Chapter History

Draft April 22, 2010
Except as noted, the history applies to Dade County activities (the Keys Branch activities are listed separately).

The beginning (as related by Joyce Gann)

The Dade Chapter was founded in late 1981 or early 1982.  In 1980, Dick Workman and Bill Partington sent out a call to people all over the state who were interested in native plants to come to a meeting to organize a Native Plant Society.  Joyce and Don Gann were growing natives in their nursery and Joyce and Don attended.  It was clear that FNPS would happen, and Joyce agreed to help start chapters in the southern counties.  People stepped forward in several counties to form chapters, but not in Dade.  Eventually, the locals asked "Why not here?" and Joyce turned her attention homeward.

In December 1981, Dr. John Popenoe, Director of Fairchild Tropical Garden (later "Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden") offered table space at its festival, the Ramble, to promote FNPS and sign up interested people in Dade County.  The response was terrific.  An organizational meeting was held in early 1982, filling the room (the same room filled today at chapter meetings), and the chapter was born. Joyce Gann served as the founding president. 

Dr. Robert (Bob) Kelley, President of Tropical Audubon Society, gave considerable support and guidance to start the chapter.  TAS donated $50 and the use of the Doc Thomas House for board meetings.  Bob helped write the bylaws and provided other organizational assistance, and gave generous moral support as well.  He was a member, sometimes board member, advisor and supporter until his death in 2006.

Participants in an older organization, the Dade Native Plant Workshop (NPW) which has been in existence since the 1950s, also became some of the chapter's early active members.  Initially, the chapter tagged along on Native Plant Workshop field trips instead of organizing chapter trips.    A few years later, the chapter started organizing the field trips as FNPS / NPW trips.

In the beginning, activities included meetings, field trips (with the Native Plant Workshop), occasional community planting projects, yard visits, participation at community events, and the annual Chapter Conferences.  The chapter's Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award was presented at the chapter conference in 1982 to 1989.  Later the conference evolved into Native Plant Day (beginning in1991) and the MSD Award was suspended.  The chapter also hosted the state FNPS conference in 1990 and 2000.

In addition to Native Plant Day (or the Chapter Conference before that), the major outreach activity has been a display and plant sale at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's Ramble.  The chapter has been present at The Ramble every year since its inception.  This involves considerable preparation for the display, coordinating plant vendors and recruiting volunteers.

In 1988, FNPS began assigning residents of the Keys to the Dade Chapter.  In 1999, FNPS members in the Florida Keys formed a "Keys Branch" and began having meetings and field trips.  Longtime member and Florida Park Biologist Jim Duquesnel, led the effort.

The formation of the chapter fostered connections and collaboration between residents who previously did not know each other. This soon helped reach a significant conservation achievement.  In the mid-1980s, chapter member Lisbeth Britt recognized that small Dade County conservation lands were going to be lost to development.  Without the help of the county government, she conceived of a way to group small parcels into what became The Tropical Hammocks of the Redland and The Miami Rockridge Pinelands for submission to the state's C.A.R.L. program.  With the support from Dade Chapter FNPS and other organizations and plant surveys provided by the Native Plant Workshop, the proposals were approved funded.

Joyce Gann also remembers how in the 1980s, commercial landscaping projects succeeded because of the connections established through FNPS.  One example is the Miami Beach Boardwalk, where the design team of Bill O'Leary and Associates and Landscape Architect (and chapter member) Dan Sawyer interacted with DCFNPS to develop a native plant palette for the boardwalk along the ocean front, which is today a lush and thriving landscape.