LARGO — Christmas is in the air when the holiday lights come on at Florida Botanical Gardens, and this year they're more festive than ever. On Dec. 4, another annual tradition was observed at the gardens, 12520 Ulmerton Road, when the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society held its Conservation Celebration.
Guest speaker for the evening was author, environmental consultant and forensic botanist David Hall, PhD, who for 20 years was director of plant identification at the University of Florida. With co-author William Weber, he published “Wildflowers of Florida and the Southeast,” a work he said was decades in the making.
The weighty volume of nearly 800 pages, and almost as many photographs, was written to be used by the public, not just by professionals. The flowers have been catalogued according to color, simplifying plant identification.
Don't judge this book by its plain cover.
Hall shared many of the wildflower pictures during his presentation and described some of their unusual qualities. Among them were the richly colored scarlet morning glory, commonly seen along roadsides; the tread softly, which has hairy growths that can prick the skin and inject rash-producing, stinging substances; and the hairy wicky, found in Florida's flatwoods. Both native and non-native species are included in the book.
Following the presentation, attendees were invited to purchase a copy of the featured resource and have it autographed. Numerous environmental displays around the perimeter of the room provided additional conservation information. A silent auction offered nature-themed items.
The mission of the Florida Native Plant Society, as retiring president Jan Allyn summarized, is “to grow native plants and get natural spaces restored.” President-elect Candy Arnold said she became involved with the society because she believes that “native plants form the basis for biodiversity.”
Boasting a membership of about 250, the Pinellas chapter is one of the largest in the state. It meets year-round at the Pinellas County Extension office and features guest speakers on environmental and Florida native topics. The Tampa Bay estuary, bats and gopher tortoises were just some of the presentations this year. In addition, field trips are scheduled most months.
The organization also sponsors an annual landscape tour, plant sales and volunteer opportunities. Regular meetings begin at 7 p.m., normally the first Wednesday of the month, with complimentary member-provided refreshments and a silent auction of native plants, and are open to the public. Visit pinellas.fnpschapters.org for further information.
On Jan. 8, St. Petersburg College instructor and author George Kish will speak about landscaping with drought- and salt-tolerant plants. He also will autograph copies of his book, “Native Florida Plants.”