subject has been Florida Native Plants. She is currently working on a database of her images. Donna is President of the Suncoast Chapter, Social Media Director for the Florida Native Plant Society, and editor of this blog. Her Facebook Page is Natives, Naturally

I was asked what equipment I shoot with, so here is the list, but you should not feel limited by your equipment. You can follow most of these tips even if you are shooting with a cell phone. In any case, I shoot with a Nikon D300 (12 megapixels) (usually on a tripod), a 180 Sigma macro lens and a 17-80 Nikon wide angle zoom. I also have a Panasonic point and shoot with macro capability and a lens that zooms from 55 to 400mm.Most of the images I take with the Panasonic are wide angle close-ups, like the one above.  

Calling all Florida Native Plant Photographers: In 2017 I would like to feature a native wildflower that is currently in bloom each week on this blog. It would be called "Wednesday's Wildflower." I have seen many wonderful images of wildflowers by FNPS members on social media. If you would like to submit your images, along with a species profile for "Wednesday's Wildflower" please send me an email and I will send you more information. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

FNPS, and the Tarflower Chapter, Mourns the Death of Founding Member Bill Partington, Jr.

In Memoriam: 
William “Bill” Moore PARTINGTON Jr.
February 3, 1928 - October 14, 2016

   Bill Partington was a founding member of the Florida Native Plant Society (Tarflower Chapter) and a champion for Florida’s natural environment. He was Director of FNPS from 1979-1985. During that time, membership grew from 6 people to over a 1000. Bill Partington was well known for publishing an annual “calamity calendar” in the 1990s, featuring cartoonists that made fun of Florida’s gator attacks, hurricanes, and overcrowding. He wrote many articles and took photos for the Florida Audubon Society, New York Geological Society, Wilderness Society magazine, several wildlife books, and numerous columns on the environmental impact of the Cross Florida Barge Canal (now called the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway). Bill graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Williams College awarded Mr. Partington in 1995 their coveted bicentennial award in distinguished career achievement. In 2000, FNPS presented Bill with the society’s highest award, the Mentor Award, to Bill, for his tireless conservation activism.

The Tarflower Chapter was fortunate to have Bill as a member of their chapter. FNPS and Tarflower members valued his knowledge, enthusiasm and his sense of humor, as noted in these personal tributes from the November 2017 issue of the Tarpaper. 

Bill in his yard, courtesy of  David Partington
   “When Bill Partington gave lectures to Audubon or the Native Plant Society you could hear a pin drop in the room. He once gave a talk on wintering Monarch butterflies of central Mexico, with pictures which he took himself. That Monarchs migrated to one spot was a newly discovered phenomenon and he brought the news back firsthand.

   In another talk about micro-photography, with a camera and light setup he created, he showed fascinating, very colorful pictures of plants, caterpillars and birds common to central Florida. The close-ups were so close, showing tiny structures in a Blue Jay's feather, leaf margins and the internal physiognomy of flowers, that it was a look at a world that cannot be seen at a casual glance, yet is everywhere. His work was between normal vision and molecular photography. 

   Bill always expanded the information one already knew, providing deeper perspective and greater respect for what's out there. His quiet manner, gentle humor and constant curiosity about our environment, even in his backyard (which is where a lot of the microphotographs were taken), were always appreciated. He spoke up when attractive ideas, such as the Cross-Florida Barge Canal, would cause harm to the State and steered it away from permanent damage. For fifty years or more he was a soldier for Florida, a guardian who really did think globally and act locally, quietly but effectively. I don't know the half of his efforts. It's not how life is made, but if ever there was a person who should have kept on living a little longer, it was Bill. His last talk for Native Plant was about the environment-saving heroes of Florida, defenders who guided our State. He was among those stalwarts."​
Cecilia Catron, Tarflower Member

   "Thank you, Bill Partington, for being a fierce advocate for Florida's environment and for the role you played in getting the Florida Native Plant Society up and running. Your words expressing concern for activism and desire that FNPS be more activist continuously run through my mind. Rest in peace and our warmest regards to your family."
Cammie Donaldson, FNPS Administrative Services

Bill's humorous side,
courtesy of David Partington
   "Bill, myself, plus 3 or maybe four others started the first conversations about having a Florida Native Plant Society.  Bill’s determination and humor kept us from straying too far from the mission of creating FNPS.  Without his generosity of providing his name, contacts, and office I don't know where the Society would be.  When we grew to 35 members, Bill decided we should have our first State Conference.  Through his connections, Rollins College let us use their facilities...for free!  I think we generated a couple of hundred paying new members from the conference, and we were off with Bill Partington in the lead."
Carol Sawyer Lotspeich, FNPS   founding member

   "Bill was presenting at our Tarflower meeting just eight weeks ago. I clearly recall many people that I have never seen attend his presentation on important movers and shakers in the early days of when the term "conservationist" was still being coined. It is my understanding that September 6th's meeting was well attended not just by Tarflower, but also by Orange Audubon Society. After all, Bill was Assistant Director for the Audubon Society from 1967-71 and his interests covered both plants and birds.

   I have enjoyed spending time with Bill during the last months of his life. Even then, he had a light-hearted, energetic charm about him. And he certainly had charisma- that only certain people possess and even fewer radiate. Our conversations were never boring- not even for a second. I observed, even in his declining health, that he was never truly concerned about his mortality. His eyes were eternally curious- brimming with questions and ideas- but he exercised restraint and timing via his wit and word choice. I found that most remarkable. Once, while visiting his home, he stopped our conversation dead in its track to admire a hummingbird outside his dining room window feeding on a Hamelia Patens. Unlike me, Bill knew when to pause business and smell the roses. I could take a page from him on that."
Mark Kateli, Tarflower Chapter Treasurer and Assistant State Treasurer

Bill loved all nature,
courtesy of  David Partington
   "My introduction to Bill Partington was a phone call from him to write something for the Florida Native Plant Society newsletter, which was still in the embryo stage. The Florida Audubon Society's magazine, The Florida Naturalist, had published a few articles I had written about edible wild plants, and I guess he thought I might come up with something for this new organization.

     I wrote a short piece about the Sabal Palmetto that I called "The Aeolian Harp Tree" and took it over to him in Winter Park. I asked a question or two about the newsletter and found out that it didn't yet exist. So I volunteered to get it going and became the first editor of The Palmetto, a position I held for the next 15 years. 

    FNPS was organized in 1980 under the umbrella of the Environmental Information Center in Winter Park, of which Bill was the director. Bill remained the director of FNPS until 1986.

     Bill was full of good ideas and had good organizing skills. He organized the first conference at Rollins College, bringing in fine speakers from his many contacts. He encouraged chapter building and had each new chapter plan the next annual spring conference, then started having fall mini-conferences, too.

   As director of the Environmental Information Center, he also published Enfo, a newsletter of environmental concerns, and the Solar Coalition newsletter. He led environmental trips in Florida, to nearby states, and to Costa Rica (which my parents and my husband and I went on). I loved his Calamity Calendar, making fun of Florida's many mishaps to discourage new residents, and his bumper stickers that said, "Leaving Florida? Take a friend."

     His leadership gave the Florida Native Plant Society a good start in its first five years. When FNPS decided to "go it alone", Bill was given a life membership."
Peggy Lantz, Tarflower Chapter and first Palmetto editor

Bill and his wife, Eloise - courtesy of David Partington.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

2017 FNPS Conference: Connections: Above & Below

submitted by Donna Bollenbach

Connections: What an all-encompassing term! It implies links, associations, bonds, assemblies, and networks. But it also refers to the way things relate and interact. So, when destiny took us to Westgate River Ranch Resort, a venue in heart of the state and the historic Everglades Watershed, choosing “Connections” for the theme of the 2017 Florida Native Plant Society seemed natural. 
Historically, the Headwaters of the Everglades watershed flowed like a sheet of water that moved through grasslands and prairies to the Everglades. This flood plain filtered the water of its impurities, like the heart oxygenates blood, before delivering it to the other parts of the land body. But the natural path of water has been greatly altered resulting in water that is nutrient-contaminated and being rechanneled to our east and west coasts, causing a host of environmental problems that have a negative impact on plant communities, wildlife, our health and economy. 

Waterflow in the Everglades in historic conditions, current conditions, and predicted conditions Source:

 Restoration of the Everglades has long been recognized as an environmental priority in Florida, and no place in Florida is more connected to the health of the Everglades than the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, which includes Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Avon Park U.S. Air Force Bombing Range, Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, Disney Wilderness Preserve, Lake Kissimmee State Park, KICCO Wildlife Management Area, Lake Arbuckle State Park, and South Florida Water Management District’s Kissimmee River Restoration Project. The preservation, conservation, and restoration of natural lands and plant communities in these areas protects the health and stability of our regional ecosystems and of our rivers and beaches.

The 2017 FNPS Conference will explore Connections on many levels:

Connections to the Landscape:  We will explain how the acts of preservation, conservation, and restoration of natural lands in central Florida safeguard the health of our entire state.

Connections at the Edge:  We will show how to improve and manage the interface between developed landscapes (urban, suburban, and agricultural) and wild ecosystems.

Connections of Plants, Wildlife and People:  We will learn why life, from single-celled organisms to human beings, is dependent on connections to nature.  And, in turn nature is dependent on us to protect natural areas for the benefit all living organisms in our state.
    Connections from Roots to Canopy:  We will examine networks that connect plants above and below the ground.  
    * Imatge: Natural roots, d'Angela Vandenbogaard

    Connections in the Field: Our venue is in the center of the historic Everglades Watershed. Conference Fieldtrips will demonstrate what is being done to support landscape-level ecological function and connectivity and what more needs to be done. There are many examples of natural landscapes and corridors. Participants will experience examples of intact habitats that filter our water, support biodiversity and thriving populations of native species, provide food and cover for wildlife, and give us reason to pause and appreciate the beauty of Florida and the need to sustain these lasting connections in our state.
    Don’t miss your Connection, make your lodging reservations now: Westgate River Ranch Resort is an upscale but secluded resort is just off SR 60 south of Lake Kissimmee. You have a choice of 3 rustic lodge accommodations, or if you prefer an outdoor feel, you can go “Glamping” in a luxury air-conditioned tent. There are also RV and tent camping spots on site. Would you like to extend your stay to enjoy the other activities offered by the resort, such as the Rodeo, Horseback Riding, Swamp Buggy and Airboat rides? The special FNPS lodging rates are extended for three days before and after the event. There are a limited number of each room type available at our special rate, so to make sure you get the accommodations you prefer, make your room registrations now.

    To reserve your room and view conference updates, go to the 2017 Conference  page on the FNPS website. Fieldtrips will be posted by January 1st and registration for the conference will begin in early 2017. 

    Sunday, October 23, 2016

    Discovering Grassy Waters Preserve

    Richard Brownscombe, Coontie Chapter

    Ilex cassine, Dahoon Holly (female) 
    and Taxodium ascendens, Pond Cypress
    Last month James Lange, Researcher and Field Biologist at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, took us on a wonderful walk in Grassy Waters Preserve just an hour north of Fort Lauderdale in West Palm Beach. This wetland is an example of doing the right thing to build a sustainable urban environment. The naturally clean waters of the preserve are supplying the drinking water for West Palm Beach and helping keep the aquifer healthy. At the same time, all these wetland plant and wildlife species have a place to thrive and townsfolk have easy access to this beautiful place.

    The facilities of the parking lot, restrooms, picnic tables, waterside deck, canoe and kayak launch, rain shelter, benches, and boardwalk, say "Welcome. Enjoy." We were so fortunate to have "our botanist", James, along to name the plants and point out many interesting things we would not have known. As a few other couples, groups, and individuals passed by us, I wanted to say, "Stop! Did you see this!" (I did engage one or two, but people are doing their own thing, too.)

    Nymphaea odorata, American Waterlily
    The others who came on the walk spotted quite a few interesting flowers, butterflies, birds, and insects that neither Jimmy nor I saw. With many excited eyes looking around, we found many more interesting plants and wildlife than we would have seen otherwise. It is interesting to observe how people's different experiences allow them to each discover different things to see in the wild.

    The Lubber grasshopper, a native and beautiful in orange
    Photos never do justice to the experience. The wildlife is especially difficult because it moves. This still Lubber was an exception. 

    Peltandra virginica, Green Arum
    Arum has an interesting encased white spike in the flower that we can try to capture on another visit. This would make a nice pond plant if you have a water feature. The long stems are spikerush. 

    Hydrolea corymbosa, Skyflower

    This photo fails to capture the wonderful blue intensity of this blue-like-the-sky Skyflower. These flowers are less than an inch, but easily catch your eye.

    Diospyros virginiana, Persimmon
    The tasty Persimmon needs to be fully ripe to enjoy that great flavor without the overly-astringent bite of the under-ripe fruit.

    Vittaria lineata, Shoestring Fern

    This pleasant epiphytic fern with young uncoiling leaves might be available from an enthusiast grower, but it needs a place of high humidity and favors the Sabal palmetto. 

    Fraxinus caroliniana, Pop Ash, Blechnum serrulatum, Swamp Fern,
    and Thelypteris interrupta, Interrupted Maiden Fern (in front)
    Both ferns shown here were abundant. If you find ferns confusing, keep looking and comparing the pinnae (leaflet) margins and veins and look at the underside of fertile fronds to see the pattern of the sori (spore capsules that become brown). This closer look shows off their many differences.

    Magnolia virginiana, Sweet-bay
     This Magnolia is another reason to visit again in spring or summer to see its bloom. The flower is not the grand one of the non-native Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, but it is also lovely. The leaves are aromatic when crushed. If you have wet soils, you might want to consider this accent tree for your garden. The Institute of Regional Conservations says, "Most botanists would consider this to be the most primitive tree native to South Florida," meaning of course, that its ancient origins are manifest, for example, in the flower structure.

    Nymphoides aquatica, Big Floatingheart and Taxodium ascendens, Pond Cypress (branches reflected)

    These would seem to be the perfect pad for a smaller pond. The flowers are not like the American White Waterlily, but small, simple, white, and delicate.

    Hypericum cistifolium, Roundpod St. John's-wort

       The seedpods of this Saint John's-wort are a glossy mahogany color, distinctive and as showy as the flower.

    Hyptis alata, Musky Mint

     The flowers and square stem help identify this as a mint (but not so much, the smell).

    leocharis cellulosa, Gulf Coast Spikerush
    Beware those common names, this spikerush is native on our Atlantic coast, too.

    The similar Pipewort listed for Grassy Waters Preserve is called Flattened Pipewort, Eriocaulon compressum, and this button looks quite puffed up, so we are going with Eriocaulon decangulare. Let us know of any misidentifications. We welcome learning and passing the information on.
    Eriocaulon sp
    These are probably the leaves of the Pipewort, but the photographer in me was just enjoying the reflections.

    Note: James Lange contributed to the identification and some of the information, but any foolishness is likely our own.