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Newsletter - June 2011

Monthly Meeting
Upcoming Field Trip
Message from the President
Chapter Board Election
Dade Chapter and FNPS News
Other News and Events
News from the FNPS Conference
Native Plant Name Notes: Vanilla barbellata
Contacts for DCFNPS


June 11: Chapter workday, Everglades National Park
June 25:  Field trip: Restoration site and Kendall Indian Hammocks Park - Yard visit (following the field trip)
June 28: Monthly meeting at Pinecrest Gardens

July 23: Annual Evening Yard Visit and Social Meeting.
Roger Hammer's home in Homestead. 
Yard tour at 4pm followed by potluck dinner.
Details TBA.  (No meeting at Pinecrest Gardens.)


Tuesday, June 28, 7:30 pm.  Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 SW 57 Ave (Red Road). Free and open to the public.

Refreshments and merchandise sales begin at 7:15 pm. and continue after the program (cash/checks for only for sales).

A plant raffle follows the programPlease label your raffle donations with the plant name to avoid "mystery plants."

Program: Why the Future May Not Look Quite Like the Past: The Science and Art of Ecological Restoration - Wesley R. Brooks, Ph.D. Candidate in Ecology and Evolution, Rutgers University

With every remaining preserve in Miami-Dade County impacted significantly in some way by human activities, the future of these lands is increasingly reliant on the promise of ecological restoration to successfully conserve their plant and animal species. Unfortunately, overwhelmingly successful restoration projects are rare and are often perceived as cost-prohibitive. Some basic principles of ecological restoration will be introduced followed by an exploration of how our definition and application of restoration may need to be adapted to accommodate new challenges including species invasions and climate change. Wes's experimental restoration of a hardwood hammock in Kendall, which was funded with a 2008 FNPS Conservation Grant Award, will serve as an instructive example. See this restoration site in person on the field trip the weekend prior to this program.

Wes is completing his Ph.D. research in Ecology and Evolution at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, under the advisorship of Dr. Rebecca C. Jordan. His research has sought to examine how species invasions may be controlled by native communities and natural ecological processes, and how to incorporate this knowledge into developing cost-effective restoration practices. He has studied both fish and plant communities through field work conducted in Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, and hardwood hammock sites throughout Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys. He was born in Miami-Dade County and joined FNPS as a student at Miami Killian Senior High School.


Saturday, June 25

If the weather is very bad, please call to confirm.  Field trips and yard visits are for the study of plants and enjoyment of nature by FNPS members and guests. Collecting is not permitted. Children are welcome.

Part I: FIELD TRIP,  9 - 10:45 am - Kendall Indian Hammocks Park and"Swamp Fern Hammock" Restoration Site.

Swamp Fern Hammock, June 2009
Swamp Fern Hammock, June 2009 - Photo by Wes Brooks

Swamp Fern Hammock, February 2011
Swamp Fern Hammock, February 2011 - Photo by Wes Brooks

Kendall Indian Hammocks Park (KIHP) is approximately 105 acres in size but natural areas comprise only about 40 acres of this total. This hammock preserve is one of the least diverse for its size in the county and more similar in composition to those in Central Florida than most other Miami Rock Ridge hammocks. For this field trip, we’ll walk through some of the trails taking note of the natives and exotics present and explore some of the unique characteristics of this site that explain its current flora. We will also look for Mistletoe Cactus (Rhipsalis baccifera), recently re-introduced to the park by the Center for Tropical Plant Conservation at Fairchild Tropical Garden. Later, we will contrast KIHP with the FNPS-funded restoration of nearby "Swamp Fern Hammock" which Wes has been conducting since 2009.  Come to Wes's June 28 program to learn more.

Afterwards, those interested can walk or drive to the home of Ana Brooks for a yard visit less than two blocks away.

Time, address and directions are in the newsletter mailed to members.  Please join to enjoy all the activities of the chapter!

  •  Difficulty: Easy but not on paved paths.
  •  Bring: Plenty to drink and sun protection. 
  •  Leader: Wes Brooks.
  •  Lost?  Wes’ cell (305-505-4038).

Part II: YARD VISIT, 11am - 12:30 pm - Pineland and hammock plantings at the home of Ana Brooks (and the yard of her son, Wes) (Come just for the yard visit or continue from the field trip.)

This zero-lot line property in the suburbs is an example of all that's possible even with very little space. The plantings were begun in the back yard in 1999 and feature nearly 200 native species in natural settings modeled after hammock and pine rockland habitats. This yard was the recipient of an FNPS Landscape Award in 2008.

  • Who is invited: FNPS members and their guests.
  • Bring: Water and sun protection
  • If more information is needed: Call Wes at 305-505-4038. 


Last month our chapter elected a new board of directors.  I want to thank outgoing long time board member Patty Harris for her work and commitment to our chapter.  Her presence will be missed.  We welcome new board member Dr. Eric Von Wettburg.  His scientific background and special interest in plant conservation will be a valuable addition to our board.  Thanks to the timeless work of the whole board this past year.  Without them, we could not function.

I want to congratulate our state organization for putting on an exceptional conference this year.  It was an uplifting experience to meet so many people who care and are committed to nature and native plants.  After having attended my first conference, I would like everyone to consider attending the May 2012 conference in Plant City.  Plan ahead to take a different kind of vacation and enjoy the wonderful resources our state has to offer.

Speaking of resources, mark your calendars for our Evening Yard Visit and Social meeting in July at Roger Hammer's!

--Ted Shaffer


The new Dade Chapter board was elected at the annual meeting on May 24, 2011. 

Elected for 2011-2013 terms:  Susan Walcutt, Treasurer; Amy Leonard, Secretary; Amida Frey, Eric von Wettberg and Vivian Wadell, Directors at Large.

Elected for 2011-2012 terms: Buck Reilly,Vice President; Gita Ramsay and Lynka Woodbury, Directors at Large.  

Remaining on the board in the same position for the second year of their terms: Ted Shaffer, President; Lauren McFarland, Director at Large.

Welcome to our new board member, Dr. Eric Von Wettberg:

"I am a conservation geneticist with a joint appointment as an assistant professor in Florida International University's Biology Department and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's Center for Tropical Plant Conservation. I study how responses of plants to soil stress are controlled by genetic and environmental factors and work with both crops and native plants.  I am particularly interested in rare plants that are restricted to particular soil types, such as pine rockland and marl prairie.  My research is closely tied to my teaching, and I am committed to the education and research training of graduate and undergraduate students as well as high school student interns.

"Current projects include studies of salt tolerance of wild alfalfa, domestication of chickpea, and conservation management planning using genetic data for Sargent's cherry palm (Pseudophoenix sargentii), the Keys' tree cactus (Pilosocereus robinii), the Miccosuke gooseberry (Ribes echinellium), the Big Pine partridge pea (Chameacrisa lineata var keyensis), and Harper's beauty (Harperocallis flava).  In addition to scientific and educational activities, I value the dissemination of science to wider audiences.  In this vein, I served on the board of the Rhode Island Sierra club and consulted for the Nantucket Conservation Foundation while a graduate student in New England."

Amy Leonard, Secretary

Editor's note: Bios for the returning board members can be found in past newsletters online: July 2006, September 2006, July 2007, June 2009 and June 2010.


Chapter workday at Everglades National Park, June11

9 am-noon.  Help with our native plant habitat landscaping maintenance around the Coe Visitors Center.  Drinks, gloves and hand tools are provided, but you may want to bring your own, and snacks to share.  Bring sun protection!  New helpers are welcome and encouraged to come.  Everyone in your car gets into ENP free after the workday.  For more information contact Patty Phares (305-255-6404,

Welcome new members.  Russell Hunt, Nancy Martini, Sandra Nojaim (all in Miami-Dade)

Tillandsia correction.  In the original version of the May 2011 Tillandsia, the photo of Jamaican dogwood flowers in "The Fabulous Florida Fish Fuddle Tree" was in error.  A correct photo (by Roger Hammer) can be seen in the May newsletter.  Readers who downloaded the first May pdf version or received the print Tillandsia would have seen the incorrect photo.

Seeds and seed baggers needed.  If you have native plant seeds to share or would like to help put seeds into packets for distribution at events, please contact Amy Leonard, or 305-458-0969.  This activity will be scheduled at a future time.  Tree, shrub and wildflower seeds of most species in your yard (from local seed sources) are desired.

Tillandsia editor (or editors) needed.  If you need a little nudge, here it is: the opportunity is still open and you might be the perfect addition to the Tillandsia staff.  If you have some talent for composing text or doing layout or gathering content, please don't hesitate!  You will be provided with whatever help you need to get started.  You can ease into it if needed. Ted Shaffer, President,, Amy Leonard,

Broward Native Plant Society.  Meets 7-9pm at the Agricultural Extension Service, 3245 College Ave., Davie.  954-370-3725 or 

  • June 15:  Bring your favorite dish to share in the potluck dinner.  Games, door prize, fabulous eats!  (Note date change.)

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Dade Native Plant Workshop.  MDC Kendall campus Landscape Technology Center.  3rd Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Contact Steve at or 786-488-3101; see  Bring at least three plants (especially flowering/fruiting), even if they do not pertain to the topic.  Beginners and old hands are ALL encouraged to come.  

  • June 21: Natives and their closely resembling exotics. Do I really have a native firebush? Which necklace pod is native to Florida?  Marlberry vs. shoebutton ardisia.  Lantana good or Lantana bad? And more. This will be a fun, informative evening! 

National Pollinator Week, June 20-26.  See a variety of information at  Under Useful Resources > Gardens, read "Home-Made Sweet Homes" to learn about building native bee nesting boxes.  Read about the effect of invasive non-native plants on pollinators, the importance of pollinators in providing berries and seeds that sustain songbirds, and even some comments from a familiar South Florida blogger.  A 2011 Native Bees Poster  (free, you pay S&H) is not specific to Florida but is so full of action that it practically buzzes.


Several Dade Chapter members or Miami-Dade residents made news at the annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference, May 26 to 29, 2011, in Maitland.

Gwen Burzycki was presented with a Green Palmetto Award for Service, for which she was nominated by her former colleague and FNPS member, Jean Evoy.

Gwen has been a member of FNPS since 1988 and served on the Dade Chapter board for seven years, including as president, overseeing the Chapter's incorporation, and treasurer.  She has been very strong voice for native plants since she arrived in Florida.  She has used her expertise to help the Dade Chapter, presenting countless programs at Native Plant Day, chapter meetings and garden clubs; leading field trips; growing plants; and helping with many other chapter activities.  She was a co-chair of the 2000 FNPS Conference Committee and instrumental in starting - and continuing - the chapter's restoration project at the Everglades National Park Coe Visitor Center.

Since 1990, Gwen has worked for the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM).  Cynthia Guerra of DERM's Environmentally Endangered Lands Program says, "In her capacity as Biologist and Special Projects Administrator, Gwen is an unrivaled resource of vast knowledge and experience in managing, protecting and conserving the many unique and special habitats of Miami-Dade County, especially subtropical freshwater and coastal wetlands.  As Preserve Manager of the South Dade Wetlands Environmentally Endangered Lands Preserve, she applies her expert technical analysis, natural resources planning and land stewardship skills to the vast acreage of tree islands, marshes and prairies that connect Everglades National Park to Biscayne National Park.  Gwen has been recognized by DERM for her outstanding work on wetland classification and land management.  She has also been intimately involved in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan since it began as a ‘restudy’ of South Florida’s water management system, helping to develop the Plan’s conceptual design and providing critical feedback on restoration alternatives and performance measures as project components have moved forward.  Besides being a dedicated land manager and caring so passionately for our shared natural resources, Gwen has also mentored many who have had the privilege of working for her and with her at the Department and beyond." 

We congratulate Gwen and thank her for her environmental efforts and for sharing her talents and good cheer with DCFNPS!

Steve Woodmansee was elected president of FNPS by the state board to fill the last year of the position vacated early by President Ann Redmond, who has moved out of state.  He previously served as VP for Finance for 3 years.  Steve is a past Dade Chapter President and our botany go-to person, so no wonder that he also won first place in the Advanced Plant ID Contest at the conference.  A bouquet of lawn weeds to Steve!

Florida International University and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden graduate student Tonya Fotinos was awarded a FNPS Conservation Grant for her research on the genetic diversity in the Federally Endangered Keys Tree Cactus, Pilosocereus robinii.   P. robinii is endemic to the Florida Keys and has experienced a more than 80% decline in population in the past decade through habitat loss and environmental change.  Reintroductions will be necessary to support the recovery of P. robinii and an assessment of the genetic diversity is essential for the success of these efforts.  This grant will provide supplies to develop molecular markers to determine whether remaining populations are reproducing sexually, and help identify good candidate populations for the on-going reintroduction efforts.

Landscape Awards were presented for two local projects.

  • In Miami-Dade, the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority received an Award of Honor in the Transportation category for its "Welcome Gateway" on SR 836.  The designer was Leticia Fernandez-Beraud, ASLA, of Fernandez-Beraud, Inc.  This project will be profiled in the July-August Tillandsia.
  • In the Keys, the ocean-side residence of Dr. Joseph and Susan Sachs in Islamorada received an Award of Excellence in the Residential-Professional category.  The designer was Richard Brown, ASLA, of Brown and Crebbin Studio, Inc. in Tavernier.  The Sachs and Richard Brown are all members of the Dade Chapter FNPS.

The Sachs' residence.  Native habitats were restored and large trees preserved near the house and driveway.  A meandering pathway of sand screenings leads through an area of restored tropical hardwood hammock with green buttonwood, paradise tree, seagrape, Jamaican caper and Florida Thatch palm.  A colorful and contrasting blend of native and non native plants was used near the house to develop a hierarchy and interest. The landscaping used 81% native species.

Driveway as it approaches the house and the parking courtyard

Driveway as it approaches the house and the parking courtyard. The driveway was aligned to preserve the large Green buttonwood that can be seen on the left at the curve of the driveway. The green buttonwood, shortleaf fig and mahogany line the driveway.  The driveway is bordered with brick and covered with crushed rock to facilitate drainage.

The vista of the Atlantic Ocean

The vista of the Atlantic Ocean as it is revealed once you walk through the beach berm plantings speaks for itself.

NATIVE PLANT NAME NOTES: Vanilla barbellata

by Chuck McCartney

The genus Vanilla and its relatives form a separate subfamily of the Orchidaceae. Although the Epidendroideae (the largest group of the orchid family and the one that includes most of the orchids now cultivated)  may be relatively recently evolved, modern research at the molecular level has led scientists to think that the subfamily Vanilloideae is much older, dating back at least 72 million years. Or, as Dr. Kenneth M. Cameron, one of the leading experts on this group of orchids, says, "They were definitely around before the dinosaurs left us." Cameron, formerly with The New York Botanical Garden and now a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, is the author of the new book Vanilla Orchids: Natural History and Cultivation from Timber Press.

Vanilla barbellata
Fruits of V. barbellata photographed in the rocky glades west of
Homestead. June 7, 1982, by Chuck McCartney

Vanilla barbellata
V. barbellata photographed in the lower Florida Keys,
June 4, 1988, by Chuck McCartney

Vanilla, along with some of its relatives, represents a fascinating group of orchids, one of the few where the plants grow as vines. Most people are familiar with the popular flavoring called vanilla and many know that real vanilla extract (as opposed to the synthetic substitutes) comes primarily from the fermented seed capsules, or "beans," of the species called Vanilla planifolia. Europeans learned of this taste treat after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures in the early 16th Century. In fact, the botanical name Vanilla comes from the Spanish word vainilla, a diminutive of vaina, meaning "pod" or "sheath," in allusion to the slender, fleshy, bean-like fruits. There is debate among botanists as to who exactly established the genus. Older texts credit it to Swede Olof Swartz in 1799. However, recent sources, including the online World Checklist of Selected Plant Families maintained by Britain’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, say the genus was created by 17th Century French cleric and plant explorer Charles Plumier and was published in the fourth edition of Philip Miller’s Gardener’s Dictionary in 1754. The type species for the genus is now considered to be Vanilla mexicana, another, albeit, rare, native Florida orchid.

The distribution of Vanilla in all tropical areas of the world (except Australia) probably also argues for the great age of the group. Cameron and fellow researchers think these orchids may have evolved in what is today northern South America when it was part of the giant southern supercontinent of Gondwana and spread from there to other parts of the supercontinent. Gondwana then split apart, with portions drifting away to form South America, Africa, Madagascar, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian subcontinent, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica. The Vanilla ancestors went with these diverging remnants of Gondwana that settled into the tropics of the globe (except, as noted, for Australia).

Kew’s invaluable website World Checklist of Selected Plant Families ( shows 105 species for the genus Vanilla, with 31 species listed from Southeast Asia through New Guinea, 24 species in Africa and Madagascar, and about 55 species in the Americas. South Florida, at the northern edge of the American tropics, is blessed with six species of Vanilla – more or less. Two species are relatively common (Vanilla barbellata, Vanilla phaeantha), one is rare (Vanilla mexicana), a fourth is possibly extirpated in the wild (Vanilla dilloniana), a fifth may have been introduced by man in pre-Columbian times (Vanilla planifolia), and the sixth has never been recorded from a non-horticultural source (Vanilla pompona).

Vanilla barbellata is the most widespread of Florida’s vanillas. It is found across the southern tip of the mainland (now mostly in Everglades National Park) as well as on islands of the Florida Keys. The species was first described by H.G. Reichenbach the younger in 1865, based on a specimen from Cuba. It is also recorded from the Bahamas, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and some of the Leeward Islands.

Sometimes called Link Vine but now more commonly called Worm Vine, the name Snake Vine might be just as apt, considering how long and thick the vining stems are. Nevertheless, this is one of the so-called "leafless" vanillas.  In truth, though, a small, bract-like leaf sprouts from the stem node nearest the growing tip, but this soon withers and falls away, resulting in the plant being essentially leafless. Photosynthesis for food production is carried on by chlorophyll in the succulent green stems.

These leafless vanillas of the New World tropics are an interesting group because they may be of African origin. Cameron says, "DNA evidence confirms that the leafless species of Florida and the Caribbean (e.g., V. barbellata) are most closely related to and evolved from African species. There are lots of leafless vanillas in Africa and especially Madagascar."

Typical of most vanillas, the plants of Vanilla barbellata start out on the ground, then grow up a nearby tree, heading for sunlight, where they can bloom. By the time the plants reach sufficient light to induce flowering, they sometimes can become bronzy- to orange-colored and not look particularly healthy.

In South Florida, Vanilla barbellata generally blooms in early to midsummer. The relatively large flowers (to three inches across) are among the showiest orchids at the southern end of the state. The flowers have green to bronzy-green sepals and lateral petals and an attractive tubular lip that is a beautiful reddish-magenta color with a ruffled margin rimmed in white. The center line of the lip’s midlobe is adorned with a thin trail of raised yellow, scale-like trichomes (hairs) extending to the slightly curled tip. Behind this line of small bumps, the throat of the lip features a tuft of backward-pointing (retrorse) trichomes that is thought to be important in the flower’s pollination process, which most probably involves bees. This tuft of hairs accounts for the species epithet barbellata, which can be translated from the Latin as "with a little beard." A similar tuft of hairs is found in flowers of most Vanilla species.

Because this is a Vanilla, the flowers might be expected to smell like vanilla extract, but, oddly, they don’t. Instead, the fragrance reminds some of the smell of one of those old-fashioned oily suntan lotions, such as Coppertone.

Typical of most vanillas, a blossom of Vanilla barbellata lasts less than 24 hours, but the plant is successive-flowered. That means as the open flower fades, there are other buds in the inflorescence awaiting their moment in the sun.


For more about our native Vanilla species, see Chuck McCartney’s article titled "Florida’s Vanillas" in the May issue of Orchids magazine, published by the American Orchid Society. The article includes color photos by Chuck and fellow Dade FNPS chapter members Steve Woodmansee and Keith Bradley, along with shots by Everglades National Park Botanist Jimi Sadle and local professional photographer Saul Friess.

Chuck is a member of FNPS and a fourth-generation South Floridian, raised in Homestead.  He is a former editor of the American Orchid Society's AOS Bulletin and the Awards Quarterly and was a copy editor with The Miami Herald’s Broward Edition, before retiring in 2009.  He has written extensively about orchids for numerous publications.


Joyce Gann's Mom's house.  Living room, dining area, kitchen, master bedroom & bath, laundry room, garage, plus Florida room overlooking a bird & butterfly garden designed and installed by FNPS members.  Your own entry garden could be designed by you! 

Cooled by FL breezes - AC seldom needed. Walk or bike to grocery, drugstore and other shops, post office, Miami-Dade College and other educational institutions. 

Call Cathy Cotton, 305-235-2313.


Chapter Contacts

Dade Chapter Board members:

President: Ted Shaffer,, 305-944-1290
Vice-President: Buck Reilly,, 786-291-4824
Secretary: Amy Leonard,, 305-458-0969
Treasurer: Susan Walcutt,
At Large: Amida Frey,  Lauren McFarland, Gita Ramsay, Eric von Wettberg, Vivian Waddell, Lynka Woodbury
FNPS board: Lynka Woodbury,

Mailing address:

Dade Chapter FL Native Plant Society
6619 South Dixie Highway, #181
Miami FL 33143-7919

General information: 786-340-7914,

Refreshment coordinator: Gita Ramsay,, 786-877-7168

Membership: Patty Phares, 305-255-6404

DCFNPS Web page:

DCFNPS Facebook:

Webmasters: Greg Ballinger and Haniel Pulido Jr.,

Tillandsia editors: Rachel King,, 786-897-0916

State Organization

FNPS Chapter representative: Lynka Woodbury,

FNPS Web Page:

FNPS Blog:

FNPS Facebook:

FNPS Twitter:

FNPS Eco Action Alert List:Send email request to

FNPS (state) office: 321-271-6702,