Tillandsia Web, Dade Chapter, Florida Native Plant Society

Online Newsletter

Excerpted from our print newsletter. See the printed newsletter for detailed Field Trip directions and 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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November 1999

In This Issue



Tuesday, November 23, 7:30 p.m., Fairchild Tropical Garden, 10901 OldCutler Road. (The 4th, not last, Tuesday.)

"South Florida Birds and Some Host Plants: A Tropical Connection." Wil Gilbert, Professor Emeritus, Miami-Dade Community College.

Mr. Gilbert, a biologist, avid birder and DCFNPS member, will present a slide program about South Florida native and exotic birds, their relation to local host plants and connection to the West Indies. He will discuss and show slides of many birds of tropical origin which live and breed successfully in our area and explain why many more "water" birds and fewer "land" birds are native to South Florida compared to areas of similar size farther north. This isn't a "how to landscape for wildlife" program, but it will provide a better understanding of the relation between plants and wildlife, whether you prefer to see birds in the woods or in your garden.

Thanks in advance to refreshment donors: Bob Mihm (drinks and ice), Marian Dahman, R.F. Mulgrew, Polly Edwards, and Carol Richardson (snacks). As usual, additional refreshments and donations to the plant raffle table are appreciated. If you would like to donate an extra-special plant, other item or service to auction (instead of raffle), please call Tony Koop at 305-662-2876 or 305-284-5364. You or your business will be acknowledged in the Tillandsia.

There are field trips but no meeting or newsletter in December. Happy holidays! The next meeting is on January 25.

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Field trips are for the study of plants and enjoyment of nature by FNPS members and their invited guests.

Sunday, December 5: Porter Pineland Preserve in South Dade. This 5-acre pineland fragment is a Dade County Natural Forest Community, donated to Tropical Audubon Society. The establishment of the preserve was required for permission to develop the surrounding land. After a summer burn, it will be full of flowers and new growth.

Saturday, December 18: Shark Valley "Botanize by Bike". This trip is TENTATIVE due to high water at press time. We will bicycle in the afternoon to the observation tower (or as far as we make it), stopping here and there to botanize. After watching the sun set, we will ride back under the approaching-full moon (full on the 22nd).

Sunday, January 23: Curry Hammock (in the Keys). Rescheduled from October due to Hurricane Irene.

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Note: All Dade Chapter members are welcome at all chapter activities. The following are planned by the Keys Activities Committee. For more information, call Jim Duquesnel at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, 305-451-1202.

November 24 (Wednesday): Joint meeting with the Palm Society in Marathon at 7:30. "Native Cacti and Native Palms of the Florida Keys." Speaker: Bob Ehrig. Bob will discuss the identification, range, ecology, conservation status and cultivation methods of these interesting species -- a bit of everything you could possibly want to know! Location: Marathon Branch of the Monroe County Public Library. Plant ID workshop at 7:00, program at 7:30, plant raffle and refreshments following the program. The public is welcome, as are donations of native plants for the raffle!

December 13 (Monday): Joint meeting with the Audubon Society in Key West at 5:30. "Native Colors". Speaker: Jim Duquesnel, Florida Park Service Biologist. Jim will discuss the use of native plants to provide or attract color to your landscape. Despite the common belief otherwise, there are natives with colors other than green. Also, by providing the right foliage plants for caterpillars, flowering natives for butterflies and hummingbirds, and native trees and shrubs with small fruits for other birds, gardeners can draw wildlife into their own yards. Location: Key West's Indigenous Park, intersection of White Street and Atlantic Boulevard, caddy corner from the White Street Pier.

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Native Tree Nursery owner Hugh Forthman was seriously injured in a fall in October. We all send our encouragement and hopes for a quick return home from the hospital.

Fairchild Tropical Garden Ramble, November 13 and 14. DCFNPS will have an educational display and plant sale. Lots of native plants will be available from our vendors and FTG.

Do you enjoy a walk in the woods but wish you knew more about the plants and workings of hammocks, pinelands and other natural areas? We are planning walks especially for those who would like a little help in plant identification, the techniques of "botanizing", and the basic ecology of natural areas. Tony Koop will begin a series of occasional, easy walks in nearby parks which he calls "Baby Botany for Budding Botanists". Tony is a botany graduate student at UM, chapter board member, and a familiar face managing the plant raffle at our meetings. The purpose is to make a walk through a natural area more enjoyable and informative, not to turn us all into geeks speaking Latin. The first walk is tentatively planned for January 29th at Matheson Hammock. See your January Tillandsia for details.

The state FNPS has a new address (P.O. Box 690278, Vero Beach, FL, 32969-0278), new phone (561-562-1598) and new administrators. Barbara Soumar will handle administrative matters, and Cammie Donaldson will keep the membership rolls.

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Demonstration native landscape installed. Despite gray skies and a steady drizzle, volunteers turned out on September 25 to install a beautiful new native landscape at the Silver Bluff Animal Clinic, 2515 SW 27 Avenue (drive by and take a look!). Owner Ted Sanchez was delighted and his wife immediately exclaimed "We've got to repaint the building!" Gary Hunt is designing some very nice bilingual signage for the site. Clinic customers will find educational literature inside as well. A big thank you goes to John Tomczak and the entire crew, including Karen, at ENVIRODESIGN. John designed the landscape, which includes many coastal natives that can withstand this harsh urban environment. John and his crew did all of the site preparation, making the actual planting a snap. Thanks to Lisette Andino (Miami High student), Joe Barros, Sam Dawson, Gary Hunt, Matt King (who "discovered" the site), Bob Mihm, Mike Mooney, Mother Nature on the water crew, Ann and Josh Nelson, Mark Phagan, Patty Phares, Kris Serbesoff, Susanne Travis, Linda Van Leer, Donna Kalil, George and Andrew Wingard (from Leewood Elementary), Wendy Teas and Mike Judge on the cameras.

Palm Springs Elementary School. On Friday morning, November 5, Cammie Donaldson will lead a small team of teachers and parents in a "renewal" planting at the native plant butterfly gardens. This team will help transition the maintenance of the gardens from DCFNPS volunteers to school volunteers. However, DCFNPS members or friends will be needed to make quarterly visits to consult with the school on maintenance and enhancement. If you can help or would like to know what is involved, please call Patty at 305-255-6404. This is a great opportunity to help provide an educational tool for children and a place for butterflies and native plants to live. Some guidance is needed to help keep the project going, but it is not a time-consuming job. Let's keep this garden alive!

FNPS is applying for another grant which will provide funding for publicity through El Nuevo Herald for Native Plant Day 2001 (or other event in which DCFNPS participates). The state board is interested in continuing the outreach begun on this project. If you have ideas or would like to contribute, please call Cammie at 407-951-2210 or send her e-mail at mondocmd@aol.com.

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The 20th annual FNPS conference is being planned for May 4-7, 2000, by a very busy committee of Dade Chapter members: Keith Bradley — Chairman (chapter president and biologist, Institute for Regional Conservation), Gwen Burzycki (biologist, DERM), Rick Cohen (Deering Estate Nursery manager), Tiffany Troxler Gann (FIU graduate student), Stinger Guala (Keeper of the Herbarium, Fairchild Tropical Garden), Joy Klein (biologist, DERM), Suzanne Koptur (FIU Professor), Tony Pernas (biologist, Everglades National Park), Patty Phares (Tillandsia editor), Karsten Rist (Tropical Audubon Society president), Gwladys Scott (retired from DERM), Kris Stewart (FIU graduate student).

The conference, which is hosted by a different chapter each year, usually draws 300 to 400 people from all over the state, including amateur naturalists, home gardeners, tree-huggers, students, environmental educators and professionals, scientists and resource managers -- just about anyone interested in native plants. It was last held in Dade County in 1990. Next year the conference returns to Miami and will be held at the Radisson Mart Plaza Hotel.

Thursday and Sunday will be filled with a large selection of half and full-day field trips, while Friday and Saturday will feature programs by a large variety of speakers, workshops, poster sessions, displays, and book sales. Programs and workshops will focus on ethnobotany, landscaping, topics for landowners (including homeowners), scientific research, Florida's environment and natural history (especially as introduction to local field trips), restoration and management of natural areas (including urban areas, Everglades and others), plant identification, plant-animal interactions, "cyber-botany" and lots more.

On Friday evening, a social at the conference hotel will "wait out the traffic" with hors d'oeuvres, book signing, poster sessions, book sales and music. On Saturday, we will enjoy plants, dinner and music at Fairchild Tropical Garden.

As dedicated and resourceful as the committee members are, they still have their limits and limitations. That's where the talents and support of all chapter members come in. We will soon need the first wave of volunteers to assist with things like mailing letters and phone calls, and in January we will need to have a professional-looking registration flier layout.

Please talk to a Conference Committee member or call Keith (305-247-6547) or Patty (305-255-6404) if you:

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Join the team at the Deering Estate Native Nursery! A few volunteers are still needed to help with weeding and maintenance. What more charming place to do some leisurely gardening, chat with fellow volunteers, and help fill the world with native plants! Don't miss this opportunity to see the "roots" of the Estate for free! Call Rick Cohen at 305-235-7077.

Nursery News: Gann's Native Tropical Greenery Nursery has more to offer! Don and Joyce expect to plant their pineland restoration site in November. Excess saved stock should be for sale on November 20 and 27th, along with wildflowers, grasses, plenty of palms, 3-gallon oaks and a small supply of other trees and shrubs  all discounted! Call 305-248-5529.

Miami-Dade County Parks, Natural Areas Management. Call 305-257-0933 for more information about the following:

*Volunteer Workdays. Call 305-257-0933. Nov. 20: Ned Glenn Pineland (SW 188 St. and 87 Ave.); Dec. 4: Highland Oaks Park (20300 NE 24 Ave.); Dec. 11: County Line Scrub (NE 215 St. and 4 Ave.); Jan. 8: Boystown Pineland (SW 112 St. and 138 Ct.); Jan. 22: Rockdale Pineland (15190 SW 92 Ave.).

*Bilingual education materials about our rare pine rockland forests: a video and a brochure, "Pine Rocklands, Born from Fire"; and a poster, "Keepers of the Flame". FREE!

DERM workdays. Help restore coastal dune and wetland habitat on Virginia Key. November 20, December 4 and 18. Call 305-372-6851.

Fairchild Tropical Garden Classes and Tours: Everglades Wildflower Walk, Roger Hammer. Nov. 20 (register by Nov. 15) and Jan. 22 (register by Jan. 17). Call 305-667-1651, ext. 3322.

Broward Native Plant Society, November 9, 7:30 p.m.: Bob Haehle, author of a recent book on native plants for landscaping, will speak on "Growing Tips for Native Plants in Your Yard". Secret Woods Nature Center, west of I-95 on W. State Road 84 in Ft. Lauderdale. Social time is at 7:00.

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

Tropical Audubon Society. November 16 program: "Florida Forever -- The Successor Program to P2000", Sue Mullins, The Nature Conservancy, Tallahassee Office. Meetings are at the Doc Thomas House, 5530 Sunset Drive. Everyone is welcome. Refreshments are at 7:30 and the program is at 8:00. Call 305-666-5111 for more information. Native Plant sale: November 20-21 at the Doc Thomas House. Proceeds support TAS and its efforts to protect the South Florida environment.

Miami-Dade Parks activities. A Lignum Vitae Key canoe trip on December 12 is one of many trips announced in the Park Department's publication, Tropical Trails. Only $8 per year, the magazine contains articles about South Florida nature and history, and a separate flier lists the many trips and park activities for adults and children. Call 305-662-4124.

Home Chemical Collection Center. At last! Miami-Dade County now has permanent Saturday hours without appointment at 8831 NW 58 Street. If "going native" for you means using fewer chemicals to control diseases and pests on your plants, please dispose of unwanted chemicals properly. To learn more about the Home Chemical Collection Center or get tips on packing chemicals for disposal, visit the Solid Waste Management web site: http://www.co.miami-dade.fl.us/dswm/home.htm

Identification and Biology of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas. Edited by Ken Langeland and K. Craddock Burks. Color photos and useful information about the 62 non-native plant species considered pest plants. Non-technical enough for the interested homeowner. Call 1-800-226-1764 for credit card orders, or send $16 plus appropriate state sales tax and $4 shipping to: UF/IFAS Publications, P.O. Box 110011, Gainesville, FL 32611-0011 (make check to University of Florida). Thanks to the editors for giving permission to DCFNPS to copy pages for use in our displays (see us at the Ramble).

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by Alison Higgins

Cactus lovers beware! South Florida has recently become home to an uninvited tenant who also loves cactus -- often to death! All prickly pear cacti of the Opuntia genus, exotic and native, are in danger from the exotic cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum. After hearing from many homeowners who have already lost their cacti to the moth, the Extension Service realized what a large problem exists. It is imperative that every cactus owner guard against these little cactus killers.

The Culprit

In grand irony, the moth was an intentionally introduced exotic, imported in 1925 from it's native land in South America for use as a biological control in Australia. Several North American and South American species of Opuntia were running amok as invasive exotics down under and needed the help of Cactoblastis to reclaim over 16 million acres of severely infested agriculture lands. This project worked so well that in 1957 the moth was introduced in the Caribbean, resulting in a "rapid and spectacular" effect on all Opuntia species, both exotics and natives. By 1963, it had spread "naturally" from the Lesser Antilles to the Bahamas, reaching the Florida Keys in 1989. The spread of Cactoblastis through Florida can adversely impact all of North America if left unchecked. All Opuntia species, including exotic or native ornamentals are at risk. Of special concern are two "threatened" native Opuntia, which could be lost entirely. Even graver implications await if the moth reaches Texas and Mexico where Opuntia species form part of the staple diet of humans and cattle. It is very important to take charge while the problem is still in our backyards!


The moth itself is quite drab and unremarkable to the non-entomologist. The female will lay 75-100 eggs in a two-inch long chain, and hang them from a single cactus spine. Resembling the spine in both width and color, the egg sticks are camouflaged well. The larvae, however, are easy to spot with their alternating orange and black bands. Upon hatching, the larvae will burrow directly into the pad to feed, leaving behind only their holes, recognizable from the excremental goop often oozing from them. Inspect all withering or translucent pads on your cactus closely. The larvae, which reach a maximum size of about one inch, will devour each pad until the cactus is dead. The colony will then rise and descend onto another unsuspecting neighbor's cactus. The main peaks of larval activity occur from May-June and from August-September, so please check today!


No satisfactory method of chemical control of Cactoblastis cactorum is known or recommended because of the occurrence of rare and endangered butterflies such as Schaus' swallowtail, Florida leaf-wing and Bartram's hairstreak. If an egg stick or larvae infested pad is found, remove, destroy and dispose of it. Particularly large clumps may be placed under black plastic in order to kill them. Good Luck!

[Alison Higgins is Assistant Land Steward with The Nature Conservancy of the Florida Keys.]

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by Roger L. Hammer

There are two native trees in South Florida that are best admired from a safe distance because of their poisonous sap that can cause severe skin lesions. One is poisonwood, Metopium toxiferum, which is a member of the Cashew Family (Anacardiaceae) and the other is manchineel, Hippomane mancinella, in the Spurge Family (Euphorbiaceae). Of the two, manchineel has the most sinister reputation. Even its Latin name is a polite warning, which translates to "little apple that makes horses mad." Other common names include "manzanillo" and "poison-guava."

In the United States, manchineel is restricted to Miami-Dade and Monroe counties where it is found in coastal forests along the southern edge of the mainland bordering Florida Bay, and in the Florida Keys. It is common around the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park and in Watson Hammock on Big Pine Key. Manchineel also occurs from the West Indies to Mexico south along the Atlantic coast into Venezuela and along the Pacific coast from Baja California to Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands.

Manchineel is recognized by its ovate, glossy, long-petioled leaves with small serrations along the leaf margins. A gland occurs at the top of each petiole. Very small, yellowish flowers are spirally-arranged on erect, blunt stems during spring and early summer. The 1 to 1 1/2 inch fruit are round and resemble small crab apples. When ripe, the green fruit usually take on a pinkish blush and look and smell very appetizing. The tree is usually deciduous, dropping its leaves during the winter-spring dry season, but may retain its leaves during a wet winter.

While manchineel has been the recipient of many exaggerated tales of horror, it is still a tree to respect because its evil reputation is not completely undeserved. The white sap is extremely caustic and will form ulcerating, long-lasting blisters after contact with the skin. There is apparently enough sap conveyed from the leaves during rainfall to cause a rash on the skin of anyone who seeks shelter beneath a manchineel. The sap is water soluble so if it is washed off immediately after contact, no ill effects will occur, but if even a small amount of sap is conveyed to the eyes, it will cause temporary blindness and painful swelling.

Dr. Julia Morton, in her book Plants Poisonous To People (1982), states that "the sap was reportedly used by the Carib Indians as arrow poison and the leaves were put in water of springs to poison enemies who drank from them." She also goes on to say that "the writings of the early Spaniards and of latter-day sensationalists greatly exaggerate the dangerous aspects of this tree." In the Bahamas and other parts of the West Indies, nearly nude children climb manchineel trees, and fishermen and bathers often sit beneath them or upon their branches. Unless the branches or leaves are broken, the tree is perfectly safe to be around. If eaten, the fruit will cause internal ulcerating lesions that will require medical attention.

While manchineel is not a recommended landscape tree, it is one our most attractive native trees and is listed as a state endangered species. There are only two people who I know personally that are weird (stupid?) enough to grow this tree as a landscape plant. One is Chris Migliaccio, a well-known native plant buff and a teacher at Miami-Dade Community College, and the other person is, well, me. My tree is now about ten feet tall and has been flowering and fruiting for the past three years. I may actually remove it soon because I am fearful that my dogs will eat the fallen fruit.

If you have a hankering to see a manchineel tree, you will either have to explore the coastal buttonwood-mangrove forests around Flamingo (if you have a boat, there are several trees that dangle out over Buttonwood Canal about a quarter mile south of Coot Bay) or you can visit Watson Hammock. Just don't eat the apples!

[Roger Hammer is a naturalist with Miami-Dade Parks Natural Areas Management and frequent writer and speaker about South Florida plants and nature.]

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General contact number for DCFNPS: 305-255-6404

Contact in the Keys: Jim Duquesnel at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (305-451-1202)

President: Keith Bradley (305-247-6547)

Vice President: Diane Otis (305-247-9913)

Refreshment coordinator: Carrie Cleland (305-661-9023)

DCFNPS e-mail: DadeChFNPS@juno.com

DCFNPS Web page: http://www.seflin.org/plants

FNPS Web Page: http://www.fnps.org/

Tillandsia editor: Patty Phares (305-255-6404 or pphares@juno.com)

© 1999 Dade Chapter Florida Native Plant Society, Inc.

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