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2000 Florida Native Plant Conference Comments

 

This was my first Florida Native Plant Conference.  I really enjoyed all the seminars and talks.  The Radisson Hotel was super, with very comfortable beds and rooms.  The ambiance of Miami was a welcome change from the rural Brooksville climate.  There were many well known Florida botanists there so we all learned a lot.

I would encourage as many as possible to go to the conference next year.  I believe it is in Tarpon Springs, so it will be much closer.  You can count on a great brushing up (no pun intended) on Florida plants and ecology.  Tarpon Springs also has great Greek restaurants and gift shops.            Bruce Vanderveen                                                                                                         

 

Miami was (surprisingly) a super trip!  We visited the Seminole Museum on the way down. Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki (Place of Knowing; Place of Remembering).  The conference sessions were worth the time.  All the plants there are different, so it was lots of new information to all of us.

On Friday we visited the very threatened Pine Rockland habitat represented at two county parks, Castellow Hammock and Camp Owiassa Bauer.  I have never been anywhere where practically every plant you are introduced to is an endangered species, specific to these two parks and maybe one other location.  Roger Hammer took us to his own yard next.  There were dozens of plants new to most of us! . Our car pool group visited the Preston B. Bird & Mary Heinlen Fruit and Spice Park that is managed by Metro Dade Park and Recreation Dept. also. They have a great book store.  We saw peach and apple varieties that tolerate South Florida conditions.   We discovered Sausage trees are worthless except as novelty and shade.  We saw Cashew trees, Jak Fruit trees, White and Black Sapote and Sapadillo to name just a few.

The Sat. night social was at Fairchild's Tropical Gardens.  We took the tram ride with the tour guide for 1/2 hour when we initially arrived.  It was gorgeous!  They are conserving endangered Cycads and Palms from around the world. 

It was quite wonderful and educational!  Hope more of you join us nest year in Pinellas County for the 21st annual conference.          Sid Taylor, Citrus County                                                                                                                                             

Bruce Vanderveen and I drove to the FNPS Conference in Miami together Thursday night after I got off work.  I had heard a lot of horror stories about Miami, but felt very safe traveling there whether it was walking or in a car. Bruce and I went on one of the off-site evening fieldtrips FNPS sponsored for the weekend at Gifford Arboretum, University of Miami at Coral Gables on Friday night and loved seeing all the tropical plants from all over the world that were growing there. One plant that was in the legume family had turquoise blossoms that were spaced on a vine so that they resembled a bear claw necklace. I have never seen anything in the plant world that came close to that turquoise hue before.

Saturday morning Maria and I ventured out for a walk near the hotel and found two lakes that were surrounded by abandoned parking lots and litter, but we could see native vegetation surviving along the shoreline of the lake so we went over to investigate. We found two coco plum trees (Chrysoblanus icaco) and Maria found one ripe coco plum on each tree. She had lived in Miami for eight years and knew the native vegetation quite well, so when she popped that beautiful fruit in her mouth, I quickly followed suit and was delighted with the taste. I could have eaten a bushel.

Sunday was the grand finale ... the fieldtrip to Rabenau Camp on the eastern edge of Big Cypress Preserve with Chuck McCartney. We were blessed with warm but not too humid weather and an array of wildflowers to identify and admire. The highlight of the trip for me was wading into a pond apple swamp. On the outskirts of the swamp, a bear had  clawed and rubbed against the smooth, pale trunk of a red stopper tree.  Once inside the swamp, Chuck pointed out ghost orchids and clam shell orchids (not blooming) on the trunks of trees. Then I got to see my very first eastern cottonmouth snake! In fact, we found two cottonmouths.

I enjoyed the conference tremendously and would recommend it to all native plant lovers. Next year the conference will be in Pinellas County, close to home, so you really should plan to attend.      Marcie Clutter

                                                                        

As usual the conference was wonderful! The educational sessions and the field trips were terrific.  The Dade Chapter did a great job of putting it all together!  Visiting with old friends and meeting new ones are always the main highlights for me.  Another high point was buying Gil Nelson's new book 'The Ferns of Florida' and having him sign it at the book signing reception.  I am really looking forward to the 2001 conference in Pinellas County and  I hope more of our members will be able to attend.     Sharon LaPlante                                              

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