Here we share news and events of interest to our Chapter members and fellow lovers of Florida's native plants and the habitats that support them. Please write us at to let us know about news that we should share.

Winter Chores for your Florida Landscape

posted Dec 30, 2016, 11:26 AM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society

Suggestions from the Hernando Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society

Now is the time to get outside and tidy up a Florida landscape. Use winter months to assess your plantings and prepare your property for improvements. It’s much more pleasant to take on large landscaping tasks now!  

Know what you’ve got
Annuals live one year and reproduce by seed. Perennials are plants that live more than two years—herbaceous perennials die back each fall and return from the roots in spring. Trees and shrubs may lose their leaves (deciduous) or keep them in winter (evergreen).  Each requires a different type of attention.

Hernando Freezes
It freezes in Hernando County, and some citizens replace plants that aren’t suitable to our region, year after year. Plan now to add plants that will thrive and be more cold-hardy. Perennial plants and shrubs native to Hernando rarely succumb due to a cold snap. 

In your current landscape, you can pull up or mow the spent annuals such as wildflowers once they have seeded. But for perennials, hold off serious pruning until March—even when you have freeze damage. Pruning stimulates the plant to grow new foliage, making them susceptible to damage by a late freeze. When danger of frost is past, prune dead or unwanted branches correctly. Give plants that return from the roots each year a haircut; they may look dead now, but will spring back soon!

Refresh your mulch.
In Florida, when you disturb the soil in your landscape you stir up a hidden seed bed and increase the need to weed! Bury the problem with mulch. Mulch keeps unwanted plants from sprouting up and maintains moisture for those you want. This winter, pile on some more mulch in landscape. (Do keep it away from the base of plants and trees to prevent rot!)  Please avoid cypress mulch. Florida’s native bald cypress trees are harvested to chop up, with bad results for natural areas. Pine bark and straw, FloriMulch (made from the invasive Melalueca tree), or leaves from your yard are all great alternatives. 

Extend your planting beds.
Use this dormant time to expand your planting beds and reduce your lawn. Whether you rip up the some sod or smother the turf with newspaper, you can get the mulch in place now and establish your edges. When it is time to add native plants to new areas, you can just dig a hole the same size as the pot and drop them in, hand watering for a few weeks until established.  No fertilizer or soil additives will be necessary if you've selected plants adapted to your conditions. 

Improve and reduce your irrigation. 
When you replace turf grass with beds of Florida friendly plants, you reduce the need for irrigation, and for equipment. In fact, you can plant species that require no irrigation at all!  Group all plants that require irrigation together, and consider low-cost micro-spray systems that bring water right to each plant. Winter is also a great time to repair existing irrigation and get your rain barrel ready to collect all the free rain of summer. 
Native plants are adapted to the climate and soil conditions of a given area and are less likely to die from freeze, drought, pests or neglect. For more information about  what plants are right for your place, join the Hernando Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society,

Conservation News – Brooksville bellflower 2015 survey

posted Jan 31, 2015, 11:35 AM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society

by Judith Simpson

Hernando County is home to the Brooksville bellflower (Campanula robinsiae) a tiny flowering annual with blue petals, that is one of the rarest plants on earth. It appears briefly in late March to early April at the edge of a very few seasonally wet pasture ponds, blooms, goes to seed, and is not seen again until the following year. 

 Its habitat historically was maintained in part by cattle as they browsed on competing plants, and their hooves broke up leaf litter, allowing the seedlings to poke through. In January, volunteers from FWC and Hernando Chapter helped Cheryl Peterson, Conservation Manager at Bok Tower Gardens, to do the job no longer performed by cattle on a site near Chinsegut Hill, where the plant was first discovered. 

Funding for rare plant conservation is limited, and Ms Peterson was concerned that there would not be enough for a second trip to conduct a 2015 survey. The Hernando Chapter Board stepped up to help with travel expenses to that scientists and volunteers can do a 2015 plant count, tentatively scheduled for the last week in March.

Because the location is not open to the public, a permit must be obtained. Once the permit is confirmed, a call will go out for up to ten (10) experienced volunteers. Volunteers must be able to accurately identify the plants, and physically able to spend several hours bending over or kneeling to count and record each tiny plant within sectors marked off by the scientists. Qualified volunteers may send an email to with subject line: Bellflower survey.

Read more about the bellflower in our previous article, and visit the Bok website.

Cypress Lakes Preserve Field Trip, October 18, 2014

posted Nov 2, 2014, 8:55 AM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society   [ updated Nov 2, 2014, 9:42 AM ]

Story and photography by Jude Simpson, President, Hernando Chapter

Our September & October programs provided great preparation for the field trip on October 18, lead by Jim King, with Dr. Shirley Denton and the Suncoast Chapter as guests.

Jim King, who is Hernando County's Conservations Lands Specialist, spoke at our September meeting about Sandhill restoration at Cypress Lakes Preserve, which contains at least eight different natural plant communities, several of which are priorities for conservation.  

In October, Dr. Walter Taylor talked about his recent book, Florida Wildflowers in their Natural Communities, using examples from scrub and marsh communities, both of which are present at Cypress Lakes Preserve. 

Restoration effort have returned native fall wildflowers to the landscape at Cypress Lakes Preserve. These species emerged on their own as soon as fire and mechanical clearing produced the right conditions. 

On October 18, we had the distinct pleasure to visit Cypress Lakes with Jim King and Shirley Denton, and to see for ourselves the results of three years of restoration effort, including a burn in 2013 which included Sandhill, Scrub and Marsh communities. The fall wildflowers were spectacular. 

One highlight was going off trail to a north facing slope that was bursting with a wild diversity of Sandhill species, including Lop-sided Indian Grass, Wild Buckwheat, Summer Farewell, Liatris species, and many others. Contributing to the learning, our group included folks with expertise in geology and entomology as well as native plants, which added to our appreciation of the ecology.

Another highlight was a visit to one of the two scrub areas which has an unusual population of intensely purple blue curls, and discussing the speculation in the botanical community about whether this may be a separate species or a local ecotype adapted to the particular harsh conditions of the scrub.

HCFNPS will continue to assist Hernando County with updating the plant survey for this Preserve. Since last fall, we have confirmed the presence of many of the more than 350 species that were present in 2004, and have added four additional species to the list. Dr, Denton helped to confirm the ID of Froelichia floridana (Snakecotton), a new addition to the list, on October 18.

Florida Native Plant Garden at the Triangle Nature Park

posted Sep 26, 2014, 10:11 AM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society

Story and photographs Jude Simpson

Now is the time for "Fall cleaning" in the Florida Native Plant Garden at the Triangle entrance to Hernando Beach. The garden is bursting with bloom, and alive with pollinators. Unfortunately, non-native grasses and weedy natives are thriving too.

Most of the plants that went in this past spring survived the summer and are really getting established. Many of the summer blooming flowers need to be cut back. The paths and shrub beds must be rescued from rampant vines and ground covers.

Hernando Beach Property Owners Association has volunteers lined up for a major clean-up. Hernando Chapter FNPS members are invited to help, or stop by with words of encouragement. This is a high profile location and it is challenging because of the size and complexity of the garden design. It is an opportunity to show case Florida Native plants. It is also challenging because it must provide curb appeal to the public while getting established.

Once we do some major weeding and pruning, we can see what may need to be moved or replaced. Fall is also a great time for planting any additional items for attractiveness all season. With the cooler weather and some energetic volunteers, we can also pull back mulch and install weed block under the shrubs. We plan to add a shade tree and a bench, and add some fall flowers.

The HBPOA Garden committee is working on a schedule for Fall. Meanwhile, please contact Jude Simpson at for additional information, or to volunteer at this garden.

Fall shows its colors in the new landscape.

Diversity is developing as the plants establish.

The planting will acquaint the community with some of Florida's favorite native flora, such as passion flower vine.

Wild about Weeki Wachee Preserve - Fieldtrip 7/12/14

posted Jul 1, 2014, 3:41 PM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society   [ updated Jul 2, 2014, 8:19 AM ]

The proposed beach and tourist facilities at Weeki Wachee Preserve has been in the news, and we've been curious to see the site from the ground. Jude Simpson and Julie Wert did a little scouting in in the  preserve last week. Hence a field trip is now planned for Saturday, July 12 to offer everyone the chance to see what is preserved and what we have to lose should the property's use change. This will be a two-part field trip: we will host a Wildflower & Butterfly Hike 8-10 am, followed by the option to explore the Lakes & Bird Research Area (1+ mile drive from entrance).

Trip leaders: Heather Sharkey & Jude Simpson.

We'll visit our friends the Gopher Tortoise to
see what's growing in their neighborhood.

8-10 AM. We will explore the Gopher Tortoise habitat near the main entrance, a small sandy area bordered by pine flatwoods, with great plant diversity and interesting critters. Then we will drive to a trail that goes through several changes in elevation and associated plant communities, with abundant wildflowers.  This area includes many natural features as well as changes in topography left from former mining activities. Difficulty: Moderate

10-11 AM. Optional visit to Lakes area & bird research site (site of proposed beach & tourist facilities).  We will point out additional hike & bike trails leading to areas that we won't have time to visit on this trip. Difficulty: Easy. Drive in access.

  • Meet at 7:45 am at the Main entrance, 2345 Osowaw Blvd Spring Hill, . 
  • Map & directions at :
  • Wear sturdy hiking shoes, hat, sunglasses, comfortable protective clothing. Insect repellant recommended.
  • Bring Plenty of Drinking Water. 
  • No toilet facilities at main entrance or trails. Vault toilet at Lakes parking area.
  • Please rsvp to, with subject line WWP field trip, with your name, email & phone contact.
  • Cell phone contact on day of trip: 352 345-2173.

This is one of the quarry lakes. We will be examining the lakes and surrounding areas in the second part of
the field trip. Make sure to bring a hat, water and sunscreen!

This time of year you may find one of our most stately wildflowers, Germander, Wood Sage (Teucrinum candense).

Look down, and you're likely to see something interesting, such as Neptunia pubescens.

Earth stars (puff ball fungus) & lichen (Cladonia sp)

Hernando Chapter Celebrates its Nature at FNPS Conference

posted May 30, 2014, 8:52 AM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society   [ updated May 30, 2014, 12:11 PM ]

As usual, a mighty contingent of members traveled to the annual Florida Native Plant Society conference, and a big time was had by all. Many of us stayed in the dorms at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), which was certainly economical. FGCU is very proud of its "green" reputation and were fantastic hosts for the event. There was lots of outdoors space to enjoy around the conference center, with patios overlooking ponds complete with alligators. 

Thanks to Sid Taylor's camera and a volunteer photographer for catching some of the Hernando Members at the lunch break. From left, Sid Taylor, Gene Kelly, Cindy Liberton, Janet Grabowski, Miki Renner, Connie LaRoche, Jason LaRoche, Jude and Larry Simpson. (Hernando attendees not shown: Rita Grant, Tina Henize, Annie Schmidt)

This conference literally had something for everyone – art, shopping, adventure, comedy, meetings and hard-core science. Rita Grant applauds the Coccoloba chapter the great job they did hosting the conference. She especially enjoyed the Thursday afternoon Edible Plant Walk with Scott Davis and Aimee Leteux, and felt the the Magnolia chapter was very fortunate to have someone so knowledgeable on edible and medicinal plants. She especially liked sampling many of them.

Perhaps the most popular (and comical) presentation was "What Plants Talk About" by Dr. J.C. Cahill, Professor of Ecology, University of Alberta, Edmonton. You may have seen his documentary by this name on PBS, which you can view online. His thesis was that plant "behave" and often for the same reasons as people: competition, protection of family, self-preservation. Rita says, "I always knew there was more to plants than pretty flowers." 

Another remarkable presentation told the tale of the missing native orchids of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Some species–always rare–were poached to extirpation. Dennis Giardina, Everglades Region Biologist, FFWC & Mike Owen, Park Biologist, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, told the story of extraordinary efforts to propagate and reestablish orchids throughout the preserve, and their hopes to someday secure seeds from Cuban populations to bring our missing orchids home. 

In the Science Track, FNPS Science endowment grant recipient, Chase Mason, used extreme science to explore the causes of narrow endemism in two imperiled Florida sunflower species (Helianthus carnosus and Phoebanthus tenuifolius). Through a combined population genetics & niche modeling approach (which was extremely impressive!), he showed that changes in climate and landuse were likely to eliminate all suitable habitat for these picky species in the years to come. The silver lining was that one species has fled to the roadsides, and attention to mowing regimes could be the key to survival. Which was pursued immediately after the talk with the help of the Florida Wildflower Foundation. 

Cindy Liberton felt Xavier Cortada's Flora 500 art Participatory Art exhibit/reception was a marvel to behold…Florida's native plant species interpreted through art!! How wonderful was that?!? She somehow restrained herself from spending $450. You can still see this exhibit at FGCU until June 13. 

On an official note, this conference marks the beginning of a very important improvement in the Society's governance. The creation of the Council of Chapters will allow for information sharing about the on-the-ground work of the Chapters; most of the routine administrative management goes to the now smaller and leaner Board of Directors (from over 60 to about 17). 

FNPS Board of Directors 2014-2015

Meet the FNPS Board of Directors for 2014-2015!
This great image introduces you to the Society's Leadership. From left, new President Anne Cox, VP for Finance Devon Higginbotham, Treasurer Kim Zarillo, Secretary Martha Steuart, Chapter of Councils Chair Julie Becker, Science Chair Paul Schmalzer , Conservation Chair Juliet Rynear, Govt. Policy Chair Gene Kelly (our very own!), Land Management Partnerships, Danny Young, Communication Chair, Shirley Denton, and Directors at Large Jon Moore, Julie Wert, and David Feagles. (Not shown, Past President Steve Woodmansee, Education Chair Debra Klein, and VP for Admin, Debbit Chayette.) You'll also notice three intrepid Hernando Chapter members in the front row: Annie Schmidt, Chapter Representative Miki Renner and Cindy Liberton.

Of course the socials are always marvelous, and we enjoy reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones. The evening at the Naples Botanical Gardens was magical... after we toured the grounds, we gathered for a buffet feast. 

A different mix of our Chapter out after dark at the Naples Botanical Gardens: From left, Jason and Connie LaRoche, Janet Grabowski, Miki Renner, Sid Taylor, Annie Schmidt (co-founder and Supporting Member of Hernando Chapter), Cindy Liberton, Rita Grant and Tina Henize. 

Florida Native Landscape on Shoal Line Blvd

posted Apr 30, 2014, 2:11 PM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society   [ updated May 30, 2014, 9:56 AM ]

Submitted by Jude Simpson, President Hernando Chapter FNPS

The Florida Native Plant Garden is coming along nicely. With many dedicated volunteers from the Hernando Beach community, and technical assistance provided by members of Hernando and Nature Coast Chapters, FNPS, we have planted a great variety of Florida natives. 

Work on the garden also included stabilizing banks of a small pond on the site, mulching, watering, and weeding. We still have a selection of aquatics to install, and we plan to purchase one large, female Weeping Yaupon Holly as a specimen tree. We will continue to add wildflowers to bloom in different seasons. Future plans include installing a bench, labeling the plants, and developing interpretive signage. 

There will be an "sneak preview" with Jude from 8-10 AM on Saturday, June 7.  For more information, write us at

The bear in the garden looks on.

Hernando Chapter members Jason & Heather arrange the low shrub border along the sidewalk.

Coastal uplands species ready to plant: Christmas Berry, Coontie, Flag Paw Paw, Muhly Grass.

Rare Plant Encounters

posted Apr 30, 2014, 1:36 PM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society   [ updated Apr 30, 2014, 1:38 PM ]

Submitted by Jude Simpson, President, Hernando Chapter

I had the opportunity to help with this year's Brooksville Bellflower survey, coordinated by Cheryl Peterson from Bok Towers. I personally counted hundreds of these tiny, blue flowering plants, densely packed into a small area. I was amazed at how quickly I learned how to pick them out. 

The survey is conducted by dividing the small area where the plants have been seen previously into plots several feet wide. Each surveyor then closely inspects a plot on hands & knees, inch by inch. I feel so fortunate to have had this close encounter with one of the rarest of the rare. For more detailed information about this plant and its history, read our previous article.


The Brooksville bellflower (Campanula robensiae) is smaller than you can imagine; those brown objects are leaves. This species occurs in Hernando County and almost nowhere else.  

In April, on a field trip with nature photographer, Paul Rehbman in Volusia, I got to see Rugel's Paw Paw, Deeringothamnus rugelii, in bloom. The field trip was my winning bid item at the silent auction at the 2013 FNPS conference. I also got to see my first Yellow Pitcher plant, and other species that we don't find here. 

Paul gave me helpful tips for composition and photographing plants in different light conditions. He also downloaded a manual for my camera, and showed me how to use features that are helpful for nature photography. It was a lovely field trip. See Paul's beautiful photos at, and at the 2014 conference

Rugel's Paw Paw, Deeringothamnus rugelii, has been listed as Federally Endangered since 1986. It occurs only near New Smyrna Beach in Volusia county.  

Cypress Lakes Preserve Survey's in Bloom

posted Feb 28, 2014, 12:34 PM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society

Submitted by Jude Simpson, President, Hernando Chapter

On Sunday, February 23, members of the intrepid plant survey team revisited Cypress Lakes Preserve to cover the area west of the Florida Trail. This area includes hardwood hammock and cypress swamp. Although the team were required to go off-trail in areas with thick understory and sometimes abundant moisture, they were rewarded with a beautiful day where many winter bloomers put on a display. Delicate natives such as the shiny blueberry (right: Vaccinium myrsinites) are getting ready for spring.

This project is near and dear to our hearts. Members of the Hernando Chapter FNPS and their friends are assisting Jim King, Hernando County Conservation Lands Specialist, to update the plant list for Cypress Lakes, one of our county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Preserves.

Volunteers conducting the 2014 plant survey also pull and mark invasive plants when found. The team found surprisingly few exotics in this preserve, maintained by its small staff (Hernando county ESL in the Parks & Rec Dept.). Good management!

For more about the project, see this article about its goals,  and this project update.

Pam Murfey, Chinsegut Conservation Center, pulling water hyacinth in slough under the Florida Trails bridge at Cypress lakes preserve.

Many small wetland plants are evident now:  bog buttons (above: probably Lachnocaulon anceps), and hat pins, bog white violet, sundews & butterworts.

Pinguicula pumila (small butterwort) is frequent at the edges of seasonally wet prairies at CLP. Also found in wet roadside swales in Hernando Beach this month

Black Nightshade (Solanum chenopodioides) shows its characteristic star-shaped blooms and tumbling habit.

Cypress Lakes Preserve Get-Oriented Hike

posted Jan 31, 2014, 3:19 PM by Hernando Chapter Florida Native Plant Society

Cypress Lakes Preserve: 2014 Get Oriented Hike, January 20 2014
Present: Jude Simpson, Sue Blakeman, Miki Renner, Mark Hutchinson, Pam Murfey, and Paulie Campbell

We met at the main entrance to the preserve, on Paul Steckle Drive, off of Cortez Blvd just East of the Withlacoochee River to do a brief review of the project and the goals for the day. We used the CLP management unit map provided by Jim King as a guide, as this map shows both the Florida Trail and many of the service trails.

The main goals for the day were to start getting the group familiar with the Preserve and to try out some tools for collecting data. We found the checklist that I had prepared (based on the 2004 survey, and sorted by Latin name) was too cumbersome to start with in the field. The group decided to name and save a waypoint for different places that we stopped along the Florida Trail, and to list the plant families, genera and species that we found in that location. Lucille volunteered to be the recorder, Pam took close-ups of interesting finds and Paulie took pictures and saved locations with his google maps phone app.

We did not try to confirm species id for most plants, but instead noted a tentative name or plant group so we could follow up another trip. Although we did not hike a long distance, we went through several of the different plant communities that are found in this preserve: bottomland hardwood, mesic hammock and cypress swamp during the first part of the trip, and later after moving to the upland entrance near Forge Rd, we traversed the recently burned areas of Sandhill, seasonally wet prairie, scrub. and arrived at the smaller of the lakes that are still holding water, which we named “East Lake” for purposes of this survey.

Some of our finds included: Many different hardwoods and some pines, shrubs such as Strawberry Bush (Heart’s a bustin) and Sparkleberry, and of course Cypress. Common groundcover included hypericum sp, bidens sp., and coreopsis sp. We enjoyed a break in an open area and found Cloudless Sulphur butterflies sheltering beneath the eye level branch of an old Live oak adorned with Resurrection fern, bromeliads and Green-fly orchid seed pods.

Later in the uplands we found the seed heads of an amazing variety of fall wild flowers, what appeared to be an emerging patch of sky-blue lupines, abundant blueberries in bud, wiregrass in seed, Florida Rosemary, and many other shrubs, vines and groundcovers.

To top it off, we found colonies of sundews around the edge of East Lake, along with several tiny yellow Zig-zag bladderworts.

It was a true pleasure to be out in this beautiful preserve exploring and botanizing with the group, sharing each other’s knowledge and excitement. It’s going to be an amazing adventure! To be continued.

For more about the project, see our previous article.

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