Passionflower Chapter

Florida Native Plant Society

Past Activity News

June 14, 2020 Rescue and Susan Knapp Award

Susan Knapp, one of the founding members of the FNPS Passionflower Chapter, was presented with an award of appreciation at a plant rescue in Clermont on June 14th.  Susan was instrumental in advocating for the name “Passionflower” as it was reflective of the passion members display for promoting and preserving native plants in addition to being the name of one of our most beautiful and beneficial natives.  Since the founding of the chapter Susan has worked tirelessly  to support local chapter activities and served as Passionflower’s Chapter Representative, connecting with other chapters at state-wide Florida Native Plant Society meetings.  Susan is stepping back from the chapter to focus her passion on rescuing native plants and conservation initiatives across Central Florida.  She has certainly made a difference and Passionflower is grateful for her many contributions and dedication.

 

May 6, 2020 Landscapes of the Future

No one can predict the future; however, on May 6th Brooke Moffis  Commercial Horticulture Agent from UF/IFAS Lake County Extension hosted a virtual program to give Passionflower members and supporters some insights into trends that could impact how landscapes are designed in the future.

Brooke touched on a number of trends that are showing up in magazines and marketing:  minimalistic design, geometric shapes, limited plant species, fewer colors, grouped mass plantings, automated mowers.  There is also great interest in bringing interior spaces outside (with outdoor seating and gathering areas) and the outdoors inside (with houseplants). Millennials in particular appear drawn to these inside-outside trends.

Many of these trends may make native plant enthusiasts cringe; however, there are also trends towards more nature-driven landscapes that give native plant people hope:  wooded, naturalistic lots, meadow lawns, butterfly gardens, backyard habitats, and edible landscapes.  The shift from lawn monocultures to embracing local ecosystems was highlighted by a video showing the transformation of a typical lot in the Villages to a space with native plant “rooms” connected by wandering curved paths. The use of natural materials such as stone, water features and bird houses to create interest in a garden was also discussed.

Water conservation will be important to Florida’s future, so a lot of research is going into turfgrass alternatives.  Brooke highlighted the development of new types of turfgrass requiring less water and fertilizer as well as being more pest-resistant, and the development of blended lawns (with mimosa, coreopsis, salvia lyrata and frogfruit) as an alternative to monoculture lawns.

Brooke’s presentation was interesting and thought-provoking.  The challenge for those of us into native plants is to figure out how to craft our message and fit native plants into the broader trends.  If we can encourage the practice of integrating landscapes with nature and the weaving of human needs with the needs of the environment we can help shape future trends.

 

March 14, 2020 Beyond Nectar

The Beyond Nectar program on March 14th provided so much great information.  We did the first part sitting at picnic tables under the building overhang.  Wendy Poag from Lake County Office of Parks and Trails began by defining terms and concepts and introducing the group to her large collection of plant reference books, including books on weeds and an excellent guide for Selecting Plants for Pollinators.

Wendy asked the group what butterflies that are flitting around our yards are looking for. The answer depends on a lot of things, particularly species, gender, and time of year.  To aid in our discussion, we were each given a Butterfly & Moth Bucket List form.  If we’d had more time we would have filled out a monthly form for our favorite butterfly so we could attract them throughout the year (perhaps a topic for a future workshop?).  Instead we talked in general about what butterflies in general might be looking for:  nectar (different species prefer different flower colors and shapes), the opposite sex, shelter, and if female, the right plants to nourish their young.  Wendy provided a lot of fascinating details and pointers about attracting and supporting butterflies.  She stressed that one plant does no good.  A cluster of plants will provide more scent for passing butterflies to notice and enough nectar to sustain the butterfly while it finds the other things it needs – flying takes a lot of energy!

Wendy then took us to what she called her “butterfly garden” – which looked suspiciously like a weedy lawn.  She had pictures of butterflies on sticks which she place next to the weeds that are nectar sources or larval hosts for those butterflies.  Who knew that the weeds we’ve been pulling can actually be valuable to butterflies?  For example, the cudweed in the picture above is a larval host for the American Lady butterfly. 

The final part of the program included walking through some of the restoration areas and searching for eggs and chrysalis in the butterfly demonstration garden while enjoying the beautiful weather.

 

February 8, 2020 Bluebirds

May All Your Birds be Blues (Bluebirds)

Our February 8, 2020 program on Bluebirds was well attended, attesting the popularity of bluebirds with their striking color, musical voices, and gentle habits.

Faith Jones from the Florida Bluebird Society gave an interesting presentation full of facts, pictures, and sounds.  She started the presentation by talking about how birds of all kinds are in decline despite an increasing interest in birds and birdwatching (now the second most popular hobby after gardening).

Birds need four things to survive and thrive:  food, water, shelter, and a place to raise their young.  Threats to birds include

  • Predators – other birds, raccoons, fire ants,snakes, and cats ( cats kill 3.9 million birds per year)
  • Insecticides – biggest threat, may not kill birds outright, but will affect their health and reproduction as well as depleting their food supply
  • Habitat destruction - trees, native plant food sources, and shelter are disappearing

Bluebirds eat berries, but they are primarily insect eaters.  Faith explained that native plants attract 96% more insects than non-native plants, providing bluebirds with the food they and their young need. A list of native plants for bluebirds was distributed and can be downloaded from Passionflower.FNPSchapters.org/resources.

Using a display nest box, Faith explained how bluebirds are cavity nesters, but they cannot excavate a cavity.  They therefore have to rely on cavities in tree snags abandoned by other species such as woodpeckers.  Nest boxes, if properly designed and installed, provide an alternative.  The preferred design Includes:

  • 1 ½” opening with metal rim or 2nd piece of wood to deter woodpeckers from enlarging the opening (a program attendee suggested a piece of sheet metal between the two wood pieces which Faith thought was a great idea)
  • Ventilation and drainage holes
  • Predator guard on mounting post (stovepipe and hardware cloth design is effective and inexpensive) to prevent raccoons and snakes from getting to the box
  • Box that is 5-7 inches deep
  • Must open for monitoring (once a week during nesting season except once eggs have hatched and chick’s eyes have opened) and cleaning (remove old nests after nesting season in fall)
  • Roof large enough for weather and predator protection and shade
  • Located in open area 100 yards apart (bluebirds are territorial – if boxes are too close neither will be used)

Faith also showed pictures of the nests of birds (including bluebirds, chickadees and titmice) that will use bluebird nestboxes and went through the timeline for nest building, incubating, and fledging.  More info on box design and bluebirds can be found at https://floridabluebirdsociety.org/bluebird_nestbox/

 

January 11, 2020 Water Resources Program

Dr. Jennifer Mitchell started off her January 11th Land Management and Water Resource program by reminding attendees about how much of Florida is water.  Since so much of our environment is water, protecting these natural systems is the core mission of the St. John’s River Water Management District (SJRWMD).  This mission is accomplished through natural system management, flood prevention, water supply management, and water quality initiatives.

All of our water supply in this area of Florida, whether obtained from a water utility or private well, comes from the aquifer.  Thus, everything put on the ground ends up in our water supply so the islands of nature SJRWMD maintains within expanding development is important for water quality.

SJRWMD uses a variety of land management techniques, including fire, to preserve native habitats.  Fire is a preventative and restorative tactic which resets habitats and supports the many species which depend on fire.  Prescribed fires not only help perpetuate fire-adapted plants and animals, they also reduce the chances of destructive wildfires, cycle nutrients, and help control tree diseases.

As Florida’s population grows it is important to think long term about water supply.  The aquifer is the least-cost water supply alternative - deeper aquifer, surface water/brackish groundwater, and seawater desalinization are all more expensive.

Dr. Mitchell reviewed how our water supply is used:

  • 65% private use (58% public supply, 7% self-supply)
  • 19% Agricultural Irrigation
  • 9% Commercial/Industrial/Institutional and Mining (Mining and pulp and paper 99%)
  • 6% Recreational/Landscape/Aesthetic (golf courses 48%)
  • 1% Thermoelectric Power Generation

Using an interactive polling system, Dr. Mitchell asked program attendees questions about water use and conservation.  Some of the key takeaways were:

  • Residential per capita use is about 86 gallons per person per day
  • Irrigation accounts for more than half of all residential water use.
    • Irrigate less
    • Get a rain sensor and maintain it so it continues to work
  • Measures to reduce use inside our homes include:
    • Don’t leave water running when brushing your teeth.
    • 12% of household use is toilets – make sure you don’t have leaks
    • Showers use 2 ½ gallons/minute – use low-flow heads and shorten shower time

At the close of this informative program, Dr. Mitchell distributed rain gauges, toilet leak tablets, and literature.

 

Dec 7 2019 Field Trip to LLSP

We had gorgeous weather for our joint Passionflower/Cuplet Fern field trip to Lake Louisa State Park on December 7, 2019.  Chris Matson, the park biologist, led the 21 trip participants on a tour of the restoration areas and talked about park history and evolving efforts to restore native plant communities.

We started with a tour of the garden at the Ranger Station.  There are two parts to the garden - the butterfly garden and the habitat garden.  Started in 2003/2004 the butterfly garden is full of beautiful native plants which Passionflower members are helping to maintain.  Although trees were planted in the habitat section of the garden,  which is intended to showcase 5 upland plant communities, the understory and wildflowers/groundcover are still being planted/developed.

After the garden tour the group drove to various restoration areas.   You would think that there wouldn't be much to see in December, but there were still plants in bloom and lots of native grasses with diverse infloreescence types.  Enjoy the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEDdfhDGpDc

 

October 26 - Oakland Heritage & Wildlife Festival

 

At the October 26th Oakland Heritage & Wildlife Festival, Passionflower chapter volunteers handed out literature and spread the word about Florida's native plants and the benefits of native plant landscaping.  The annual Oakland event, which enjoyed exceptionally good weather this year, attracted attendees from Lake and Orange county and beyond.  Chapter President, Melanie Simon, gave a presentation on Native Plants, Butterflies and Birds.  

June 29, 2019 Warea Tract

The Warea Tract in east Lake County is a small parcel with a high biodiveristy of listed plants and limited public access.  Passionflower, Lake Beautyberry, and Tarflower FNPS Presidents (yes, three chapter Presidents!) and members helped Florida Forestry on June 29, 2019 by pulling non-native Natal Grass (a Cat I invasive).  The collected plants and seeds will be disposed of by “cooking” them in the black plastic garbage bags used for collecting, and then placing them in the regular trash.  Blooming plants observed included Stylisma abidita (dawnflower  - a tiny white morning-glory type flower that is a listed species), Skullcaps, and Roselings.  Although the Warea are yet to bloom, the group was told that plants collected at this site will be planted at Lake Louisa State Park and other conservation areas later this year.

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