Group Title: Plant Pathology Department mimeographed series
Title: The Present status of Florida native plants
Full Citation
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 Material Information
Title: The Present status of Florida native plants
Alternate Title: Plant Pathology mimeo report - University of Florida ; 58-4
Physical Description: 5 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: West, Erdman, 1894-
University of Florida -- Dept. of Plant Pathology
Publisher: University of Florida, Dept. of Plant Pathology
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1958
Copyright Date: 1958
Subject: Endemic plants -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by Erdman West.
General Note: Caption title.
General Note: "9/10/58"--Leaf 5.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00090254
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 261135488

Full Text

Plant Pathology Department
Mimeographed Series No. 58-4


by Erdman West
Botanist, Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

The plant life of Florida is abundant and varied. This fact has been

stated and proved many times over. The insular climate with abundant rain-

fall favors vigorous plant growth. The westward extension partly under

continental influence and the southern extension into the subtropical zone

combine to favor wide variety in our flora in spite of the lack of much

variation in altitude. The flora of Florida includes about 3500 native

seed plants and well over 100 kinds of ferns.

Statistically some of these many plants can be expected to be interest-

ing for various reasons. For instance, pines are important economically.

Much of the wealth of Florida is derived from the vast stands of slash and

longleaf pines. Naval stores, lumber, paper pulp, cellulose and the products

of destructive distillation are responsible for millions of dollars of

income to a large segment of our population.

There are other native plants that are economically important. The

unique tupelo honey industry of the Apalachicola River area depends on some

of our native tupelo or black gum trees. Some of the native grasses such

as carpet furnish pasture for thousands of head of cattle. Some of the

hardwood trees like sweet or red gum and hard maple furnish thousands of

feet of hardwood lumber for a variety of purposes. Tons of deer tongue

leaves are harvested and shipped to tobacco centers for flavoring various

tobacco products. Gathering and curing Spanish moss has helped to tide

many low-income families over critical periods. These are but a few of

the economic values of native plants. None of these plants are in danger

of extinction. They do not seem to be in need of conservation.


The scenery of Florida lacks outstanding topographic variation, consist-

ing for the most part of relatively flat land, numerous lakes and a very

extensive coast line on the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. What it

lacks in topographic features, it makes up in plant life variety. Tourists

from other parts of the United States are impressed by the tropical aspect

of our vegetation. This is emphasized by the palm forests, extensive

stands of the State tree, Sabal palmetto, so common in many parts of the

state. The majestic royal palms of the southern part of Florida are even

more impressive, although far less extensive. The first view of these

gray columns topped by the green boot and a large plume of dark green

leaves 75 to 100 feet in the air is a never-to-be forgotten sight.

Among other outstanding floristic features that interest visitors we

may mention a number of characteristic plants. There are miles of sand

dunes along the Atlantic coast covered with dense stands of saw palmetto

varying from green to gray, depending on the amount of wax on the leaves.

In the Big Scrub east of Ocala are thousands of acres of the graceful

sand pine, a monotonous but fascinating feature of the landscape in this

area. At the southern extension of the peninsula there are large areas

of the stilt-rooted mangroves that appear to be walking out to sea. Just

west of the town of Interlacheh, there is a large patch of sand heath

commonly called rose-mary in Florida. This low shrub resembles a juniper

so closely in appearance that only the botanically trained person can tell

the difference. It is interesting too because it has never been successfully

transplanted. This list of interesting features might be continued at

great length.

There are in Florida a number of interesting endemic plants that grow

nowhere else. Many of these are rare or scarce and can be found only

with the aid of the botanical guide. One of these is Chapman's rhododendron,


named for Florida's botanist Dr. A. W. Chapman of Apalachicola. There are

a few colonies of this attractive shrub near the Apalachicola River and one

isolated station in Bradford County. Like many other Ericaceous plants,

it is particular about its habitat and very susceptible to changing condi-


Near the city of Sebring there is a very small colony of the rare

Florida cyrilla. Although there are many acres of its larger, common

relatives in Northern areas, any drastic change in the vicinity of the

Florida cyrilla would eliminate this species forever.

Bartram's ixia is one of Florida's most beautiful and famous spring

wild flowers. Bartram in his "Travels" brought it to the attention of

botanists and described its beauty for the rest of us. In his day, there

were "fields of caerulean blue" but that was more than 100 years ago. Now

only courageous early risers can be guided to the small colonies for the

flowers have faded by 9 o'clock in the morning.

The closely related Nemastylis floridana grows in the vicinity of the

St. Johns River from Indian River City to Melbourne. It is almost as

fugacious but blooms in the fall after 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Few

people even botanists, know of its existence.

There are many other native Florida wildflowers known only from

localized colonies in a few areas in the state. Some of the species in

this category are certain pitcher-plants, stenandrium, litsea, misanteca,

some of the bladderworts and butterworts and the native pink waterlily.

In other cases, northern plants reach their southern limits as isolated

colonies in Florida. Among these are trailing arbutus, may apple, hepatica,

bloodroot and ginseng.

Such is the present status of many interesting Florida plants; but

what of their future? It does not seem likely that many plants have been

lost completely from the depredations of wild flower lovers and pickers.

This danger may increase with future increases in the density of population

in our state but there are other dangers that create more apprehensions.

Forest fires have been important in the past and will continue to be. With

the increased interest and activity in forest fire prevention and control,

this danger to our wild flowers should gradually diminish.

It seems likely that the increasing use of relatively wild areas for

agriculture and forestry is a serious threat to some or many of our

interesting plants. With the phenomenal growth of the cattle industry,

there came a great need for large grazing areas. Thousands of acres of

flatwoods and other types of vegetation have been and are being cleared,

scarified and planted to imported grasses. In such areas all but the most

persistent kinds of native plants are being eradicated.

The activities of the large pulpwood and lumber companies are creating

new conditions. As long as they were content to interplant current

forested areas with seedling trees, there was little real change in the

native vegetation of those areas that were being reforested. The latest

endeavors, however, involve completely clearing thousands of acres of

relatively useless tree species and planting these areas solid with pine


These two kinds of operations are changing the flora, almost completely,

over wide areas. As far as the economy of Florida is concerned these are

praiseworthy efforts. As far as our native flora is concerned, they are

catastrophic developments and there is little or nothing that can be done

about them.

In Florida there are a number of State Parks, a National Park, a few

conservation areas and some National Forests. The native vegetation in these



areas is fairly well protected from eradication. In view of the

activities of the cattle industry, the new methods of reforestation and

the expansion of real estate developments around our cities, these

protected areas may be the last refuges of some of our most interesting

indigenous plant species. Possibly in this prophecy may be found a guide-

post for our future course of activity. Should we not work for more

State Parks or conserved areas? Not small areas, for these are hard

to administer and protect, but larger areas, carefully selected to

contain several kinds of vegetation, especially rare or interesting

species, areas large enough to merit attention and protection should be

our aim.

600 copies

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