06 January 2005

Sterile landscapes vs. Floravista-scapes

Everywhere you drive in Florida you see endless sun-beaten lawns punctuated by a sporadic palm and edged by wall-like hedges and splats of neon-colored Impatiens. Some of these lawns are overgrown and complicated by weeds; others are lush, almost blue-green, perfect, mono-specific expanses of one scientifically created turf cultivar. Amazement arises at the time, cost, water, chemicals, and energy spent to create a perfectly sterile lawn. The scientifically created turf cultivars are products of decades of government-funded and private research. Compared to their predecessors, the latest lawn cultivars may resist weeds or respond better to lawn maintenance practices, however, these scientific inventions consume intensive resources and sometimes harm the environment. Such manicured lawns may only supercede a sterile paved or built surface in environmental benefit measures. What a poor condition with which to compete for a so-called landscape.

Were these lawns part of old Florida, part of the natural Florida heritage? Is this what Florida is supposed to look like?

Floravista-scapes, alternatively, re-create the picturesque landscapes of real Florida. Natural assemblages of fascinating native plant species, organized by architectural elements, such as paths, observation points, water features, recreation areas, seating, grottos, bridges, and arbors, can form a lush, tranquil oasis. Not only an oasis for us, but an oasis for birds, butterflies, and wildlife. Each oasis, or habitat, that a Florivista-scape preserves or creates, cumulatively enriches and preserves Florida's namesake and rich natural heritage.

05 January 2005

Benefits of Native Plants

Native Plants
Native plants are those indigenous to the area in which they are growing, without arriving there due to human actions. Florida is rich in native plants, containing nearly 3000 species. Only 3 other states rival Florida in floral diversity. Natives have adapted to Florida’s environmental conditions, such as sandy soils and irregular rainfall, as long as Florida has existed. Florida’s animals, from invertebrates to mammals, have co-adapted with native plants. The result is a complex web of interdependence. Therefore, the continued survival of the wildlife we enjoy relies upon conserving native plants.

Watchable wildlife

Native plants are the best choice for attracting and nourishing our native wildlife because they provide the food and shelter that birds and butterflies need. They leaf-out, bloom, and fruit when our species need them most, and provide the nutrients and habitat to which our native animals have adapted throughout Florida’s existence.

Save Time, Money, Water, Energy, and Natural Resources
Growing native plants requires less maintenance and saves energy. Planted properly, they require little to no extra water or fertilizer. Pesticide is unnecessary since natives have been exposed to Florida's pests as long as they have existed in Florida, and continue to display resistance to insects and disease in our own yards.

Reduce Pollution
Maintaining turf and other ornamental non-native plants in Florida often not only wastes time, money, water, energy, and other natural resources, but also contributes to surface water and air pollution. Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides end up in streams and creeks, polluting our water resources and fisheries. Fertilizers and lawn mowers use petroleum, a non-renewable resource, and lawn-mowing also adds to air and noise pollution and the global climate change.

Threats to Our Native Plants and Animals
One of the biggest threats facing natural habitat besides unsustainable development is the invasion of non-native, invasive plants. Early Florida settlers imported tropical, exotic plants or those with which they were familiar from other environments. Little did they know that some of these non-native plants would grow out-of-control, smother native plants and habitats, costing billions of tax dollars to battle. Perhaps it is human nature to assume that something new and exotic is always better. Now that what was once abundant is rare, people are coming around to appreciate and realize we need to save what is left.

A Solution
By preserving and planting native plants in your landscape, you are contributing to the restoration of important Florida habitats. By growing native plants, you are doing your part to conserve precious water and promote the native biological diversity of Florida’s unique natural heritage for our grandchildren to enjoy.

Bejaria racemosa

Bejaria racemosa (Tarflower), a native shrub in xeric (dry) upland Florida habitats. This beautiful flowering shrub is striking in the hot summers in scrub habitats in Florida. Florivista, Inc. captured this image at the Malabar Sanctuary in Brevard County in 2004, in an area that has been managed by prescribed fires.
Floravista, Inc.

Opuntia humifusa (Prickly Pear), a native Florida cactus in xeric (dry) Florida habitats. This species blooms profusely in Florida open sandy patches within scrub. Scrub requires periodic fires (3-10 years) to maintain open patches and habitat heterogeneity. With increased heterogeneity, one will observe increased plant species diversity, usually.
Floravista, Inc.

Design an eco-friendly landscape

Contact me via email (sk321@earthlink.net) to discuss your ecological needs. Floravista specializes in Florida and Caribbean plant species and landscapes and travels as necessary to consult and implement eco-friendly solutions in this region. I look forward to the opportunity of helping you achieve environmentally sustainable goals.

Suzanne Kennedy