Tuesday, February 26, 2013

National Invasive Species Awareness Week 2013

by Laurie Sheldon

History and Definition
President Bill Clinton
On Feb 3, 1999, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13112 - a critical piece of legislature on the environmental front. It established a multi-agency task force (the National Invasive Species Council) to deal with the management of "invasive species," which it defined as a species:
  1. that is both non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and
  2. whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.
These "invaders" present themselves in many forms, and include (but are not limited to) plants, animals, and pathogens.  

I found an air potato as big as my hand at a
Roundup during NISAW 2012: air potato has
been listed as one of Florida’s most invasive
plant species since 1993.
Causing Harm
Invasives may feed on fish and wildlife and/or cause widespread illness. Invasive pathogens can kill forest trees. Invasive plants compete with natives for resources like light, food and space, often interfering with their growth, reproduction, and development, and increasing their risk of extinction. Invasives can cause humans harm as well - consider the hives that result from a brush with stinging nettle (an invasive plant), the painful blisters caused by invasive insect stings (imported red fire ants are an example of this), and pathogen infections (like West Nile Virus) that can be vectored by insects and animals.


Spreading the Word
This year, the National Invasive Species Council has designated March 3-8 as National Invasive Species Awareness Week. Across the United States, particularly in Washington D.C., there will be briefings and workshops focused on creating solutions to address invasive species prevention, detection, monitoring, control, and management issues at micro (local) and macro (international) scales.

Last year, I posted an article citing Ten Ways to Observe N.I.S.A.W. in Florida.  While the suggestions are terrific, and absolutely worth checking out, I wish I had not used the word "Observe" in the title. Call it knit-picky, but, quite frankly, when it comes to aggressive, invasive species, observation is not going to cut it if our goal is to be a catalyst for change. We must be active, motivated, and participatory, and our efforts cannot be limited to a single week of the year.

Screen shot of the interactive NISAW activity map
Do Something
This year, I decided to put together an interactive map with activities throughout the state that you can participate in over the next few weeks. I hope that, by taking part in one or several of these events, you will
  1. recognize the value of both knowing about and removing invasives from our native communities,
  2. feel good about what you've done and tell your friends and families about it, and
  3. continue to be involved long after N.I.S.A.W. is over.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's Time for Nominations for the FNPS Landscape Awards

Florida Native Plant Society
2013 Landscape Awards Program 

Purpose: 

The Florida Native Plant Society Landscape Awards Program aims to:
· Promote the use of Florida native plants in all types of landscapes, both new and existing.
· Increase public awareness of the benefits and savings provided by native plant landscaping.
· Recognize citizens who have taken action through use of native plant landscaping to improve and restore the environment.
· Reward skilled professionals who execute quality designs and installation.
· Encourage landscape designers, contractors and architects to use Florida native plants in their projects.

Application Process and Forms: 

All interested designers, project managers, installers and homeowners must complete the FNPS Landscape Awards Application Form. Please read the application form completely as projects that do not meet the entry rules will not be judged! Click here for an Application and additional information.

Deadline for Submission: 

Friday, March 1, 2013 via mail or overnight delivery to: FNPS Awards, 311 South Glenwood Avenue, Orlando, FL 32803-6259

Judging: 

A jury of Florida Native Plant Society members in the fields of landscape design, environmental permitting and restoration, native plant nursery ownership and well-educated homeowners will evaluate entries and choose recipients to receive awards. The judging criteria will be based upon the project’s concept and goals, use of native plants, relationship to surrounding native plant communities, preservation of any existing native plants, an educational component for neighbors and visitors, creative solutions to significant obstacles, and planning for ongoing management of the landscape. Judging will be based upon the digital images, plans and written descriptions submitted with each entry.

Awards: 

One suitably inscribed plaque will be provided for each winning entry. Awards may not be given in a category if no entry is awarded an appropriate score. FNPS Landscape Awards will be announced and presented at the FNPS Conference On May 18, 2013 at the University of North Florida University Center, 2100 Alumni Drive, Room 1003, Jacksonville, FL. Award winners will receive complimentary conference registration for the Saturday conference day and will be listed on the FNPS website.

For questions please contact Karina Veaudry

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2013 FNPS Board Retreat


Sandhill cranes at the FNPS board retreat location near Haines City in central Flroida
by Ginny Stibolt

Last year Kellie Westervelt, FNPS executive director, obtained a grant to implement a Strategic Plan in order to help FNPS grow to the next level. Desiring an outside perspective, a consultant group was sought and the board chose Bristol Strategy Group from a number of applicants. They sent out a 28-page questionnaire to a newly formed Steering Committee consisting of a few key Society members, and then they talked to another, larger group of Society officers, board, and other influential members. I was in this second group--my conference call with the consultants lasted 55 minutes. The conversation covered a wide range of topics relating to FNPS, its problems from my perspective, and how it could be better. Later in the fall the whole membership received an email with a link to an online survey with more questions--almost 800 of us filled out the survey. Then in November, the consultants from Bristol attended a board meeting. With all this information, the consultants were prepared to act as facilitators for the weekend-long strategic planning session.

Friday

The board retreat took place last weekend at a rustic conference center near Haines City, FL. It was my first retreat, so I did not know what to expect. The volunteer board members paid their own expenses for the weekend and some of the board members had come in directly from work. Participants arrived on Friday afternoon and evening. Dinner was served at 6pm. As always, it's good to visit with other FNPS members. What an enthusiastic and knowledgeable group! FNPS president Steve Woodmansee called a regular board meeting to order at 7pm. It adjourned at 9pm.
Sunrise over the lake on Saturday morning. Just fantastic!

Saturday

The next morning, several of us took hikes around the grounds to take in the scrub habitat and enjoy the sunrise before breakfast. The work session started at 8:30am.
Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Ellen Bristol
We were divided into five groups of eight or so and took our assigned seats around round tables in the room.  Ellen Bristol and Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, our consultants, introduced themselves and Rebecca proceeded to draw an ascending line with a plateau at the top.

She then drew a big red dot at the end of the plateau. This, she said, is where FNPS is right now--it's an inflection point where we could make some changes to improve our operations into the future and better serve our mission, which they affirmed was strongly stated. FNPS Mission

Voting for the most important topics.

Our first task was to take a giant post-it note to a wall and make a list of things that FNPS does really, really well. All five lists were compiled and then we voted for six of the 12 items on the combined list. After that we voted for three of the remaining six items and out of this, we ended up with five topics.

We were on our feet most of the day working on our lists.

Each group was assigned a topic and we were instructed to draw diagrams and make lists. So in a small circle was the item that FNPS does well and then we were to think of contingencies that started with the words, "provided we can." After this list, we then had to think of assumptions about the topic and finally the solutions. At each stage, a member of the group presented the findings and took questions.
Our homework was to read the results of the
interviews, surveys, and other background research.





This exercise took all day with a break for lunch. It was a lot of work as we were on our feet most of the day, a strategy created by the consultants to keep us alert and on target. Before we left the room, Rebecca and Ellen handed out the summary of all the information they gathered with the interviews and the surveys. It was our homework to read (or at least scan) this material before Sunday's session.

I just love it that even after an exhausting day, that at 4:30pm with an hour and a half before dinner, about half the group carpooled a mile and a half down the road to Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek preserve State Park trail head. We hiked into the scrub and had a very nice time sharing our combined knowledge of the environment in the waning light of the day.



Half the board members hiked Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park before dinner on Saturday afternoon. It was a lovely walk in the scrub habitat.
We examine the feathery seed of Garberia heterophylla. It's a threatened Florida endemic occurring only in
central Florida and is one of the few shrubs in the Asteraceae family.

We were not the only ones strolling around the scrub...
While some of us were hiking, Shirley Denton tutored some chapter reps
in the use of the website. Work, work, work...
After dinner, we sat around a campfire and swapped more stories. At one point in the evening I sat next to Rebecca and asked her why we had spent all those hours on five items that we already do "really, really well?" She said that when groups are at this "inflection point" that if they spend their time working on the stuff they do badly and let the stuff that they do well slip away, that they could fail to grow. So as a result of all this effort, we will end up with a strong plan of action to improve our five most important items on our agenda. I also asked her what she thought of our performance as a group. She said that if you judge the session by decibel level it was a roaring success and if you judged it by how engaged people were, then it was also a success.
Sunday morning hike along the birding trail next to the conference center.

Going over the talking points. Each group presented its findings.

Sunday

The next morning some of us went for hikes around the trails to enjoy the sunrise before packing up and having breakfast. Our session began at 8am. Then it was back to work again on five different topics. This time we voted on five topics that we should be doing really well if we want to forward our mission.

Everyone gathers around to see what the other groups had come up with. In this exercise, sometimes the lists grew longer.

With all of our experience from the day before, we were creating solutions by 11am. Now after all this time working on things we do or should do really well, Rebecca and Ellen finally unveiled their suggestions for what needs to happen for the Society to move forward. They organized and gathered all of our post-it notes with our working lists. They will compile our findings and will be working with the Society through May to help with the implementation of some of the plans for reorganization. Steve will be posting a letter to all the members in the Sabal Minor with more specifics. Stay tuned.

On Sunday, we gathered for this group photo...
L-R, Back row: Jon Moore, Julie Wert, David Martin, Ginny Stibolt, Steve Woodmansee, Lauren McFarland, Cindy Liberton, Dave Feagles, Jon Pospisil, Jeannie Broadhead, Gene Kelly, Jim McCuen, Juliet Rynear, Matt King, Al Squires
L-R, standing middle row: Cammie Donaldson, Richard Brownescomb, Neta Villalobos-Bell, Sandi Saurers, Kim Zarillo, Julie Becker, Barbara Jackson, Debra Klein, Kellie Westervelt, Sonya Guidry
L-R, seated: Brenda Mills, Ellen Bristol and Rebecca Staton-Reinstein (consultants, Bristol Strategy Group), Martha Steuart, Miki Renner, Jackie Rolly, Carol Sullivan, Ina Crawford.
L-R, seated on the floor: Devon Higginbotham, Linda Schneider, Shirley Denton, Scott Davis

And so…

For me after seeing how hard everyone worked and how enthusiastic everyone is about the Society, I'm optimistic that FNPS will be able to thrive and grow into the future. I expect that the Society with all the energy and enthusiasm of its members will continue to make a real difference for Florida and her native ecosystems.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Winning: Travis and Karen MacClendon


Top: aerial image taken before the MacClendons moved in
Bottom: aerial taken approximately one year ago
by Laurie Sheldon

It was a dairy farm for 20 years, and before that, a farm farm - you know, with plows and crops and the like. In early 2005 the MacClendons purchased the property hoping restore its native plant communities and create a more natural landscape for it to remain in indefinitely. I checked out an aerial of the site, but had a hard time wrapping my head around just how big it was. To put it in perspective, I decided to go to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser’s website to see what the lot dimensions were at the address where I grew up. I remembered it as being large - we had a pool that ran long-ways into the yard with sizable patio surrounding it, and still had room for a shed, a play house, a jungle-gym type of structure to climb on, and enough lawn left over for our dogs to run around at full speed. “Oh,” I said aloud, reading the folio data on my computer screen, “only 20,159 sq. ft.” An acre is 43,560 sq. ft. Geez, I wonder how extensive the White House grounds are. A quick Google search (I love computers for this reason) and I had my answer - 18 acres. The MacClendon property covers 25.

1: Prior to any landscape changes, January 2005
When they moved in, the 2 acre “landscaped area” adjacent to the house (which would fit my childhood home 4.3 times over) had few trees - some small southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), and Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides). This and a two acre cypress dome existed as finger-like projections into a sea of wide-open fields populated with Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium), and two types of bluestem (Andropogon virginicus and A. glomeratus var. pumilus).


Planning and Preservation

Although they decided early on to preserve the site's native plants, there were countless other issues to consider. They needed the advice of an expert. As such, the MacClendons enlisted the aid of a Wildlife Biologist from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He prepared a site survey and a report with habitat recommendations for their tract, in which he identified the site's various vegetative habitats, recommended methods of exotic species control, and laid out a burn rotation schedule.

Out With the New (Invasives)

2: The front driveway, late fall
Hundreds of invasive exotic callery pear (Pyrus calleryana)  and Chinese tallowtree (Sapium sebiferum) needed to be destroyed. Those under six inches in diameter were hand sawed near ground level, their stumps painted with 10:1 mix of water and glyphosate, a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide. Sawed debris was piled in the fields and burned during regular rotation. In the interim, the brush piles made excellent habit for towhees, cardinals, migratory sparrows, and other birds.

Although it was a successful way to treat small nuisance trees, it just wasn't a practical way to deal with the site's larger invasive exotic specimens, some of which neared 3 feet in diameter and had multiple trunks. They had to get creative. Using a cordless drill, they bored holes at about 3 inch intervals around the base of these trees, and made sure to angle the drill bit toward the trees' taproots. The holes were then topped off with a 6:1 mixture of soluble oil to Triclopyr butoxyethyl ester, a selective root-abosorbed, translocated herbicide used to control woody and broadleaf plants. In three months, those trees were toast. A year later, they still showed no sign of green growth (cha-ching!). Next!

Large patches of Japanese climbing fern (Lygodium japonicum) posed a serious problem. They effectively eradicated it by mowing the patches as close to the ground as possible, then hand spraying emergent growth with an 8:1 mix of water and glyphosate with an added to surfactant to give it sticking power. They sprayed from April through October, with repeat applications as occasionally needed. This noxious, weedy plant has been documented as causing severe ecological damage to native plant communtities, and is on the most wanted list (a.k.a."Category I") with the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council... and they nailed it. Nice shootin', pardners. 

In With the Old (Natives)

3: The front circle
Not only have the MacClendons kept a list of which plants they've purchased, they've also recorded what they cost, the date they went in, and where they were installed. Whoa! Can you say organized? I'd bet their sock drawers are meticulous.

Based on their records, they've planted 217 distinct species of native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and/or trees - 1,370 plants in total - within the 2 acre "landscaped area" adjacent to the house, with few exceptions. Combined with the plants they preserved, they have a total of (...drumroll...) 300 native species on their property. When selecting plants, they paid close attention to local butterfly populations, and planted larval hosts plants for all of the lepidopterans they might come across; they have counted at least 48 different species so far. Naturally, they also provided for other winged creatures. They're the MacClendons, for Pete's sake! With  6 major bird feeders, a seed broadcast area, and hummingbird feeders, it's no wonder that they've counted 107 species of birds on site.

But wait - there's more...
They hand-planted 1120 seedling longleaf pines in a 2 acre area (and a few separate sites), about half of which have survived deer, drought, and disease. To approximate the look of a natural forest, the seedlings were planted randomly. In addition to these seedlings, they created a special longleaf pine restoration area with medium sized trees and other species that are typical of longleaf pine communities.

4: The bog area
Where's the water garden? I'm not done yet! They established a bog with a water feed from a 50 gallon rainwater barrel and pump-driven well water. The water flows through a buried PVC pipe to a 10 inch wide moat that they created around a bald cypress, then into a concrete-lined pond. In the area surrounding the cypress, they established native bog plants in addition to shrubs and trees that like to keep their feet wet. Their bog was as popular with native wildlife as the only Starbucks would be in a snowed-in airport terminal. It was/is a scene not to miss. Accordingly, the MacClendons installed a large one-way window into the back of their barn so that they could reap the benefits of what they'd sown, and view it all from a comfortable sitting area.

And they haven't stopped. Two weeks ago they planted three live oaks (Q. virginiana), an American holly (Ilex opaca), 6 needle palms (Rhapidophyllum hystrix), and 3 Satusuma oranges, "for survival," according to Travis.

Upkeep

What does the to-do list for maintaining their property include?
  • Eradicate grass and other unwanted vegetation.
  • Replenish the hundreds of barrels of pine straw used as mulch and for weed suppression. 
  • Apply a common fertilizer mix once yearly to major trees.
  • Let Mother Nature deal with established flower beds, except during periods of severe drought
  • Mow yearly with interspersed burning (this has allowed for a spectacular fall display of beach falseglove, Agalinis fasiculata, whose pink blooms, paired with the lemon yellow of the Canada goldenrod, create the most breathtaking field of flowers in the area)

ImPRESSed? Yes!

As if that's not enough, they've established a formal herbarium that currently contains over 900 specimens! All specimens have been vouchered by either the Godfrey Museum of Florida State University or the Herbarium of the University of South Florida. The herbarium, a volunteer resource by the MacClendons under the University of Florida' s Calhoun County IFAS Extension, may be viewed on-line at http://www.calhouncountyherbarium.org.

The Host and Hostess with the Mostest

The Master Gardeners of Jackson County have held meetings at the MacClendons. So has the North American Butterfly Association, Hairstreak Chapter. The Women’s Club of Blountstown and the Torreya Garden Club of Calhoun County selected the MacClendons to speak to their organization(s) about how and what they've achieved on their property, which Travis referred to as "their yard" in a written description of the site.

They even invited me to come for a visit if I had the chance. Really! In an email between Shirley Denton and I, Shirley said, "if you do get a chance to get to Blountstown, I recommend taking them up on their invitation. Wonderful people." I responded with, "they seem it. I can't imagine what kind of motivation it must take to restore a 25 acre property. Even the energizer bunny would throw its drum sticks in the air and say, 'uh, too much work. I'm outta here...'". Her three word reply, a testament to the MacClendons' hard work and accomplishments, was simply, "and they're winning..."

5 - Travis and Karen MacClendon at their home in Blountstown, FL

---
 Species in photos* (named more or less, from the left to right, rear to front)

2 - The front driveway:
American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), live oak (Quercus virginiana), lanceleaf blanketflower (Gaillardia aestivalis), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), groundsel tree (Baccharis halimifolia), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

3 - The front circle:
Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), red maple (Acer rubrum), Fakahatchee grass (Tripsacum dactyloides), salt meadow cordgrass (Spartina patens), beach false foxglove (Agalinus fasiculata), Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), soft greeneyes (Berlandiera pumila), pinkscale gayfeather (Liatris elegans), vanillaleaf (Carphephorus odoratissimus var. odoratissimus), woody goldenrod (Chrysoma pauciflosculosa),  narrowleaf silkgrass (Pityopsis graminifolia), lanceleaf blanketflower (Gaillardia aestivalis), firewheel (Gaillaridia pulchella), broomsedge bluestem (Andropogon virginicus)

4 - The bog:
Carolina willow (Salix caroliniana), American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), woodland pinkroot (Spigelia merilandica), Virginia willow (Itea virginica), Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Bandana-of-the-Everglades (Canna flaccida), herb-of-grace (Bacopa monnieri), prairie iris (Iris hexagona), duck potato (Sagittaria latifolia), pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata), swamp milkweed (Asclepias perennis), Leavenworth’s coreopsis (Coreopsis leavenworthii), chipola coreopsis (Coreopsis integrifolia), whitetop pitcherplant (Sarracenia leucophylla), hooded pitcherplant (Sarracenia minor), scarlet rosemallow (Hibiscus coccineus), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), royal fern (Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis), coralbean (Erythrina herbacea), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)

*There are many more species in each area than listed; included are a few plants that are important contributors to the planting area but are not visible in the image.

All numbered photos provided graciously by Karen and Travis MacClendon

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Challenges of a Native Plant Nursery

 A guest post by Kari Ruder owner of Naturewise Nursery in Cocoa, FL. in response to Monday's post Supporting the Native Plant Industry. Be sure to respond to Kari and all the other native plant professionals who work so hard to bring you locally-grown natives.

Dear native plant customer,

As a native plant enthusiast, I had found it difficult to find nurseries specializing in native plants when I was ready to do some landscaping. While I had some experience in gardening and Environmental Science degrees, I didn't have Florida plant specific knowledge other that what I gained through my job working for my county's Natural Resources Office and through attending talks, field trips, and conferences as a member of FNPS. I started playing around with growing a few plants on the side from seed, and after time, the idea of starting my own native plant nursery popped into my hand. There seemed to be many other people like me wanting to use native plants but not able to find enough sources for them. So off I went to acquire my Masters of Science degree in Environmental Horticulture through the University of Florida. My wonderful professor, Sandra Wilson, even taught a Florida Native Landscaping course.

Naturewise Nursery's location in Kari's back yard.
While working on my degree, I started building my backyard nursery, growing assorted native wildflowers, vines, grasses, and shrubs along with heirloom vegetable plants. Now, unlike traditional garden centers, there is no massive supplier of blooming natives ready for me to truck in and put on display, rather I have to grow them myself and educate customers about the natural seasons our natives go through and that they generally don’t look that good in nursery pots. Finding a retail location was a challenge too, with real estate at an all time high and profit in this industry low.
Naturewise Nursery's first retail location--
outgrown in 2011.
Hoping for growth, I partnered with a couple local small farmers to set up a combined retail native nursery and farm stand on one of the farmer's properties. This seemed rather popular and while none of us were making much money, we were quite happy. Sure we faced various challenges, like the weather, bugs and lack of highway road frontage, but probably the most frustrating thing was trying to figure out what the customer wanted. Now the “popular” natives like Firebush, blanket flower, sunshine mimosa, and muhly grass would sell without fail (most of the time), but I would grow different plants people asked for, and when I had them ready for sale, they might sit there for a year before someone bought them. To this day I still have a few tough bumelia (Bumelia tenax) that I rescued and grew in 2007. Those are going to be donated next week!

When I grow 4” pots people want something bigger but when I don't have 4” pots someone wants them. I don't offer really large trees as they're simply too big to move, too expensive to stock, and too expensive to lose if the irrigation went awry. Most of the time people understand the benefits of choosing a smaller sized tree or shrub (smaller hole to dig, less expensive, faster to establish), but then you get a customer who wants a large shrub and wanting to help them, I spend a lot of time tracking down that large tree.
Naturewise Nursery's most recent location at a working farm.
Wanting to see my native nursery grow and flourish, about 19 months ago I moved the nursery to another farm that offered more open space, more parking, and a building to shelter us from the weather. It was a working farm, which attracted customers wanting to experience a true farm. We even brought in more growers to offer customers more choices in local food and plants. At first we did great and sales seemed to go up, but after time, even with all these new customers, plant sales seemed to decrease. We were selling a larger diversity of products, such as soil, mulch, and natural gardening amendments, but profits didn't rise. We tried to offer what people wanted, from classes to different products to new plants, but then I guess people change their minds.
A flood about a month after Kari moved into the farm location.

Now that we find ourselves having to move yet again, I ask myself, is it worth it to reopen my nursery one more time? Do I want to continue working 50 hard hours a week to run a part time retail nursery where I make less than half of what I made at my last “real job”? If I do, will you buy plants? Will you bring your friends?

Kari Ruder (facing camera) selling her precious native plants for $1,$2, & $3!
So to conclude, I'm writing this to ask you what you want out of a native nursery. When I say, “want”, I mean putting your money where your mouth is. Do you support native nurseries by actually buying plants or just like the idea? Why don't you buy native plants? What is it that keeps you from going to native nurseries? What do you want to buy when you are there? Certain types, sizes, or varieties of plants, other gardening products, something we haven't thought of? People love to tell me “You should do this…” So here is your chance. I'll bet you that we'll have already tried half of what you suggest, but let me hear it.


Kari Ruder
Horticulturist / Owner Naturewise
kari@naturewiseplants.com

~ ~ ~

Kari,

Thanks for all your hard work!
Ginny Stibolt