The Sparkleberry Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society held a Florida Arbor Day celebration on Jan. 17, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside of Branford Town Hall. The Chapter promoted the many benefits of planting trees and gave away a potted native tree to those who stopped by and wanted to take a plant home. Instructions were also included on how to best care for any one of the five varieties of the 250 plants.
“We like to teach people about native plants. We feel like they’re important to our state,” said Sparkleberry Membership Chair Carol Sullivan. “They’re disappearing at a terrible rate. We’re trying to preserve what we have.”
She said that plant species have been and continue to evolve to survive and endangered species are trying to hold on, but many with little chance of survival.
Sullivan mentioned that plants in her mind are pretty much at the bottom of the food chain as the insects eat the plants, the birds eat the insects, the larger carnivores eat the birds and so on.
“We really need to be aware of it,” said Sullivan. “So many evasive things have happened around here like the Red Bay disease that’s killing all the Red Bay trees around here and has decimated just about every large Red Bay along the East Coast of Florida.”
She said the disease only attacks plants in the Laurel family which includes avocados and to expect avocados and by-products prices to go up. She said there were already reports of the decimation as far down as Homestead, located in Miami-Dade County.
On a happier note, Sullivan said that day was celebrated not only in Florida, but many of the Southeastern states because of the temperatures. National Arbor Day 2014 will be celebrated on April 25.
“This is the time to plant, when it’s cooler,” said Sullivan. “Moisture stays in the ground better, the sun’s at a different angle and doesn’t dry it out or burn up the trees. It’s just a better time to plant.”
She hadn’t realized until recently that Arbor Day was celebrated all over the world, but there are different names for different countries.
According to Sullivan they gave out just over 200 plants for the day and the rough head count was 158.
When asked whether the Chapter holds fund raisers to offset the cost of giving away plants that come out of the Chapter’s treasury, Sullivan said, “We have a donation thing at our meetings and we have plant giveaways to those who donate. We also have plant sales and plants available for sale at our meetings.”
She said they get different speakers from all over the state who speak on different things about growing, dealing with the environment in general or sustainability, just a little bit of everything.
“Everybody is welcome to our meeting,” said Sullivan. “We like to have company come in and hopefully they’ll stay with us. When we get speakers in, it’s nice to have a room full of people so they have someone to talk to, so we don’t care if they’re members or not.”
The Sparkleberry Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month (except June, July and August) at Hatch Park, 403 Craven St. SE Branford.