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Natural Awakenings Jacksonville-St. Augustine

Taking Inventory Outdoors

Sep 30, 2020 08:55AM ● By Katie Tripp
Within our homes, we make conscious decisions about what to stock in our pantry, medicine cabinet and utility closet. We take inventory and assess whether items are still safe for use. With the turning of the seasons from summer to fall, this is a good time to also take stock of what is growing in our home landscapes. Plant identification apps for smartphones make it easier than ever to snap a cell phone photo and get a positive plant ID in seconds. A follow-up online search reveals the natural range of the plant and whether it is safe to grow, or if it poses a threat to surrounding landscapes.

Aggressive species that were imported to Florida, either intentionally or accidentally, and which outcompete native species are labeled as invasive. Lists of Florida’s invasive plant species are available from the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (fleppc.org). Resources are available to help reduce infestations of certain invasive plant species, such as air potato. The state of Florida runs a program breeding and distributing air potato beetles that eat this invasive vine and help reduce its viability (bcrcl.ifas.ufl.edu/airpotatobiologicalcontrol.shtml). Any invasive plants located while taking inventory should be removed, including roots. These harmful plants can be replaced with native species that will add beauty and function to the landscape. 

Once invasives have been removed, find a local native plant nursery (PlantRealFlorida.org) and consult the county library for helpful books on the topic of planning and maintaining a natural landscape. Remember to only use ecofriendly methods to control any pests that may occur on native plants, always being sure not to spray the leaves, flowers or berries of any plants that provide a food source for wildlife.

Autumn is a perfect time to implement landscape improvements so that our yards can attract and feed birds during the coming winter months, as well as migrating birds that will travel through next spring. Introduction of native wildflowers, shrubs and trees now will provide additional resources needed by insect pollinators, some of which remain in our area all year. With cooler temperatures on the horizon, it’s a great time to get in the garden.

Katie Tripp, Ph.D., is the owner of Natural Beauty Native Florida Landscapes, LLC. She created her business to educate Floridians about the importance of utilizing native plants and to help residents create wildlife habitat. Tripp is an active member of the Pawpaw chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and a member of the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Connect with her at 727-504-4740 or [email protected]