Monday, July 21, 2014

Guest Blog: Coccoloba Chapter, Florida Native Plant Society

Picture captions:
Pic 1:  Polygala regelil, big yellow milkwort
Pic 2:  Coreopsis leavenworthii, tickseed
Pic 3:  (l to r) Bobbe Rose, Martha Grattan, Mary Ellen Frazier, Michael Wheatley, Steve Roff, Lucy Breitung, Dorothy Rodwell and Ranger Mickey Miller.  Relaxing and socializing after the walk.

For Immediate Release:  July 14, 2014
Contact:  Marlene Rodak, (239) 273-8945

The Importance of Forest Bathing on Humans
FORT MYERS, FL, July 14, 2014 – On Sunday, July 13th, the Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, in conjunction with Conservation 20/20, led a field trip/scavenger hunt through Wild Turkey Strand Preserve at 11901 Rod & Gun Club Road in Fort Myers.  Wild Turkey is located just east of where Daniels Parkway dead ends into Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, or SR-82.  Immediately after your turn onto Rod & Gun Club Road, the Preserve entrance is on your left.  Ten people gathered for this free opportunity to view the Preserve and its treasure of wildflowers and native plants.  Jim Rodwell, Coccoloba member and Ranger Mickey from Conservation 20/20 led the tour down the 1.8 mile Gunner’s Trail path. 

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve was purchased in the fall of 2012 and is well on its way to being beautifully restored to its native habitat through extensive exotic plant removal and control.  The parcel was once part of the Buckingham Army Air Field’s (BAAF) Flexible Gunnery School, which was built in 1942.  It was a base where training of recruits took place.  The air field was deactivated in 1945, as WWII ended. 
Nearly all the native plants we viewed could be seen from the trail.  Rarely did the group leave the designated trail, except once to examine a young thistle and its host of pollinating insects, and another time to explore the munitions building remnants from the old gunnery range.
But how can this save my gallbladder,” you ask?

Spending time in these natural areas is natural aromatherapy.  In 1982, the Forest Agency of Japan proposed that when humans breathe the volatile chemicals (phytoncides) released from trees and plants in nature, their stress levels are lowered, and they are more relaxed.  In an article presented at the 8th International Congress of Physiological Anthropology in 2006, scientists showed that the forest is a restorative environment for human beings.  The benefits of forest bathing, or Shinrin-Yoku, include improved cerebral blood flow, better immune defense, and improved mental health.

Other studies are equally compelling.  In 1984, the American Association for the Advancement of Science published a paper describing a study in which gall bladder surgery patients were randomly assigned to rooms with either a view of a brick wall or a small stand of deciduous trees.  The results showed that the patients with the view of nature had shorter postoperative hospital stays, fewer complaints about nursing staff, required less pain killers and had few post-operative complications.  Spending time in our beautiful parks and preserve areas is not only relaxing, but it boosts our immune systems - not to mention our spirits!
Still more studies have proven that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children is lowered when children spend time in green areas such as parks, backyards and tree-lined streets.  An August, 2008 report in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that 20 minutes in a park may help children concentrate better.  Plus, there are no adverse side effects to sending kids outside to play. 

It is hot and muggy in Southwest Florida these days.  Getting out in the heat and humidity will make you sweat.  Generally speaking, the bugs are not bad at these parks, but bringing insect repellent is suggested.  Having a good supply of water and some protection from the sun, with a hat and sunscreen, is necessary, and wearing closed-toed shoes is always a good idea.  Also, long pants are generally suggested, but not necessary. 
It’s always nice to walk with friendly people, and learning more about our native plants is a big bonus.  Spending the morning at Wild Turkey, although hot, was not stifling.  There was a cool breeze that felt positively delightful.  Yes, there was sweat involved, but nobody minded.

Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society is leading another “forest bathing” trip on Sunday, August 17th at 9 am at Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park at 17980 Palm Beach Boulevard in Alva.  You can register for this free trip at
Isn’t your gallbladder worth it?
# # #
The mission of the Florida Native Plant Society is to promote the preservation, conservation and restoration of native plants and native plant communities of Florida.  The Coccoloba Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society meets on the second Thursday of the month at Calusa Nature Center, 3450 Ortiz Ave, Fort Myers, FL 33905, September through April at 6:30 pm for social time and 7 pm for the program.  For more information visit or or call (239) 273-8945.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Florida Sunset

Sometimes you just have to share a breathtaking picture. We also need to remember, however, that the health of our water depends on how we behave on the land. Just say NO to fertilizers, NO to pesticides and NO to invasive exotic plants!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Plant More Pines!

Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods, Charlotte County, Florida

Plant More Pines!

As the state of Florida and many other pine forests throughout the country have been developed, especially southwest Florida, thousands of acres of native plant communities have been bull dozed and lost forever.  Our beautiful native skyline of slash and long leaf pine forests are gone forever, except for a few preserved areas.  Southwest Florida’s sense of place, and all the natural resources associated with our native forests are severely diminished.  Our native wildlife, including America’s national symbol the bald eagle, have lost their homes and in many instances the ability to expand due to the lack of native trees.  Can we as home and business owners turn the tide?  The answer is yes!  

Plant more pines!

Planting more pines creates shade, habitat, noise buffering, storm protection, visual screening and a sense of place.  Humans have been using pine trees for thousands of years for housing, naval stores (ingredients for ship building) turpentine and even explosives.  In fact, we should be thankful to native pines every time we use toilet paper!  Other animals eat the pine seeds and utilize the trees for nesting.
Using native pines and related plants creates or mimics a naturally functioning ecosystem that will be healthy and strong even in drought or storms. It also recycles the energy it uses/creates and does NOT depend on fossil fuels to maintain itself.  An acre of pine flatwoods can contain over 100 species of other plants.  Leaf litter made by fallen needles is the perfect mulch.  By planting a triad of pines, they grow even stronger as part of a pine “community”.  Our native pines are hardy at all temperatures, and with a changing climate they can handle the new extremes we are experiencing.  Florida native pines are also salt tolerant, and with many communities experiencing salt water intrusion, that can make or break our landscaping.

To properly plant your pine, be patient. The tree must invest in its root system before it can grow above ground. Do NOT fill the hole with compost or any other nutrient rich matter; the roots must be encouraged to grow out into the existing soil in order to get established.   Adding some native wax myrtles will help to fix nitrogen in the soil, as much as the pines will need. Since pines are part of a fire climax community, they should not be planted right next to buildings in areas where fire is commonly experienced.

Side note: Pine nuts that you find in grocery stores do not come from our Florida native pines. They come from pinyon pines that will not grow in SW Florida.

“Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it? I do not believe it can be done. The universe is sacred. You cannot improve it. If you try to change it, you will ruin it.” Lao Tsu, older contemporary of Confucius.                                                                

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Most Lee County Commissioners Deal Shameful Blow to Conservation

To Commissioner John Manning:

Thank you for your efforts today to save the Conservation 2020 program. Your arguments were logical, correct, and forcibly delivered, but they fell on deaf ears.

All five commissioners say they support the  20/20 Program, but other than you, they consistently vote to destroy it. Earlier today, they (over your objections) instructed the county manager to provide no additional funds for acquisition of environmentally-sensitive habitats in this coming year's draft budget.

They did agree to provide .1 mil for maintenance of 20/20 properties, which makes sense. But the other .4 mil previously allocated for 20/20 purchases will in the words of Commissioner Kiker "just disappear." You and I both know that neither elected officials nor voters are likely in future years to vote to raise real estate taxes to refund a program that was raided and then destroyed by previous county commissioners.

I also want to thank you for your appointments to the 20/20 Advisory Committee. Each commissioner gets 3 appointments to the Committee, and all 3 of your appointees vigorously support the program. All 3 of Kiker's appointees oppose the program, and 2 out of 3 of all of the other commissioner's appointees generally oppose the program. Bottom line is that only 6 of the 15 20/20 Committee members can be depended on to even support the very program for which they are responsible. That is of course why the program has been moribund for the last several years. I don't see any upcoming actions that will change that.

Thank you again for your work today. At least you tried.

Phil Buchanan
St James City, FL 33956

Friday, June 13, 2014

Monsanto Trying To Buy Us Off

Concerned about the bees and the butterflies? Interested in celebrating National Pollinator Week? It’s happening next week, June 16-22, 2014.
And it’s brought to you by the Pollinator Partnership, funded in part by none other than Monsanto and Bayer.
It’s all part of a well-documented, well-funded (and shameless) public relations campaign by the pesticide industry to give the appearance of “caring” about the die-off of bees and butterflies, while diverting attention from the cause of those die-offs—highly profitable products made by Monsanto and Bayer.
Let’s take back National Pollinators Week. By spreading the truth about the connections between Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops, Bayer’s neonicotinoid insecticides, and Colony Collapse Disorder.
In honor of Pollinator Week, share this article. And make plans to join a pollinators celebration that hasn’t been taken over by the agrichemical and biotech companies: Bee Against Monsanto’s Global Swarm to Save the Bees on August 16.
Read the essay

Photo Credit: Woody Thrower via Compfight cc

Monday, June 9, 2014

Florida Conservation Coalition News

FCC News Brief
Florida's best environmental reporting, editorials, and op-eds.
June 9, 2014
Lloyd Dunkelberger reports in the Herald-Tribune – “Among the issues facing Florida voters in this year’s governor’s race, few offer a more stark divide between the candidates than how the state should respond to global warming. Incumbent Rick Scott has openly questioned the problem of man-made global warming… (He) has not advocated reductions in air pollution and other changes that many scientists say are essential to slowing down climate change.” In contrast, Dunkelberger writes, “Scott’s likely opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, has an aggressive record relating to climate change. He backed the creation of a state climate change action plan, supported a mandate to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars, opposed coal-fired power plants and advocated for expanding Florida’s renewable energy sources.” Read the full story here.
Anthony Mann reports in the Sun Sentinel – “One of America’s wealthiest investors is hoping to defeat Gov. Rick Scott by putting big money into making climate change a major political issue in Florida.” Next Gen Climate, a super PAC, is targeting seven races around the country, including Florida’s governor race, “to raise concern over sea levels, saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers, and insurance costs.” Read Big money effort aims to make climate change a key issue in Florida governor’s race.
Lizette Alvarez reports in the New York Times – Last week researchers in South Florida raced to salvage corals from Government Cut before dredging begins in the Port of Miami. Read the full story here.
Sonny Vergara writes in the Blog SWFWMD Matters – Readcorrespondence between State Senator Alan Hays and Sonny Vergara.
Upcoming Environmental Events & Meetings
June 17th, 7:00 pm – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing at the Woodville Library south of Tallahassee to discuss a possible 50 year lease of 2,000 acres of Wakulla Springs State Park to Tallahassee Community College. Find more info here.
August 13th to 15th – The Florida Green Building Coalition will hold its annual conference at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota. Find more info here.
Do you know of an upcoming environmental event or meeting you would like to include in the FCC News Brief? Send us a quick email and we will include it for you.
We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest environmental news from around the state. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.
Please encourage your friends, family, and co-workers to join the FCC and subscribe to the Daily News Brief (both free). Also, check out the new and improved FCC Facebook page.
If you wish to stop receiving these daily emails just reply with the subject "unsubscribe" and you will be promptly removed.
Please send all suggestions, comments and criticism to Ryan Smart at
About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 50 conservation organizations and a thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife and water resources.  
For more information on the FCC visit
Founder and Chairman, Bob Graham; Vice-Chairmen, Nathaniel Pryor Reed & Lee Constantine