TALLAHASSEE — Have you ever been in the park or on a trail somewhere in Florida and seen a tree that just looks so unusual you’re sure it must be one of a kind? Or have you wondered how to have a beautiful, subtropical landscape in Florida without all the water and pesticides you’re told it needs to remain beautiful? Or maybe there’s some eye-catching flower you already have in your garden but aren’t sure what it is and how to keep it alive? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you’ve needed advice from a Florida Native Plant Society member!
Luckily, the 5,000 members of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) spread across 33 chapters all over the state stand ready to help and encourage your interest in native Florida plants. Their efforts will soon be enhanced through a fundraising and awareness campaign called “Show your pride in Natives”, which is represented in an official new Florida vehicle license plate. The “Florida Native” plate was painted by noted Florida artist Peter Agardy and features a wooded scene fashioned entirely of familiar Florida native plant species. Vouchers for the Florida Native license plate can be bought at any county tax collector’s office in Florida, through the Florida Native Plant Society or through a separate online sales portal set up for the purpose. The cost of the voucher is $33, and as soon as 3,000 vouchers are sold, the plate will be printed and buyers will receive a new license plate for their voucher.
Sales of the new Florida Native license plate, which is one of 33 new plates introduced this year, will help the FNPS achieve its mission of research, preservation, and restoration of Florida native plants. The society regularly conducts rare plant surveys and plant rescues all over the state, and performs many types of restoration projects, such as removing and controlling nuisance species, reintroducing natives onto protected lands, collecting, propagating and introducing native plant seeds, and managing native habitat on public lands. The organization also advises land managers, homeowners, and landscape professionals on the use and care of natives in the landscape, and works with groups and communities to help create and manage environmentally sustainable landscapes.
“The work of the FNPS is so broad and extensive that you will see us along a roadside removing rare Florida native plants before a road is paved, or out restoring native habitat, “ said society president Bonnie Basham (of Tallahassee). “Florida native plants are critical for pollinators, wildlife and people, and the purchase of our tag will help us save the real Florida for future generations.”
The plant in the center of the camouflage-styled plate is the species that serves as the symbol for the FNPS, the Saw Palmetto (serenoa repens), a shrubby palm species that grows in the entire state of Florida, and is used by more than 100 bird species, 27 mammals, 25 amphibians, 61 reptiles, and countless insects as food and/or vegetative cover. The berries are important bear food, and the fan-shaped leaves have been widely used for thatch roofing, baskets, and mats by Native American tribes in Florida.
Other species painted on the tag by artist Peter Agardy include native pines, oaks, tillandsia, and the Greenfly Orchid. Also known as (Florida explorer William) Bartram’s Tree Orchid (Epidendrum magnoliae), the plant grows mostly in hammocks and swamps from south-central Florida north, typically on live oak and magnolia trees.
“As a Florida native, outdoorsman and wildlife artist, I was honored to capture and create some of Florida’s unique and native landscapes within the artwork for this license plate,” Agardy said. “From our pines to our oaks and other species of our native hammock habitat, our fragile ecosystem is always under attack, and I could not be happier to partner with the native plant society for this collaboration.”
The Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) preserves, conserves and restores the native plants and native plant communities of Florida. Since the 1980s, this organization has been advocating for increased protection for threatened and endangered plants and plant communities. FNPS encourages the planting of native plants in home, commercial, and institutional landscapes. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization with over 5,000 members in 33 chapters statewide. To learn more, please visit us at https://www.fnps.org//