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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October, 2004

In This Issue


Tuesday, October 26, 7:30 p.m. at Fairchild Tropical Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road.  The meeting is free and open to the public.

"Natives For Your Neighborhood: an innovative conservation tool for South Florida" - George Gann.

Based on more than a decade of intensive research, The Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC) will soon launch Natives For Your Neighborhood, an innovative web application that promotes the use of native plants within their historical ranges in order to increase success of native plant projects and maximize conservation benefits.  IRC Executive Director, George Gann, will describe the origins of the project, the research that backs it up, and its usefulness to homeowners, businesses, governmental agencies and utilities.  Check out a test version of the site before the meeting by visiting IRC's website at www.regionalconservation.org and clicking on "Natives For Your Neighborhood!" 

Thanks in advance to refreshment donors: Pat Kuentzel (drinks and ice) and Mary Barfield (snacks).  We need additional people to bring refreshments this month -- please call Patty Harris (305-262-3763 evening, 305-373-1000 daytime) if you can help.  We welcome additions to the refreshment table and raffle plant donations (please check your plants for lobate lac scale).

Nov. 23: Skip Snow of Everglades National Park – "Disposable Pets, Unwanted Giants: Pythons in Everglades National Park."

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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 printed newsletter mailed each month to members. Collecting is not permitted. Please join today so that you can enjoy all the benefits of membership!

Saturday, October 23: Martinez Pineland.  This trip was rescheduled due to Hurricane Jeanne.

Sunday, November 14: Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve.

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Monthly meetings: third Wednesday of each month,  November through April.  Meeting places will rotate between  Key Largo, Marathon and Key West.

Field trips: Saturday following the meeting. Details of meetings and trips will be in the next Tillandsia.

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

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October 16, 9 a.m. to noon.

Volunteers needed! We will continue light maintenance at the Coe Visitors Center.  Gloves, tools and some drinks are provided, but you may want to bring your own as well as extra cold water and refreshments to share.  Bring family and friends.  Your whole car gets in free to the park the rest of the day.  Call Patty (305-255-6404) for more information.

The plants installed during the summer and previous years are doing very well, and Project Leader Jonathan Taylor (FNPS volunteer and ENP biologist) reports many positive comments from the park employees who have seen the transformation over the past 3 years.  While our vision of what is possible in this location has changed somewhat from the initial conception, our efforts have been well worthwhile.

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Time:  Sunday October 24,  2 - 4 p.m.
Location:  "Old" Old Cutler Road (SW 72 Ave at 164 Ter.) .
: from Old Cutler Road, drive east on SW 164 Terrace to SW 72 Avenue (dead end) and park (just north of the Deering Estate at SW 168 Street).

This road, and the area surrounding it, is now part of the Deering Estate at Cutler Park and open to public access. It is a wonderful example of mature native plants in three different plant communities: hardwood hammock, freshwater wetland and pineland. It is also a great place for butterflies and birds and we guarantee the unique olfactory experience of white stoppers. We will observe the gradual restoration (destruction of exotic plant pests) of part of the hammock on the west side of the road on which NAM (Natural Areas Management) is working. This is a beautiful road, walk and fabulous opportunity to observe many, many natives.

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. We do this approximately every two months. For more information call Gwlady Scott at 305-238-8901 (or Patty, 305-255-6404, if you can't reach Gwlady) if more information is needed.

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November 20-21: Volunteers are needed for The Ramble at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, DCFNPS educational display and plant sale.  If you can volunteer, have plants to donate for the sale or plants to loan for the display, please call Patty at 305-255-6404 by Oct. 24.

Volunteers at the sale need enough knowledge of growing natives to help shoppers, but display helpers with any level of knowledge are welcome – learn on the job!  We also need help setting up on Friday afternoon.

Chapter merchandise manager needed.  We need a member to take over the selling of our book and t-shirt merchandise.  Sam Dawson has been doing this important job for several years, and now it's time to let someone else have the opportunity.  This involves keeping a few plastic bins and bringing some to meetings, selling the merchandise and keeping track of the sales.  There is little time involved besides at meetings and Native Plant Day.  You can have a helper or alternate when you can't attend. Please contact Steve (see contacts at bottom of page) if you think you might be able to help.

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Many activities are just starting up after a summer lull, but the DCFNPS board was at work over the summer. We met with Keys members and strengthened the bonds and communication with our Monroe county contingent. Our discussion generated some good ideas for ways to build membership and participation in the Keys. Over the 2-day meeting, the board also worked on the budget and made committee assignments. Kudos to all who attended, and I personally thank the board for such great dedication. In addition, the Native Plant Day Committee got together with our friends at Crandon Park where Native Plant Day 2005 will take place at for the first time on March 5th. I hope this Native Plant Day experience will be the most exciting yet. And I hope we'll see you at one of our activities this fall.

Steven W. Woodmansee

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Tropical Audubon Society.  5530 Sunset Drive. 305-667-7337 or www.tropicalaudubon.org,  for details and more events. Meeting are free and open to the public (7:30 socializing, 8 p.m. program).

  • Oct. 13 meeting: Roger Hammer will present a slide program on his new book on the wildflowers of the Florida Keys.
  • Oct. 14 & 16 Learn to Bird class with Robert Kelley. Call 305-666-9246.
  • Oct. 16 and Nov. 13 workdays, 8:30 - noon.  Restore native pineland at the Doc Thomas House.
  • Oct. 27 Conservation Meeting: "All About EEL". Emily Young, Program Director of the Miami-Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, will present an overview and introduction of the proposed funding for EEL in the General Obligation Bond Program that county residents will be voting on in November.
  • Oct. 31 Deering Estate nature walk with Rick Cohen. Fee and reservations required.  Call 305-667-7337 by Oct 17.

Dade Native Plant Workshop.  3rd Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Bill Sadowski Park, 1/2 mile west of Old Cutler Road on SW 176 St.  Study of plant ID and taxonomy.  Call Steve Woodmansee (305-247-6547) or Roger Hammer (305-242-7688). October 19: Cucumber / pumpkin family (Cucurbitaceae).

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. October 20: Topic TBA.

Miami-Blue Chapter, North American Butterfly Assoc.  See www.miamiblue.org for schedule of activities.  Oct.31 meeting at Castellow Hammock Park, 1p.m.  Slides and  informal butterfly forum that will highlight habitat and conservation issues and identification tips for the butterflies of the Middle and Lower Keys.  Nov.13: trip to Lignumvitae Key.

Adopt-a-Tree.  Miami-Dade homeowners may select 2 free trees per year from a variety of native and non-invasive fruit and shade trees.  October 30 at Orange Bowl Stadium, 1501 NW 3 St. Event hotline  305-372-6555 or www.miamidade.gov/derm/adoptatree.  Personal assistance and volunteering: 305-468-5900 or adoptatree@miamidade.gov.

Miami-Dade College Environmental Center, Kendall Campus.  10/16: Children's Science and Nature Camp.  10/23: Enjoying Wild South Florida.  10/17-11/21 Organic Gardening.  10/30: Veganic Gardening.  And more!  305-237-2600 or MDC Kendall Campus: Community Education for info.

The Nature Conservancy, Florida Keys.  Volunteer workday Nov. 6 at Sea Oats Beach in Islamorada. Call 305-745-8402.

Gifford Arboretum, University of Miami.  Workshops and lectures. Nov. 13, 10 a.m.  "Proper Plant Pruning: Tools and Techniques" with Dr. George Fitzpatrick. Professor of Env. Horticulture, Trop. Research and Edu. Center.  Learn tips on the tools and techniques of proper tree and shrub pruning.   Free! 305-284-5364 or www.bio.miami.edu/arboretum.

The Rare Plant SWAT Team spends one Saturday morning per month removing invasive plants that directly threaten rare natives plants.  Watch for details next month about the first workday of the season in late November.  For more information or to join, contact Jennifer Possley at Fairchild Tropical Garden (305.667.1651 ext. 3433, jpossley@fairchildgarden.org) or Cristina Rodriguez at Natural Areas  Management (305.257.0933 ext. 230, cristir@miamidade.gov).


On November 2, Miami-Dade residents have the opportunity to further support one of the most successful county programs to date:  the Miami Dade Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) program.  In addition to funding other parks needs, Section 2 of the ballot calls for 40 million dollars to be allocated to Miami-Dade EEL to purchase new lands and manage natural areas including many of the local preserves FNPS members have so much enjoyed.  Many of these lands protect important wetlands, critically imperiled ecosystems, and numerous rare native plants, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.  It is essential that not only more land be purchased, but that it and existing lands have funding for management, including invasive exotic pest plant removal, reintroduction of fire and protection of rare species.  The Dade Chapter Florida Native Plant Society board encourages you to VOTE YES ON SECTION 2.

For more information, see the Tropical Audubon Society Bulletin at http://www.tropicalaudubon.org/bulletin/Sept04.pdf. Or attend the TAS October 27 Conservation Meeting: "All About EEL" (see Tropical Audubon Society in "Other News and Events")

Mary Ann Bolla, Ph.D.
Unusual And Out Of Print Books
Botany, Horticulture, Gardening,
Florida History
Data and Book Searches

Call/email for latest  list

191 Lowe St,
Tavernier, FL 33070
Phone/Fax: 305-852-0242
Email: bollam@bellsouth.net

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                                                             by Jennifer Possley

In South Florida, we are fortunate to have an array of native ferns that would impress any plant enthusiast.  But while our native ferns grow increasingly rare, we are host to a growing bevy of non-native ferns that can harm our native plant communities.  South Florida's moist, warm weather is ideal habitat for ferns, and non-native ferns can easily spread far from their source, by way of tiny, wind-borne spores.  Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum) and tuberous sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) are two of the most infamous.  Besides these, there are dozens of other non-native ferns that get much less press.  I am profiling five of these here.

1.  Phymatosorus scolopendria

Origin and use - Phymatosorus scolopendria is native to Old World tropics.  In recent years, it has become ubiquitous in South Florida landscaping.  It is widely available horticulturally.  A search on Plantfinder.com showed that 27 Florida wholesale nurseries currently stock it.  Landscapers often use it in beds surrounding trees or as an accent along the borders of buildings. 

Distribution – In Florida, P. scolopendria has only been documented through herbarium specimens in the three southernmost counties, but expect that number to increase due to its widespread use!  It was recorded in our flora (by D.S. Correll in American Fern Journal) as early as 1938. 

Description - P. scolopendria is a robust, creeping fern with shiny green foliage.  Its shape can be quite variable, and it looks similar to our native goldfoot polypody (Phlebodium aureum), which often grows under the crown of cabbage palms.  However, the rhizome of P. scolopendria is not covered with fuzzy golden hairs, and the fronds are darker and more leathery than those of the native.  The color and spacing of spores is also different.  Some literature claims P. scolopendria has a pleasant, vanilla-like fragrance, but I can't smell anything! 

Nomenclature - P. scolopendria is known by several different names.  Nursery growers may also call this species Microsorium scolopendria, Polypodium scolopendria, or Phymatodes scolopendria.  It is generally known by two common names.  I am uncertain of the derivation of "serpent fern," but it might relate to the bright green rhizomes that connect the leaves.  The name I hear most commonly is the somewhat disconcerting "wart fern," which is a reference to the raised bumps that can appear on the fronds opposite the sori (clusters of spores).

Ecology - Although the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council does not list it, P. scolopendria has naturalized in southern and central Florida with increasing frequency.  It can move into pristine hammocks, far from landscaping.  And while it doesn't usually form a monoculture in natural areas, it is still worrisome for its ability to grow very quickly in a variety of substrates.  I've seen P. scolopendria growing in soil, on limestone, on tree trunks, and on stone buildings (climbing vertically up the side).

2.  Thelypteris dentata

Origin and use - Thelypteris dentata is native to Old World tropics.  Alan Smith, a UC-Berkeley botanist who is the taxonomic expert on Thelypteris, believes T. dentata to be a recent introduction to the New World. 

Distribution - T. dentata was documented in the United States (Alabama) as early as 1904, and was first documented in Florida in 1930, in Hernando County.  Currently, it is naturalized in 31 counties in Florida, from the panhandle to Miami-Dade County.  It is now found over most of the southeastern United States as well, and it is a common greenhouse weed.

Description - Thelypteris dentata looks like several other members of the genus, but the very reduced pair of basal pinnae (the "two lower leaflets")is one identifying character.  An even better one is the shallowly-incised pinnules (the small divisions along the pinnae).  Gil Nelson has an illustration in The Ferns of Florida that shows how the pinnule venation can be used to easily distinguish this species from all other Thelypteris.

Nomenclature - J. K. Small gave this species the name Thelypteris reducta, and there are too many other botanical synonyms to describe here.  The fern is commonly known as downy shield fern or downy maiden fern, because it is covered with soft hair.

Ecology - While conducting literature and internet searches on fern species for this article, I wasn't able to unearth many references to Thelypteris dentata, leading me to conclude it is one of the less well-known of the ferns that invade Florida.  This is somewhat ironic considering its distribution.  T. dentata is not abundant horticulturally, but in South Florida, this species has naturalized in a wide variety of plant communities.  I have not seen it behaving very aggressively, but biologists at The Institute for Regional Conservation tell me that, on rare occasions, they have witnessed it acting as a dominant understory plant.

3.  Tectaria incisa

Origin and use - Tectaria incisa originates from the New World tropics.  It has long been used in landscaping in South Florida.  Some botanists have argued over its origin, but because T. incisa was not documented here before the 1970s, most feel safe in declaring it a recent introduction. 

Distribution - T. incisa has naturalized in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. 

Description -    T. incisa can grow to be 1.5 m tall-- much larger than most South Florida ferns.  Several stems grow erect from the base, which can be "trunk" to 4-5 cm wide.  T. incisa often grows directly on limestone, but it can also grow in soil. 

Nomenclature - The common name for this species is "incised halberd fern."  Halberd is a common name for the genus, and it refers to that medieval weapon that looks like a two-headed axe with a spike coming out the top (apparently Tectaria resembled this weapon to an early botanist).  Incisa refers to the deeply cut (incised) nature of the fronds, which helps to distinguish it from our similar native, threatened fern Tectaria heracleifolia.  The exotic can look very similar to the native when it is immature, but at maturity T. incisa has 2-4 pairs of pinnae incised all the way to the rachis, making it strikingly different from the fronds of the native.  Nursery growers may use the botanical synonyms Tectaria martinicensis, Aspidium martinicense, or Aspidium macrophyllum for this fern.  I have noted one independent grower selling it under the name Aspidium.

Ecology - Even though it is only a known problem in three counties, T. incisa has been aggressive enough to land on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's Category-I list.  It has been known to wreak havoc in places like Bill Sadowski Park and Black Creek Park in Miami-Dade County, and Fern Forest Nature Center in Broward County.  If this species sounds familiar to you, it may be due to the fact that it's the fern the Rare Plant SWAT Team spent one day per month in the winter and spring of 2004 removing it from Bill Sadowski Park.  We'll revisit the park again in November, removing resprouts!

4.  Pteris vittata         

Origin and use - Pteris vittata hails from Asia, but it is widely naturalized around the world, where it can grow from lowlands to mountains and in both natural and urban settings. 

Distribution - Pteris vittata is a very cosmopolitan species.  It can be found throughout most of the southeastern United States, and in Florida from the westernmost end of the panhandle down to the Florida Keys.  It is very common to see P. vittata growing out of the cracks in bridges, and chances are good that you have it around your home, growing next to an exterior hose or air conditioning unit.  Several references I found mentioned its abundance around the French Quarter in New Orleans, as well. 

Description - The fronds of P. vittata are a dark matte green, and can be as long as 1 m, but are usually less than half that length.  The rachises are hairy, and the terminal pinna of the frond is much longer than the lateral ones.  P. vittata is related to our native fern Pteris bahamensis, but that species has fronds that are more upright, brighter green, and thinner.  Unlike the three previously described ferns, Pteris species do not bear spores in a "polka-dot" pattern.  Rather, the spores are borne in a line just under the margins of the leaf. 

Nomenclature - The most-used common names for this species are Chinese brake fern or Chinese ladder brake.  Pteris vittata is widely accepted as the correct taxonomic name for this species, with Pycnodoria vittata as the most likely synonym.

Ecology - Pteris vittata created a sensation in the world of bioremediation in 2001, when University of Florida research showed it to be extremely effective in the uptake of arsenic from contaminated soils.  Since arsenic accumulation is a serious problem in Florida, don't expect this species to disappear from our flora anytime soon!  Concerned homeowners should remove this Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council Category-II species from their yards because of its highly invasive nature and its tendency to hybridize with the state threatened Pteris bahamensis.  This latter phenomenon is described in the final section, below.

5.  Pteris x delchampsii          

Origin - The non-native, invasive fern Pteris vittata poses a serious problem in that it readily hybridizes with our threatened native Pteris bahamensis, the Bahama ladder brake.  The resulting hybrid from this cross is called Pteris x delchampsii.

DistributionP. x delchampsii was first described in Miami-Dade County, and has only been documented in one other county, Broward.

Description - P. x delchampsii is quite difficult to distinguish from its parents, as it is intermediate in morphology.  The botanists who described the species (W.H. Wagner and C.E. Nauman, 1982) state that the presence of abortive spores is the best distinguishing character.  But to confuse the issue, they noted that a few spores can be fertile and, while the hybrids do not interbreed, back-crosses with the parents are possible.  Furthermore, our local fern expert Don Keller asserts that P. x delchampsii readily produces fertile spores in his backyard greenhouse. 

Nomenclature - P. x delchampsii was named for the late University of Miami chemistry professor C.E. Delchamps, who first discovered the hybrid along the walls of the Coral Gables Canal in the 1950s.

Ecology - Circumstances have united P. vittata and P. bahamensis in heavily urbanized South Florida.  P. vittata can be found pretty much everywhere here.  P. bahamensis grows in a variety of habitats, but it is usually in pine rockland or "transition" habitat (fire-suppressed pine rockland that is changing into hammock).  Both species are often found together in transition habitat and in disturbed areas adjacent to pine rocklands.  Hence, P. x delchampsii can be found in these areas as well.  Because of identification difficulties, we may never know the full extent of the effects of this hybridization.


Numbers of invasive ferns in South Florida will not decrease anytime soon because ferns are popular in cultivation, they disperse very efficiently, and they can be difficult for land managers to locate and identify.  Homeowners are advised to forego cultivating these lesser-known invasive ferns, since they can easily spread and invade even pristine natural areas (and in one case, hybridize with a Florida threatened fern).  Several of these species are similar in appearance to natives, so if you are interested in removing invasive ferns from your yard but are uncertain about their identity, then you may want to consult an experienced botanist first, so you do not remove a rare species.  To learn more about invasive ferns, go to the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council website at www.fleppc.org.  Here you can find a list of our state's worst invasive species and links to information on Old World climbing fern.

Jennifer Possley is the GIS Lab Coordinator and a Field Biologist at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. 

Drawings by Barbara Joe Hoshizaki, from Fern Grower's Manual by Barbara Joe Hoshizaki and Robbin C. Moran, copyright 2001 by Timber Press, Inc. are available in the print newsletter.


Nelson, G.  2000.  The Ferns of Florida.  Pineapple Press Inc., Sarasota, FL.

Additional references can be obtained upon request. 

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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 ( 305-595-5541, 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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