Sandhill Habitat Restoration
Our members are working on numerous Sandhill habitat restoration projects with our partners throughout central Florida. Projects are located at Lake Louisa State Park, St. John’s River Water Management District, Oakland Nature Preserve, Mead Gardens, Lake County Parks and Trails, Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve, Lake County Water Authority, Oscar Shearer State Park, St. Geneva Wilderness, and Chinsegut Manor House. Scrub and Scrubby Flatwoods habitat restoration projects are located at Bill Frederick Park, Shadow Bay Park, and Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve.
FNPS members planting rescued plants at Lake Louisa State Park.
More than 150 native plant species have been documented in floristic surveys and seeds are being collected from properties owned by our partners (private landowners) for restoration projects on public lands. A number of rare and critically endangered species are included in these restoration efforts, including Warea amplexifolia, Bonamia grandiflora, Eriogonum longifolium var. gnaphalifolium, Matelea pubiflora, Nolina brittoniana, and Polygala lewtonii.
One of the most important components of restoration work is providing locally-sourced, and genetically diverse seed mixes. By ensuring that seeds (and the plants grown from them) are local to the restoration site, we can avoid introducing species that don’t naturally occur in an area and reduce problems associated with outbreeding depression.
There are many benefits of hand-collected seeds versus machine-harvested seeds. Machine harvesting reduces the genetic diversity of the resulting seed mix and thereby reduces the fitness of a population over time. Machine harvesting reduces diversity in two ways: it damages many of the seeds that are collected and harvest occurs once in a field whereas, hand collection occurs throughout the period of time that seeds are ripening, thereby capturing a larger gene pool.
Emergency Sandhill Rescue
Despite being identified more than 20 years ago by the state of Florida as a high priority for acquisition and protection, one of the last remaining intact-jewels of Sandhill on the Lake Wales Ridge, was scheduled to be converted to a strip mall beginning in November 2017. The FNPS Conservation Committee, members from 10 chapters, and 6 project partners organized a massive rescue of nearly 120 plant species, 23 of which are endemic to Florida and 9 of which are endangered.Rescue permission was received from the landowner and permits were obtained from the state of Florida for collection of the rare plant species. We are extremely grateful to our partners for all of their support: Green Isle Gardens nursery, Oakland Nature Preserve, Lake Louisa State Park, St. John’s River Water Management District, Lake County Water Authority, and Lake County Parks and Trails.All rescued plants are being used for restoration projects on public properties. See below for more information.
Collecting seeds that will be used for restoration work on public lands.
Kara Driscoll (left) and Mark Kateli (right) are holding a rare Bonamia grandiflora which took hours to carefully excavate.
Beginning in January 2018, rescued plants that were hardened-off for several months at Green Isle Gardens Nursery, will be planted at numerous restoration sites managed by Oakland Nature Preserve, Lake Louisa State Park, St. John’s River Water Management District, Lake County Water Authority, and Lake County Parks and Trails.
For the rescue, a grid of the property was created and all plant populations collected were labelled with their location on the property and kept in distinct locations at Green Isle Gardens Nursery. For each restoration planting, we paid special attention to the locations from which each plant population was collected. Using the latest and best available research to inform our restoration efforts will help ensure that these plant populations will persist into the future at their new homes.
We also collected as many seeds as possible from over 50 plant species at the rescue site before removing the plants. Many pounds of seeds that germinate readily onsite were sowed directly at restoration sites, while seeds of 32 species are being propagated by our partner Green Isle Gardens Nursery.
Volunteer Kevin Moore (left) and Green Isle Gardens Nursery Manager Nick Giannola (right) helped install extra irrigation lines to accommodate the nearly 1,000 plants introduced at Lake Louisa State Park.
April McClain, manager of greenhouse operations for Green Isle Gardens grows plants for restoration work from seeds collected from rescue sites by FNPS members. She also helps rescue and plant.