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.
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, http://www.fnps.org.
by Judith Simpson
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line: Bellflower survey.
Read more about the bellflower in our previous article, and visit the Bok website.
Story and photographs Jude Simpson
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 email@example.com for additional information, or to volunteer at this garden.
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.
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.
This is one of the quarry lakes. We will be examining the lakes and surrounding areas in the second part of
This time of year you may find one of our most stately wildflowers, Germander, Wood Sage (Teucrinum candense).
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).
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.
Submitted by Jude Simpson, President Hernando Chapter FNPSThe 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.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 http://www.wildflphoto.com, 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.
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.
Cypress Lakes Preserve: 2014 Get Oriented Hike, January 20 2014
Present: Jude Simpson, Sue Blakeman, Miki Renner, Mark Hutchinson, Pam Murfey, and Paulie Campbell
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.
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.
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.