Tillandsia Web, Dade Chapter, Florida Native Plant Society

Online Newsletter

Excerpted from our print newsletter. See the printed newsletter for detailed Field Trip reports, for phone and addresses for yard visits and for articles which the authors may not want released to the World Wide Web. Join now to obtain the benefits of full membership!

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APRIL 1999

In This Issue

  • SIDE-BY-SIDE FICUS by George Childs


    Tuesday, April 27, 7:30 p.m., Fairchild Tropical Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road.

    Tony Pernas, Resource Management Specialist at Big Cypress National Preserve, will update us on research projects, management activities, and land acquisition in the 728,000-acre wilderness preserve. Ongoing projects include panther monitoring, assessing the impact of off-road vehicles, prescribed fire and exotic plant control. He will also give us a glimpse of the spectacular scenery with his excellent photography.

    May 25: Dr. Suzanne Koptur of FIU will be speaking about "Pollination in Pine Rocklands". Additionally, Eileen Smith, a graduate student at FIU, will give a short talk on her research on atala butterfly colonies and coontie.

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    Saturday, May 15: We will visit one of the few remaining tropical hardwood hammocks in the Redland. Because these hammocks are so rare, some of the flora is also rare and interesting.

    FNPS 19th Annual Conference
    May 6-9 - Palm Coast, Flagler County See the schedule in your Spring, 1999, Palmetto. Early registration deadline is April 15. Attend 1 day or all. This is a great opportunity to attend field trips in a different area of the state, attend interesting programs, meet members from other chapters and see what a state conference is all about (in preparation for the Dade Chapter hosting the conference in May, 2000!). For more information, visit the FNPS Conference Page.

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    Spring sale at Fairchild, April 24-25. We will have nurseries participating, so we could use a few volunteers to help answer questions of the customers. Call Patty, 305-255-6404.

    The 1999-2000 chapter board was elected in March: President Keith Bradley, Vice President Diane Otis, Secretary Carol Farber, Treasurer Sam Dawson; Directors-at-large: Carrie Cleland, Alma Dean, Tony Koop, Lee Massey, Karsten Rist. We all thank outgoing board members Susanne Travis and Chuck Alden, and especially Becky Centoducati, who has served since 1994 as treasurer or secretary.

    Our chapter now has its own web site, http://www.seflin.org/plants. Hats off to Greg Ballinger for creating such an attractive and easy-to-use site with interesting links. Please visit the site and offer Greg your comments, images, or anything else which might be helpful. Greg is a professor in the Independent Studies department at MDCC, teaches natural sciences, including "distance learning" classes, and has a background in ecology and a long history of programming. He and his wife Diane Otis (our Vice President) live in South Dade next to their pineland preserve.

    Get your beautiful, new DCFNPS T-shirt at an upcoming meeting! Our artist, Elizabeth Smith of Naples, depicted a Tillandsia, a butterfly orchid and resurrection ferns on an oak. We also know Elizabeth from her illustration of zebra longwing butterfly on firebush on the Naples Chapter t-shirt (which we also have sold) as well as the drawings for the article on bird-attracting plants by Roger Hammer that we use as a handout. Many thanks to Elizabeth and also to David Swetland, Patty Phares and Gwen Burzycki for ushering the project through.

    Native Plant Day on March 27 at the Gifford Arboretum was well-received by the public, speakers and plant vendors especially then excellent speakers. Our thanks to all who helped or donated items for the raffle. Many people enjoyed learning about (and learning from) a new location. Special thanks to Dr. Carol Horvitz and Friends the Gifford Arboretum who assisted in planning and at the event and spent a very late night preparing a publicity mailing. If you missed Native Plant Day, take in the Gifford Arboretum (and its giant Lignumvitae) at the Gifford Arboretum lecture on April 15.

    Our best wishes to Joyce Gann for a speedy recovery from her broken leg.

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    We need to have more participation from DCFNPS members (and interested friends) in our outreach activities. The grant which we enthusiastically supported will last only a few more months, and this is the time to make to most of a great opportunity. Please contact the Hispanic Outreach Grant coordinator Cammie Donaldson (407-951-2210 or mondocmd@aol.com) or Patty Phares (305-255-6404 or pphares@juno.com) to volunteer!

    Earth Day in Little Havana, Saturday, April 24. Volunteers needed to staff the display (no Spanish or special plant knowledge required). At the same time, you can enjoy the other exhibits, entertainment and food.

    Miami Senior High Aware Club: Everglades field trip, Friday, April 16. DCFNPS members are needed to come along and help point out plants. Earth Day Native Plant Sale, Thursday, April 22: donations of natives suitable for city landscapes and volunteers to help set up and assist.

    Bilingual literature for Dade County now available: color brochure describing the many benefits of Florida's native plants, plus fact sheets describing the best native trees and shrubs for local landscapes. Call Patty at 305-255-6404 to get as many as you can distribute! For Earth Day (or any day) talk up native plants with a friend, neighbor, or coworker - give them brochures and invite them to our next meeting!

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    April 1- May 8: DERM's annual "Baynanza". Mangrove planting, coastal cleanup and other volunteer opportunities; educational tours, Earth Day celebrations, and more. Get details from 305-372-6798 or the DERM Home Page: http://www.metro.co.dade.fl.us/derm/.

    Home Chemical Collection, April 17-18: 8:30-4:00 at M-DCC Kendall & North Campuses. Get details from Miami-Dade Solid Waste Management.

    Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area annual Field Day and Weed Toss, April 25, 9:00-noon. Pull exotics to help in the restoration of native plant communities and then test the aerodynamics of papaya!

    Broward Native Plant Society meetings: April 13 - Gil MacAdam speaks on Planting a Wildlife Habitat; May 11- Judy Sulser, speaks on the ecology of mangroves. 7:30 p.m., Secret Woods Nature Center (just west of I-95 on SR84)

    Tropical Audubon Society monthly meeting, May 18: Adam Redford, naturalist and guide for ENP will discuss the Flamingo Area of Everglades National Park. Refreshments at 7:30, program at 8:00. 5530 Sunset Drive.

    Native Plant Workshop: 3rd Tuesdays at Bill Sadowski Park, 1/2 mile west of Old Cutler Road on SW 176 Street. Plant ID - "serious" but not intense! Call Roger at 305-257-0933.

    Miami-Dade Park and Recreation Department Natural Areas Management Volunteer Workdays: 9:00 a.m. - noon. Closed toe shoes required; long plants strongly recommended. Call 305- 257-0933 for more information. 4/17: Ned Glenn Preserve ( SW 188 St. and 87 Ave.); 4/24: Snapper Creek (SW 112 Street and Old Cutler Road).

    Landscape Technology Program courses (credit and non- credit) at Miami-Dade Community College: Landscape Construction, May 8-June 17(site evaluation, irrigation and construction topics); Creating Upland Native Plant Habitats, May 12 - June 16 (lecture and hands-on; management, installation, and labeling of plants native to hammock, pineland and maritime forest plant communities at the program's Kendall Native Plant Preserve). Nursery Practices II, May 15 - July 24 (topics for commercial nursery operation). Also: Interior Landscaping and Horticulture II. Contact the Program Director, Ronald Mossman at (305) 237-2583 or rmossman@mdcc.edu for more information.

    Backyard colonies of atala butterflies are being counted by FIU graduate student Eileen Smith as part of her thesis research for the Environmental Studies Master of Science program. Please call Eileen at 305-858-0565 with the location, number of coontie plants and number of atalas in your colony.

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    Gann's Native Tropical Greenery (305-248-5529) is continuing its final inventory reduction. Retail customers at the nursery receive a 50% reduction on trees and shrubs, from liners to 20 gallons, and 20% on all other plants, including ground covers and wildflowers. Although some species are no longer available, there are plenty of plants remaining! The nursery will close on April 30 or have limited sales during May. The new nursery expected to lease the property may have some natives but will not be a native nursery as such.

    Natives will be available at the Fairchild Spring sale from Veber's Jungle Garden, Gann's Native Tropical Greenery and Gary Kuhl.

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    A new county-wide volunteer group called TREEmendous Miami has accepted the challenge of planting, protecting and preserving trees to build community pride. Activities will include volunteer tree-plantings and tree-care workdays, a neighborhood grant program, recognition of outstanding volunteer efforts and public education. The group will also conduct the annual Royal Poinciana Fiesta, a 62-year Miami tradition. In spite of its name, this festival celebrates all trees, including native.

    The new organization unites citizen activists from the former Trees for Dade and the City of Miami Beautification Committee. Numerous DCFNPS members have been involved in these organizations. In particular, George Childs and Gary Hunt have designed and coordinated many of the native plantings, and Nancy Masterson has helped lead both the old and new organizations in their inclusion of natives.

    Events and plantings are already happening or scheduled, including the Royal Poinciana Fiesta tree festival on June 5 at the Museum of Science. If you are interested in participating in TREEmendous Miami, please call 305-372-6555.

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    When most people hear the word "ficus", they almost invariably envision massive, spreading trees from some far away land. This vision actually isn't all that incorrect since some of the world's largest trees are members of the genus Ficus, and a number of them are cultivated right here in South Florida. The species that we typically see are Ficus benjamina or weeping fig (native to India and commonly used as hedges or large, overbearing landscape trees), Ficus microcarpa or laurel fig (native to Australia and used as a large shade tree on home lots or as a street tree along turnpikes), Ficus altissima or lofty fig (native to India and seen lining Old Cutler Road in the Coral Gables area), Ficus benghalensis or banyan fig (native to India and seen occasionally as a large street or yard tree), Ficus elastica or rubber tree (native to Africa and seen lining Old Cutler Road in the Coconut Grove area, or as a popular indoor potted plant) and Ficus religiosa (native to India and sometimes seen in church yards or as a landscape tree, especially around Key West).

    Not all ficus, however, fit into the same category as the above species. One is Ficus pumila, which is native from Japan to Vietnam. This species is the vine you see clinging tightly to the concrete Metrorail supports along US1 in Miami. Another species, and one that everyone has probably eaten, is Ficus carica, native to the Mediterranean area. This is the familiar edible fig, which forms a somewhat leggy shrub and is cultivated in many parts of the world for its tasty fruit.

    There are two Florida native ficus. One, the strangler fig, Ficus aurea, is a familiar sight to anyone who has ever walked through the hardwood forests of southern Florida. Strangler figs grow to be immense trees, have a very aggressive root system and are often found growing epiphytically on other trees. Over the years, a strangler fig will often kill its host tree.

    A more well-behaved ficus is our native shortleaf fig, Ficus citrifolia. This is a handsome, straight-trunked tree with an attractive, rounded canopy. If you desire to attract birds to your yard, you will be delighted by the shortleaf fig. The abundance of small fruit borne throughout the year are beloved by birds, especially cedar waxwings, thrushes, mockingbirds, blue jays and other fruit-eating birds. It is also a larval food plant of the native ruddy daggerwing butterfly. You will not notice any leaf damage on your shortleaf fig by the larvae of this butterfly, but what you will notice are the attractive adult butterflies with their dark orange wings flitting gracefully around your yard.

    Give the shortleaf fig the room that it requires to grow to full stature (typically 30 to 40 feet) and it will become a great shade tree for you and future generations as well. And the birds and butterflies are free.

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    SIDE-BY-SIDE FICUS by George Childs

    Some of us have trouble distinguishing between our two native Ficus species, F. aurea (strangler fig) and F. citrifolia (shortleaf fig). The fruit of the shortleaf fig has stalks while that of the strangler fig does not, but that characteristic cannot be used when the trees are not in fruit. There are more subtle differences in the leaves, but I believe that the best way to learn the "feel" of the plants is to simply behold them at the same time. The more droopy, open and sinuous nature of F. citrifolia then becomes obvious.

    A good place to see these species together is on the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables. Drive south on University Drive (next to Doctor's Hospital) which dead-ends at the Business School. To the right of the parking lot is the Merrick Building. Park (non-metered spots are usually free on weekends) and walk under the depressed breezeway. About 100 yards ahead you will note the less familiar F. citrifolia and to the right the more robust F. aurea, both known to me since they were saplings 30 years ago. The location also provides good morning photo opportunity of full trees.

    Dade Chapter Florida Native Plant Society P.O. Box 570598 Miami, FL 33257-0598

    © 1999 Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, Inc.

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