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, January 27, 7:30 p.m. at Fairchild Tropical Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road.

"The Hole in the Donut -- Seven Years of Wetland Restoration in Everglades National Park"  -- Dr. Michael R. Norland, Everglades National Park.

Wetlands are being recreated on former farmland in Everglades National Park. When farming ceased, disturbed soils remained in place and the area rapidly became a dense forest of the exotic pest plant Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius).  To prevent further spread and create the best possible conditions for natural wetland vegetation, the park initiated a wetland restoration and mitigation project in 1996.  Existing vegetation and underlying disturbed soils have been removed in several sites, lowering the surface elevation, resulting in a longer hydroperiod that promotes colonization of native wetland plants by natural recruitment.  Dr. Norland has been Hole in the Donut Project Manager/Supervisory Soil Scientist at ENP since 1996.  Prior to this, he was a soil scientist with the former U.S. Bureau of Mines, developing restoration schemes for a variety of disturbed lands including mining-related Superfund sites.

January is "Bring a Friend" month.  Please invite your friends, family co-workers and neighbors!  We will meet in the Garden House (the larger building next to where we normally meet) to have more space.  New members joining that night will receive a free native plant (donated by Fairchild Tropical Garden research) and free raffle tickets.  All members, new and old, will receive a 10% discount on all the items we sell (books, shirts, etc.).  Please remind your guests to enter at the old entrance (contrary to what signs indicate), not through the new Visitor Center at the north end of the Garden.  Minimum membership categories (FNPS and Dade Chapter) are: $25 individual, $30 dual/household, $15 student.

Your donations of raffle plants are always appreciated, but please examine them first for signs of lobate lac scale.  Look for the small, black, lobed scales, and use a hand lens to look for the tiny, red "crawlers".  This pest is spreading widely (now even to the Lower Keys), not only by natural means but also by moving potted plants. You might consider using several weekly treatments with an oil spray (see previous newsletters) before taking plants from your yard.  While we will not stop the spread of this insect (though we hope that current efforts to identify a biocontrol will help), we should try not to give it a free ride.

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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. Details are contained in the regular mailed each month to members. Collecting is not permitted. Please join today so that you can enjoy all the benefits of membership!

Saturday, January 31: Everglades National Park (Hole in the Donut and nearby areas). We will see some of the restoration areas and then walk in the pinelands and/or hammocks near the Research Center/Royal Palm area.  After watching the sun start to set over the Everglades, all are invited to gather for dinner someplace in Homestead (restaurant to be decided).

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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.

Thursday, January 22: Monthly meeting, Islamorada.  Several Keys FNPS members will share information about their favorite local natives, including tips about their propagation and maintenance – maybe even bring cuttings or seeds.  Location: Islamorada Library, MM 81.5 bayside.  Schedule: Plant identification at 7:00, program at 7:30 p.m. Bring cuttings of your mystery plants or anything interesting, including flowers and fruit if available.  The program is followed by refreshments and native plant raffle  (donations welcome).  The public is invited.  For more information, call Barbara Moe, (305) 517-9085.

Sunday, January 25:  Field trip to Windley Key, MM 85.5 bayside.  Purchased by the state for its geological features, Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park has a well-developed hardwood hammock and several rare native plant species found in only one or two places in the Keys.  Field trips are for the study of plants and enjoyment of nature by FNPS members and their invited guests.  Please join so that you can enjoy all the chapter’s activities!

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Yard visits are for members and their guests only.  Another good reason to join! This visit is part of an ongoing opportunity for those who wish to know the natives in a hands-on manner and to see them in various settings, formal and informal, and to learn the property owner's successes and failures at growing them. These visits are being offered approximately every two months.

Sunday, February 8. This visit will reveal how huge our natives can become in approximately 50 years.  The homeowner started planting on an acre of land that had been stripped bare of pine trees in 1946. Approximately ¼ of the property is planted in native hardwoods, which he refers to as a "hammock on a rock pile". Tucked among the many plants between the house and the roadway is a magnificent Pinus elliottii var densa and plants from the Keys. The plantings are informal.

This visit is part of an ongoing opportunity for those who wish to know the natives in a hands-on manner and to see them in various settings, formal and informal, and to learn the property owner’s successes and failures at growing them.

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Dade Chapter workday at Everglades National Park, Coe Visitors Center, Saturday, February 14.   New volunteers are encouraged to come -- the work is not hard, the weather is perfect this time of year, and it’s a nice way to get to know fellow-plant lovers.  We will continue weeding, mulching, bringing in more rocks and surveying the landscape to make plans for the 2004 growing season.  Park entrance is free for you (and everyone in your car) the rest of the day, so bring lunch and enjoy the best time of year for wildlife viewing at Royal Palm.  Tools, gloves and some drinks will be available, but you might want to bring your own and well as sun protection.  Call Patty for more information (305-255-6404).

FNPS Native Plant and Wildlife coloring books created by Sea Rocket Chapter member Amy Mosher are available.  You can pick up a couple at meetings, but if you would like a quantity, they can be ordered in boxes of 100 ($5 for classroom teachers, $20 for others).  The Marine Resources Council is handling the shipping.  Contact them at 321-504-4500 or check  www.fnps.org, where pages can also be downloaded free.

Applications for FNPS Endowment Grants (for native plant research) and Design with Natives Awards will be due soon.  Check the FNPS web site or look for more information in the upcoming Sabal Minor and Palmetto.  If you know of a deserving landscape (all native or may include some non-invasive non-natives) at a home, school or business, please check the application for more information.  Don’t be shy – one way to encourage more native landscaping is spotlight the ones we have -- maybe yours?

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Citizens for a Better South Florida.  Native Plant Celebrations at Citizens, Saturdays, January 10 and March 13, 9 a.m. - noon.  3191 SW 21 Street.  Visit their Florida Friendly Garden, learn how to conserve water and energy while attracting birds and butterflies, and buy native plants.  For more information, call 305-648-0000.

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).  January 20: Veronicaceae (Speedwell family).

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. January 21: aquatic flowering plants with emphasis on the showy species.

Miami-Dade Park & Recreation Dept. Natural Areas Management (NAM) workdays, 9a.m. - noon.  Wear close-toes shoes and long pants.  Call 305-257-0904 for more information.  Jan. 10: Coral Pines Park (SW 104 St and 70 Ave.);  Jan. 31: Oak Grove Park (NE 159 St. and 6 Ave.); Feb. 7: Hattie Bauer Hammock (SW 267 St. and 157 Ave.).

Tropical Audubon Society activities (5530 Sunset Drive).  Call 305-666-5111or see www.tropicalaudubon.org for more info.  Meetings are free and open to the public.   Jan. 14 meeting: Claudine Laabs of Audubon Society of the Everglades, "Up the Upper Amazon".  Jan. 17, Feb. 14: workdays, 8:30 - noon.  Help restore pineland at TAS.  Feb. 11 meeting: Gary Slater, "Avian Restoration and Conservation in S. Fla. Pinelands.  Feb. 15: Fakahatchee Strand Nature Walk, reservations, fee required. Call Rick Cohen, 305-667-7337.

The Nature conservancy workdays in the Keys, Saturdays, 9 a.m. - noon.  Call 305/745-8402 for more information.  Dec. 6: Big Pine Key fire hazard reduction.  Help reduce the threat of harmful wildfires and prepare for prescribed burns by thinning out overgrown vegetation. Jan. 10: Blue Heron Hammock, Marathon.  Help kill invasive exotic trees and remove debris.  (Note from FNPS – If you can help transport excess pine needles raked up on BPK to use in the chapter's project at Everglades National Park, please call Patty, 305-255-6404.)

"Rivers and Prairies of Big Cypress" Photo Workshop with Jeff Ripple, March 5-8: Slide presentations, photo workshops, paddle adventure, swamp walk and slide critique.  All photographic formats and skills welcome.  Call 239-695-3299 or SJHarradon@aol.com.

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My name is Phillip Pearcy and I am the newly appointed advocacy representative (Ad.Rep.) on the Dade Chapter Board.  As the Ad.Rep., I will be reporting in the Tillandsia on events that affect conservation in Miami-Dade County.  The Dade Chapter Board feels it is important that as plant and environmental enthusiasts we familiarize ourselves on issues affecting our environment and native plants.

I have learned of a controversial proposal that I feel we need to be aware of.  Although it may not take place in Miami-Dade County,  it could affect all of us and our native plant environments.

Some of Florida’s most influential business leaders have spent the last year meeting behind closed doors to divvy up the state’s water supply.  These businessmen consist of developers, agriculture executives and sugar growers who have a special interest in Florida’s limited water supply.  Rather than attempt to conserve this precious resource, the group has come up with a potentially controversial idea to upend state law and redirect Florida’s most precious resource from water- rich and slow- growing North Florida to thirsty booming Central and South Florida.  This would most likely negatively impact the natural areas in North Florida, without really addressing the issue of over consumption in Central and South Florida.

You can find out more about what is at stake on the Florida Native Plant website at www.fnps.org.  You may even wish to contact your local legislator to express your own opinion.  Please feel free to email me about any other issues that may be of interest to our membership.  hillippearcy@msn.com.

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TALKING NATIVE: Blueeyed-grass

            by Steve Woodmansee

Blueeyed-grasses (Sisyrinchium spp., pronounced SIS-ERR-RING-KEY-UM) are lovely little grass-like plants (not being grasses) in the Iris family, which can be found in a variety of native habitats.  They get their name for the color of their flowers, even though the centers of most South Florida blueeyed grass flowers are yellow.  Three native perennial species can be typically found in South Florida, they are Sisyrinchium angustifolium, S. nashii, and S. xerophyllumSisyrhinchium rosulatum, an annual non-native species with yellowish flowers may also be encountered in South Florida.

S. xerophyllum is the easiest to identify, as well as the easiest to find (even when not flowering), that is, if you are in the right habitat.  It is much larger than its counterparts, usually measuring more than 30 centimeters tall, its leaves are typically at or wider than 4 mm at the base, is found in large clumps, and its flowers are also larger, being the circumference of a dime or more.  It also has blue flowers (as its name suggests) and is typically found in the high and dry sandy soils of scrub, scrubby flatwoods, and sandhill communities.  It was once recorded growing as far south as the pine rocklands of Buena Vista, near Miami.  Today it no longer naturally occurs in Miami-Dade County.

The other two species are quite common in Miami-Dade.  They also have blue flowers (although I have rarely seen a few white forms of S. angustifolium) but are much smaller than S. xerophyllum.   Typically, they measure less than 30 centimeters tall, leaves being less than 4 mm wide at the base, form smaller clumps, whose flowers are at or less than a dime’s circumference.  They also are very difficult to detect when not flowering due to their graminoid appearance.  Both species look very similar at first appearance.  They are roughly same in size and can only be distinguished physically by looking at the base of the plant.  S. nashii has fibrous tufts at the base, while S. angustifolium has none.  This characteristic is difficult to ascertain without pulling up the poor little wildflower.  The former is also more likely to be seen growing in drier areas, such as sandhills and pine rocklands (although not always), while the latter species typically occupies wetter areas like wet open fields and wet grassy flatwoods. 

S. angustifolium  and S. nashii flower typically in the early spring or soon after fires, and S. xerophyllum  will be flowering later on in the summer/fall.  Given time, the two former make excellent ground covers in Miami-Dade County, however they require sun, and S. angustifolium may require more frequent watering.  So when walking afield keep an eye out for the blue-eyed buddies.

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by Karen Griffin

My house sits on a typical Miami city lot.  The front yard was a blank canvas when I first bought the house last February -- nothing but grass and some spider plants.  Before moving into the house, I knew I was going to transform my front yard into a little pineland garden.  I started making sketches and determining what plants I wanted.  I talked to people familiar with native plant gardening, and spent time wandering native pine rocklands for ideas.  It became clear to me that while I definitely wanted pine trees and some signature pineland shrubs like Bourreria cassinifolia and Forestiera segregata, it is the pineland herbs, grasses and sedges that truly make our native pine rocklands so special and thus I decided I would concentrate on finding and planting them whenever possible. 

This led to a problem, however.  Pineland herbs do not like to be mulched.  Pineland plants are used to growing in bare limestone or sand.  Very little mulch accumulates unless in a dense pine grove, where the collected pine duff tends to limit herbaceous growth.    Some native plant enthusiasts even declared that I could not have a healthy pineland garden in my front yard unless I scraped away all the topsoil until limestone became exposed and I planted right in the limestone.  Living smack dab in the middle of the city, I knew this was not possible.  The question became then, how does one grow pineland species in the middle of the city, with no mulch, and still have it looking respectable enough so that one’s neighbors do not complain?

The first job was to figure out how to rid myself of all the grass in my front yard.  There are several ways to do this.  Round-up was suggested.  While I am slowly learning the benefits of Round-up, I was not prepared to spray my entire front yard with an herbicide.  Another idea was to cover the grass with a tarp, or some other plastic covering to literally smother the grass.  Once dead, the grass would be easy to pull up or mulch in.  I didn’t do this for two reasons.  The process takes a couple of months, and I was anxious to get started.  I also didn’t want all that dead grass mulched in and decided that if I was going to dig the grass up anyways, then I might as well dig it up alive, and take some dirt with it.  While not exposed, at least the limestone would be a couple inches closer to the surface and there would be less rich topsoil in which weeds could grow.  Digging up the grass also allowed me to do the front yard in phases.  I just left the grass alone until I was ready to plant in an area.  This definitely is more laborious and is not for the feint of heart, but in the end, I think this is the best solution.

Once the dirt was bare, I started planting that section.  When the plants were in, I sat back and watched things grow.  I watered regularly to help the plants get established and slowly tapered off until they were strictly on Mother Nature’s schedule.  The initial watering helped weed seeds germinate and the weeding began.  With no mulch, this was to be expected.  I decided to use this to my advantage and started to selectively weed, taking out only known exotics, leaving the natives to create a natural ground cover.  Thanks to Steve Woodmansee’s Lawn Weeds lecture, I was able to identify unfamiliar exotics and natives and refine my selections.  It was fun to see all the different species of Chamaesyce that popped up and to see other natives grow and bloom that usually are mowed before they have a chance. 

As I added more pineland herbs, grasses and sedges (I love those plant rescues!), I was able to start thinning out some of the native weeds, starting with those that have invasive tendencies, such as Sida acuta.  I did let two grow to full size and was really surprised at how beautiful they were.  Sida acuta grows in an open circular form about 2 feet tall with a wide, flat top 2-3 feet in diameter.  Unfortunately, Sida is prolific and those handsome plants had to go to prevent a take-over.   I also kept Bidens out of my garden (I have plenty of other butterfly food!) for the same reason.  The Chamaesyces proved to be great ground covers, and weeded out easily when it was time to plant a new herb or grass. 

As you notice, my gardening life for much of the growing season was consumed by weeding.  Some may be dismayed at this, but I had so much fun watching things grow that I found myself happily sitting in the middle of my garden selectively weeding this and that and marveling at everything else!  It is a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  I am happy to say all that planting and weeding paid off.  Towards the end of the growing season, I found myself able to get through the weeding much more quickly.  The weed seed bank was becoming exhausted and my planted ground covers were filling in.  My Ruellia succulenta, Flaveria linearis, Coreopsis leavenworthii and Stenandrium dulce were happily spreading through the garden, having no mulch to get in their way of germinating. The Ruellia likes to fling its seeds and I have found seedlings a good 10 feet from the original plants.  The Coreopsis and Flaveria can germinate in relatively thick ground cover.  The Stenandrium likes the open spaces, so I kept things well weeded around them. 

With winter now in full force, I have little weeding to do and my garden has taken on a burnished look, with leaves reddening, blooms sparse but always a delight when seen, and a nice solid ground cover that looks in control, respectable to my neighbors, and for the most part, free!

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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: Patty Phares (305-255-6404, pphares@mindspring.com) and Karen Griffin.

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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