Stimulate the Five Senses through Your Garden Submitted by Jackie Edwards, Guest Blogger 
“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden” (Robert Brault). 

Gardening provides many miraculous benefits for a child’s development including fine motor skills, math skills, responsibility, and science. Children that spend time outside are also happier as the landscape helps to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase attention. When combining gardening with the use of all senses, you can further increase the benefits.
A sensory garden is designed to stimulate all five senses. Multi-sensory environments impact brain development and are therefore extremely beneficial for kids with sensory processing disorders caused by autism, brain injuries, and premature birth. It can be therapeutic and a gentle way to explore their senses. They can either focus on one sense or tackle multiple areas at once. For children who don’t have sensory processing disorders…

Wednesday's Wildflower: Tennessee Leafcup

TENNESSEE LEAFCUP,Polymnia laevigata Beadle Aster Family (Asteraceae) Submitted by Roger Hammer

The lower leaves of this species reach 6"–12" long and 4"–6" wide and are deeply and raggedly cut with pointed lobes, reducing in size up the stem with few or no lobes. The 3'–6' stems are glabrous (smooth). The flower heads are about ½" wide, subtended by a whorl of leafy bracts, and with 3-toothed ray florets and male disk florets.
It flowers in June and July in damp, shaded woodlands of Jackson County in the Florida panhandle. The best place to see it is to hike the trails in Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, Florida (Jackson County).
Polymnia relates to the mythological Greek muse Polymnia, daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne and the inspirational goddess of sacred music and dance. The name laevigata means “smooth” for the glabrous stems. The common name relates to where the type specimen was collected in 1897 (Franklin County, Tennessee) by botanist Chaunce…

Wednesday's Wildflower: Atlantic Pigeonwings

ATLANTIC PIGEONWINGS, Clitoria mariana L. Pea Family (Fabaceae) Submitted by Roger Hammer, Dade Chapter

The upper leaves of this vining species have 3 ovate to ovate-lanceolate leaflets that reach up to 2½" long and ¾" wide. The violet or pink flowers reach 2" long. A similar, related, endemic species (Clitoria fragrans) has narrower leaflets, sweetly fragrant flowers, and is known only from the Lake Wales Ridge in Lake, Orange, Polk, and Highlands Counties.
Atlantic pigeonwings blooms in March and continues into October, so look for it in sandhills, scrub, and forest margins throughout much of mainland Florida. For butterfly gardeners, it is a larval host plant of the long-tailed skipper, hoary edge, and southern cloudywing butterflies.
Clitoria alludes to the similarity of the keel of the flower to a clitoris on female genitalia. When the rather risqué genus was first named by Carolus Linnaeus (1707–1778) in 1753, he received sharp criticism from other taxonomists of the t…

In Touch: Teaching children to value and respect the wilderness and the creatures that live there.

Submitted by by Steve Franklin, Guest blogger

I feel certain that, like me, most of you can recall more than one occasion when you didn’t explain your thoughts about a subject as well as know you can. I’m currently experiencing one of those moments.

On the day before Earth Day, a few other volunteers and I conducted an educational field trip event for the first graders from Lake Alfred Elementary School. My portion of the program involved taking them for a short hike on one of the trails at Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve, which is located in the City of Lake Alfred.

Throughout the hike, I was discussing map reading, hiking safety, trail etiquette, and what it means to be a good steward of the land. However, I’m not certain that I did a good enough job of explaining the importance of being thoughtful and considerate of others when we’re out to enjoy the clean, wholesome fun that nature-related activities provide. Did I instill in them a new appreciation of nature and a concern f…

Wednesday’s Wildflower: Seaside Gentian

Seaside Gentian: Eustoma exultatum Submitted by Beryn Harty, Miami-Dade Chapter, resident of the lower Florida Keys

The beautiful Seaside Gentian, Eustoma exultatum, is a herbaceous wildflower found in brackish to fresh wet coastal areas, and inland in wet prairies. The stunning flowers are usually a shade of light to medium purple with a dark purple center, but some flowers appear almost white with dark purple centers.

Eustoma means wide or beautiful wide-open mouth (referring to the flower’s shape), while exaltatum means tall. These flowers may reach several feet high, with gray-green leaves that clasp the stem.

Family Name:Gentianaceae Genus/Species: Eustoma exultatum Common Name(s): Seaside Gentian Native Range: Southeastern, midwestern and western United States south to the Monroe County Keys; West Indies, Mexico, Central America and South America Hardiness zone: 10-11 Soil Type: wet, poorly drained Preferred Sun: Full Height at maturity: 1’ to 3’ Propagation: (seed, seedling) Dried pods …

Wednesday's Wildflower: Southern Beeblossom

Southern Beeblossom, Onenothera simulansSubmitted by Jean Evoy, a 30-year veteran of FNPS. She has been active in several chapters including Miami-Dade, Serenoa, and Mangrove.

Southern Beeblossom is a common wildflower of roadsides, fields, dunes and open woods in Florida.  It used to be called Gaura angustifolia, but a few years ago the evening primrose family underwent extensive revisions and G. angustifolia, was renamed Oenothera simulans along with several other species of that were included in the genus Gaura.
Southern Beeblossom has slender, branched, hairy stems that may reach six feet. The leaves are reduced on the upper parts of the plant and tiny flowers are found near the ends of wand-like stems. The flowers are white when they open in the evening.They become pinkish the following day before withering.As the name beeblossom indicates, the flowers are attractive to many insects, including bees, butterflies and moths. 

If you look very closely you can see six to eight long-stemm…

Wednesday’s Wildflower: Drumheads

Polygala cruciata, Drumheads
Text, photos and poetry by Donna Bollenbach. Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society


Some native flowers are greatly admired, but have yet to make it into our gardens. One is the showy Drumhead, Polygala cruciata. With a few exceptions, Drumheads are found throughout Florida. Like many members of the Polygalaceae or Milkwort family, they like moist, open habitats and are found in moist prairies, the edges of marshes, and wet  pinelands.

The Drumhead is an annual. It's conical pink to lavender flowers are arranged on elliptical heads. What most people refer to as the “flower” is a composite of pink, spiky sepals surrounding a tiny yellowish white flower.  As the flower fades, the sepals remain for several weeks, forming the "drumhead." While the nested sepals may give the impression of little crosses, the scientific name "cruciate" refers to the shape of the 4-angled stem. The short, linear leaves occur in whorls of 4 …