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What is a native plant?
A "Florida native plant" refers to a species occurring within the state boundaries prior to European contact, according to the best available scientific and historical documentation. Florida native plants include those species understood as indigenous, occurring in natural associations in habitats that existed prior to significant human impacts and alterations of the landscape."
What is a naturalized plant?
The term "naturalized plant" refers to a species that is growing on its own in nature.
It differs from "native plant" in that is may have originated as a garden escape, an agricultural escape, or an accidentally introduced weed.
All "alien invasive plants" or "non-native invasive species" are naturalized. However they got to Florida, they now grow on their own in nature and interfere with native species and natural ecosystem processes.
Why grow native plants?
There are good reasons to grow native plants:
- They preserve the character of the Florida landscape. Florida has a unique and diverse natural landscape. Why grow a landscape more appropriate to the tropics when we have something unique and more special here?
- They support native animals including butterflies, wild bees (and economically valuable honey bees), other insects, birds, and wildlife.
- They are beautiful!
Natives also support other "Earth friendly" efforts:
- Planted in appropriate settings,natives help conserve water. If you look around in nature, you'll note that natives are growing quite well on rainfall. But remember, setting is crucial -- to try to grow a wetland-dependent specie in a dry upland site is likely to be highly water intensive!
- Planted in appropriate settings, natives minimize fertilizer use. Much of Florida has nutrient-poor soils, and the species that grow naturally in those soils do so without need of fertilizer. Please do note that many will grow faster with some addition of fertilizers, but others will do worse! It is best to learn about specific species and plant only those appropriate to the setting. Never over-fertilize -- it will just run off and contribute to water pollution.
- Planted in lieu of monocultures of grass, natives minimize the need for pesticides and herbicides. But beware, a monoculture of anything will likely attract pests. Plant large islands of trees, shrubs, and flowers, and you will have less lawn to care for.
Natives support our economy:
- Tourism --- the wildlife that tourists come to see depends on native plants; maintaining large areas of native habitat also maintains features, such as streams and springs, which attract people to visit Florida.
- Hunting --- the wildlife that are hunted depend on native plants
- Fishing --- fishes of inland lakes and streams and many that breed in coastal areas depend on native vegetation either directly (as food and shelter, or indirectly as food and shelter for their prey.
Where can I buy native plants?
Lots of places!
Your best resource is the Florida Association of Native Nurseries' Plant Real Florida website. You can use their website to find a retail nursery in your area.
You can also find plants through your local FNPS chapter which may have natives available at meetings, chapter plant sales, or arranged visits to wholesale nurseries.
Is this a garden club?
The Mission of the Florida Native Plant Society is to promote the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the native plants and native plant communities of Florida.
The Society fulfills this mission through:
- Support for conservation land acquisition
- Land management that enhances habitat suitability for native plants
- Public policies that protect our native flora, especially rare species
- Research on native plant species
- Encouragment of local landscaping practices and policies that preserve Florida's native plant heritage
Many of our members enjoy growing native plants. It is one way that any one of us can contribute to the fulfillment of the FNPS mission.
So what is Florida Friendly?
Florida Friendly is a term coined to encourage good landscaping practices. Florida Friendly landscaping aims to conserve water, use nutrients wisely, and avoid spreading nuisance species.
Using Florida native plants is a great way to create a Florida Friendly landscape. Concepts such as grouping plants by their water needs, minimizing turf, and not planting nuisance species apply to all landscapes...including native landscapes.
But remember, whether you use natives or non-natives, learn what the plants need, and aim to use plants that will thrive at your site with minimal use of water, fertilizer, and pesticides.
Help! They Are Burning My Park!
Most of Florida's natural lands depend on fire. Without fire, they become brushy and overgrown. Native grasses and wildflowers disappear.
Without fire, many of Florida's natural lands become dangerous. The fuel loads become very high. When overgrown (fire-suppressd) lands burn, they burn hot and are difficut to control. All it takes is a careless match, a campfire, a car fire, arson, or a lightning strike, and overgrown forests become infernos.
Thank the managers who are burning the park. Green will be coming back in weeks, and come fall, you will likely be blessed with a wildflower show.