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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June 1999

In This Issue


Tuesday, June 22, Summer Solstice Evening Yard Visit.
This month's meeting is our annual summer solstice yard visit and social. We will visit two homes in South Miami landscaped with native plants and enjoy a chance to get better acquainted with fellow-DCFNPS members. This meeting is for DCFNPS members and their guests only - a good reason to join!

Upcoming meeting : Tuesday, July 27 at Fairchild Tropical Garden. Gil Nelson, author or several books on native plants and Florida nature, will speak about Florida's ferns.


Field trips are for the study of plants and enjoyment of nature by FNPS members and their invited guests - another good reason to join!

Sunday, June 27 . We will visit a South Dade pineland which is in the midst of development yet continues to harbor interesting pine rockland species, including the endangered deltoid spurge.

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Volunteers are needed for the FNPS display at the Tropical Ag Fiesta on July 10-11 , 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum (next to MetroZoo). We will have both a DCFNPS display and the bilingual Hispanic Outreach display. We need to staff the shifts (10:00-12:30, 12:30-3:00, 3:00-5:00+breakdown on Sunday). New members and no-so new members are encouraged to volunteer. You don't need to know a lot about plants - you can learn all you need to know from the display in a few minutes. The main duties are to invite people to pick up literature, look at the displays and sign up on our address list. Please call Carrie Cleland (305-661-9023) or Cammie Donaldson (407-951-2210) by June 29.

FNPS annual spring conference - May, 2000. The state conference will be hosted by our chapter. By the time you read this newsletter, the conference committee will have held its initial meeting. A search for a suitable site is still underway. If you are interested in helping with any aspect of the conference or have ideas to contribute, please call Patty (305-255-6404). Besides programs and field trips, we will have social events. Hold that thought!

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Upcoming Hispanic Outreach activities are being planned and need your input (preferably before the end of June). If you have ideas for either of the following, please contact Cammie Donaldson (407-951-2210 or mondocmd@aol.com) or Patty Phares (305-255-6404 or pphares@juno.com).

(1) Workshop for the landscape industry (e.g., contractors, designers) to introduce them to native plants available in the trade. This might involve a program, tour or other activity. We need suggestions for locations, contacts, logistics, activities.

(2) Location for Demonstration Native Plant Landscape. The purpose of the garden is to educate Hispanic homeowners about native plants suitable for landscaping, not to landscape an entire property or be a "charity landscape". The project will add native plants and/or bilingual signs to a small area of private or public land which is open to the public and frequented by Hispanic homeowners. Possible sites could include offices of private businesses, community recreational facilities, restaurants, government buildings, shops, clinics or parks (we have already completed school plantings).

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Note: Keys members are encouraged to contribute announcements and articles for this special section of Tillandsia.

Keys Members Launch Local Activities.

There will be another meeting for Keys FNPS members and other interested people on Wednesday, June 16th, 7:30pm, at the Marathon Library
. At the May 13th organizational meeting, we decided to stay with the Dade Chapter rather than form a separate chapter. Attendees at this meeting were: Chris & Beth Bergh, Joan Borel, Margaret Braisted, Jim & Jan Duquesnel, Tina Henize, Mary-Alice & Richard Herbert (hosts), Alison Higgins, Steve Ng, Barbara Smith, and Cynthia Snell. To many of us, this decision was a relief at not having to get bogged down in "official" details.

The Keys geography has in the past prevented a Keys group from getting together. However, some good ways to overcome this hurdle have been brought out: three to six different meeting locations over the year, and/or "sharing" locations with related, willing organizations for workshops or meetings are two ideas to be discussed. With the increased population throughout the Keys, and with the escalating interest in native plants everywhere, the time seems right to make a sincere attempt to accomplish a host of worthwhile projects without allowing our logistical problem to hinder us.

Please come on June 16th prepared to launch projects such as field trips, newsletter articles, propagation projects, a Tortugas restoration project, plant cataloguing, ID workshops and other programs (let your imagination run wild). For more information, call Tina Henize (305-745-3402).

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1999 North American Butterfly Association's Coral Gables Butterfly Count, July 24. DCFNPS is again invited to participate in this enjoyable and educational activity, which includes teams at the Charles Deering Estate, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Matheson Hammock and Key Biscayne. Last year's count found 41 species. While people experienced in butterfly identification are especially needed, novices and anyone interested in learning are welcome. Please contact Bob Kelley at 305-666-9246 or RKelley@math.miami.edu as soon as possible so he can assign teams.

Volunteers are needed to assist on weekdays with the care of native plants at Fairchild Tropical Garden. A volunteer coffee will be held on June 18 at 10 a.m. in the Corbin Building for prospective volunteers. Call 305-667-1651 x 3324 to RSVP or for more information.

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. Note: the workshop may move soon to the newly reconstructed Castellow Hammock Nature Center- please reconfirm the location.

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by Jason Smith, Forest Resources Program (DERM)

It is fast approaching that time of year to really clean up and prepare your yard before the heat of summer and the beginning of hurricane season. Large projects, like trimming trees, are not usually anyone's favorite chore, but a necessary task none the less. Before taking on this task, though, you should be aware that if done wrong, your tree "trimming" could not only irreparably damage your tree, it could also get you in trouble with the County. Miami-Dade County's Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) Forest Resources Program is charged with the protection of our tree resources. They enforce the part of the County Code that protects trees from harmful practices like "girdling," "hat-racking," and "topping," and that requires permits to remove most tree species. There are some exceptions to these requirements, such as certain pest tree species, but you are better off checking with the agency before taking any drastic action with your trees. Violations of the tree protection code of Miami-Dade County could get you a fine of up to $25,000 per offense depending on the nature and severity of the violation, and each tree harmed may be considered a separate offense!

There are sound reasons behind these tree protection laws. Girdling describes the act of ripping the bark from the trunk of the tree. This makes the tree susceptible to infections, insect infestation, and can "starve" the tree by preventing the uptake of nutrients. Another common pruning mistake is "hat-racking", also known as "topping", where the tree is left looking much like an empty hat-rack, hence the name. This can kill the tree. Even if it recovers from the shock, the new growth develops a dense "wall" of leaves that is virtually impenetrable to wind and makes the tree easy to knock over. The proper pruning of a tree will keep your tree healthy, help protect it from high winds, provide habitat for wild critters, help you save energy used to cool your home, and even significantly increase your property value.

Besides taking care of your own trees, please help DERM by reporting anyone cutting down, or improperly pruning a tree to the Forest Resources Program at (305) 372-6585 during regular working hours. The department is available after hours, and weekends too, for emergencies. Just call our 24-hour environmental line at : (305) 372-6955. Make sure to give: (1) the street address or location of the abused tree, (2) the species of the tree, if known, as many trees are exempt from permitting, and (3) the company that did the tree work (if applicable). DERM particularly wants to know about the destruction of roadside trees and large, mature trees. Also, because there are many protected natural areas throughout Miami-Dade County, please report to DERM any clearing or plant removal that you observe taking place in hammocks, pinelands, or mangrove areas.

According to DERM, tree removal permits are not required for the selective pruning of trees, provided the pruning is done right. A good source for information on the County's pruning requirements (American National Standards A-300 "Standard Practices for Tree Care Operations") can be found at your regional library or can be purchased through the ANSI website at www.ansi.org . Another good source is the International Society of Arboriculture site at www.ag.uiuc.edu. Look for their Tree Care Consumer Guide.

For more information or to have a Tree Removal Permit application or trimming information sent to you, please contact DERM's Forest Resources Program at (305) 372-6585, or check www.co.miami-dade.fl.us/derm/wetland&forest_resources.htm on the web.

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by Gwen Burzycki

Anyone who travels to the Florida Keys by car has only two ways to get there. South of Florida City the road splits into the long stretch of US Highway 1 that has been locally dubbed "the 18-Mile Stretch" and Card Sound Road. Some folks hate those roads because they just want to get to the Keys, and that long stretch seems like it goes on forever. Others enjoy the changing landscape, with Australian pine giving way to sawgrass which, in turn, gives way to mangrove forests along the coast. There are opportunities to glimpse ospreys, herons, egrets, white pelicans, and an occasional roseate spoonbill along the way. Thanks to the efforts of Miami-Dade County's Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program and the South Florida Water Management District's Save Our Rivers (SOR) Program, this region has been designated for public acquisition and is being acquired jointly by the two programs. The project has been given the profoundly descriptive name "South Dade Wetlands".

The South Dade Wetlands is a substantial acquisition project. The largest EEL acquisition project, it consists of approximately 40,000 acres east of US Highway 1 and south of Palm Drive (SW 344 Street) plus approximately 7,500 acres west of US 1 and north of SW 424 Street. The acquisition project includes the Florida Power and Light Everglades Mitigation Bank near the Turkey Point Power Plant. When acquisition is complete, this project, together with the adjacent 25,000 acre Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area (west of US 1 and south of SW 424 Street, already purchased by SOR), will preserve more than 72,000 acres (approximately 113 square miles) of wetlands that link Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park. This acquisition project also comprises part of the watershed for the Crocodile National Wildlife Refuge.

The South Dade Wetlands and Southern Glades have been altered for various uses over the past century. Henry Flagler paved the way with construction of the FEC railway. Since that time, the Everglades have been drained, roads have been built, canals and levees have been installed, and the land has been farmed. None of the land within the acquisition area is being farmed currently, however. Despite these alterations, the sawgrass marshes dotted with tree islands and the mangrove forests persist. The area has a very high environmental value, although there are management problems here as elsewhere in Dade County's natural lands.

The land slopes gently from Florida City, which is on a small lobe of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, toward the coast. It is flat, even by Dade County standards. Elevations drop approximately 1 foot per mile near Florida City, but one foot for every two to three miles near the coast. Historically, this area was a broad sawgrass plain dotted with bayhead tree islands, with a thin mangrove fringe along the coast. Today, the effects of the lowering of the water table, past farming disturbance, and suppression of fires are evident in the vegetation. Close to Florida City, extensive mixed forests consisting of red bay ( Persea palustrus ), Dahoon holly ( Ilex cassine ) and wax myrtle ( Myrica cerifera ) impacted with some Brazilian pepper ( Schinus terebinthifolius ), alternate with Australian pine forests containing a sawgrass prairie understory. The vegetation shifts to sawgrass with tree islands as one goes south to where the land has always been too wet to farm, and finally becomes mangrove forests near the coast.

There is an old transverse glade channel which is visible starting east of US 1 in Florida City (watch carefully as you pass the commercial area south of Palm Drive!) that is marked by sawgrass prairie with just a little Australian pine. This glade passes under US 1 at its junction with Card Sound Road, and continues southward on the west side of US 1. This is why you will see sawgrass to the west of US 1, but Australian pine or red bay/Dahoon holly forests to the east of US 1 and on both sides of Card Sound Road as you drive to the Keys. As the elevation drops, the sawgrass and associated tree islands become more prominent everywhere and the forests disappear.

It is not long, however, before a knowledgeable traveler moving south would notice another discrepancy between the east and west sides of the road, particularly along US 1. Just south of a large rock quarry on the east side of US 1, the trees and shrubs to the east start to look suspiciously like mangroves, even though there is still plenty of sawgrass. It becomes obvious before long that the trees and shrubs to the east really are mangroves, even though the trees and shrubs on the west side of the road are still freshwater wetland species. How could this be, when the elevation is the same, the climate is the same, everything looks the same on both sides of the road? It looks the same, but it is not the same. The Flagler railway, and US 1 after it, plus the majority of the roads that crisscross the region, were constructed without any means for passing the slow overland flow of the Everglades system from upstream to downstream. Water therefore piles up in upstream freshwater wetlands, but the downstream wetlands are somewhat parched. Along US 1, the wetlands to the west have ample freshwater. The wetlands to the east, however, have experienced more salt water influence, and mangroves have replaced the bays and hollys much farther inland than one might otherwise expect.

As a traveler approaches the coastline, the sawgrass eventually gives way to dense mangrove forests. These forests were limited to a thin fringe along the coastline at the turn of the century, but drainage of the region, combined with hurricanes to deliver mangrove propagules well inland, has made it possible for mangroves to expand their distribution in this area. The forests are home to a variety of salt tolerant and saltwater dependent wildlife, including the American crocodile. Crocodiles inhabit and breed in the coastal wetlands, but sightings are rare because the animals are relatively shy.

Despite the web of roads and levees that subdivide the wetlands, the region is an important feeding ground for a variety of wildlife. The South Dade Wetlands provide refuge for 12 federally protected and 33 state protected wildlife species. The area is particularly rich in wading birds and waterfowl. Great blue herons are common, as are great egrets. It is not unusual to see little blue herons, green herons, and large flocks of white ibis wading in shallow water in search of food. During the winter, white pelicans and wood storks are relatively common along some of the canals and adjacent marshes, and an occasional roseate spoonbill delights the eyes. Ospreys and red shouldered hawks watch for opportunities to snag an unwary tidbit for dinner, and vultures, both black and turkey, cruise the skies waiting for some hapless animal to meet its demise. Kingfishers rest on the power lines along the roads during the winter months, and swallow tailed kites grace the skies during the summer. When the poisonwood is in fruit, white crowned pigeons migrate from as far away as Key Largo to feed on their favorite food. Spring and fall migrations bring a plethora of assorted warblers to the region to rest and feed on the multitudes of insects found in these wetlands.

The South Dade Wetlands has a number of management problems that the Environmentally Endangered Lands and Save Our Rivers programs will be attempting to solve. The most difficult problems are related to overdrainage of the wetlands and construction of barriers to surface flow, because these are problems that are regional in origin and the solutions must also be regional in nature. The agencies are working with regional Everglades restoration projects to identify and implement solutions to some of these problems. Other issues, such as invasive plant control, and illegal dumping of solid waste in the remote parts of the acquisition area, are more local in nature and are more readily addressed. However, they are also chronic problems, so that management vigilance will be necessary in perpetuity. Staff from the EEL Program and the SOR Program will be developing a long term management plan over the next few years that will set management priorities and provide guidelines for solving problems for the long term.

Anyone who wishes to visit the South Dade Wetlands for enjoyment of the vegetation communities and wildlife is welcome to do so. Contact Ramesh Buch (305-372-6471) or Gwen Burzycki (305-372-6569) with the EEL Program at DERM for information on access points, guidelines for use, and issues to be considered when visiting the area. Many parts of the acquisition area are still in private ownership, and visitors must respect private property rights.

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