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Meet FNPS Board Members

Melanie Simon, Director and Chair of the Council of Chapters


Melanie is a lifetime member and has been with us since 2015. Melanie pledged to help match the first $10k of donations to our 2022 Annual Fund Drive. We asked her a few questions.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

I started volunteering at my local state park around 2001 and started working with the park biologist and learning about native plants.  In 2015 I learned they may be starting an FNPS chapter in my area - with meetings and activities close enough to attend. 

Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

Helping a newbie at a plant rescue find and laboriously dig up the huge root of an endangered Scrub Buckwheat (Eriogonum longifolium var gnaphalifolium).

What's your favorite plant joke?

Why couldn't the gardener plant any native plants? She hadn't botany.

Tim Keating, Director


Tim has been a member since 2020 and is a new board member this year. Tim joined the board and staff in putting up a match for the first $10k of the annual fund drive. We asked him a few questions.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

I first became aware of the idea of using native plants in landscaping in the early ’80s and then applied that to a position as foreman of a landscaping crew in NJ.  In 2005, I returned to landscaping design and became a board member of two park groups in Jersey City, advocating for natives and GI.

Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

Identifying that it was the fritillaries that were laying eggs on the passionflower vines we had planted a year before (and had nursed back from a mower debacle). Since then, those vines  are constantly visited by fritillaries and zebra longwings.

What's your favorite plant joke?

A man eating Queen Anne’s lace walks into a bar…

Athena Philips, Director and Conference Committee Co-Chair


Athena has been a member since 2015 and is past co-President of our Citrus Chapter and past Secretary of our Council of Chapters. She has also been the Chapter Representative for Citrus Chapter. Athena joined the board and staff in putting up a match for the first $10k of the annual fund drive. We asked her a few questions.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

FNPS represents my love of the wild. It brings together people who don't just love to be outdoors, but who want to understand the nature of what they are seeing. 

Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

Taking walks around the property with my pets, watching the change of the seasons and discovering new plants that I hadn't seen before. 

What's your favorite plant joke?

How do you identify a dogwood tree? By its bark!

Sorry, if only you were a plant, I'd remember your name.

Virginia Overstreet, Director

Virginia has been a member since 2008 and is the President of our Suncoast Chapter. Virginia joined the board and staff in putting up a match for the first $10k of the annual fund drive. We asked her a few questions.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

I wanted my garden to support wildlife.  I also wanted plants that would thrive in all weather conditions-drought, frost, hurricanes, etc. 
 
Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

A few years ago I was sitting on my front porch with my cat Bonnie sleeping on my lap.   I watched a hummingbird fly back and forth between my Coral Bean and my Coral Honeysuckle.   I wasn't able to get my phone to record the flight.   As I said, I had a sleeping cat on my lap.  

Tell us your favorite native plant joke.

What did one gardener say to the other gardener? Botany plants lately?

Eugene Kelly, Chair of the Policy and Legislation Committee


Eugene, or Gene, as he's known in FNPS, has been a member since 1998. Gene joined the board and staff in putting up a match for the first $10k of the annual fund drive. We asked him a few questions.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

As a conservation biologist I'm dedicated to conserving all of nature.  Our counterparts in other conservation organizations are so animal-centric.  FNPS is dedicated to plant conservation.  What could be more fundamental?  How could our partners conserve wildlife effectively without native plants?

Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

When walking with a landowner who wanted to enhance the wildlife value of his property, he asked why I kept looking at the ground. "Because that's where the action is - in your groundcover. And there's a mint nearby". I smelled it; found it; and showed him a Dicerandra in flower. Light bulb moment!

What's your favorite native plant joke?

Is there such a thing?  Plant's aren't a laughing matter.  But my pun-loving Botany prof from 40 years ago liked to play with plant names.  To this day, whenever I come across Cornus florida, I see a "dowering flogwood". 

Bonnie Basham, Past President and Secretary


Bonnie has been an FNPS member since 2016. Bonnie joined the board and staff in putting up a match for the first $10k of the annual fund drive. We asked her a few questions.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

I saw a notice about a plant rescue in advance of a new highway being constructed. I participated and realized I had a lot more to learn about native plants and that I also enjoyed being around similar-minded people.

Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

My husband and I bike a number of trails in Tallahassee and Wakulla counties. The first time I saw a native Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) I was thrilled because the one in my yard also was blooming. It's such a thrill to see natives in the wild which also are growing in my yard.

David Martin, Executive Vice President

David has been an FNPS member continually since 1985. David joined the board and staff in putting up a match for the first $10k of the annual fund drive. We asked him a few questions.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

I'm a long time member of FNPS, coming from the Wyoming Native Plant Society.  My lifetime jobs were in managing and conserving native plants.  It's my most important membership.

Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

Discovering a new one, Dicerandra cornutissima.

What's your favorite native plant joke?

I'm afraid the historic "common" name of one of our endangered native plants is a bit of a joke:  pink squirrel-banana.  That was banned from the official Fish and Wildlife Service listing proposal. 

Wendy Poag, Director

Wendy has been an FNPS member since 2002 and is currently leading the Landscaping and Education Committees. Wendy joined the board and staff in putting up a match for the first $10k of the annual fund drive. We asked her a few questions.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

I am a lifetime learner. FNPS helps me to continue towards my lifelong learning goals. Native plants are climate smart and gardening with them helps me to reach my personal carbon neutral. I enjoy supporting and watching wildlife and pollinators; what benefits them benefits me. 

Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

Any FNPS in person conference or board retreat field trip just exploring the local natural communities. They all blur together.

Sean Patton, Director


Sean has been an FNPS member since 2018 and runs Stocking Savvy, an environmental consulting firm focused on the installation and maintenance of native aquatic ecosystems. Sean joined the board and staff in putting up a match for the first $10k of the annual fund drive.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

To learn more about habitat restoration and promote native species!

Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

Seeing my first pine lilies in bloom was very exciting, or anytime a damned butterfly sits still long enough for me to photograph them.

What's your favorite plant joke?

I can't leaf you with just one, so I'll go out on a limb and say that it's definitely Panicum at the Disco!

Susan Carr, PhD, Board Treasurer


Susan is a lifetime member of FNPS and she loves land protection. She was recently hired by Alachua Conservation Trust as their Strategic Conservation Manager. We asked her a few questions. Susan joined the board and staff in putting up a match for the first $10k of the annual fund drive.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

I was recruited... to be the President!!

Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

Probably my grad school days... I spend the better part of 4 years traveling the State and sampling ground cover vegetation of pinelands. I like just hanging out with the flowers... like old friends.

What's your favorite plant joke?

Why did they invite the mushroom to the party?  Because he is a fungi!

Shirley Denton, PhD, Director and Communications Chair


Shirley is a lifetime member of FNPS and basically the main reason why our website runs. Shirley joined the board and staff in putting up a match for the first $10k of the annual fund drive.

What attracted you to join FNPS?

Originally, professional.  Archbold Biological Station recommended that I join the then young organization when I was a post-doc at the station.  I did.  I became active much later when I joined the BOD as Science Chair.

Tell us your fondest native plant memory.

Discovering the incredible diversity of the panhandle and getting the opportunity to explore with some of FNPS's really wonderful botanists.  

We've already exceeded Sean, Shirley, and Susan's match, but we have yet to reach out $50k goal for the 2022 Annual Fund drive. There's still time to donate to reach our goal. Could you help? Our native plants appreciate your generosity. Donate now.