Sunday, January 29, 2012

Landscape Design: A Primer - Part 2

By Laurie Sheldon

Diagram of the Design Process, adapted  from Simonds,
John Ormsbee.  Landscape Architecture – A Manual of
Site Planning and Design.
Introduction - Summing up Part 1
In my previous blog I listed the series of steps, collectively known as the Design Process, which Landscape Architects employ when designing outdoor spaces - regardless of scale. This methodological approach to design enables the Landscape Architect to clearly identify the optimal arrangement between the elements they hope to incorporate into a landscape and its existing natural and constructed features. It includes the following:

1. Statement of Intent
2. Procurement of a Topographic Survey
3. Site Inventory and Analysis
4. Program Development
5. Conceptual Diagramming
6. Diagram Selection
7. Master/Site Plan and Design Development Documents

A brief recap of steps 1 & 2
1. Prepare of a Statement of Intent, wherein you will determine the scope of your project and identify project goals and objectives.
2. Obtain a topographic survey of your site, which be the foundational layer of information upon which your design is based, and can be obtained through various federal, state, and city/county resources.

Now that I've caught you up to speed or refreshed your memory, let's move on to Step 3: Site Inventory & Analysis.


A Topographic Survey of your Site (Step 2) will act as the
"Base Map" for  your Inventory & Analysis (Step 3)
Site Inventory is the process of taking stock of what exists on a project site and the adjacent areas, and where those items are. It is a quantitative means of developing a sense of place.

Site Analysis, on the other hand, is qualitative. It answers the question "So What?" as it relates to the inventory you've gathered. A comprehensive Site Analysis is an invaluable tool for determining the most and least suitable locations for the various elements and activities that you or your client hope to incorporate into your site (which are also referred to collectively as your “program”).

The lists below represent the categories and specific items that you should inventory, analyze, and map - to scale - on the Topographic Survey that you obtained in Step 2. A list of resources for researching these items is provided at the end of the article. We will refer to this as your "Base Map." If you are not comfortable preparing drawings with an engineer's scale, consider enlarging or reducing your Survey with a photocopy machine until you can get its graphical scale to register at 10' = 1". At that point you can copy it onto a sheet of graph paper so that measurements you gather outside will be much easier to translate into drawings. Use a pencil, PLEASE; we all make mistakes measuring at some point. If your notes are on top of one another or your drawings seem to be getting cluttered, don't hesitate to make several base maps - you can synthesize the inventory and analyses that inform your site design later on.


Analysis of the Topo Survey shown in the previous image
The Natural Environment
  • Climate: light, temperature (high and low averages), wind direction and intensity, moisture, annual precipitation, humidity, solar orientation (aspect) and their effects on human comfort. Any unusually hot, cold, windy, bright and/or dark spots (microclimates) should also be noted
  • Topography: slope gradients, landforms, spot elevations, drainage patterns
  • Soil: obtain a soil survey, which will provide detailed information about your soil’s genesis, classification(s), fertility, susceptibility to erosion, moisture content, pH, aeration/compaction, texture/gradation, organic content, and load bearing capacity
  • Geologic features: bedrock type, depth to bedrock, underlying hazards like sinkholes and faults, visible rock outcroppings
  • Hydrologic features: existing flood plains, rivers, lakes, marshes, streams, bogs, wetlands, watersheds, drainage patterns, water table depth, and underground springs. Note if any features are particularly outstanding or of poor quality.
  • Vegetation: existing types or varieties, including data about their sizes, locations, shade patterns, aesthetic value, and importance to wildlife
  • Existing wildlife: species and specific forage, habitat, water, and territorial needs
The Man-made Environment
In addition to annotations, this Site Analysis uses color
and graphic symbols to enhance its readability
  • Structural elements: buildings, fences, hardscaped areas
  • Movement patterns: vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle linkages on or near the site, major points of access and egress, mass transit
  • Utilities: electric, gas, sewer/septic tank, telephone, cable, water, and storm drains, including depth or height of each and their condition
  • Zoning and land use: current use of areas adjacent to the project site, zoning restrictions, property lines, easements, setbacks
  • Codes and Regulations: deed restrictions, building/landscape codes, ordinances, covenants
  • Historical features (if applicable): archeological sites; landmarks; building type, size, condition
  • Social elements: population, intensity, distribution, age composition, educational level, income level, ethnic or type; economic and political factors; social configurations of the residents; usage of the area; other social factors affecting usage of the area. Quite simply, you are planning for a particular user group or groups. Once you know who your intended users are, you can tailor your design decisions to best suit their needs and taste. 
  • Spatial elements: views into and from the site; sequential relationships of existing spaces

Although this may seem like an inordinate amount of work, you must bear in mind that we cannot successfully design with nature if we negatively impact the environment. Through the process of Inventory and Analysis we justify where the most intensive development should occur, where the sensitive areas are that need protection, and what the site's outstanding features are that should probably be accentuated.

Here are an example of how Site Inventory and Analysis can guide you in the Design Process, and how omitting this critical step can be a a costly mistake:

Analysis of aspect and users is the key
to making these courts fun to play on
  • After calculating rise/run, you discover a large, open square area with a 1 degree slope. Your topographic analysis tells you this is just the spot for locating the two adjacent tennis courts your client has asked for, but which direction should they go? If you consider the aspect (directional) component (in the climate category), you will lay them out running north to south. Why? Because by doing so, you eliminate your users (social category) from having to look directly into the sun when playing on the court. Make sense?
  • You decide that it's just not worth it to hire a Landscape Architect to give your home some "curb appeal," so you head over to the local big-box home improvement store, grab some annuals, shrubs, mulch, and couple of the guys hanging out in the parking lot looking for work. Once you return home, you instruct one of the men to dig holes for the shrubs. He picks up a shovel, plunges it into the ground, hits an electrical line and is badly injured. A proper inventory of the utility lines would have prevented this scene from happening... and an injured man on your front lawn has little "curb appeal."


I hope that you've enjoyed this installment of Landscape Design: A Primer, and will join me for Part 3, which will continue with Program Development - the fourth step in the Design Process.

Resources: 

Florida Climate Center Data http://coaps.fsu.edu/climate_center/data.shtml 
Florida Geological Survey, Data & Maps http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/gisdatamaps/index.htm 
Florida Online Soil Survey Manuscripts http://soils.usda.gov/survey/online_surveys/florida/ 
Survey-related Data http://data.labins.org/2003/ 
Florida Utility Location http://www.callsunshine.com/ 
Municipal Codes & Ordinances http://www.municode.com/library/FL
Nat'l Register of Historic Places, Florida http://nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/fl/state.html 
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, Emilie Shaw, who was 98 years old when she passed away three days ago. In 1958, she selected a lot for building her Miami home based upon her inventory and analysis of its vegetation...specifically, its Live Oak trees, one of which, as she was told, was already over 100 years old. After seven category 3+ hurricanes, her tree remains the focal point of the street-facing side of her home.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Plant Profile: Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Figure 1. Eastern redbud  roots can be used to make red colored dye.
Photo credit: S.B. Johnny
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cercis_canadensis
This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student authors: Alexis Crouch, Ashley Bridell, and Christina Adams


Cercis canadensis, the eastern redbud, can be found along the eastern coast of the United States, from Florida to New Jersey, and as far west as Texas. It can handle a variety of growing conditions, and temperatures ranging from -18° F in the winter to the 90°+ F Florida summers. Redbud grows best in direct sun in the northern parts of its range, but grows happily as an understory tree in the south. It prefers moist soils and does not do particularly well in salty conditions.

The eastern redbud is an aesthetically pleasing plant, with gorgeous purple red flowers that bloom in March (Figure 1). The tree depends on bees for pollination. The fruit pod will stay on the tree when the leaves fall off in autumn. When the pea-pod shaped fruit is mature, the pod will open and the seeds can be dispersed by the wind. Songbirds such as the Caroline chickadee and the northern bobwhite enjoy the seeds. You may also see a deer visit to eat the leaves!

Unfortunately, the redbud can get dieback. Dieback is a fungus that is first seen in the leaves and branches of the plant. The fungi will slowly cause the leaves and flowers to wilt, and then the branches will start to become brittle and turn almost a black color. You can prune off dieback, but if you are not careful you can spread the fungi to other plants in your garden. Make sure to wash and sterilize your pruning shears before pruning anything else!

You can purchase this lovely tree at the following vendors: http://www.floridanativenurseries.org/plants/detail/cercis-canadensis

Works Cited:
Arbor Day Foundation. (n.d.). Redbud, eastern ceris canadensis. Retrieved from
http://www.arborday.org/treeguide/TreeDetail.cfm?id=6

Dickerson, James, G. (n.d.). Cercis canadensis l. eastern redbubd. Retrieved from
http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/cercis/canadensis.htm

University of Texas at Austin. (n.d.). Cercis canadensis l.. Retrieved from
http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CECA4

Evans, Erv. (n.d.). Cercis canadensis. Retrieved from
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/factsheets/trees-new/cercis_canadensis.html

Mancil, Clint. (n.d.). Cercis canadensis. Retrieved from
https://fp.auburn.edu/sfws/sfnmc/class/erb.html
GrowGirl. (n.d.). Eastern redbud (cercis canadensis l.). Retrieved from
http://www.thegrowspot.com/know/f7/all-about-eastern-redbud-cercis-canadensis-9944.html

Smithsonian Zoological Park, . "Smithsonian Zoological Park Friends of the National Zoo." Backyard Biology: Plant of the Month. Smithsonian Zoological Park, n.d. Web. 15 Nov 2011.
http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/BackyardBiology/PlantoftheMonth/redbud.cfm .

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Plant Profile: Liatris gracilis Slender gayfeather

Figure 1. Liatris gracilis from Lake Louisa State Park, Florida.
Photo credit: D. Partwyka.
http://floridastateparks.org/lakelouisa/photogallery.cfm
This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student authors: Kristine Brown, Kristina Robbins, and Marc Rothe

Liatris gracilis, also known by the names slender blazing star and slender gayfeather, is a perennial herb. The specific epithet ‘gracilis’ means slender in Latin and refers to its single stem. This plant is native to the southeastern coastal region of North America, and is found in almost every county of Florida. The gayfeather is typically found in habitats such as flatwoods, sand hills, scrub, and deciduous woodlands, and especially where there is plenty of sunlight and well-drained soils. Liatris gracilis is incredibly tolerant of drought and also can survive in moist soils so long as those conditions do not persist for too long a period. It can be grown from seed and from the underground stems or corms.


Liatris gracilis is a moderately tall plant. The slender gayfeather usually grows to be 20-100 cm in height and is covered by fine hairs. The bud stalks or pedicels branch off of the single stem and each pedicel supports one flower. The flowers are small and purple and look like little stars (Figure 1).

Because of its striking appearance, Liatris gracilis is extremely popular to use in bouquets and floral arrangements. The slender gayfeather also produces nectar to attract butterflies, and for this reason they are common in butterfly gardens. Why not try growing one too?

Please visit this site for vendors of the gayfeather: http://www.floridanativenurseries.org/plants/detail/liatris-gracilis

Citation

"Performance of Native Florida Plants under North Florida." . N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov 2011. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/ep/ep34100.pdf .

"Slender Gayfeather." . N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov 2011. http://www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx=Liatgrac .

Liatris gracilis Slender Blazing Star. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov 2011. http://www.floridawildflowers.com/products/Liatris-gracilis-Slender Blazing-Star.html .

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Danger of Moving Firewood: Florida’s Newest Tree Disease

This redbay tree that has been killed by the terrible
laurel wilt disease. All the leaves turn
brown without warning.
If you have ever gone camping, you probably have moved firewood. It is a pretty natural thing to do.

However, today, Florida is rapidly loosing an important member of its forest tree and shrub diversity: members of the Lauraceae plant family are being killed by a new pathogen. The following trees and shrubs are susceptible to the laurel wilt disease: swampbay (Persea palustris), redbay (Persea borbonia), silkbay (Persea humilis), sassafras (Sassafras albidium), pondspice (Litsea aestivalis) and pondberry (Lindera melissaefolia), the last two are endangered species. Another concern is that avocado is a member of this family and it is also susceptible to the disease.

The disease is called laurel wilt and it is spread by a very small, 2 millimeter, beetle that carries a fungal pathogen. When the redbay ambrosia beetle bores into a tree of the Lauraceae it leaves behind some of the fungus and the fungus causes the death of the tree.

How does this relate to firewood?
The disease is spreading faster than it should because dead trees are being cut down and moved around the state, and into other states. The disease has now reached Alabama and Mississippi.

This is likely not the last we have heard of native forest trees being killed by exotic pests. The following pests have killed tens of millions of trees in the United States over the past few years:
The spicebush swallowtail butterfly depends upon the redbay and other
members of the laurel family for its larval food.
Emerald ash borer
Asian longhorned beetle
Dutch elm disease
Thousand cankers of walnut
Gypsy moth
Sirex woodwasp
It is possible all of these pests will end up in Florida at some point. Each one is only a car/truck trip away.
To dispose of dead trees, chip them with a tree chipper, bury the wood, or burn it.

Please do not move firewood. For more info on the "Don’t Move Firewood" movement, check out http://www.dontmovefirewood.org/
To learn more about laurel wilt go to:

http://www.extension.ufl.edu/hot_topics/environment/laurel_wilt.html
http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/foresthealth/laurelwilt/posters_presentations.shtml

Don Spence
Forest Pathologist, University of Florida
Certified Municipal Arboris
Native Florida Landscapes, LLC

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Plant Profile: Opuntia stricta (Shell Mound Pricklypear)

Figure 1. Opuntia stricta, Jacksonville University. Photo credit: J. Larsen.
This post is one of a series from Botany professor Nisse Goldberg's students at Jacksonville University. Student authors: Jenell Larsen, Brooke Comans, and Trey Collins.

Classification:

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllidae
Family: Cactaceae
Genus: Opuntia
Species: Opuntia stricta

Also known as the erect pricklypear, the shell mound pricklypear is a cactus that grows on shell mounds, coastal hammocks, and dunes. The erect pricklypear is found in the southeast and coastal states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, and South Carolina. It prefers sandy, well-drained soil. A long-lived plant, the shell mound pricklypear’s first flowers appear when the plant is three years old. 

The erect pricklypear can be identified by flat green segments that are not the leaves but the stems, which can measure up to 30 cm. It also has eyes that contain 0-11 spikes. The eyes of a cactus are called areola; areolas are the structures that spikes grow out of and the spikes are actually modified leaves. The areolas can grow roots when separated from their mother plant, which remain viable for months after detachment.

The bright yellow flowers bloom from February to July and are insect pollinated (Figure 1). Interestingly, ants can share a mutualistic relationship with Opuntia strica. The pricklypear provides the ants with nectar and the ants provide protection against herbivores. Mammals and birds eat the succulent, barrel-shaped fruits and are responsible for dispersing the seeds. Once deposited, the seeds can remain viable for as long as ten years.

Not only do animals find these fruits tasty, but so do humans. Pricklypear fruits, commonly called tunas, are sold fresh, canned or dried. They can be used in desserts, juices, jellies, spreads and shakes. In addition, they have many health benefits. Pricklypear fruits are used for their anti-inflammatory properties. They can also be used to lower sugar intake for type two diabetics and are found in laxatives and high cholesterol medications. The fruits may even aid in reducing the symptoms of alcohol hangovers!

Although Opuntia stricta is native to the state of Florida, it is invasive in other parts of the world, particularly in Australia. It is considered the oldest weed as it came to Australia on the first fleet. It was originally planted as a hedge to fence in cattle and also used for ornamental purposes. Used as a biological control, larvae of the Argentine cactus moth were successful in controlling populations of the cactus. In the United States, this moth is an invasive species and is threatening our erect pricklypear.

If you would like to have one in your garden, please visit the following link for vendors:
http://www.floridanativenurseries.org/plants/detail/opuntia-stricta

Bibliography

1. Plants database. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://plants.usda.gov/java/ClassificationServlet?source=profile&symbol=OPST2&display=31
2. Cactus. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.indoorflowers.net/cactus 3. Pickering. (n.d.). Opuntia stricta - erect pricklypear -- discover life. Retrieved from http://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20q?act=x_ant&path=Plantae/Dicotyledoneae/Cactaceae/Opuntia/stricta&name=Opuntiastricta&authority=(Haw.)Haw.&common_name=Erectpricklypear
4. Nature notes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.friendsofbarefootbeach.org/FOBB/NatureNotes/NatureNotes-pricklypearcactus.pdf
5. Dee. (n.d.). Common prickly pear (opuntia stricta). Retrieved from http://www.esc.nsw.gov.au/weeds/Sheets/shrubs/SPricklypear.htm
6. Opuntia stricta in flora of north america @ efloras.org. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=242415190
7. Bartomeu. (n.d.). strength of invasive plant. Retrieved from http://www.uab.es/PDF/PDF_1212962705656_en.pdf
8. Robbins, Miller EX. (1970). An error occurred setting your user cookie. Retrieved from http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.1653/024.092.0231
9. Supple. (2011, November 10). nopal : Information on uses, dosage & side effects on healthline.com. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/natstandardcontent/nopal
10. Opuntia stricta (shrub). (2010, June 12). Retrieved from http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?fr=1&si=104
11. Argentine cactus moth (cactoblastis cactorum). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.desertmuseum.org/invaders/invaders_cactusmoth.php



Also see blog post Edible Native Recovers from the Frost

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Landscape Design: A Primer - Part 1

By Laurie Sheldon, newest member of the F.N.P.S. blog team

Introduction

As a follower of the FNPS blog, it’s a given that you’re interested and/or enthusiastic about Florida’s native flora. You can probably recall a dozen or so trips to a local nursery, where you walked between row after row of plants in black pots and imagined how they would look in your own landscape. I worked for several years in a sizable nursery in Miami, so I know the plant-dreamer look all too well. Admittedly, I was not immune to becoming starry-eyed in the presence of some outrageously beautiful plants, and frequently came home from work with one or two random specimens that I just had to have. Needless to say, my spur-of-the-moment plant shopping did little to enhance the overall aesthetic of my backyard, and did even less as far as enhancing my wallet was concerned. 
 
Lichtenstein at F.T.B.G., a fusion of art and science
I left my nursery job and became a “Garden Groomer” (volunteer weed-puller) at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, where I was exposed to large-scale landscape design for the first time, and developed an appreciation of the diverse, unusual, and brilliant world of tropical plants. After a short while, I decided that I wanted to design inspirational places like Fairchild professionally, so I headed to the University of Florida in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture.

It became very apparent to me throughout the five-year L.A. program that, although our texts were housed in the Fine Arts Library, Landscape Architecture was/is as much of a science as an art form. The most loved, used and functional outdoor spaces are not generally arrived upon by mysterious forces or inspired by muses, nor do they come about via organic accretion. They are the site-specific products of thoughtful individuals who used a series of steps, collectively known as the Design Process, to arrive at a final design.

The Design Process

The Design Process is systematic, time-tested, and the only way to consistently identify the optimal arrangement between that which you’d like to incorporate into a landscape and its existing natural and constructed features. It is the Landscape Architect’s answer to the Scientific Method. It dictates that, whether designing a home garden or a corporate campus, your approach will, at minimum, include the following steps PRIOR to installation:

1. Statement of Intent
2. Procurement of a Topographic Survey
3. Site Inventory and Analysis
4. Program Development
5. Conceptual Diagramming
6. Diagram Selection
7. Master/Site Plan and Design Development Documents

Once your plan has been installed, it is always useful to do a Post-Construction Evaluation, noting whether or not your landscape accomplishes the goals you initially set out. More often than not, however, this step is skipped in professional practice - sometimes because a client does not want to pay for a Landscape Architect to provide a critical analysis of their own work, sometimes because, well, the laws of inertia and our fast forward pace make it an impossibility. Either way, once the dust settles, if time allows, it is good practice to at minimum make note of any discrepancies between the master landscape plan and the finished work. 

Intent, Goals, & Objectives are prominently noted on
this student's submission for a poolside landscape

Step 1: Statement of Intent

The first part of the Design Process is ideological in nature. It involves determining the scope of your project, and identifying project goals and objectives.

Scope is essentially the extent of the project work to be done, as noted by both physical/measurable boundaries, and deliverables (what you agree to deliver to your client), which may include plans for irrigation, grading, planting, etc.
Goals reflect what you’d like for your landscape plan to accomplish.
Objectives identify the specific tasks you need to complete in order to achieve that goal.

If you're designing your own landscape you probably won't have "deliverables," per se, but  you should still determine what your project will and will not cover before getting started. You’ll be glad you did, as it will keep you focused and prevent you from biting off more than you can chew. 

Visualizing contours in 3-D
Step 2: Topographic Survey

Topographic maps in the United States are organized in a grid, and are often referred to as quads or quadrangles. They typically show bodies of water and land contours, which are expressed in contiguous (contour) lines. These lines denote altitude (also called elevation). Every point on a map that a given contour line crosses is at the same elevation. Once you become familiar with reading topo maps it will be easy for you to visualize the lay of the land three-dimensionally.

You might be thinking, “Topography - really? But our state is so flat - how can it matter?” Florida’s minimal elevation changes, proximity to the ocean, and high annual rainfall volume combine to make flooding a serious problem.  Knowing your site’s highs and lows can keep you from having to put on wading pants in order to fetch your mail. 

Another reason that your site’s topography is important is slope. Slope, the incline between two topographic contours, is calculated by dividing their vertical difference by their horizontal difference (rise/run). There are certain optimal slope requirements for various land uses, including playgrounds, areas to be mowed, sidewalks, stairs, parking, etc. Anyone who has driven out of state, and had to get a stick-shift car into or out of a hillside parallel space should appreciate Florida’s maximum and minimum slope standards. I will elaborate on this in the next blog installment.
USGS Quad Map

Topographic information is fairly easy to obtain online through the U.S.G.S. and your county’s Property Appraiser. The following links can be of assistance:
USGS Store
FL Property Appraisers by County

If you are fortunate enough to have G.I.S. software on your computer, you can download the appropriate topo map(s) from the Florida Geographic Data Library, http://www.fgdl.org/download/index.html

A final resource for obtaining a copy of your project’s topographic survey is your city’s Main Library. These are generally not permitted to be checked out, so be ready with change for the copy machine!


Stay tuned for the next installment of Landscape Design - a Primer. We’ll resume with one of my favorite parts of of the Design Process, Step 3: Site Inventory and Analysis.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Sign of the Season: Partridge Berries

A guest post by Carole Tebay
The warm Thanksgiving holiday found my family hiking the Juniper Creek Trail in the Blackwater River State Forest where I spied my favorite little greeting to the holidays, Mitchella repens. Commonly known as partridge berry, twin flower, or squaw vine, this petite, evergreen creeper sports bright red berry-like drupes which cheerfully dot the forest floor through winter.

Although not a denizen of my current garden, I have had patches in the past. Partridge berry grows in shady areas with rich, neutral to acid soil in moist to dry areas. Look for it throughout the Panhandle and as far south as central Florida. Mine was in the deep shade of a live oak in the company of shiny blueberries and ferns. I found that it grew as thick as any lawn grass when kept free of smothering oak leaves. Since the stems of partridge berry root like the runners in lawn grass, it was easy to transplant by cutting plugs or rooting cuttings.

The berries are said to be almost tasteless and low in fat, which may be why they are among the last berries eaten by wildlife. They are known to be enjoyed by grouse, bobwhite, turkey, fox, mice, raccoon and skunks. Deer enjoy browsing the leaves.

Linnaeus gave this plant its botanical name, Mitchella repens, in honor of his friend, John Mitchell. A doctor and botanist, he developed a treatment for yellow fever and created the Mitchell map which was used to define the boundaries of the colonies. Repens describes the creeping habit of the plant. The common name, partridge berry, may leave you scratching your head since the partridge isn't native to North America. The berries are enjoyed by ruffed grouse which are similar to European partridges. Europeans also gave this dainty plant the name squaw vine when they observed a tea made from the plant being used by Native Americans to aid in childbirth. Why is Mitchella repens called twin flower? Look for pairs of white, trumpet-shaped blooms in late spring to early summer. The ovaries of the twin flowers fuse to form one red drupe. If you look closely, you can spot two dimples on the drupe where the flowers were attached.

In the past, partridge berries were collected for Christmas decorations and planted in bowls and terrariums. This impacted the populations. They are available through native plant nurseries so resist the temptation to collect wild specimens. Enjoy looking for these woodland treasures during your next walk in the woods.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Crystal Springs: 2012 FNPS Conference Venue


Our FNPS 2012 Conference "Saving the Heart of Florida" is well into its development phase. We have several exiting venues for our social events, but one of them, Crystal Springs, is special to me because of its beauty and history. We will have exclusive access to this site for our Saturday night social event.


Most people think of the Hillsborough River as a blackwater stream, one dark and tea colored due to tannins in the water. We say it begins in the Green Swamps. It does, as seepage and as an overflow from the Withlacoochee River. As such, it is usually a narrow creek that swells to substantial size only during periods of very high rainfall.  But the upper river is also a spring-run stream. Crystal Spring, a second magnitude spring, provides most of the typical daily flow for the Upper Hillsborough River.

Crystal Spring has a long local history. Once, it existed only as a series of seepage springs, and local kids had a swimming hole on the river downstream, but not at the springs. The spring as it exists today was created in the early 1900s by blasting out the area of seeps to form a single pool. This was not unusual, the pools some of our better known springs, such as Juniper Spring in Ocala National Forest, also were also created this way. The spring then spent a long history of local use as a swimming hole and private recreation park. As you can imagine, while the spring had crystal blue water, the edges were highly disturbed.


As the owner told me, they got tired of "picking up used diapers" and otherwise cleaning up after bathers. So the owners took on restoration of the spring and converting the former recreation area into an education center. They hired an environmentally oriented manager, and set off to clean up the weeds and plant the area around the spring back to Florida native plants. They also refurbished the boardwalk that crosses the outfall into the Hillsborough River.


When I last saw the spring, it was a stellar example of restoration and of landscaping with Florida natives. People will get to stroll by the clear (135 ft wide) pool that has multiple spring vents and scattered sand boils. The bottom of the spring pool is limestone and sand that reflect turquoise light and support aquatic grasses. There are scattered cypresses with exposed knees. Once could stand on the boardwalk and watch the clear water of the spring merge with the tannic water of the upper river. The owner has dedicated a conservation area, the Crystal Springs Preserve, around this spring.

Shirely Denton