Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lowes is at it again

The above pictures illustrates a classic error. The species of milkweed in the picture is Mexican Milikweed (Asclepias curassavica) a naturalized exotic that grows in Florida. It is considered an invasive by many as it reproduces in areas where native milkweeds are pushed out by its growth. It can grow in a variety of environments from wetlands to dry prarie. The tag on these says Asclepias tuberosa and Butterflyweed. It is also being sold at a much higher price than Mexican Milkweed goes for, usually $3.50 a pot. This is the second time in a month I have seen this mistake at a Lowes. Of course the Nursery Manager gives me that "deer in the headlights" when I try to explain the differences to him and that he is actually selling a noxious weed under the guise of a native plant. As usual the only thing of concern is moving product and making profit. I confess, I do buy things from Lowes and Home Depot, but I avoid any plant purchased like the plague. Any milkweed is better than no milkweed, the shortage of native milkweeds and their limited cultivation makes Mexican Milkweed an attractive alternative, but keep it under control in the yard. Try to clip seed pods before they ripen and spread seeds all over the neighborhood. The Monarchs will appreciate it just as well as a native but dont pay double the price based on an incorrect label.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Xeriscape, Florida Friendly and Florida Native are not all the same.

In the new age of being "green" and declaring war against the wastefulness that is a turf lawn, many people use the terms Xeriscape, Florida Friendly and Florida Natives interchangeably. They all have similarities but they are not one in the same. I like to call them the Good, Better and Best approach.
Xeriscaping is the practice of using drought tolerant plants, both native and non native in yard settings with rock lawns, mulch and garden settings in place of grass.  Xeriscaping got its start in the desert Southwest were water has always been and issue and grass is near impossible to grow without draining the Colorado River. While helping to save water and being pleasing to the eye, Xeriscaping is not done with exclusively native species.
Florida friendly is not Florida Native despite what Home Depot or Lowe's might say. Often I will hear an employee say "why yes this is native", when it isn't just because it says "Florida Friendly"on it. Riverview Farms in Riverview, Florida uses this moniker and even prints it on their pots. While these will attract pollinators and save water they are not best solution. Some are actually too "Florida Friendly" and are invasive such as Mexican milkweed and Mexican petunias. Others like lantana actually hybridize with native species of lantana and destroy biodiversity.
Native Species of all kinds, from trees to small annuals can be found to create a natural habitat in any type of yard, soil or sun exposure. In addition many native plants are specially adapted to Florida's searing heat and dry conditions. The saying "the right place for the right plant" goes a long way. Some planning and research is needed to make sure the areas you want to use will be able to handle the size, growth pattern and water/soil needs of any given plant.  Remember Florida is very unique in its environment especially when you look at other areas of the world in the same latitudes, most of them are desert or arid mountain areas. Meanwhile Florida being perched between two subtropical bodies of water and a tropical currents that curve around it make our weather unique for this latitude. We have a rainy season and even during our driest months, we don't approach desert-like conditions. For the most part our soils are sandy and nutrient poor. This is primarily due to the fact that through the ages Florida has been beach, island, ocean bottom, beach, island, ocean bottom and solid land several times. This is why you can go fossil hunting in central Florida and find sharks teeth nest to a Mammoth tusk. Sometimes we were at the bottom of the ocean, sometimes we were a grassland. At one time in recent history Florida was almost three times wider than it is today. Where I am located on the coast would have still been a 50 mile hike to the beach several thousand years ago during the last ice age. Plant what has evolved here and the animals, birds and insects that evolved along with the plants will flourish. Planting all those pretty tropical plants from Southeast Asia and the like will not attract wildlife no more than putting out ice cubes will attract polar bears. If the animals didn't evolve with it, they wont live in it or eat it. There are a few exceptions to this rule but they don't put a dent in increasing biodiversity in your yard.
So remember water is precious, turf grass is essentially a lifeless desert that sucks up water and gives you wonderful species of yellowing fungus, chichbugs and mole crickets. Xeriscaping is good, saves water, but doesn't provide the flora needed to attract the most types of natives to your yard.
Florida Friendly is Better, well better than grass, but should not be mistaken for Native Landscaping.
Doing a Florida Native yard will get you the birds, bees, butterflies and the occasional puzzled or ticked off neighbor because your yard isn't a flat wasteland .This type of neighbor can be as interesting to watch as a hummingbird or heavy butterfly traffic especially if you throw in the sandals with the black socks.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kira Parisi has joined to help me spice my blog up

After several scathing reviews of my blog under construction. I have allowed my daughter Kira to add her flair to it. She says its color is too blah. She is also my staff photographer.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Seed Germination: One Part Science/One Part Dirty Fingernails

Native Plant propagation is always a challenge, especially when it comes to germinating the few precious seeds you might have. When trying to get milkweed species to germinate, there is a lot of uncharted territory.
Some recommend soaking seeds in warm water, some recommend cold stratification. I have tried both with mixed results. Seems to me observation is the best way to start. When tracking plants in their native habitats see what they are growing in. Is the soil wet or dry, is it sand, humus or clay? Now just because it works well in nature doesn't necessarily mean it will do the same in a 1 gallon pot or a seed tray. Try using the sand that a typical scrub milkweed grows in. Water it well and you get a brick in a gallon pot, or a wet cap with a desert underneath in a seed tray. You need the porosity and the ability to hold moisture, but the actual soil the plant grows in isn't going to work in close quarters. Try various mixes, using peat, perlite, vermiculite, sand or even kitty litter made from recycled newspaper. The seed or plant wont know or mind what it is as long as it behaves like the environment it is used to. This includes pH, moisture, porosity and in some cases heat retention. Potting soil is fine for herbs and store brought seeds, but it rarely works for native milkweed. It retains too much water, hardens or dries out too quickly. Some seeds can take up to 45 days to germinate, that's a lot of time to try to juggle the factors that a seed needs. If you use off the shelf mixes you can end up with water logged, rotten seeds or dried out seeds. Try some mixes, put them in trays or pots with no seeds, water them, watch them, test them. If you think it will work, try risking some seed. All of this also applies to cuttings as well.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Restless Natives can now be found here and on Facebook

In an effort to reach out into another social networking realm, Restless Natives Nursery is now on both Facebook and here at Blogspot. Visit us here or at

Welcome to Restless Natives Nursery and the Florida Native Milkweed Project

Welcome to Restless Natives Nursery and our Florida Native Milkweed Project.
In addition to talk and discussion of Florida Native Plants of all kinds, you will also find information and links on our ongoing research into propagating Florida Native Milkweeds for availability to both retail outlets and individuals as well as discussions of all thing in the Florida eco-experience. In the unique environment that is Florida from the Temperate forests of the Panhandle to the Coral Reefs of South Florida this blog will explore all that Florida's flora and fauna has to offer.(photos of A. tuberosa and A. humistrata in their native habitat.)

Encyclia tampensis

Encyclia tampensis
Native Butterfly Orchid

Ephidrum Orchid

Ephidrum Orchid