Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Foundation board members take part in Florida Native Plant Conference

Everyone wanted a photo with the famous "Andre Michaux," including FWF Executive Director Lisa Roberts.

FWF board members Nancy Rodlun (left), Terry Zinn and Walter Taylor, dressed as Andre Michaux, at the FNPS Conference May 17.

The Florida Wildflower Foundation was a proud sponsor of last week’s Florida Native Plant Society annual conference in Palmetto, which included educational sessions, a plant sale and field trips. Four Foundation board members and Executive Director Lisa Roberts participated in the gathering.

The conference theme, “Estuaries to Uplands: Celebrating Florida's Native Plant Heritage,” certainly was descriptive of the more than 20 outings, which explored a variety of nearby habitats. Meanwhile, educational sessions at the Manatee Convention Center covered just as much ground, with topics ranging from seed production to plant identification.

Board member Terry Zinn, of Wildflowers of Florida Inc. in Alachua, sold seeds produced at his farm and gave a presentation on wildflower seed production. Meanwhile, Lisa and board member Nancy Rodlun manned the FWF table in the vendor area, passing out literature and a new DVD on Florida’s native wildflowers, produced by Tracy McCommon of Nature Wise Inc. and funded by the Foundation. They also told visitors about the dozens of educational, research and planting projects supported by Foundation, all made possible through the sale of the State Wildflower license tag.

FWF board member Dr. Walter “Sweet Pea” Taylor, a popular figure at any FNPS gathering, assumed the persona of Andre Michaux for his presentation on the 18th century botanist. He was decked out in period garb – including a spiffy tricorn hat – created by his talented wife, Karin. Walter, an author of two books on Florida wildflowers, is the co-author of the book Andre Michaux in Florida: An Eighteenth-Century Botanical Journey, which he signed for fans after his session.

Outside the convention center, Foundation board member and native-plant grower Brightman Logan, of All Native LLC in San Antonio, offered an array of beautiful plants for sale. Brightman also donated a variety of potted flowers to the Foundation to give to those who became FWF members during the conference. In all, nine new members joined – we welcome Carmel van Hoek, Betty Wargo, Lassie Lee, Ann Johnson, Martha Steuart, Travis and Karen MacClendon, James Bierly and Erick Smith and thank them for their support!

The conference wasn’t all about native plants and wildflowers – everyone had the chance to meet and mingle at a series of social events. Friday night’s dinner at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton featured a buffet in the museum’s lovely courtyard. After dinner, some diners put their knowledge of native plants to the test in a contest that had everyone teaming up to identify specimens. Others danced to country-rock tunes played by a band made up of Southwest Florida Water Management District employees.

Saturday night’s Gala at the convention center was capped off by the presentation of landscaping awards. FWF board vice-chair Jeff Caster and his DOT co-worker, Steven Vidal, claimed a first-place award for the design of a wildflower garden at DOT headquarters in Tallahassee. Terry, Nancy, Walter and Lisa proudly picked up the award for Jeff.

The Foundation wishes to thank its friends at the Florida Native Plant Society for a terrific, inspirational conference and for their gracious hospitality. We hope to see everyone again at the 2009 conference!