Southeast Environmental Research Program, Florida International University
Center for Plant Conservation

An Action Plan to Conserve the Native Plants of Florida


" is the most wild, dream-like, enchanting sail conceivable. The river sometimes narrows so that the boat brushes under overhanging branches, and then widens into beautiful lakes dotted with wooded islands.Palmetto-hammocks, live-oak groves, cypress, pine, bay, and magnolia form an interchanging picture; vines hang festooned from tree to tree, wildflowers tempt the eye on the near banks, and one is constantly longing for the boat to delay here or there... "   (Stowe 1873).

For many years, the image of Florida described above represented the mysterious, tropical element in the American natural and cultural heritage. By the boom years of the 1920s, Stowe's "dream-like" Florida had become a Paradise Lost for botanists like J.K. Small who was a crestfallen witness to the disappearance of the custard- apple forests of Lake Okeechobee and the cathedral mangroves of what had become Miami Beach (Small 1919). As the century draws to a close, the timeless natural scenes which inspired evocative prose no longer suffuse everyday life in Florida, and many people visit the state without ever recognizing the grandeur of the baldcypress or the grace of the silver palm. Today, one generally must venture far from roads, dikes, and ditches to glimpse such sites as Rawlings' Cross Creek or Douglas' "river of grass;" even here, closer scrutiny may uncover declines in the richness of flora and fauna. However, like all resources in diminishing supply, these remnants of the poets' Florida have taken on a greatly enhanced value with scarcity. If they can be preserved, restored, brought closer to our lives, the wild places and the plants and animals they shelter may continue to inspire our imaginations.

In this document, a strategy aimed at conserving the native flora of Florida is presented. The strategy is developed in a four-step sequence. Following this Introduction (Part I), The Florida Native Plant Resource(Part II) describes the resource and the threats to it. That section includes a brief description of the vegetation of Florida prior to the demographic explosion of the last century, a report on the current status of plants in the state, and discussion of some factors responsible for the evident and continuing decline in the quality and quantity of the vegetation resource. In Part III (The Florida Plant Conservation Process), an explicit goal for plant conservation in Florida is expressed, a model describing the plant conservation process is presented, and activities included with each component of the model are examined and evaluated for the state as a whole. Finally, in Part IV (Recommendations To Improve The Process), changes are presented that we believe would help create a more effective plant conservation environment in Florida.

['ACTION PLAN' TOC] [SERP Collection ]

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