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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FEBRUARY, 2004

In This Issue

NEXT MEETING IN DADE COUNTY

Tuesday, February 24, 7:30 p.m. at Fairchild Tropical Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road.

"South Florida Spiders"  -- Bob Kelley.

Most nature lovers are probably first attracted to birds and butterflies.  Bob Kelley, our chapter Vice President, was interested in spiders 20 years before he also took up birds.  Bob will show slides and bring books that you might want to get for yourself – and some "surprises", which he claims are not live spiders.

Upcoming meetings:

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UPCOMING FIELD TRIPS (DADE)

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!

Sunday, February 29 8:30 a.m.: Pinecrest, Loop Road.  We will explore hammock, cypress/sawgrass, prairie and pineland along Loop Road.  We last visited in April, 2001, and observed several rare or listed species as well as many butterflies.

Saturday, April 3: Jonathan Dickinson State Park (Martin County).  As a follow up to the March program on carnivorous plants, we will visit one of the closest places to us that has some – plus a lot of other interesting plants, pine flatwoods and a variety of other habitats, wet and dry.

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ACTIVITIES IN THE KEYS

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: Thursday, February 26.  John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Biologist Jim Duquesnel will speak about native plants and birds.  Especially in the Florida Keys, the link between native trees and songbirds is both important and easy to observe. Jim will discuss the findings of several researchers who have working in the park, and how homeowners can best use their landscape to attract birds into the residential landscape.   The meeting is at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park's visitor center, Mile Marker 102.5 on the Overseas Highway.

Next field trip: Saturday, February 28:  John Pennekamp State Park. Walk the Wild Tamarind nature trail and then visit the park's native plant nursery, where park volunteers grow material for the park's many habitat restoration projects.

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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CHAPTER NEWS AND NEEDS

Native plant landscaping photos needed.  Diane Otis is collecting photos (digital or prints preferred, slides ok, too) for potential use in her Native Plant Day or future programs or in chapter displays.  Please send images of your favorite scenes to Diane (queenmab@netrox.net) or call her at 305-247-9913.

Writers wanted for this newsletter– can you write an interesting or informative story about a native plant or South Florida nature?  Or landscaping advice, a helpful gardening or plant identification tip?  A tale of adventure in the Florida wilds?  Could you interview and write a short article about a chapter member?  If so, please call one of the Tillandsia editors (see the info box on the back) -- we need your experience and input!

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NATIVE PLANT DAY, MARCH 20

This is the chapter's annual event where the public (and you) can learn about native plants all day long – and enjoy the first day of spring in the Redland.  Please support the chapter by joining your fellow-members in making it a success, not only by attending the activities, but also by helping in some way.  Please see your print newsletter for details volunteer needs.   See the chapter web site for a poster: www.fnps.org/chapters/dade/NativePlantDay/ and Schedule of Events.

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DADE CHAPTER WORKDAY SATURDAY, FEBRUARY14

Everglades National Park, Coe Visitors Center

This is the 3-year anniversary of starting our project at the Visitors Center to enhance the landscaping by recreating mini-pineland and hammock.  It has been a learning process, full of challenges, but always been rewarding and interesting to see the changes occur and enjoyable to work together with our fellow-volunteers and the Park Service.  While Everglades National Park is rated a one of the most "endangered" by the National Parks Conservation Association because of "bureaucratic delays in a number of restoration projects and Florida's softening of water quality standards" (The Miami Herald, January 14, 2004), our volunteers can be proud of their efforts to bring this one small corner of the park back on track.

New volunteers are encouraged to come to this workday -- 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 as well as sun protection.  Call Patty for more information (305-255-6404).

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OTHER EVENTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

Volunteers needed for rare plant swat team: Saturday, February 28,  9:00 a.m. – noon at Bill Sadowski Park.  Help remove the invasive Tectaria incisa from the park, clearing space for native rare and endangered species.  A small group of people is needed to do work in tough conditions, including uneven footing and biting ants.  You can also add your name to the Team list for possible future dates.  Contact Jennifer Possley at jpossley@fairchildgarden.org or 305-667-1651, ext. 3433.

Citizens for a Better South Florida.  Native Plant Celebrations at Citizens, Saturday March 6, 9 a.m. - noon (note date change).  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).  February 17: Poisonous and toxic plants -- for Valentine's Day.  (Don't eat the chocolates...)

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. February 18: Native and naturalized tropical trees.

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.  Feb. 7: Hattie Bauer Hammock (SW 267 St. and 157 Ave.).  Feb 28: Kendall Indian Hammocks Park (11345 SW 79 St.).

Tropical Audubon Society activities (5530 Sunset Drive).  Call 305-666-2842 or see www.tropoicalaudubon.org for more info and activities.  Meetings are free and open to the public.  Feb. 14, Mar. 13: workdays, 8:30 - noon.  Help restore pineland at TAS.  Feb. 11 meeting: Gary Slater, "Avian Restoration and Conservation in S. Fla. Pinelands.  Mar. 10 meeting: Stuart McIver, "Death in the Everglades: the Murder of Audubon Warden Guy Bradley".  Mar. 14: Florida Trail, Big Cypress nature walk.  Reservation and fee required.  Call 305-667-7337.  NATIVE PLANT SALE: FEB 28-29, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.

The Nature Conservancy workdays in the Keys, Saturdays, 9 a.m. - noon.  Call 305-745-8402 for more information.   March 6, Big Pine Key Fire Hazard Reduction.  Help reduce the threat of harmful wildfires and prepare for helpful prescribed burns by thinning out overgrown vegetation in one of the island's most fire-prone neighborhoods.

Tours of Long Pine Key in Everglades National Park with Roger Hammer, offered by Fairchild Tropical Garden.  Feb. 28 (wildflower walk), Mar. 6 (bike ride).   Details at www.fairchildgarden.org (Home – classes and seminars) or 305-667-1651.

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TALKING NATIVE: Birds and the Native Landscape

            by Jim Duquesnel

When homeowners maintain bird feeders and birdbaths, they usually do so primarily with the expectation that it will bring songbirds within easy viewing distance.  Bird feeding, and the bird watching it enables, has helped start and nurture a lifelong interest for countless amateur and professional naturalists.  How wonderful it would be if more homeowners were aware of the simple practices that can make backyard viewing as beneficial for the birds as it is for us.

Feeding birds with seeds, or when hummingbirds and orioles are fed with sugar-water, and the resulting concentration of bird activity at feeders have risks that many are unaware of or dismiss too lightly.  How happy would most parents be to hear that their kids were filled with soft drinks and candies by some well-meaning neighbor, spoiling their appetite for healthier fare offered at home.  Sugar-water is obviously less nutritious than naturally available foods, yet birds will use it instead of more nutritious fare when it is easier to get.

Feeding on native plants (seeds, fruits, buds, etc.) and the insects that also depend on those plants is not only more nutritious, but requires extended searching over relatively large areas.  This diffusion of feeding-activity allows birds to widely disperse their droppings.  Feeders, on the other hand, do the opposite - they concentrate feeding and defecation in small areas, facilitating the spread of contagious diseases.  Landscaping with the right diversity of locally native plants can offer year-round food supplies, attracting birds and butterflies to the yard while minimizing the risks created by concentrated activity at feeders.

Likewise, bathing in wet foliage, temporary puddles, running streams and along the extensive banks of natural water bodies minimizes the opportunity for birds to drink each other's used bath-water and excrement.  In addition to maintaining a clean birdbath, I like to run a sprinkler over some shrubs for a few minutes, when I have time to sit in the yard.  The noise and smell of water quickly attracts songbirds, especially migratory warblers.  The smaller species of birds (especially warblers and vireos) actually seems to prefer bathing in the wet foliage to using the inch-and-a-half deep birdbath.

Native plants have other benefits; one researcher recently found that nests in native landscape shrubs had a higher success rate than those in exotic shrubbery.  Using native shrubs also provides host plant foliage for native insects, particularly for butterfly larvae, themselves likely to become nutritious snacks for some songbird.

Even non-invasive exotic food sources may have negative impacts that can be difficult to discern.  Sunflower and other seed mixes are commonly used at birdfeeders here in the Florida Keys, for example.  These seeds are not naturally available here, proving that our native birds can get by without them.  However, they are heavily utilized by invading Eurasian collared doves and European starlings.  Blue jays use the feeders as well and, while native to Florida, their range expanded into the Keys only after habitat fragmentation became extensive.  Feeding these species increases the competition for other resources (such as nest sites) and, in the case of blue jays, supports a growing population of opportunistic nest predators.  Native songbirds have enough problems already without well-intentioned birdwatchers unknowingly adding to their troubles.

Articles are regularly published in magazines, such as Bird Watchers Digest (www.birdwatchersdigest.com), stressing the importance of proper sterilization of feeders and birdbaths.  Excellent books, such as the "Bird Feeder Book" by Don and Lillian Stokes (1987), are available for anyone seeking more information.  Homeowners can easily find out which exotic plants are invasive and should be avoided or removed by visiting the website of Florida's Exotic Pest Plant Council (www.fleppc.org).  And, of course, information on the many benefits of landscaping with native rather than exotic plants can be found through the Florida Native Plant Society (www.fnps.org).  For more local

information on helping your native songbirds, it is hard to beat the resources of a local Audubon chapter (www.audubonofflorida.org/main/chapters).

In summary, homeowners who want to assist native birds have some serious points to consider.  First, feeders and birdbaths require regular cleaning to prevent disease transmission.  As feeders and supplemental water can provide assistance needed more by competing exotic species than by our native songbirds, careful monitoring should be used to determine who is using your bird feeders and baths.  Sugar-water provides energy and water, but is not a balanced diet, and may be displace better foods in bird's diets.  Bird watchers should remember that feeding any wildlife (bears, raccoons, and yes, even birds) will always have unanticipated consequences (good and bad).  Supplying food and water in ways that most closely simulate nature minimizes the creation of unintended hazards.  And, finally, there is a lot of good information out there, both in print and on the Internet.  It has never been easier to find what you need to know about providing for your backyard's birds.

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KEY CONTACTS FOR DCFNPS:

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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