The Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) is developing a brochure of about 60 recommended native species for landscaping in yards and public spaces. Encouraging native landscaping is part of a broader effort to support ecosystems and wildlife and encourage sustainable property management that doesn’t harm the environment.
The brochure will guide gardeners in the selection of introductory species most likely to thrive and meet the landscape needs of their site. Plants are organized into nine light & moisture zones with sunny-dry at one extreme and shady wet at the other. For example, nine species are listed for full sun and average moisture; six species are listed for shade with dry soil conditions.
Within each light-moisture zone are a variety of large and small plants: a ground cover, a couple of shrubs, wildflowers, a small tree and perhaps a grass or vine. These recommended species are the regional landscape “stars” for each zone ranging between sunny-dry and shady-moist. Most are relatively easy to grow and available at native nurseries.
The brochure is large. It opens like a road map to reveal all 60 recommended species on one side. Each species has a color photograph and seven bullet points with the kind of information useful to gardener or landscaper: its mature height, its landscape assets, a note about maintenance, perhaps an interesting fact, and its use by wildlife, birds, or butterflies.
The other side of the brochure has general information about native plants including an introduction to native plant landscaping. One panel has tips on how to choose the right plant for the right place. Other panels briefly explain how to determine the typical soil moisture on your own site and how to map out Full Sun and Part Sun and Shade beds on a site. Other panels list a few online resources and books for finding additional landscape species, tells how to locate native nurseries, and gives a few watering, maintenance, and mulching tips especially relevant to landscaping with native plants.
Six regional versions of the brochure are being developed for Florida. The recommended plants must be native to the counties of the region and thrive in the local climate. Each region features signature plants dubbed the “regional landscape stars” that represent the best native landscape plants from that part of the state. FNPS hopes that the regions move the public toward thinking of locally native plants and away from the one-size-fits-all “Florida native” plant.
This is an all-volunteer project from a FNPS Council of Chapters workgroup representing Chapters across the state. Because FNPS represents not only landscaping, but science, research, conservation, and public policy, long and sometimes interesting discussion has evolved, for example, around the decision for six plant regions. It was a practical compromise that pleased few, but may be a new step in a better direction. The Broward Chapter is providing the lead for the workgroup.
Due in July are drafts of each region’s plant list with bullet points for each of 60 species. Broward is part of the Southeast region which includes all the Atlantic coast counties from Indian River through Monroe (on the Gulf coast) and the Keys. Every region is a compromise from the ideal. This Southeast region has the disadvantage of great latitude between these counties. Bullet points can note freeze tolerance and the native range for a species.
Landscape plants suitable for the unnatural substrates and the hydrology of urban developed areas are significantly different from lists of plants selected for restoration to grow in local wild places or more natural areas. This selection of regional “landscape stars” presents many challenges and has never been attempted in this way. It will create many discussions and compromises for those vetting these regional lists locally and on the FNPS Board.
For all its pitfalls, a gardener-friendly hand-out attractively recommending 60 native species likely to thrive locally is a significant improvement over every other native plant list we have studied. The brochure introduces the public to native landscaping and points them to resources such as the Natives for Your Neighborhood website.
It enables almost anyone to select and plant a few species likely to thrive in their landscape and satisfy. The brochure provides a quick and practical answer for a public thirsty to do the right thing for the environment, but without the time or interest to study native landscaping. We hope it also benefits local native landscapers and native nurseries to create more diversity and availability among the "right plants".
Now is the time for local participation. If you want contribute to making this list of 60 southeast “regional landscape stars”, email richard@Brownscombe.net to submit a species you think should be on the list. Tell us why, which light-moisture zone it thrives in, and suggest bullet points for gardeners.
If you have a good southeast landscaping plant list, send it. If you want to be even more helpful, request our form that explains the species criteria and has the required fields that fit the brochure layout. If you want to vet the draft list when it is completed, send me your name and email. I’ll send you a copy of species and their bullet points in July.
If you have any human resources to improve the outcome, we hope you offer them (host a meeting, create a local task group, provide editing of the bullet points, select plant photographs, or obtain photo releases).
Plant photos above: Mature Wax Myrtle, Myrica cerifera, and Keys Morningglory, Jacquemontia pentanthos by Roger Hammer.