Monday, May 22, 2017

Butterfly Plants: FrogFruit/Phyla nodiflora

What’s on my list to add during this year’s optimum growing season aka our Rainy Season? Frog Fruit! Although my grandmother thought of this plant as another “Creeping Charlie” nuisance plant in the lawn, I think of it as a ground cover that never needs mowing. And as the backdrop of a panoramic view of almost endless pollinators, best viewed at eye level while laying down on the ground, with the kids!

Where to plant this:
Differing information can be found from reliable sources and local native plant enthusiast. One advises it is drought tolerant and will grow well in dry locations another source states it is an aquatic edge plant. The true nature of this plant may lie somewhere in the middle, it will grow well thru the dry season if it is established. I have noted this never entirely dies out when it is growing mixed with lawn grasses and weeds at our Miami Dade County Extension Office in Homestead. However efforts to keep our cultivated patch full over the dry season have failed this year. It was necessary to relocate the plants in January and they did not receive enough water to establish.
We will establish a patch this summer and monitor and report on growth/maintenance habit through the dry season.

Where to obtain this plant:
It may already be growing in your lawn or your neighbor’s lawn. Extension Publication “Community ButterflyScaping” provides information on how to propagate fog fruit. The publication uses another common name, this serves as a reminder to refer to the scientific name to ensure you get the plant you are looking for! 

“How to propagate fogfruit"
"To propagate fogfruit, find a succulent, healthy stem with several leaves. Near the bottom of the stem, trim at least two leaves at the leaf nodes. Place the exposed nodes in wet, rich soil or water. The nodes will form roots. Water daily for at least a week until the plant no longer wilts between watering. While fogfruit can grow almost anywhere, from beach dunes to pond edges, it makes a lush, dense groundcover under moist, rich conditions.

We were able to transplant a 10” sq. of frogfruit with roots and soil attached into a large pot containing moist rich soil on Thursday, May 17th.  Our transplant is growing well so far. There is also one local but wholesale nursery that grows this plant. You may want to have your landscape company obtain the plants for you. Have them call our Extension Office for a list of local wholesale nurseries.

All the minor problems of finding this plant are quickly forgotten once your local butterflies begin to visit. It is a larval host for three butterflies, phaon crescent, common buckeye and white peacock. In addition many butterflies and small pollinators will visit for a sip of nectar.
Visit the Institute for Regional Conservation webpage for information on this plant and a partial list of butterflies that visit. Maybe you will see one of our tiniest and exquisitely patterned butterflies, the little metalmark.

Happy Gardening to all, remember to stay cool and hydrated.

Barbara McAdam
Urban Horticulture Program Specialist
Florida Yards & Neighborhoods/Florida-Friendly Landscaping
UF/IFAS Extension- Miami-Dade County
Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Big Tree Blog Part 2

Part 1 of The Big Tree Blog established that we need trees because they: clean the air, increase bio-diversity, bring water to micro-climates, and they create cooling shade. Now let's explore what trees are best for South Florida? Where can we get them? Where should we plant them? When should we plant them? How can we help trees?

Native Plant Day
This event takes place every year in the month of March and is the premier event for information on attracting wildlife, butterflies, and birds using native plants. Information is available from mini workshops, books, environmental partner’s booths and exhibits and walks thru the different parks that the event is held each year. Lots of friendly experts are happy to talk with you and you can select the trees and plants that work for your landscape, buy them and take them home to plant! Create your own bio diverse backyard oasis.
We will be at Native Plant Day this event this year with a Rain Barrel/Water Conservation Workshop and will also be presenting on how to attract butterflies and pollinators with a special look at the 39 butterflies that are imperiled in South Florida.

Plant a Million Trees 

Plant a Million Trees website counts the trees planted in the mission to plant a million trees by 2020 to reach the goal of 30% tree canopy. We have 3 years to go and this website links you to grant opportunities, tree planting events and outlines how you can plant a tree and register it on the site. With a  population of 2,693,117 two people could team up to plant one healthy right tree in the right place and we could more than reach this goal and shoot onward to attain 50% tree canopy. 
We can do this Miami!

Adopt-a-Tree events begin in the early months of our rainy season (May thru October) to ensure that young trees are planted during our peak rain months and long sunny days of summer. The Adopt-a-Tree program provides Miami-Dade single-family or duplex homeowners with two FREE trees every year, even if they have adopted trees in previous years.

Environmentally Endangered Lands                                                                                         Miami-Dade County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program’s focus is the protection and conservation of endangered lands and they need your help. Volunteer workdays are fun, hands-on activities throughout all kinds of interesting natural areas and you will learn-ask questions! 
 This is an excellent opportunity to see and learn about plants grouped together in their natural habitat and observe firsthand how they interact with wildlife. Community hours are available through this volunteer program.

Miami Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces
Contact your neighborhood park or explore a new park. Simply select a park or parks, call them and ask about volunteer programs.

My neighborhood park is the Fruit and Spice Park which has volunteer Tuesday nights every week (4:00 p.m. to sundown) except the last Tuesday of each month. We plant seeding trees used for grafting workshops, as well as tend the extensive vegetable/herb gardens and much more. We also plant some of the really unusual tropical fruit that can be found growing at this park and we are invited to plant for ourselves as well to take home to our own gardens.
Special group volunteer events can also be coordinated by contacting Louise King at

Planting the Right Tree in the Right Place
Florida-Friendly Landscaping’s Principle #1, Right Plant, Right Place is even more important to review before planting trees than any other plant. Most trees will outlive the person planting the tree and should be around for future generations as well. Key factors that should be considered are: species appropriateness, location/space for trees to develop to maturity(both space for roots and canopy), quality of trees being planted, how to plant the tree and care given to maintain trees.
 Miami Dade County has a Street Tree Master Plan in place which indicates tree species that are best suited for selection as street trees and notes recommendations that we plant quality trees as well. 
Goals of the Street Tree Master Plan

  • ·         Plant quality trees in public rights of way
  • ·         Develop and execute a Tree Management Plan to craft sustainable tree structure
  • ·         Promote the design of urban spaces that adequately fit trees
  • ·         Encourage local growers to produce the quality and species for public rights-of-way
  • ·         Educate policy makers and the public on the importance of adequate tree canopy
  • ·         Promote the expansion of the overall canopy in Miami-Dade County to at least 30 percent by 2020. This target reflects both the initiatives of the Street Tree Master Plan and other canopy restoration efforts in Miami-Dade County to create a greener, more walkable, livable community.

Many of the trees included in the Street Tree Master Plan may also be the right tree for your yard and additionally there are numerous resources for information on trees for South Florida. If you would like to maximize benefits to wildlife you can select trees that also provide, berries (food) for birds and small mammals, nectar rich flowers for pollinators, and/or serve as a larval host plant for butterflies and more. For example, live oaks (Quercus virginiana) provides cover for wildlife, nesting space for owls & other birds, acorns for squirrels, pollen for bees and humming birds and the rough texture of the truck and branches allows for growth of air plants and orchids and is also a larval host plant for 3 butterflies. And of course this large tree provides a mega amount of shade!

 Above, Angel Oak, a rare old giant, photographed by Clyde Butcher. Angel oak is approximately 500 plus years old, has a circumference of 28 feet and produces over 1700 sq. ft. of shade.
Not enough space for an amazing live oak? Many smaller oaks may fit your size constraints, visit The Institute for Regional Conservation’s Natives for Your Neighborhood page to view trees and plants for Miami Dade neighborhoods sorted by your zip code.
For additional great resources, information on tree species, where to buy them, how to plant, how to care for them contact your local Extension Office, in Miami Dade County you can find us at

The more we discover and understand about the natural elements of our world the more we discover how interconnected all life is. This is about making the world a better place for all life and that includes us! We need Trees and they need us to plant and protect them.

Barbara McAdam
Urban Horticulture Program Specialist
Florida Yards & Neighborhoods/Florida-Friendly Landscaping
UF/IFAS Extension- Miami-Dade County
Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department