Ants bite; they can also tend your garden for you

Ants bite; they can also tend your garden for you
Last weekend I went out to Yamato Scrub for another volunteer clean-up event coordinated by Palm Beach County ERM. We were removing the last of the temporary irrigation installed years and years ago to jump-start the native plants that they imported to the site to replace the acres and acres of Brazilian Pepper and Australian Pine ...

New backyard bird: Downy Woodpecker, or why native plants love birds (and vice versa)

New backyard bird: Downy Woodpecker, or why native plants love birds (and vice versa)
From time to time the native plants in my yard, which I do my best to foster, suffer from an overabundance of a certain tiny insect: scale. These insects aren’t scary to most people—they don’t bite, they don’t fly up and startle you, they don’t even move after they hunker down in their chosen spot to ...

Dune sunflowers, spiders, and moths, oh my!

Dune sunflowers, spiders, and moths, oh my!
Dune sunflower, Helianthus debilis, is a commonly recommended plant for Florida native gardeners. It’s in the daisy family (Asteraceae), and it’s very pretty: Yellow rays, purple disc flowers, loads of pollen—very attractive to bees and butterflies. It self-sows and reseeds annually, so once you’ve got it established, you don’t have to do much except remove ...

Florida Native Plant: Alligator Flag (Thalia geniculata Linnaeus)

Florida Native Plant: Alligator Flag (<em>Thalia geniculata</em> Linnaeus)
Alligator flag is a very common sight to birders in Palm Beach County, because it appears in abundance at two of our favorite wetland areas: the boardwalks at Wakodahatchee and Green Cay (where I’ll be leading a birdwalk this Saturday). Thalia geniculata, as it’s known to botanists, is a a tall (up to 10 ft ...

New backyard plant: Helianthus debilis

New backyard plant: <em>Helianthus debilis</em>
Last winter I ordered some seed from a Florida native wildflower nursery to spread in the bare patches in the front (I got rid of a bunch of turf grass with the idea of having a nice wildflower bed instead). I ordered sunshine mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa), Indian Blanketflower (Gaillardia pulchella), and four other species that ...

New backyard plant: Mimosa strigillosa

New backyard plant: <em>Mimosa strigillosa</em>
The Saturday before Mother’s Day, I took Grammy and the boys up to Meadow Beauty Nursery in Lake Worth. Mom (Grammy) has a little sandyard that she wants to fill in with something pretty, so we went a-lookin’, and I decided that I needed some ground cover to fill in under my Bahama Strongbark.  It ...

New Backyard Plant: Tradescantia ohiensis, Common Spiderwort 4

New Backyard Plant: <em>Tradescantia ohiensis</em>, Common Spiderwort
Whenever you go shopping (at least, whenever I go shopping; maybe you’re different) you seem to come home with more than you set to out to get. For instance, last month I went to my favorite native plant nursery (Mesozoic Landscapes in Lake Worth) to pick up a new tree (a Bahama Strongbark to replace ...

New plantings: Vallesia antillana

New plantings: Vallesia antillana
I “won” a couple of the silent auctions at last month’s FNPS plant auction. One of the plants I brought home is pearl berry, Vallesia antillana. It’s a very pretty little plant, and apparently quite rare in the wild. (My Chafin tells me that it’s known only from 7 sites, 4 of which are state ...

New plantings: Zanthoxylum fagara

New plantings: Zanthoxylum fagara
One of the cornerstone plantings in my new backyard is a Wild Lime tree, Zanthoxylum fagara. It didn’t come from the native plant auction, but from one of my friends in the Audubon Society who is also an FNPS member and who graciously allowed me to come take many many plants to get my back ...

New plantings: Heliotropium polyphyllum

New plantings: Heliotropium polyphyllum
Our old house in Boca was just starting to enjoy some great trees and shrubs after our native plant makeover of several years back, but it was a little light on wildflowers. Sure, we had tropical sage (Salvia coccinea), but that was really about it. We had planted lizard’s tail, scorpion tail, and a few ...