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


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Exciting Things are Happening at FNPS...

In case you missed it, the FNPS Board Meeting and Council of Chapters Meeting was on August 13 at the FFS Leadership Training Center in Haines City.  If you want to know more about what the Society is doing on the state level to support chapters and further our mission, or if you want to make a meaningful contribution to the society, please consider attending one of the quarterly retreats. Here are some of the highlights of what  we discussed and accomplished. To read the complete summary, along with additional topics, click here

Submitted by Donna Bollenbach
FNPS Meets the Wild West….

The venue for the 2017 FNPS conference (May 17-21, 2017) was unveiled and approved by the board, and the winner is Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo. In a secluded location just south of US Hwy 60 on the Kissimmee River, Westgate River Ranch is centrally located between the Atlantic and Gulf beaches within Polk County, Florida.

Lodging options include everything from rustic lodge suites with full or partial kitchens, to glamping (completely furnished air-conditioned tents) to RV and tent camping. There are also more expensive options, such as luxury teepees, cottages and cabins, but these are not part of the FNPS block or rooms. This venue was chosen for its availability in May, excellent lodging and food options, and its ability to accommodate our various space needs for meetings, vendors, plant sales and socials. While there are no nearby towns, stores or alternative lodging, it is surrounded by conservation lands and state parks for excellent fieldtrip opportunities. The lodging rates will be good for 3 days before and 3 days after the conference, so our members can take advantage of the venue’s other activities, such as airboat rides, fishing, horseback riding, hayrides, swamp buggy rides and more. Mark your calendars and dust off your cowboy boots.

You spoke, we listened: The New FNPS Conference Protocol:

Photo by Vince Lamb
The new conference protocol was revealed by the Conference Committee. Based on the input of FNPS members, FNPS conferences will be handled by a state committee and regional chapters, rather than individual chapter. Basically, one chapter will no longer be responsible for hosting the conference, but a state conference committee will take care of finding the venue, negotiating contracts (lodging, food, socials) and final scheduling. Since conferences will be planned by regions instead of individual chapters, several chapters in the region will be asked to take on one or two other tasks, such as registration, social activities, exhibit area, silent auction and program assistance. Chapters in and around the region may host field trips. 

Landscaping or Education: Make a difference and have fun doing it!

The next big topic of discussion was a need for a chair and members for the FNPS Landscape Committee and Education Committee. In my opinion these committees are not only two of the most important to the mission of FNPS, but probably the most creative and fun. Many ideas for projects that these committees could develop on the state level, then introduce to the chapters for distribution were discussed, such as:

  • Creating a “Good Neighbor” program to educate people who live adjacent to state parks and preserves so they are made aware of the problems with planting or disposing of invasive plants in or around a natural public land.
  •  Pick a native plant of the year and work all year to “inject” it into mainstream landscaping (in other words, create a demand and a market for it.)
  • Create a native plant “starter pack” with plants, care instructions and other materials and to make it easy for people to pick and a purchase a set of plants for a “butterfly garden,” a “coastal area” or a “the edge of a pond.”
  •  Work with local garden centers to create a once-a-month native plant sale/event.

So, if you are interested in being a chair of either of these committees, please contact Juliet Rynear or Catherine Bowman today. 

What do Craft Beers and Native Plants have in Common?

Richard Brownscombe mentioned that we should marketing native plants as the “craft beers” of landscaping. “Craft beers,” he stated, “have taken a big share of the beer market and have traditional beer retailers and distributors jumping on the bandwagon.”  Craft beers did not do this by trying to be the same, but they achieved this status by being different, independent and innovative. They take the traditional beer ingredients and add down-to-earth flavors, such as pumpkin, spice, cocoa, fruit and nuts. They transformed beer from merely a happy hour drink to a social experience. People seem to feel better about themselves when they choose a craft beer from an independent brewery vs a mass produced product. We want to make them feel the same way about native plants. We want to people to feel good about buying natives from our independent native nurseries. One day, we want to be able to say: “Native plants have taken a big share of the landscaping market and have traditional distributors and retailers jumping on the bandwagon.”

Florida Native Plant Month, the proclamations are coming…

Attending a proclamation of Florida Native Plant month for your locality is another way to get FNPS in front of your legislatures. Andy Taylor will be contacting each chapter as the proclamations dates roll out. Please plan to send as many representatives to the proclamation as possible. While only one personal needs to speak, the presence of several people from your chapter is important. Also, it is nice to take a gift of native plant or native plant seed, along with an informational package) to give each of your commissioners. Speaking of Native Plant Month, please advertise all of your events in October on your Facebook page, website and in the FNPS calendar, then copy Andy on the details so he can promote it on the state level. Also, follow up by sending Andy photos of your proclamations and events.

Clearing the right-of-way for native plants…

Juliet Rynear, speaking as the chair of the conservation committee, mentioned that monitoring natives in the right-of-way does not mean “no mowing.” What needs to be developed is a prescription for mowing that first defines what plants are in the right-of-way, then when is it ok to mow, and when not to mow.  Just like we have developed prescriptions for fire to sustain plant populations, we need to develop prescriptions for mowing for the DOT.

Membership…the road to 4000 members...

The other side has a detachable membership card. 
Currently the FNPS membership stands at 3700. Jonnie Spitler, membership chair and president of the Nature Coast Chapter, introduced a new membership postcard/membership card to be sent to all new members.  The Nature Coast Chapter generously donated the money to have these cards printed. Jonnie says our goal should be to have 4000 members by January of 2017. We should be pushing for more sustaining memberships. Sustaining members are those the that give $10.00 a month through an automatic payment. Are you a sustaining member?

The donor policy has passed…
You would think taking money would be a no-brainer: Someone offers it, you take it. Not so, especially for political candidates, environmental organizations, and people with a conscience. After a full year of committee involvement in writing and re-writing a donor policy, Devon Higginbotham, VP of Finance, presented a four-page policy that was unanimously approved by the board. In simple terms, the policy sets the level of approval (Executive Board vs. Full Board) by the type and amount of the donation. Donations come in the form or donors, grants, sponsors and bequests. The bottom line is we can solicit money from anyone, but board approval in required before the money, and any terms associated with it, are accepted and received. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Keeping a Nature Journal: Understanding your environment through observation, writing and drawing.

Submitted by Donna Bollenbach. Journal Drawings by Marjorie Shropshire

There is no better way to connect with nature than by keeping a nature journal: a collection of observations, interpretations and feelings that describe or illustrate your personal view of the natural world. Nature journals are most commonly in the form of writing, drawing or photographs, or a combination of these.  Nature Journaling is rewarding for both children and adults. It is a great a learning tool, as well as a way to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature by recording and sharing memories.

What is a Nature Journal? 

Marjorie Shropshire, 2012
A Nature Journal is a personal record, but it is not a diary. A diary is generally about you and your relationships to other people, while a Nature Journal is about your relationship to the natural world-animals, plants, seasons and climates.

While you may not want anyone to read your diary, many people enjoy sharing their nature journals with others. Most group members find it fun and educational to read each other’s interpretations of what they saw, especially when studying the same subject. It is amazing to see the different perspectives people have on a single flower, insect or bird!

The tools to keep a Nature Journal are as simple as paper and pencil. While most journals include both writing and drawings, some people prefer to do more of one than the other. If drawing is to be a large part of your recordings, you will want to use unlined paper, such as a sketchbook, and drawing pencils. If you will be writing more than drawing, than a comfortable pen and a lined composition book or loose-leaf binder may be all you need.  Whichever you chose it should be compact enough to carry easily and have a sturdy, weather resistant cover. Children could be allowed to make their own journal books with a handful of paper bound between two pieces of white cardboard that they decorate themselves.

Organizing Your Journal

from the journals of Marjorie Shropshire
While the content of your journal is a personal choice, it is helpful to state a purpose for your journal, and to keep your entries organized by date. The purpose of your journal may be as broad as “recording my observations of nature while kayaking in the swamp,” or as focused as “observing native plants that grow in my yard,” but each journal entry should start with a quick note of the following:  

  1. time of day
  2. date
  3. temperature (cold/hot/warm)
  4. weather (windy/calm/rainy).

You will find those details very useful when interpreting your observations later.

Starting Your Journal

“But I can’t draw…or write.”  These are the most common obstacles to overcome when starting a nature journal. If you draw a line and a circle, you have the ability to do simple sketches of plants and animals. By making written notations next to your drawings, you will develop a complete picture of what you observed. With practice, both your drawing and writing will improve. Here is a suggestion to get you started:

Learning to observe…the purpose of this lesson is to learn to focus on details while not losing sight of the whole and its relationship to its surroundings. 

Visit the edge of a river, stream or pond. Find an interesting plant or flower, and a dry, comfortable spot to sit while you study it. Begin by making a simple sketch of one of its leaves. Is the leaf is long and skinny? Heart-shaped? Or mostly round or oval? Are the edges smooth or toothed?  Sketch the basic shape and make written notes next to the drawing. After focusing on the leaf for a while, turn your focus to the whole plant. Note how the leaves are arranged on the stem. If it has a flower, focus on it with all your senses: What color is it? Describe its shape. How does it make you feel? Does it have a scent that reminds you of something else? Record your observations and feelings freely. Draw the flower if you wish. Next, move your focus out even further to the surrounding vegetation. Are there more of the same plants, or is it a loner? Does it seem to have a relationship with its surroundings? Is it taller or shorter? Ask yourself “why?” Write down your thoughts. Don’t worry about being right or wrong. These are your observations, so there is no right or wrong. Your observations may change, and they most certainly will evolve as you spend more time in the field writing and drawing in your journal.

from the journals of Marjorie Shropshire

Sharing Your Observations

While the act of journaling is a very personal one, sharing nature journals is very enlightening. Perhaps on your next chapter field trip you can provide a pencil and paper to each participant, and when you find something particularly interesting stop and let everyone “journal” about it for 15 -30 minutes. After the field trip you can share your observations. You will be astonished to see how different each observation is, and how much you can learn from each other.

Friday, August 5, 2016

In Case You Missed It...Noteworthy highlights from the speakers at the FNPS 36th Annual Conference, May 18-22, 2016

Submitted by Sid Taylor

The conference was at Dayton Beach Resort right on the Atlantic Ocean.  Surf temp was a warm 78 degrees.  There were Least Terns on the beach.

Tom Hoctor. Photo by Vince Lamb
Dr. Tom Hoctor, Director of the University of Florida Center for Landscape Conservation Planning, updated us on the status of the Florida Wildlife Corridors and habitat preservation. 

  •  With the loss in oversight of growth management at the state level, we need to step in with science to help local governments understand the impact of decisions in new building projects and sprawl.  He quoted Frank Egler:  Ecosystems not only are more complex than we think, but more complex than we can think. 
  • Panthers need a population of 240 individuals to be delisted by the Federal Government as an endangered species.   The Florida Black Bear was delisted four years ago but it still needs corridors for connectivity and exchange of genetic information for healthy offspring.  They have an expanding population, but a shrinking habitat. The Panther would do well in the Florida Panhandle, but females’ offspring stay in the home range of their mothers, so it would take many generations to expand there on their own.
  • See the Conservation Trust for Florida, Inc. for more on protection and connecting Florida’s wild and working landscapes.

Tim Rumage of supports E. O. Wilson’s new book, Half-Earth:Our Planet’s Fight for Life.
  • The concept being: we need to conserve 50% of the planet’s natural vegetation intact to sequester CO2 so the human population can persist.  Rumage says that 7.3 billion of us have already modified ½ the surface of the earth and we need to stop now to keep breathing.  He also reported more than six times the amount of land sourced plastic is in the oceans than plankton.  He says we confuse “legally safe” (i.e. water standards) and “harmful”.  He talked about traveling to international seminars and seeing (interior) vertical vs. (exterior) horizontal agriculture. 
  • Rumage thinks 6 billion of us will live in cities by 2050. Solutions to human existence will require an intersection of art and design.  Rumage’s book is This Spaceship Earth.

Dr. Patrick Bohlen from University of Central Florida (UCF) spent 11 years at Archbold Biological Station. He reports 82% of North Americans already live in cities. In comparison, 4.74 % of US land use is urban, but in Florida it is 16% now and projected (by the 1000 Friends of Florida) to be 34% by 2060.  Six of the fastest growing metro areas in the nation are here in Florida. We are back to receiving 1000 new residents daily, but we still have bears, bobcats and coyotes on UCF campus thanks to the Little Econ River on west and Big Econ River on the east.  Gallberry doesn’t survive on campus in the landscape due to high pH in water used for irrigation.  Same for longleaf pine.

Steve Kintner of the Blue Spring Alliance, addressed the need for a water ethic. (read Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis by Cynthia Barnett).  Steve was inspirational in his continued “plugging along” of public education for protection and restoration of the quantity and quality of our (finite amount) of water flow.

Dr. John Weishampel introduced us to LiDAR technology for mapping Caracol in the Cayo District of Belize from the air and how it depicts ancient human landscape legacies on the contemporary forest structure.  Inhabited from @900 BC to 1050 AD it supported 100,000 people…till it didn’t.  With this new tool we are learning human impact on the land.

Dr. Hyun Jung Cho has an ID book: Plants in Urban Water Ways within the Halifax River/Mosquito Lagoon that will be a superb resource state-wide.  Bethune-Cookman University, Professor, Integrated Environmental Science,

Dr. Richard Hisenbeck’s topic is the Nature Conservancy’s Florida Panther Conservation and Connectivity.  With our 20 million population and 100 million tourists each year, he still has hope for the female panther offspring moving themselves (eventually) into rich habitat in the panhandle.  He told us of work with Lykes Brothers at Fish Eating Creek to provide a crucial 355,000 protected acres (plus a buffer of 68,000) for movement up a narrow corridor (through Lykes) to a traditional panther Caloosahatchee River crossing.  His equation for panther survival in Florida is 4 million acres.  With the 2.25 million that is the Everglades, Big Cypress, Panther Conservation core and the 1.75 million acres (on 90 individual properties) between Lykes and Disney Wilderness Area, he believes we have what they need.  Current numbers are upward of 160 cats and maybe as many as 180.

Dr. Austin Mast of FSU’s Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium wants our help to get all our buried museum specimens (including herbarium sheets) into digital Information and scientific communication via iDigBio.  There is a worldwide blitz event Oct.23-26, 2016.  Learn more on how easy it to contribute a little time at and and They will work with you (or your group’s) special interests in the cataloging.  Even preschoolers can help.  They look at 3 interpretations of each label to eliminate errors.

Dr. Charles Hinkle has studied C02 at the Kennedy space Center since 1990.  Ambient/background CO2 was 350/ppm when he stated and now it is 400/ppm.  At UCF he records significant differences with tests from the west (Orlando urban smog) and to east (green space, agriculture and St. John’s River).  The Department of Transportation is funding his study on CO2 sinks.  Longleaf Pine forests are back to sequestering CO2 after a prescribed burn within 2 to 3 months.

Dave Westervelt, 46 year Florida beekeeper (charmer),  with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services(FDACS). 
  • Humans have been robbing bees for their honey for 15, 000 years and they were brought from Europe to Jamestown on one of the first ships of colonists 400 years ago.
  • There are 15 kinds of Florida honey; Clover is starting the fill the niche left by citrus greening.  Florida is the 3rd largest honey producer in the world. The greatest quantity is gallberry and saw palmetto. 
  • Almond growers in California are dependent upon the February and March shipments of migratory commercial hives that travel on semi-trucks:  24,000 colonies a season.  We ship bees to 27 or 28 states a year for farming pollination.  We produce Queens that are sold and relocated all over the country. 
  • The Florida State Beekeepers Association is planning a new entomology lab with a teaching lab to seat 400.  Besides honey bees, we have over 60 native species of pollinators in Florida.  You can do your part with planting just a 4-foot by 8-foot plot of native plants. It will increase your local pollinators by three times.

Roger Hammer. Photo by Vince Lamb
Roger Hammer thrilled us with photos from his new book:  Central Florida Wildflowers: A Field Guide and his work in progress, which is state-wide.  He dedicated the former to his best pal growing up, his brother, and his parents who “told me to go outside and play!”  He didn’t tell us about how he is consulting with the Discovery channel on Naked and Afraid.  Probably says things like “don’t climb a poisonwood tree”.

Dr. Jason Smith is studying the remnant Glacier period Torreya tree, its demise and its canker and what other trees the canker will infect. His team has found 645 individual trees in and around Torreya State Park and Chattahoochee.  When they get over a meter tall they show signs of the canker.  They die back, re-sprout and it happens again. Several conifer species that grow in the Great Smoky Mountain National park (like Frasier Fir) are part of his study. The disease does better in cooler climates.  A do-gooder group called Torreya Guardians is growing Torreya and planting them in North Carolina and the southern Appalachians. They say they are getting out ahead of “the science”.  It is called “assisted recolonization”.  Dr. Smith has tried to share his findings with them, but hasn’t been able to convince them they may be taking the canker to other native tree species (which are fitting their own battles). There is a huge, mature Torreya in Madison, Florida on a lawn.

Osborn. Photo by Vince Lamb
Nathaniel Osborn
has a great history book on Indian River Lagoon:  An Environmental History.  It covers from the north end of the Mosquito Lagoon in Volusia County all the way south to Hobe Sound.  And is a good treatise on how man manipulates his locale.

Craig Huegel gave us a common sense lecture:  A Gardener’s Guide to How Roots Work from that chapter in his book in progress.  It starts with “don’t be afraid to pull them out of the pot and see if they are permanently headed in circles around the inside of the pot before you buy them”.  They will have to be cut off; they will never stop growing in circles.  Plants are all about water.  They transpire up to 95% of their daily uptake, daily.  But they also have to have air pockets around the roots to breath.

David Hartgrove of Audubon presented slides and anecdotes of local birds.  The Black-Bellied Plover nests in Iceland, but winters on Daytona Beach and surrounds.  Royal and least terns nest in Florida.  A flock of 10 gull species can be seen all winter, beginning in November, in a grouping of 10,000 that hangs and roosts on the beach from 1900 S. Atlantic Ave to the 2000 block, and spends their days at the landfill.  Dave leads birding tours to the Dry Tortugas.

Clay Henderson wrapped it all up with a rundown of his career in practicing law and working to
Henderson. Photo by Vince Lamb
protect as much of Florida as possible. He reviewed the history of our land buying programs and encouraged us to take advantage of this election year to let our law makers know we expect them to do right by Amendment 1. People are livid that it is being used to cover general revenue expenses and not for environmental protection as we intended for it. There was $215 M for Everglades’ restoration; $50 M for springs restoration; and $5.1 M for Lake Apopka restoration earmarked, out of $752.5 M

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Pine can have lightning scars that run down the trunk. Why doesn't an Oak?

 by Cecilia Catron, Tarflower Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society

(reprinted with permission from the August 2016 issue of Tarpaper)

Pine Scar
 When days are hot, as they have been for the past month, it seems like a sensible idea to lie in or around the pool all day, like a motionless alligator. Curds of bright, white thunderheads rise higher and higher, expanded by the increasing heat. Gradually air pushed from the east and west coasts meets in the middle of the peninsula. By mid-afternoon it becomes charged by the collision of the fronts and summer lightning is created, with or without a storm.
Knotty Oak

Have you ever noticed a stripe spiraling down the trunk of a pine tree where lightning has stripped the outer bark off? You may have also noticed there is no such stripe on the trunk of an oak tree. Oaks and Pines, both dominant here in central Florida, have different lightning survival strategies. Most pine species have long, straight trunks. They are relatively fast-growing with soft wood. Oak trunks on the other hand are often twisted and full of knots. They grow more slowly (except Laurel Oak, Quercus laurifolia) and the wood is very hard, dense, and heavy. 

Lightning is attracted to the tallest tree, regardless what species it is. Energy is conducted down the trunk of a typical pine with little to stop it since the cells are constructed in long, continuous rows. Knotty oaks  on the other hand do not have such unobstructed cellular highways. When a knot is struck it may explode, but a lightning bolt's energy is spent before it can progress down the trunk, limiting damage. Good planning, oaks. Also a case for organisms that create knots on oaks - part of the ecological give and take. New pines grow relatively quickly to replace trees that are destroyed, which is also a viable strategy.

 Be that as it may, never take shelter under any tree to escape a storm. Especially here in Lightning Alley nature can put on an awesome show, but it's important to remember that a tree may be a target.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Carol's Corner

by Carol Hebert, Conradina Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society

The following is a collection of Carol's Corner from the first half of 2016 reprinted in part from the Conradina chapter newsletter. They are the reasons to "Plant Native." Enjoy!

May 2016
Simpson Stopper, Photo by Carol Hebert

Carol’s Corner: Smells So Good!

This wonderful plant is so durable, grows so slowly, and also rewards us with small, beautiful flowers that smell so incredibly wonderful! Simpson Stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans) is categorized as a small tree. I guess you can recognize why the species name is fragrance in Latin. It grows slowly with very little need to prune. I enjoy seeing it used as hedges for commercial businesses. We even have it as a hedge in front of my work place at Dr. Martin Luther King Library on University Boulevard. I loved making my co-workers smell the flowers. It grows on the mainland and beach-side also.  Plant native! C

Lupine (Lupinus diffusus) Photo by Carol Hebert

April 2016

Carol’s Corner: Lupine in Bloom!

We had an enjoyable walk at Turkey Creek Sanctuary, and we saw wonderful plants. There was Conradina grandiflora in bloom—the plant our chapter is named after. Blueberry (Vaccinun myrsintes) and Deerberry (Vaccinum stamineum) were also wonderfully in bloom. We took a walk on a boardwalk done by a Scout recently to see huge Giant Leather Ferns. Toward the end of our walk, we enjoyed the sight of many bunches of Lupine (Lupinus diffusus). They were drop dead beautiful! Plant native! C

Shiny Lyonia (Lyonia lucida) Photo by Carol Hebert

March 2016

Carol’s Corner: Spring Has Arrived!

We enjoyed a wonderful walk through Cruikshank Sanctuary in February with Vince Lamb and saw Shiny Lyonia (Lyonia lucida) in bloom. It is a beautiful shrub that likes full sun. Rusty Staggerbush (Lyonia ferruginea) was also in bloom. We enjoyed about six to seven Scrub Jays. It was a fun walk through sandy soil and the best season to enjoy the scrub. I personally also enjoyed Adam's Needle (Yucca filamentosa) with fiber swirling out from its leaves. Scrub is an enchanting habitat and is wonderful to walk through to see its vast diversity. Plant native! C

Acer rubrum(Red Maple) Photo by Carol Hebert

February 2016

Carol’s Corner: Autumn Colors

Fall is almost over and there are still a few autumn colors there to enjoy. Red Maple (Acer rebrum) is showing its display of how wonderfully its leaves change color and contribute to the soil. There are several other leaves changing color and falling such as the deep red of Virginia Creeper and the yellow leaves of the Grape vines (Vitus sp.) and the American Elm (Ulmus americana). I have already seen the Laurel Oaks showering their leaves! This is the best time to leave all those leaves in your yard to enrich the soil. Since Melbourne is about four inches above the average rain fall, spring is on it's way. Plant native! C

Photo Skyblue Clustervine by Carol Herbert

January 2016

Carol’s Corner: Winter Blooms

December 21st was Winter Solstice and the beginning of the winter season. It’s almost hard to believe we are in this season since we have hit (or close to) a record high temperature on each day. Plants are wonderful how they bloom in different seasons. Fall brings us so many colors such as yellow with Goldenrod (Solidaga sp.), Coreopsis, and Silkgrass (Pityopsis graminifolia). A nice variety of purple blooms contrast beautifully such as Gayfeather (Liatris sp.), Ironweed (Vernonica gigantea), and Stokes’ Aster (Stokesia laevis). Currently, my favorite fall blooming purple flower plant is Skyblue Clustervine (Jacquemontia pentanthos). This vine grows nicely on the north side of my house so it receives partial sun and shade all day. The flowers are small, about an inch wide and have the “morning glory” look. No fragrance but they are so pretty to see everyday because they open just for a day so flowers are in different places on the vine each day. Find a fence or trellis and decorate it with this evergreen vine named Skyblue Clustervine. This plant will give a wonderful display of lavender flowers at the end of each year. Plant native! C

Monday, July 11, 2016

My Quest for Milkweeds

Story and photos by Janet Bowers, Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society

At the beginning of my ‘Natives’ life, I learned a lot from working on the plant sale plant profiles, so I thought the only milkweeds in our area were Asclepias incarnata, A. tuberosa and A. perennis. Apparently those are the ones that nurseries have grown for a while. If I had known better, I might have checked out the USF Plant Atlas where I could have looked up genus Asclepias and would have seen that there are many more species in our area.

 Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa, Lake Blue Scrub

I have seen 9 milkweed species so far this year in relative proximity to our area, and I have now done the USF Plant Atlas search so I know there are more out there. An advance search in Hillsborough County lists twelve species.Oddly enough (at least to me), two of the species I have never seen in the wild are the swamp milkweeds that we sell at our plant sale. They are at the top of my list to find.

Curtiss' milkweed, Asclepias curtissii, Lake Blue Scrub   

The most recent milkweeds I saw were at Lake Blue Scrub (Auburndale) in early July. There I added A. curtissii to my list and saw some reddish A. tuberosas that were gorgeous. I was thrilled to find A. lanceolata at Hillsborough River State Park recently. I had seen it before but not in our county, so it seemed like a big deal to me but of course other people were well aware that they grew there. 

Fewflower Milkweed, Asclepias lanceolata, Hillsborough River State Park

My favorite milkweed, A. longifolia, I first saw in the Green Swamp, and I got to revisit it on our way home from Cayo Costa in April. We stopped to see a mass of bladderworts and Devon saw the milkweed. I was tired, dirty and cranky, but that milkweed made me very happy. I have noticed that some of the paler milkweeds are easy to miss if you’re not looking closely. The others I have seen this year include - A. humistrata that has the gorgeous pink veined leaves, A. pedicellata A. feayi (quite a few on our May fieldtrip to Triple Creek Preserve), A. verticillata and A. amplexicaulis (in Hernando county). Last year I saw A. tomentosa.

Savannah Milkweed, Asclepias pedicellata, Blackwater Creek Preserve

I used to feel bad when we told people to buy native milkweed and they couldn’t find any, but now they are becoming more available. I noticed that both Green Isles and Sweetbay nurseries now have whorled milkweed on their list of plants, so now there are more kinds of milkweed for sale. 

Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, Sweetbay Nursery

FNPS member and St Mark’s NWR ranger, Scott Davis, is executing his plan to support monarchs by sourcing local ecotypes of milkweeds for the Big Bend area.  A year ago FANN (Florida Association of Native Nurseries) launched Phase I of the Florida Milkweed Project, an effort to expand the production and use of native Asclepias species with funding and support from the Florida Wildflower Foundation and our state wildflower license plate. I can tell you from personal experience that I have seen a big difference in the availability and quality of these milkweeds for sale in the past 5 years or so, and look forward to more availability. 

If you can’t get out to see the wild milkweeds, plant some in your yard and watch the Monarch Butterflies come to you! 

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Passion for Passionflowers in Prose & Poetry

by Devon Higginbotham / Poem by Donna Bollenbach
Suncoast Native Plant Society

The looks like it must be from another planet. _D Higginbotham

The first time I saw a passion flower, with its bizarre, lavender zigzaggy petals and yellow-star stamens, my immediate thought was it must be from another planet. It looks like no other flower shape — daisy, tulip or rose.

Not only is it spectacular to behold but it’s huge, measuring about 4 inches across, and it smells like a sorority house on formal night.

I had to have one!

Sometimes called the maypop or May apple, this perennial vine is native to Florida and the southeastern United States. It grows well in zones seven to 10, climbing on fences trellises or as a ground cover in sunny locations. It spreads underground, sending out shoots some distance from the parent plant. It is attractive to zebra longwing and gulf fritillary larvae, which keep it in check. Thus, supplying your garden with a steady stream of butterflies.

Gulf fritillary caterpillar_D Higginbotham
Just when you think you’ve found the perfect garden plant, one of your flowers will go to seed, yielding a 2- to 3-inch passion fruit, which taste much like a crunchy kiwi when ripe.

For those of you living in dry areas, coastal beaches or dune communities, the passion vine will prosper along with your sea oats, saw palmettos and seaside goldenrod. Mine sprawls across a picket fence, gets watered when it rains and is not particularly fond of being over-watered.

The passion vines have special glands that produce nectar at the base of the leaves which attract ants. The ants roam all over the plants and carry away butterfly eggs or young caterpillars they find. But with a few gulf fritillaries flitting about laying eggs, the butterflies keep up a steady supply of larvae, and some manage to elude the ants to grow to maturity. 

Cross, nails & crown of thorns?_D Bollenbach
There is much speculation as to why Carl Linnaeus, the renowned Swedish botanist, named it Passiflora incarnata some 250 years ago. Incarnata means flesh colored. There is nothing flesh colored about the passion vine. One theory is the significance of the flower pattern to God. In 1610, Jacoma Bosio, an Italian monastic scholar, heard reports of a wonderful flower in Mexico. The design of was said to have been created by God as a sign the native people of Mexico should convert to Christianity.

The theory was the three stigmas represent the three nails used on the cross, the five anthers count the wounds in Jesus, the corona of the flower recalls the crown of thorns, the ten petals equal the disciples (minus Paul and Judas) and the whip-like tendrils represent the whips used on Jesus, thus, the “Passion of Christ.”

Whatever your theory on Linnaeus’ mindset so long ago, the passion vine is a plant any Florida gardener would be passionate about.

Read Devon's entire article published in the Plant City Observer here
Ten Ways of Looking at a Passionflower


Among a thousand bees,
The only fragrance they desire
Is the passionflower's.

I was of three hearts,
Like a vine,
In which there are three passion flowers.

The scent of the passion flower fills the meadow.
The bees and butterflies dance together. 

A bee and a butterfly
Are one,
A bee and a butterfly and a passion flower
Are one.

I do not know which I prefer
The complexity of the flower
Or the complexity of the vine
The passion flower in bloom
Or the fruit left behind.

The butterfly lays its eggs,
In the shadow of the passionflower
The caterpillar cuts swaths
Through the leaves,
It is sacrificial love.

At the sight of a thousand passion flowers
Growing in the meadow,
The pauper and the king
Are equal.

The worker bees lie drunk
In the purple fringes of the passionflower
While the queen paces the hive.

The passionflower spreads its vines,
Tracing many paths
Through the meadow.

The bees are buzzing.
The passionflower must be blooming. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


by Donna Bollenbach

The tiny moss has been the theme of many a gifted poet; and even the despised mushroom has called forth classic works in its praise. But the Lichens, which stain every rock, and clothe every tree, which form:

                         Nature’s livery o’er the globe
Where’er her wonders range
Have been almost universally neglected, nay despised.
Lauder Lindsay

Christmas Lichen on a fallen tree, Florida. 


Imagine our continent after the last ice age: Glaciers cut deep gorges in the land and miles of granite boulders, silt and the bones cover the hills and plains of North America. Life has all but disappeared, but there is hope for new life in a simple living entity that is neither plant nor animal, the lichens.

Lichens on a rock in Yellowstone National Park. 

Lichens, a partnership of a fungus and an alga, are able to survive in the most extreme temperatures. The lichens that partner with cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, produce their own nitrogen, so they are able to grow on nitrogen-poor substrates. They form colonies on the surface of the rocks and bare soil. The chemicals in these lichens are capable of penetrating and breaking down the rock. As the lichens die the debris becomes thicker and nitrogen rich. Mosses began to grow. The decay of the mosses and lichens make the soil even richer, allowing other vegetation to take hold and a new habitat evolves.

For this reason, lichens and mosses are considered pioneers of succession. Today, they are still the primary plant-like species of the deserts and tundra where they thrive in conditions that are inhospitable to most other plants. They are also an important source of food for animals in those extreme climates where other vegetation is scarce.

Fruiticose lichen in the Florida Scrub


– from the Greek word tapis for carpet; a fabric with a woven design resembling tapestry, varied entwined and intricate (i.e. the tapestry of life).

Lichen, a living organism that is neither plant nor animal, is one of nature’s true tapestries.  A fungus and a suitable green alga or cyanobacteria (blue-green alga), intricately woven together in a symbiotic union, lichens carpet trees, rocks, soil and other substrates with their rich colors and textures.

There are over 14,000 species of lichen living in nearly every habitat in the world. In addition to rocks, lichen grows on an array of natural and manmade substrates, including bark, stone, wood, soil, leaves, moss, bone, human artifacts and even some living creatures. Unlike the pioneer lichens that break down rocks, lichens found on living substrates are not parasitic, they simply use the host as a place to live.


Yet lovely was its pleasant shade;
Lovely the trunk will moss inlaid;
Lovely the long-haired lichens grey;
Lovely its pride and its decay.
Mary Russell Mitford

Crustose Lichen on a Palm Tree

The task of defining and classifying lichens is a daunting one for scientist. The international Association for Lichenology defines lichen as “an association of a fungus and photosynthetic symbiont resulting in a stable vegetative body having a specific structure.” Noted Lichenologist, Trevor Goward, went further to describe lichen as “fungi that have discovered agriculture.”

Scientifically, lichens are classified by one of four general growth forms: Foliose (leafy, lobed and most often with an upper and lower cortex), Fruiticose (hairy, tubular, multi-branching strands or lacey balls with a single cortex), Crustose (crusty, flat patches that can be somewhat smooth or thick and bumpy) and Squamulose (an intermediate between the Crustose and Foliose, with thick, scaly shingles).

A combination of lichen forms and mosses on tree bark.

While these scientific terms do suggest the general shape of the lichen classes, they do little justice to the lichen’s true beauty.

The Foliose lichens have a leaf-like form. They have many lobes., often curling slightly inward and layered on top of each other.

Foliose lichens on a tree. 

The Fruticose lichens are highly branched. They can be thin and stringy, or round, lacy and soft in appearance. Some of the Fruticose lichens found in the scrub look like puffy greenish gray clouds.

Fruiticose lichens, or powder puff lichens in the Florida Scrub. 

The Crustose lichens are flat, often circular patches, tightly adhered to their substrate. Colorful fruiting bodies adorn their cortex. 

Crustose, or flame lichen growing on a rock. 

While many lichens are white to greenish-grey to brown, many are bright red, yellow or orange. Even a green or gray lichen may be adorned with a bright red fruiting body. Some of the fruiting bodies are mere dots, while others are more like little mushrooms. The combination of color and texture in lichens are as varied as the substrates they live on, and have given many a painter or photographer a reason to pause and admire nature's finest fabric. 

Foliose lichen (British soldiers) with an Earth Star (fungus) in the center. 

And these are all the reasons I Love Lichens!

Donna Bollenbach

If you also love Lichens, check out this great book: "Lichens of North America" by Brodo, Sharnoff & Sharnoff.  It is rather expensive, but it is nearly 800 pages of fascinating information and beautiful color images.