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Sustainable South Florida Living with Natives, Fruits and Flowers

Sunday, May 8, 2011





Take a step outside your front door on most any day in South Florida and the climate will take you away. Welcome to the <st1:place w:st="on">Caribbean! Indeed, sometimes with our hectic pace of life here on the mainland we forget the simple fact that for most of the year we are climatically-speaking the greater <st1:place w:st="on">Caribbean. We share much of our natural world, the plants and the animals, with our island neighbors, and ignoring this fact invites many challenges in your home garden......

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If you're going to be red, be red

Monday, May 9, 2011

With blood red bracts and red-throated white flowers, a Mussaenda eythrophylla planted along the allee leading to the overlook is in glorious form. It was so startlingly bright that as I was hurrying along the allee on my way to an appointment I came to a screeching halt and went over to find out what was bleating at me with such vital color. Not a shy bloomer. In the coffee family, Mussaenda is particularly cold tender and several in my neighborhood have been killed over the last two ...

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Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden - Institute of Jamaica Workshop on DNA Methods

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Under the supervision of our Herbarium Curator Dr. Brett Jestrow, botanists from the the Institute of Jamaica (Tracy Commock and Keron Campbell) undertook an intensive workshop on DNA methods for plant biodiversity assessment between May 16th - 18th. The workshop included an introduction to DNA isolation, PCR, and sequencing techniques with an overview of phylogenetic methods and related resources. As a result of the workshop, we achieved our goal of establishing the foundation for ...

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Fairchild Challenge Alumnus Joins Research Teams of FIU-Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Montgomery Botanical Center, and USDA

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Our welcome to Nicolas Espinosa, Fairchild Challenge Alumnus and sophomore student of Florida International University who will be working with us as a research intern during this summer. Nicolas is majoring in Environmental Studies and during his High School years at South Plantation High School he was an active participant of the Fairchild Challenge. His internship is being funded by a NSF project on "Caribbean Cycads Biogeography, Conservation, and Systematics". During this ...

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Natives shrubs for shade...and insects

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly sips nectar fromflowers of wild coffee. Wild coffee, Psychotria nervosa, has been blooming profusely in recent weeks, attracting bees by the gazillion and nectar-hungry butterflies. The shrub that is native to South Florida is an excellent plant for shaded or lightly shaded areas, and can attain a good 10 feet in height if so allowed. It takes pruning wonderfully, however, and you can maintain it as a well-mannered hedge or allow it to billow. A leafy mulch...

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Joint Field Expedition to Dominican Republic between Institute of Jamaica, National Botanic Garden of Dominican Republic and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Botanists from the Institute of Jamaica (Tracy Commock and Keron Campbell), the National Botanic Garden of Dominican Republic (Rosa Rodriguez, Teodoro Clase, and Br gido Peguero), and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Melissa Abdo) performed a field expedition to the Dominican Republic between May 9th and 13th. During this visit the team collected plant material in limestone karst mogote habitats, helping to build upon baseline data that the National Botanic Garden of the...

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Connecting the ecosystem dots

Friday, May 20, 2011

With a temperate zone right out of Appalachia jutting into the Panhandle and a tropical zone from the West Indies wrapping around the southern tip of the peninsula, and everything from scrub to marshes in between, Florida is among the most biologically diverse states in the country. Because these ecosystems and their inhabitants have been so reduced in size as farms and cities have sprawled across the state, the Florida Native Plant Society's 31st annual conference is exploring how these...

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Helping the pollinators

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Native leaf cutter bees sleeping on southern beeblossom in the Garden's pine rockland section. Most of our native bees are not social, as is the exotic honeybee. Instead, said bee expert Steve Buchmann, "think of them as single moms with families to feed.'' Of the 4,000 bees native to the United States, 90 percent make nests in the ground, while the rest dwell in wood or plant cavities. A native bee mom digs a chamber, furnishes it with food for the young, then lays an egg on...

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Baby Giant

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Early instar of the Giant Swallow-tail butterfly. There are a Myer lemon and two Key lime trees in the back yard, potential larval host plants for the Giant Swallowtail butterfly. But a far-away small bowl of parsley did the trick. The reddish-orange and dark brown caterpillar with a saddle of white (more white will appear with age) found the parsley patch just right for nibbling. Hooray!...

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A Milestone in the History of Research of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The publication of the book The Anatomy of Palms by Prof. Barry Tomlinson (Harvard University and National Tropical Botanic Garden), Dr. James W. Horn (currently at the Smithsonian Institution), and Fairchild's Dr. Jack B. Fisher (recently retired) represents an important research contribution in structural botany and evolution in this large tropical plant family. The book is the result of a four year project at the Garden funded by the National Science Foundation (project number:...

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FIU/FTBG Graduate Student Receives Grant from Florida Native Plant Society

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

FIU/FTBG graduate student Tonya Fotinos (Von Wettberg lab) was recently awarded a Florida Native Plant Society conservation grant for her research on the genetic diversity in the federally endangered Keys Tree Cactus, Pilosocereus robinii. Populations from the Florida Keys have experienced a more than 80% decline in population in the past decade through habitat loss and environmental change. This grant will provide the laboratory supplies to develop molecular markers to determine ...

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Dr. Eric von Wettberg Attends International Meeting in France

Monday, May 30, 2011

In May Dr Eric von Wettberg visited the Ecole Nacional Superieure de Toulouse as a visiting faculty fellow to continue ongoing research on salt tolerance of wild alfalfa (Medicago truncatula) from the Mediterranean. In addition to lecturing on his work to colleagues and researchers at ENSAT, he presented new results at the Model Legume Meeting (a scientific conference on Medicago) in Sainte-Maxime, France....

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