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 additional articles. Join now to obtain the benefits of full membership!

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In This Issue



Tuesday, July  22, 7:30 p.m. at Fairchild Tropical Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road.  (Fourth Tuesday, not the last!)

Ecosystem Structure and Hydrologic Features of Bayhead Tree Islands in the Southern Everglades.  Tiffany Troxler Gann, Florida International University.

Tree islands are interesting and ecologically important ecosystems in the Everglades and are considered to be indicators of Everglades health.  Tiffany is currently investigating the effects of increased freshwater flow on bayhead tree islands, part of a hydrologic restoration effort in the C-111 Basin.  She will discuss the ecology of bayhead tree islands and describe some of the ongoing research.  Tiffany began her doctorate at Florida International University in the Spring of 2002, where she also completed her master's degree in Biology in the Fall of 2001.  She has been working on Everglades bayhead tree islands since 1999.  Tiffany has been a member of the FNPS since 1996, and served on the State conference committee in 2000.

Thanks in advance to refreshment donors: Karen Griffin and Patty Harris (snacks), and Rusty Mayo and Vivian Waddell (drinks and ice).  Additions to the refreshments and  raffle plants are also appreciated.

There will be no newsletter or Dade meeting in August, but there is a field trip.  The next meeting in Dade is on September 23 when Dr. Brad Bennett of FIU will speak on the ethnobotany of the saw palmetto.  Have a nice vacation!

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Field trips are for the study of plants and enjoyment of nature by FNPS members (Dade and Keys) and their invited guests. Collecting is not permitted. Please join today so that you can enjoy all the benefits of membership!

Saturday, July 19: Cypress domes, Everglades National Park

Saturday, August 23: Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

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All chapter members are invited to all chapter activities. To receive personal notification of Keys Group activities or for more information, please contact Lisa Gordon (ledzep@keysconnection.com) or Jim Duquesnel (305-451-1202 or jandj.Duquesnel@mindspring.com). Leave your name, phone/fax number, or email address.

NEXT MEETING: July 10 (tentative), at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.  7:00 plant ID, 7:30 annual business meeting, 8:00 program.  Dr. Beverly Rathcke will speak about white mangrove pollination.  White mangroves have one of the rarest mating systems in the world, with populations having male plants and hermaphroditic plants.

   (Keys members will receive a separate mailing about this meeting.)

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[Yard visits are for FNPS members – please join so that you can enjoy all the activities of the chapter.]

Tuesday, July 29, 6:30-8 p.m.  Who is invited: FNPS members. 

This 1.6 acre of natural coastal hammock near the Deering Estate has a canopy of strangler fig and other large trees, a diverse understory, and species composition varying with elevation changes.  There are also some areas that have been enhanced with plantings.  The hammock has regrown after being flattened and inundated by Hurricane Andrew.

The mission of this series of bi-monthly yard visits is to make sure that members who are in the early stages of  learning about natives or just starting to landscape their yards can get individual attention and helpful information from other members.  "Old-timers" are also welcome to visit but more importantly are needed to volunteer their own yards.

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Coe Visitor Center Landscaping Project, Saturday, July 26, 9:00-noon.

We'll add just a few more to the plants installed in May and admire the  new growth while we do the summer weeding.  Some tools, gloves, etc, are available but you may prefer to bring your own.  Please bring your own drinks and snacks.  Please call Carrie (305-860-4856) or Patty (305-255-6404) if you plan to come.


Those who have not been to the Coe Visitor Center at ENP recently should make a point of going soon.  The volunteers at the May 31 workday were treated to a real surprise:  most of the pineland and wetland portions of the landscaping were treated to prescribed fire the week previous.  Staff from the Fire Cache burned right up to the edge of the Visitor's Center on the south side, so the weeds and vines there were "toast".  The Spanish needle down by the water edge was gone and the muhly grass was already sprouting back.  The sawgrass along the edge of the pond had burned, but the fire crews avoided the hammock areas and the leather ferns, so those areas were still green and verdant.  The saw palmettos in the pineland were burned back to the trunks, so you could actually see clear through the palmetto thickets.

Volunteers took advantage of the open space and added a few pineland shrubs (rough velvetseed and white indigo berry) along the edge of the palmettos, and continued planting wildflowers and grasses among the pines.  Over a hundred wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs were added to the pineland areas, along with more small pine trees to continue replacing the larger trees that continue to die because of previous damage.  The view to the north of the bookstore and the north side of the boardwalk were enhanced with ferns.  (The bookstore staff are now ecstatic because they have something to look at besides concrete and grass.)  A few fiddlewoods were added to the hammock, as well.

Most of the plants installed at this workday, except the pines and ferns, were either grown from seed collected in the Park or rescued from South Dade pineland sites that were slated for clearing.   Thanks go out to Mary Collins at Fairchild Tropical Garden, to Mary Rose, and to Gene and Sue Sanchez for raising plants from seed collected in the Park, to Gwen Burzycki for tending rescued plants, and to Don Keller for continuing to provide native ferns for the project.    -- Gwen Burzycki

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Chapter laptop computer needed.  Are you upgrading to this week's state-of-the-art computer but still have a serviceable laptop?  The chapter is seeking a donation or low-cost purchase of a computer to keep our financial records and archives.  Please contact the treasurer, Jonathan Taylor, at 305-383-0593 or jonathan_e_taylor@nps.gov.

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The Environmental Center at MDCC Kendall Campus presents Environmental Center Field Experiences for elementary and middle school classes.  Exciting, hands-on programs with themes such as pineland walk, butterflies, Everglades wildlife, insects, birds, energy and more.  Call 305-237-2538 or 305-237-2600 or visit http://www.mdcc.edu/kendall/environment/home.htm.

The North American Butterfly Association's summer butterfly counts are in July  in Homestead/ENP and  Coral Gables.  If you are interested in participating, contact Bob Kelley, 305-666-9246 (h), 305-284-4747 (w), or RKelley@math.miami.edu.

Dade Native Plant Workshop.  3rd Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Bill Sadowski Park, 1/2 mile west of Old Cutler Road on SW 176 Street.  Study of plant ID and taxonomy. Call Steve Woodmansee (305-247-6547) or Roger Hammer (305-242-7688).  July 15 topic: Solanaceae (Nightshade family). August 19 topic: beach plants.

Broward Native Plant Workshop.  3rd Wednesdays at 7:30  Address: Room 204B, UF's Agriculture Research and Education Center, 3205 College Ave., Davie.  Contact: Chuck McCartney, 954-922-9747. July 16 topic: Quercus spp. (oaks).

Miami-Dade DERM's Adopt-A-Tree program.  Free trees to homeowners!  Information at 305-468-5900 or www.co.miami-dade.fl.us/derm/adoptatree.  Distributions on July 26 (Coconut Grove Convention Center – it's air-conditioned!) and August 23 (M-D Fair &Expo) and Oct. 18 (Homestead).  Native trees are included in the distributions.  FNPS volunteers are needed. Contact Joy Klein, kleinj@miamidade.gov, 305-372-6586. 

Help TREEmendous Miami plant Adopt-a-Tree trees for the elderly and disabled, call Amy Creekmur, 305-378-1863, or Gary Hunt, 305-674-9403.

Biscayne Nature Center's Jr. Naturalist Summer Adventure Camp. Kids ages 8-12 can earn Certification in Mangrove Ecosystems or Certification in Marine Animals in 2-day camps.  Mangrove camps are July 14-15 or Aug 11-12; Marine Animals camp is July 16-17.  Call 361-6767 x 119.

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Message from Carrie Cleland, Past-President of DCFNPS:

The Board of Directors which served through March, 2003, while I was chapter President, voted to make a donation of $500 to the Institute for Regional Conservation.  The work of the IRC complements so well the chapter's missions of educating the public about native plants and the conservation of native plants.  IRC has provided ongoing support to the chapter for many years by participating in FNPS activities at the state and chapter level and providing technical information and advice.  In addition to the comprehensive plant lists by South Florida natural area already on the IRC web site (www.regionalconservation.org) based on their own exhaustive plant surveys and their book, Rare Plants of South Florida, IRC will soon have a web-based listing of appropriate native plants by zip code which will serve homeowners and professionals alike. 

We are fortunate to have IRC as a unique and high-quality resource in our community, working toward the same goals as FNPS, and the board felt we should support them in a concrete way.  -- Carrie Cleland, immediate Past-President

Letter of thanks:

Dear Dade Chapter Board & Members,

I am writing to sincerely thank the Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society for its recent contribution to the Institute for Regional Conservation.

While we are able to successfully obtain funding for much of our work, donations like yours are essential for many aspects of our program including public outreach and basic research on native plants and native plant conservation.  It is through the continued support of, and partnerships with, organizations like the Florida Native Plant Society that allow IRC's work to continue.  Your contribution is highly appreciated and will go directly to support our ongoing programs dedicated to native plant conservation in South Florida.

With best regards,

George D. Gann, Executive Director

Natives for Your Neighborhood: An Innovative Native Plant Resource for South Florida.

The Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC), a Miami based non-profit organization, is developing a pioneering website focused on supporting native plant projects in South Florida.  Aided by several publications and its own research on native plants, IRC is creating an important tool that intertwines native plant gardening and landscaping with native plant conservation and restoration.   The Natives For Your Neighborhood website will provide easy-to-use interactive guidelines to everyone from backyard native plant enthusiasts to practicing South Florida environmentalists.  Based on years' worth of sound scientific data, this website will truly interconnect native plant gardening, conservation, and restoration by helping people to recreate natural communities that would have historically been found in their area. 

How It Works

Natives For Your Neighborhood will be free to the public.  Users will be able to:

Although well into the development of the website, due to be up in early 2004, IRC still needs your support in order to create as great a resource as possible.  If you are interested in making a donation to support this project, or have any questions regarding it, please contact Melissa Abdo, abdo@regionalconservation.org, (305) 247-6547.

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"Jewels of the Caribbean" is Fairchild Tropical Garden's celebration of the unique flora of South Florida and the Caribbean.  This set of display gardens will have an important story to tell about not only the threatened flora of the region, but also the threatened habitats.  One of the habitats to be featured will be our own Pine Rocklands of South Florida.  Don Evans and the crew of Fairchild's horticultural team already have planted the Pinus elliotii var. densa, Sabal palmetto, Serenoa repens, and Coccothrinax argintata.  Now we are working on the hardwood shrub layer and, even more importantly, the herbaceous layer. 

To me, the most wondrous features of our pine rocklands are the immense diversity of the herbaceous layer and the number of endemics that occur in this habitat.  We at Fairchild are working to gather as many appropriate species as possible to showcase this layer to South Florida residents and visitors from around the world.  However, we cannot do this alone and are looking to native plant enthusiasts around South Florida to help with donations of plants

As our species guides, we are using the Institute for Regional Conservation's online database (http://www.regionalconservation.org), the advice of our own Conservation Team and the professionals with whom they work, and field guides such as Roger Hammer's Everglades Wildflowers.  The species list is long and as such I am forced to omit one from this article.  However, I can provide some guidelines to those of you who are interested in participating in this effort:


2. If the material is wild collected, we would appreciate full documentation as to where the material was collected, the date collected, contact information for the person who did the collection and any permitting information if appropriate.  In other words, the more details, the better.

3. If the material is propagated from wild collected stock, we would like any and all information available as to where, when, how and by whom the original material was collected.

4. If the material is from cultivated stock of unknown origin that is fine too.  Please provide your name and contact information and anything you might be able to tell us about the plants.

Before you bring in any plants, please email Don Evans (devans@fairchildgarden.org), Mary Collins (mcollins@fairchildgarden.org), or myself (kgriffin@fairchildgarden.org), to find out if the species you want to donate is needed and appropriate for the display.  If you are email challenged, feel free to call us during regular business hours (9:30-4:30) at 305-667-1651.  If you leave a voicemail, we will get back to you. 

Making this a community effort will put a true South Florida touch to Fairchild Tropical Garden's Pine Rockland display.  We look forward to hearing from you!  

Karen Griffin, Assistant Conservation Horticulturist

Fairchild Tropical Garden

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by Jim Duquesnel

In the wee hours of April 21st, I witnessed a botanical phenomenon I have never heard described before. The plant involved is a stout woody vine commonly known as cock's-spur (Pisonia aculeata) or pull-and-haul-back, for its sturdy, re-curved thorns. Here on Key Largo, encountering the plant can make field biologists seriously consider relocating a sampling transect or grid, a thicket of Pisonia can be quite the impassable barrier. The bird in question, though also armed with sharp talons (and a snapping beak to boot), was no match for its adversary.  At a few minutes after midnight, I was taking our Labradors for their evening walk.  The first dog down to the ground floor stopped short of the final step, standing over and sniffing intently at some object below him. I was startled to see he'd found a fledgling Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio).

The dog was staring at the little owlet, who stared back, covered from head to toe in cock's-spur seeds and stems. Cock's-spur's inflorescences are long panicles with many stalks, each ending in a single-seeded capsule. The half-inch long capsules are covered with persistent glands secreting very gummy substance.  Entire panicles often drop off the plant intact, much to the displeasure of my dogs, who apparently find the adhesive seeds quite unsettling.  One neighbor's Labrador completely surrenders to the plant whenever he gets panicles on more than one foot. He stops wherever he happens to be, often lying on his back, feet up in the air and waiting for a rescuer.  It would be interesting to know whether wildlife (presumably small mammals such as squirrels, raccoons and opossums) are as distressed when recruited as seed-dispersal agents.

Apparently the young owl had blundered into several of the plant's mature panicles. Like a bolo combined with glue, the long stems and sticky capsules had the owl completely immobilized.  It took no time to see that the owlet needed help, and I stooped to pick up the unfortunate creature.  That's when its parents smacked me in the side of the head, one after the other or, perhaps, the same one twice. I should have guessed that this might happen. The parents had been terrorizing our dogs nightly, as we crossed the yard for our evening walk, ever since the fledglings had left their nest-box a week or so earlier.

I found a stick and got the little owl onto it, and got smacked again on the way back into the kitchen.  Checked my scalp, no blood; however, I was beginning to appreciate the fact that these were not Great Horned Owls.  My wife Janice finished walking the dogs while I began removing close to 200 gummy seeds.  Many were imbedded deep into the young bird's down, under the wings, up around its butt and atop its rump, and stuck all through the primary and secondary wing feathers.  Fortunately, I had a long pair of hemostats, which the owlet chomped on a bit while I used them to pluck seeds.  The little owl lost a good bit of its down and a few feathers in the process.

Eventually, all the excitement took a toll and the owl gave up resisting. Jan grabbed and held one wing at a time out for me to work underneath, or held the stick the bird was perched on, freeing up my second hand. After a while it was winded enough that I could use my fingers. I really had to feel my way around its neck, through all the body feathers. Seeds were stuck all through the poor bird. It really was incredible. Of course several times it attempted to fly away but I suspect this youngster was not very good at flight even before the entanglement. The dogs behaved really well, watching from the living room as we worked over the kitchen island, even through the attempted escape flights.

By 2 a.m. I finally returned it to its parents. This time, before going outside, I put on one wide-brim hat.  Though the owlet was smaller than my fist, the parent looked twice that size and made a loud and startling smack when it hit the hat. I set the owlet on a low branch in the paradise tree and sat down on the steps. Jan waited a while, but had given up by 2:15am, when one of the parents finally landed near junior. It took another last swipe at me and then started pouncing on bugs in the lawn. I never saw it give any to junior, who continued its raspy call going the whole time, at least when ever Mom or Dad was in view.

While I watched, an incredibly silent opossum appeared at the birdbath, about six feet directly below the little owlet.  How it approached through the forest's dry leaf litter so quietly, I can't imagine.  It drank for a full five minutes, lap, lap, lap, lap, lap – quite a noisy drinker. Finally, it slowly turned to leave and, smack, right in the rump, a parent owl gave it incentive to move more quickly.  Stealth was no longer an issue and as the rapid leaf crunching marked its progress through the woods. A brief pause by the opossum was followed by another rush of leaf crunching, another pause and another noisy rush.  As the poor opossum seemed to be keeping the owls distracted, I decided to make my break for the house and bed.

[Jim is a Florida Park Service Biologist in the Keys, long-time member of FNPS, frequent speaker and trip leader in the Keys and chief motivator of the Keys Group (part of the Dade Chapter).  While Jim has many experiences to write about because of his job and home in the Keys, many other Dade and Keys members have personal nature stories to tell and knowledge to share.  Your contributions are welcome and encouraged!]

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The City of Coral Gables Maintenance Facility received an award in the Institutional/Professional design category of the FNPS Design with Natives 2003 program.  Landscape awards were presented at the state FNPS conference in May in Ft. Myers.  The design was by Laura Llerena & Associates, Inc.

The Maintenance Facility is at 2800 SW 72 Ave.   The primary goal of the project was to reestablish a "naturalistic" landscape on the canal bank of the Coral Gables Waterway.  This would provide a visual barrier and noise buffer for the surrounding community, stabilize the bank to prevent erosion, replace invasive exotic plants with natives, and create habitat for local wildlife, and provide a pleasant view to boaters on the canal.

The design uses natives such as  gumbo limbo, pigeon plum, live oak, paradise tree, wild tamarind, mahogany, stoppers and cocoplum.  While the project also uses non-native trees, shrubs and groundcover, the species diversity and design are reminiscent of a rockland hammock and large masses of one species typical of many institutional landscape designs is avoided.

The greatest obstacle in the installation was the timing.  The existing mature exotic trees which where to be removed were providing shade and root support to the canal bank.  In order to minimize the amount of cover removal at any one time, planting was done in  three phases to allow for some sections of the canal bank to remain with existing cover while other sections were gradually replaced.

On your next cruise down the Waterway, admire the native plants while you slow down to save the manatees.

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S...O...S     S...O...S     S...O...S

If Florida's wildlife could communicate directly with us, they might well be saying, "Save our snags!"  Nearly one-third of all wildlife species depend upon dead or partly-dead trees for homes and food.  We call these trees snags.

In U.S. forests there are more than 550 species of birds, 300 species of mammals and 450 species of amphibians and reptiles that need snags for food, nesting and shelter.

A tree killed by natural means -- disease, insect infestation, fire or severe weather conditions -- can remain standing for many years.  Once a tree dies and begins to decay, wood softens and bark loosens.  The rotting wood provides a lavish food source for insects.

The loose bark can become a roosting place for evening bats, a shady niche for southern fence lizards and scarlet king snakes, and a cache for gray squirrels, while serving up tiny delicacies for pileated woodpeckers.  A red-tailed hawk or osprey will use snag limbs as hunting, feeding and roosting perches.

Birds nesting in tree cavities comprise 30 to 45 percent of forest bird species.  Birds that actually dig tree cavities are called primary excavators.  Many woodpeckers excavate new nest cavities each year and need two or more additional holes for roosting and perching.  Therefore, the more snags there are, the more snag-loving woodpeckers and other beneficial wildlife species will be able to thrive.  Kestrels, chickadees, wood ducks, screech owls and bluebirds are examples or secondary cavity-users because they rely on primary excavators to create the cavities.

Studies show that some birds -- like kestrels, owls and larger woodpeckers -- require large snags which can support larger cavities.  If none are available, they could fail in their nesting attempt, raise a smaller brood, or leave the area in search of better sites.  Mature longleaf pine trees, which usually take longer to decompose than most other tree species, fall into this large snag category.

Smaller cavity-nesting birds such as downy woodpeckers, tufted titmice, brown-headed nuthatches and Carolina chickadees can use relatively small snags.

Cavities in the trunks and branches are in great demand not only by birds, but also by mammals ranging from the tiny flying squirrel to raccoons, opossums and black bears.  No niche lies unused.

With all the species that benefit from them, it is evident snags are necessary for maintaining a balanced ecosystem.  When we look at snags as an integral part of nature, we can better appreciate the necessity of protecting them.  Snags of appropriate sizes for wildlife use are few and far between.  If we plan our property to be wildlife-friendly -- leaving snags and ground cover -- increased numbers of wildlife will be attracted to our backyards for viewing and listening enjoyment.

Another benefit of protecting dead wood is the balance established between cavity-nesting birds and their food source, insects, that keeps forests healthy.  When we upset the balance by removing snags and fallen trees, we open the way for insect infestation and die-offs in yards, forests, tree plantations, agricultural fields and on commercial fruit and nut bearing tree farms.  It would be interesting to know how many thousands of pounds of pesticides are used each year to remove pests which insectivorous wildlife species would consume if proper habitat had been preserved.

Much too often we humans discount the importance of naturally-occurring phenomena.  We tend to "fix" nature much too readily.  We have formed the habit of springing into action immediately when we notice a tree dying, giving little thought to the wildlife species that may inhabit it or to the many others that need the dead wood to survive.

Ours is a world of recursive cycles -- all life has a beginning, a middle, and an end before returning to the basic building blocks needed to begin life anew.  Each stage is important, interdependent, and purposeful.  Perhaps we wouldn't be so quick to fix nature if we would take the time to learn more about and appreciate her natural cycles and to listen to Florida wildlife's urgent call ... "Save our snags!"

[Reprinted from The Skimmer, a publication of the (former) Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Spring/Summer, 1993.   This article previously appeared in the January, 1997, Tillandsia.]

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General information and memberships: Patty Phares (305-255-6404)

Contact in the Keys: Jim Duquesnel at John Pennekamp

Coral Reef State Park (305-451-1202)

President: Steve Woodmansee ( 305-666-8727, smwood@bellsouth.net)

DCFNPS Web page: http://www.fnps.org/chapters/dade

Webmaster: Greg Ballinger

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

FNPS Eco Action Alert List: Send email request to info@fnps.org

FNPS (state) phone: 772-462-0000

Tillandsia editors: (co-editor needed) Patty Phares (305-255-6404, pphares@mindspring.com)

The Dade Chapter Florida Native Plant Society is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the understanding and preservation of Florida's native flora and natural areas, and promoting native plants in landscapes.

The chapter includes residents of Miami-Dade County and the Keys. Meetings in Miami-Dade County are on the 4th Tuesday of each month except June, August and December at Fairchild Tropical Garden and are free and open to the public. In June, members and their guests are invited to an evening garden tour on the 4th Tuesday. Meetings in the Keys are held on a varying schedule of dates and locations from Key Largo to Key West. The basic FNPS membership (state and chapter) is $25 per year. Please contact DCFNPS for a membership application.

Please send articles, announcements of local activities and news of interest to the Dade Chapter PO Box or email to the editor (above) by the 15th of each month to be considered for publication the following month. Advertising rates from $10/month.

© 1999-2005 Dade Chapter Florida Native Plant Society, Inc.

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