June eNews for Broward Native Plants
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Florida Pennyroyal, Piloblephis rigida, has a range including peninsular Florida (yes, Broward County, too), and some of the Western Bahamian Islands. We feature it today in honor of our upcoming Annual Potluck and because it is a pleasant wildflower for your herb garden. Its culinary use is for tea and as an herb. Pregnant women should not use it; please read any cautions at Green Deane's where we found this photo and information. Thank you, Green Deane.

Don't miss our Annual Potluck
this Wednesday, June 10 at 7:00 pm. See details below.

Florida Native Plant Society

Promoting the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Broward County
Membership $35
Broward Chapter (Coontie) website & calendar
Chapter Email
Plant List (Inst. for Regional Conservation)
The Broward Chapter on Facebook
Annual Broward Chapter Potluck
Secret Woods Nature Center, 2701 Florida (W. State Rd.) 84, Dania Beach, FL 33312
An annual ritual, the Broward Chapter potluck is most of all time to chat with others who also care about native plants. Potlucks are open events with the only price of admission being a dish or drinks to share. Our plant friends from Palm Beach and Dade are also invited, and if you have a friend who needs a gustatory incentive to meet us, bring them.

This year, as in recent years, Kay hosts a guessing game or two related to plants. We dub it, Native Plant Jeopardy. There will be at least one "grand prize".

We also invite your feedback and welcome your suggestions for next year. Because we serve the public, we want to know what, in the native plant world, you most want and need. We also elect the Board for next year. The potluck marks the last meeting of the annual cycle, with two months off during the summer (no meetings or newsletters in July and August). This gives our volunteers a summer break.

It's a relaxed and pleasant evening, so join us for the food and enjoy the people.

Note: We believe in something or someone eating the invasives when you can, but the Surinam Cherry pie above isn't for everyone. Check our why by clicking on the image or link.

SATURDAY, June 13, 9:45 am
Anne Kolb Nature Center
, 751 Sheridan St., Hollywood, FL 33019
First a walking introduction to the park by staff (10-10:45) and then a walk to see and identify some of the many native plants there. Anne Kolb Nature Center is a nearby 1,501-acre coastal mangrove wetland, home to a wide variety of plants and animals including many birds. A large area south of Sheridan Street was restored and opened with 2.3 miles of mostly dry dirt and gravel trail making it easy to see and learn many more native species. Among the wetland native species is Seaside Gentian, Eustoma exaltatum (Alan Cressler) pictured here. Below is a link to the taxa you might want to print to help in identifying species we encounter there. Meet us on the Nature Center entrance bridge leading from the parking lot. For most people the walk will be easy, perhaps two miles for those who choose the south Westlake walk. Getting back on your own is an easy option for those who need to shorten the walk.
Anne Kolb & West Lake Plant List

FNPS President Elect: Catherine Bowman, Tarflower Chapter

At the annual FNPS Conference in Tallahassee a few weeks ago, those present changed the Bylaws to add the new position of "President Elect" to serve the year BEFORE her term as President. From the floor they elected Catherine Bowman from the Tarflower Chapter in the Orlando area. No announcement or biography had been published as of our newsletter date, so check for that announcement.

Dave Feagles of Sarasota was elected online by the Representatives of all the Chapters statewide to follow Julie Becker as Chair of the Council of Chapters. Dave has been very active on the FNPS Board as a Director at Large and within the new Council of Chapters during its formative first year at ended June 1st. The first Council of Chapters meeting with Dave as Chair will occur online on June 21st and the main topic will be setting the direction for the Council during its second year. The Native Landscape brochure is a project of the Council of Chapters. The map-like brochure is designed to give a boost to all the Chapters statewide in providing useful and specific landscape information to the public.
The Broward Chapter is now on Facebook. Check us out on Facebook; Like us to help promote the site, and participate in the conversation.

The Boston Fern:
a gift and a torture


Take the gift, end the torture

I just love ferns. I'm sure it's a childhood thing, if not something primordial, then at least back to the womb. I have an early memory of getting lost in the bracken ferns. It was a forest with a canopy of fronds and green-gold light with a sky of fern-print patterns. I wandered in a trance until I could no longer hear a human voice. Eventually some life-saving inner voice whispered, "You ... are ... lost!" I cried out in panic, and heard my mother's voice. But that quiet, green fern world was worth it.

The patterns and variety of ferns still loses me. I don't understand the need for color and flowers in a garden, although I enjoy them, of course. Much of my youth was in Oregon and in the forest, so it was a love nourished. The delicate maiden-hair ferns clung dangerously to a waterfall cliff, anchored by moss, bouncing gently, and jeweled with water droplets.

We moved to south Florida from San Francisco (where lush gardens of ferns live in Golden Gate Park, including 15-foot Australian tree ferns: an adult "bracken forest") in 2005. One of the great surprises was south Florida's fern mecca. Broward has nearly 40 fern and fern-like native species and some are abundant. (Photo of frond and in the wild by George D. Gann)

One of those is the "Wild Boston Fern" (Nephrolepis exaltata) that has graced the parlors of America, not only in Boston since the late 19th century, but coast to coast. It thrives indoors with a regular water and window-light. It's a graceful weeping potted plant with fronds 2½ feet or longer and foliage 3 feet in diameter. Hang it; put it on a pedestal or small table, or put it on the floor atop a reversed pot so the fronds can arch.

When you mistreat it by lack of water or direct sunshine, the fronds die, shouting out, "Water!" or "Stop the burning sunshine, please, only bright light!" When you resume watering regularly, it comes back. In south Florida indoor air-conditioning dries the air, so keep the moist. A small effort toward the humidity it prefers (open-window, spray mist, or away from the AC vent blast) will let it thrive indoors. It is hearty.

Extending your outdoor garden indoors is wonderful design and ideal for the "Florida room". Outdoors, the Wild Boston fern is a gift to the native gardener. It works beautifully as a ground cover 1-2 feet high in partial or even full shade. Too much sun and too little soil moisture will make it look straggly, so choose something else for an unirrigated xeric landscape. The moisture requirement is not high, so in partial shade almost any extra moisture (run-off, swale, downspout, A/C drip, humus soil, hand irrigation between infrequent rainstorms, etc.) will keep it full, healthy, and lush as a ground cover.

Pots of Wild Boston fern can grace stairs, porches, patios, walkways, walls, and ledges. Use a pot saucer, glazed pot, or plastic pot to reduce watering frequency, and keep the soil medium moist for a lush-looking plant.

You can hang Wild Boston fern or get even more creative remembering that it is also an epiphyte. You see it often in the boots of the Sabal Palm, but it will take to other natural and unnatural locations where some moisture is maintained for the roots. You could use it for a vertical garden, or tuck it into coral wall niches on the shaded north side.

So what's the "torture"? The torture is that the very similar-looking "Boston Fern" Nephrolepis cordifolia, also know as the Tubrous Sword Fern, is a Category 1 Florida Invasive plant that "invades and disrupts native plant communities". So we can't recommend "Boston Fern" without alerting the public to the imposter. We must help eradicate the use of Asian Sword Fern and tell nurseries to stop selling it. To do this we must be able to tell them apart. I made the mistake or bought wrongly-labeled plants before I understood the difference. It's difficult to eradicate Nephrolepis cordifolia, from your yard, but I'm working on it.

So that you can enjoy the native Nephrolepis exaltata, native Wild Boston Fern

The Only Reliable TestIf it has tubers, it's the invasive N. cordifolia. Not every plant you pull from the ground has a tuber, but most do, so dig up a small patch looking for the firm, brown, greenish or yellowish grape-like tubers. It is the easy and only sure way for an amateur to know you have the invasive.

Okey, I'm going out on a limb here and bucking the advice of many experienced botanists who have written elaborately on this subject (e.g., University of Florida). They claim that the invasive N. cordifolia has dark scale attachments (see George Gann's photo of stems below) on the upper side of the petiole, that is, the stem below the leaflets or pinnae. Others say contrasting color between the scale and scale-attachment.  They also claim the leaflets of invasive N. cordifolia overlap on the underside, mid-frond, covering the rachis (frond stem half way between the bottom leaflets and the tip). They claim the pinnae and frond are more blunt on the invasive N. cordifolia. They say the sori (actually the indusia or tissue covering the spore packets on the underside of the pinnae or leaflets) are "kidney shaped" (less closed) than the indusia of N. exaltata with horseshoe-shaped or more fully closed circles.

And I say, well maybe! But I spent many hours with a 30X binocular scope, and with reading glasses, looking at dozens of Sword Fern fronds and remained uncertain. The variety is wide and it seemed to me that no one standard works well most the time, and that even trends and tendencies are not easy to see. I think I understand this being out-of-sync-with experienced botanists phenomenon. Read on.

My first job was in a greenhouse in Oregon two blocks from my home. One of their specialties was fuchsias. They propagated about 36 varieties. After two years there, I was able to identify all 36 varieties by the leaf alone, before they were mature enough to bloom. I may not have been able to describe exactly how one looked different from another similar variety, but I knew. It comes from experience.

I think you, and even I, can probably learn to see the difference between a native N. exaltata, and N. cordifolia without digging them up, but it is tricky and subtle. Dig enough of them, looking for tubers, and you may learn to distinguish between them. In your yard it's easy to replant those hearty native Nephrolepis exaltata without tubers, so dig. My advice is to dig for tubers until you can guess correctly every time.

Yes, there are also many cultivars (highly-bred varieties) of N. exaltata, but most of those look big and fancy, unlike the wild Boston Fern in the Sabal boots and in the hammocks. Buy from a native nursery who shares your love of native plants, and always pull the pot off to check the roots for "bad tubers". That way you can enjoy one of south Florida's great botanical gifts, Nephrolepis exaltata, the Wild Boston Fern indoors and outdoors.

Speaker events are on 2nd Wednesdays at 7 pm at the Secret Woods.
Field Trips are usually on a following weekend but they vary,
so always check the Calendar and check again for last minute trip updates.
Visit for a wealth of information about local plants.
Copyright © 2015 Broward Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, All rights reserved.

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