Friday, December 7, 2012

Insect, Plant & Disease ID

Lara Miller
Natural Resource Agent

Identification Resources:
Insects, Plants, & Diseases
Many Florida residents find unknown plants growing in their yard, unknown bugs in their houses or gardens, and apparent diseases on what were previously healthy plants. So what resources are out there to help you turn the unknown into known?

Extension Offices
Your local Extension office should be your first point of contact for helping you identify any mysterious problems or species in your home or yard. You can call, e-mail, or visit the office in person.

Lawn and Garden Help
We offer walk-in Lawn and Garden Help Desk services at the following locations:
·         Pinellas County Extension Office
12520 Ulmerton Rd., Largo, FL 33774
Walk-In Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-5pm (excluding holidays)
·         Pinellas County Master Gardener Plant Clinic
Palm Harbor Library
2330 Nebraska Ave., Palm Harbor, FL 34683
Wednesdays from 10am-2pm, January through mid-November
Lawn and Garden Help Line
Lawn & Garden assistance is also available by phone at (727)582-2100 and then Press 1.
Hours of Operation: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday
9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm

When you do, have or send the following:
·         Photographs (digital or snapshot) or a physical sample if you are making an in-person visit.
·         As detailed a description of the organism or disease symptom as possible (e.g., where and when you saw it, behavior, any others present, how long it has been occurring, the type of damage).

Even if your county Extension office cannot make the identification or disease diagnosis, the agents will be able to help you with forms and samples to send to UF/IFAS's diagnostic laboratories.

There are thousands of insects in Florida, and knowing whether the one you found is harmless, beneficial, or damaging is key for deciding on control measures. The Insect ID Lab can analyze insect samples sent by Florida residents. The Help Desk can provide answers or information on preparing a sample to send to the Insect ID Lab. The lab will charge $8 per sample sent.
Send samples in a crush-proof container with the accompanying submission form (205KB pdf). Sending samples in flat or padded envelopes is discouraged.
Collecting a Sample
1)    The more specimens included in a sample, the better.
2)    In most cases, you should kill and preserve the insects before sending them.
a.    Do this by placing them in the freezer or in a vial with rubbing alcohol.
                                          i.    Caterpillars will not preserve well in an alcohol solution. Moths and butterflies should be kept dry.
b.    Take special care if you believe the insect could be a new or exotic species.

Contact your Extension office or read the submission guide for more details.

You can either bring in a physical specimen of the plant (or blossom, leaf, etc.) or a photograph to the Help Desk. Multiple photographs are best, with pictures of leaves, bark or stem, blossoms, seed pods, as well as the whole plant itself.
In addition to the pictures or sample, pass along as much additional information as possible:
·         Size and shape of plant, leaves, blossoms, seeds.
·         Growth habit and location.
·         Conditions in location (e.g., sun, soil type and moisture, cultivated or forested area).
·         Colors of plant and blossoms.
If the Extension agent or Master Gardener cannot make an identification, they will send a sample to the UF Herbarium. All identification samples sent to the herbarium must first go through your county Extension agent, but the herbarium does offer an online database where Florida residents can look at images of plants in the collection.

UF/IFAS Extension offers multiple plant diagnostic clinics and labs, which make up the Florida Plant Diagnostic Network. These diagnostic clinics use living-plant samples to make disease diagnoses.
An important note: once a plant is dead, our Extension professionals are unable to make a disease diagnosis. Harmful fungi and bacteria are present in all Florida soils, and many secondary bacteria and fungi will start to grow on a dead plant. These two factors make it impossible to determine what, if any, disease killed a plant.
Contact your county's Extension office for help and information on preparing a plant or turf sample to send to a diagnostic lab. The lab will charge $40 per sample sent. (Certain disease tests are no charge.)
Send properly packaged samples with the accompanying submission form (149KB pdf).
Sometimes what you believe may be a disease is only a nutrient deficiency. Your local Extension agent can advise you if it would be worth testing your soil before doing a disease analysis. (Find more information from the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory.)
Collecting a Sample
General guidelines include:
·         Take samples before applying pesticides.
·         Make sure samples are living (green).
·         Include a large amount of plant material that covers the range of the symptoms.
·         Do not mix different samples in the same submission bag.
Contact your Extension office and read the submission guide for more details.

Other Identifications
UF/IFAS Extension offices are your source for answers to your questions and solutions for your life. Wildlife was not covered in this guide, but any identification questions or problems you have can be answered by our offices if you give them enough information.
An e-mail, telephone call, or visit to your local Extension office is your first step in identifying any plants, pests, animals, problems, or curiosities you encounter.

Adapted and excerpted from:
L. Buss, Insect Identification Service (RFSR010), Entomology and Nematology Department (rev. 3/2010).
N. Williams, Plant Identification and Information Service (RFSR013), Extension Administration Office (rev. 12/2011).

Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy Holly-days!

by Theresa Badurek, Urban Horticulture Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension

Dahoon Holly, Ilex cassine
We all know that there are many beautiful holiday plants to enjoy this time of year. This year I would like to focus on a group of plants that not only bring us pleasure, but also provide something for our wildlife- hollies. There are several native hollies that we can grow here that provide food and habitat for our wildlife while also providing decoration both outside and in. Holly fruits are a favorite winter food for many birds and mammals, providing seasonal nutrition for our feathered and furry friends. In addition to providing a food source, holly shrubs and trees also provide habitat for many birds.

While the most important benefit of these plants is enjoying them outdoors in their natural state, they can also be used as cut greens in holiday decorations (the evergreen varieties). Keep in mind that hollies are dioecious plants: the male and female flowers are on separate plants and female plants produce berries. If you are looking for berries for holiday d├ęcor you will want to make sure you have some female plants. Also, many of the dwarf varieties do not produce berries.

If you don’t already have hollies in your landscape you may consider planting them now for next year. Hollies prefer part shade but most will tolerate full sun, they prefer acidic soils, and they all require a well-drained soil. Here are a few suggested native hollies:

American Holly, Ilex opaca. This is the holly most traditionally associated with the holiday season. It has spiny leaves and red or yellow fruit. Click here for more info.

Fruit of Ilex opaca

Foliage of Ilex opaca

Dahoon Holly, Ilex cassine. This holly makes a great specimen or street tree. It even has another seasonally appropriate common name- Christmas Berry. Click here for more info.
Fruit and foliage of Ilex cassine
Ilex cassine

Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria. Depending on the variety you choose this can be a small shrub or a small tree. Click here for more info.
Fruit and foliage of Ilex vomitoria

Ilex vomitoria ’Dodds Cranberry’


These hollies, and others, would make great additions to the landscape-and great gifts for those on your holiday shopping list too. You will enjoy them and the wildlife will thank you. Happy holly-days everyone!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon Fern
by: Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent
Jonathan Houser, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern 

While the name refers to a spice many have come to love during this time of year, Cinnamon Ferns don’t actually produce cinnamon. They get their name from their cinnamon-colored fronds.  Cinnamon ferns are fairly large and capable of growing six feet high by one foot wide. They can be found in large clusters of damp woods, marshes, wet ditches, and stream banks. There are two types of fronds in cinnamon ferns: large green sterile fronds and smaller bright green fronds which turn a brown cinnamon-color as they become fertile. The cinnamon-colored fronds are fertile because they are covered with sporangia (a cell structure where spores (reproductive bodies) are produced) to propel new fern growth. In the spring, the fronds in the center of the plant become fertile as they develop their sporangia. These fertile fronds will die back in the late summer once they have lost their spores.

Cinnamon fern is a long lived perennial that does best in moist shaded areas with rich acidic soil, but can also survive full sun if there is an abundance of water. It was historically used by American Indians to treat headaches, muscles pain, chills, colds and snakebites. Frond tips were eaten both raw and cooked. The fiddleheads are edible, and said to taste like a blend of broccoli, asparagus and artichoke. The Florida Department of Agriculture lists cinnamon fern as a "Commercially Exploited Species". A permit is needed to remove it from the wild for commercial purposes. It is legally available from many native plant nurseries.

Monday, October 29, 2012

From Cypress Trees to Cypress Knees

From Cypress Trees to Cypress Knees
by: Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent
Jennifer Jones, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern

           Cypress trees can be found across the southeast United States, and they are known to dominate the forested wetlands of Florida.  There are two distinct types found within Florida: the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum var. distichum) and the pond cypress (Taxodium distichum var. nutans). They share a few characteristics in common, such as roots that protrude above soil, which are sometimes called the ‘’knees,” and they both lose their leaves in the fall. Bald cypress trees are typically larger than the pond cypress; they can grow to heights of 150 feet and reach six feet in diameter. The leaves on each of the cypress trees differ as well: bald cypress leaves are generally flat, and pond cypress leaves grow scale-like, close to the branchlets (Figure 1). These trees can live for hundreds of years, and some known Cypress trees are over 500 years old. They are extremely flood tolerant, and this allows them to dominate swamps and other wetlands which are known to endure long periods of flooding.

Figure 1. Side-by-side comparison of bald cypress and pond cypress leaves.

Cypress swamps create homes for many rare and endangered species. Everything from large mammals to birds and insects make their homes in cypress trees and swamps. Cypress ponds are capable of holding more water than soil, absorbing runoff from storms and preventing floods. Cypress trees have also been known to improve water quality in their environments. The soil and plants that are typically found within cypress ponds can remove phosphorus and nitrogen from stormwater.

Cypress trees have been growing in Florida for about 6,500 years. They were once logged and almost completely removed because cypress wood is extremely durable and can be used for shingles, siding, fence posts, and other products. Currently, cypress trees are mainly used for saw timber and landscape mulch, although UF/IFAS Extension does not recommend purchasing cypress mulch for your landscape. Cypress trees exist in almost every area of Florida, from the Wakulla Springs in the panhandle all the way to the Everglades in South Florida. These trees are a very beneficial and beautiful species which serve important ecological functions, and are needed in swamps in order to maintain a balanced and healthy ecosystem. 

Stay up to date on news and information affecting our environment by following your Pinellas County Natural Resource Extension Agent on Twitter

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sword Fern - Native or Not?

Florida’s Native and Non-Native Sword Ferns
by: Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent
Jennifer Jones, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern

Florida is home to many native fern species, including the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exalta) and giant sword fern (Nephrolepis biserrata), which can be difficult to distinguish from non-native ferns that grow in the same environments, such as Tuberous sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) and the Asian sword fern (Nephrolepis multiflora). Each of these are often still sold in the nursery and landscape trade, and often confused or misidentified as the native species of fern.

The Natives
The native Boston fern (Figure 1) has erect fronds that can reach up to 3 feet long and 6 inches wide. The round sori (clusters of spore-bearing organs) are in two rows near the underside of the pinnae (leaflet). It is commonly found in humid forests and swamps of Florida, although is native to other regions such as South and Central America. It is grown outdoors as well as indoors for ornamental value; their high humidity tolerance makes them a good candidate for both indoor and outdoor use.

Figure 1. Native Boston Fern

The native giant sword fern (Figure 2) has fronds that extend several feet and can be found in moist to wet soil. The species name comes from tiny teeth that alternate with larger teeth along the edge of each lance-like pinna. Underneath each pinna, round sori occur evenly around the entire edge. The petioles (stalk) are sparse to moderate with reddish to light brown hair-like scales. Tubers are never present in this species.

Figure 2. Native Giant Sword Fern
The Non-Natives
Since the non-native ferns can be invasive and disruptive to native plant communities, it is very beneficial to be able to recognize the differences between them. The Asian sword fern and Tuberous sword fern are sold under various names, often ones of native origin.
Tuberous sword fern (Figure 3) sometimes produces tubers, and it is the only one of the four ferns mentioned that is capable of doing so. The presence of these tubers alone is a distinct way to identify the species. The presence of scales on the upper side of the rachis (stem) that is distinctively darker at the point of attachment is another way to distinguish the tuberous sword fern from the other three species. Native sword fern has scales on the upper side and are homogenously colored.

Figure 3. Non-Native Tuberous Sword Fern

Tuberous sword fern can be distinguished from Asian sword fern (Figure 4) by its glabrous central vein of the pinnae contrasted by the presence of short stiff hairs that occur on the central vein of the pinnae of Asian and giant sword fern. The most distinguishing characteristic for Asian sword fern is a dense covering of dark brown, pressed scales with pale margins on mature petioles. Petiole scales of tuberous sword fern are dense, spreading, and pale brown, while those of native sword fern are sparse to moderate, reddish-brown, of a single color or slightly darkened at the point of attachment and have expanded bases with small hairs.

Figure 4. Non-Native Asian Sword Fern


Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Wildflower Festival

Fall Wildflower Festival

by: Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent
Jennifer Jones, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern

Wildflowers, field. UF/IFAS: Photos Thomas Wright

 The Florida Wildflower Foundation defines a “Florida native wildflower” as any flowering herbaceous species, or woody species with ornamental flowers, which grew wild within the state’s natural ecosystems in the 1560s when Florida’s first botanical records were created. Wildflowers are beautiful and can be the perfect addition to your garden, but they can become weeds if they are growing in the wrong place. Having wildflowers in your yard can increase plant and animal diversity in your neighborhood and can help support diverse wildlife, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Since plants and animals have evolved together, one often relies on the other for survival. Herbivores often feast on the flowers, while their nectar provides a food source to insects. The wildflowers also serve as shelter for insect eggs.  Because these flowers have adapted to Florida’s climate and pests, they usually require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides than other flowers.

If you are interested in learning more about wildflowers please check out the Fall Wildflower Festival at Brooker Creek Preserve this Saturday, October 27th, 2012 from 9:00am-4:00pm. This is a free event, held rain or shine! You will have the opportunity to enjoy a walk-through tent with 500 plants and over 250 live butterflies! Come get up close and personal with hundreds of butterflies and learn about their life cycle! There will also be wildflowers for sale as well as a fun wildflower scavenger hunt!

The Friends of Brooker Creek look forward to seeing you there!

Stay up to date on news and information affecting our environment by following your Pinellas County Natural Resource Extension Agent on Twitter

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Plumeria Rust

Featured Guest Blogger: Jane Morse, UF/IFAS Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent, Pinellas County

Have you ever wondered “what is wrong with this plant?” or “what is this insect, where did it come from and now what do I do?” or “oh my, what are these black, shiny, wormy looking things on the floor?” We hear questions like these every day at the Lawn and Garden Help Desk, supported by the University of Florida and Pinellas County, and we can usually answer your questions - free of charge.

Plumeria spp.: Photo, Okeechobee County Extension

Recently, we have seen a rash of frangipani or plumeria rust fungus. This disease produces a mass of tiny pockets of rust colored spores on the undersides of the leaves. Infected leaves become yellow-spotted on top and fall off the tree. This disease is most commonly seen during the mid to late part of summer. Although it may look rather menacing it normally does not cause any serious problem for the plant. Since the leaves are getting ready to drop off for the fall anyway, spraying with a fungicide is usually not warranted. It is best to pick up or rake away any infected fallen leaves and dispose of them in the trash. This will help to reduce the amount of spores available to re-infest the tree at a later date.

Early signs of plumeria rust on the underside of a leaf.

Later the underside of the leaf may be completely covered.

Plumeria rust spores under magnification.

For more information about plumeria rust (and other rusts) visit:

You can visit us in person at Pinellas County Extension, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo any Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can call the Help Desk from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays or Thursdays.  Or you can visit our frequently asked questions website at

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Post-Storm Flooding and Your Landscape

Wow, have we seen a lot of rain thanks to Tropical Storm Debby! Many parts of Pinellas County are completely saturated and some are still dealing with standing water. Many plants in the landscape are not tolerant of standing water. Under these conditions the roots are unable to get oxygen and essentially the root system suffocates. Some plants can tolerate up to a week or so in these flooded conditions while others will be damaged after only a day or two. Recovery from this situation is just as varied, as some plants will recover in just one growing season while others may decline and die. Healthy established plants will generally fare better than older stressed plants and young seedlings. Here are some of the symptoms that you might see above-ground if your plants have root damage from standing water:
-leaf yellowing or browning
-droopy foliage
-leaf drop
-leaf and stem wilting
-stem and limb die-back
-plant death
There are some things you can do after this occurs to lessen the damage to some plants. If you have container plants that have been flooded put them up on blocks, bricks, gravel, etc. to allow the drainage of excess water. Due to erosion you may have sediment, mulch, etc. deposited on your plants after the water recedes. Carefully remove this sediment so as not to harm the roots. You may also have exposed tree roots where the soil was washed away. These roots should be covered with soil to protect them. Try to return the soil to its original depth/condition, as putting too much soil on the roots will also reduce the oxygen available to them. The goal is to return to pre-flood conditions as soon as possible. Furthermore, according to the University of Florida, “trees showing signs of flooding stress should have up to ½ the leafy tree canopy removed to reduce the stress imposed by soil conditions. Reducing the size of the canopy will improve the chances for tree survival”. It is recommended that you consult an arborist for this activity.

Wet soils are also favorable for a number of soil-borne root and crown rots including Fusarium spp. and Phytophthora spp. These organisms are responsible for a number of root and crown rots that are potentially fatal. Keep a watchful eye on your landscape after flooding for symptoms that often look similar to drought stress like wilting or a dull appearance to leaves. Contact Extension if you suspect these infections as there are different control and sanitation methods that may help manage the spread of the organisms. Different plant species and root and crown rot species call for different responses that would be too numerous to explore here. So, keep an eye on your landscape and an umbrella at the ready.

Finally, this post mainly addresses freshwater flood impacts.  If you have experienced salt or brackish water flooding you will want to flush the plants root zone and rinse the plant with fresh water once the salt water recedes.  Carefully wash away sediment and debris as well.  After a thorough rinsing and flushing use the above methods to promote drainage and aeration as much as possible. 

Good luck- and consider this a warning from Mother Nature.  Be sure to have a hurricane plan in place for your family, pets, property, and landscape!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Vegetable Gardening: Can you stand the heat?

Okra crop
If you come to us from up north, this is the time of year you would normally enjoy vegetable gardening. That’s not usually the case here in Florida. Sure, there’s plenty of sunshine and usually lots of rain… but the heat, oh my, the heat. Most crops people really want to grow just won’t perform in our subtropical summer temps, and it can be downright brutal to weed your garden mid-July. But what if you are determined to garden in the summer anyway? Besides sunscreen and lots of water to hydrate yourself, what do you need to know?

Fresh watermelons
Summer crops for Florida are limited. Things like watermelon, black-eyed peas, okra, and sweet potatoes are best this time of year. If you are more interested in getting ready for the more diverse fall vegetable gardening season, black-eyed peas are a great choice. They are legumes and the help fix nitrogen in their roots. If you grow these as a cover crop and turn the plants into the soil before they produce peas, you will help nourish your soil with more nitrogen for the fall. You can grow and harvest the peas if you like, but this will reduce the amount of nitrogen put back into the soil.

Okra flower
 Sweet potatoes are healthy (superfood anyone?) and they grow on rather beautiful vines. Growing this crop is a great way to keep down weeds in your garden while keeping it beautiful all summer long. I don’t have much to say about okra- can you tell I’m not a fan? But, if you like gumbo this is the crop for you! Finally, watermelon is a fun crop, and a summertime favorite that would be ready late August or early September if you got it planted right now. You’re going to need some space for this one, as watermelon vines can grow up to 12’-16’ long! Plan accordingly.

All of the usual tips and techniques apply when gardening in the summer as well. Things like mulching to keep down weeds and scouting for pests regularly to avoid infestation are always great advice. Keep an eye on plants to make sure they are getting enough water. We usually get plenty of water from rain in the summer, but not always. Be sure to avoid letting your garden wilt in the extreme summer heat. Plants grown in containers will need more frequent watering to avoid this. For this and much more about vegetable gardening- at any time of year- please visit This handy link will give you the tools to succeed in your Florida garden any time of year, including planting dates, best varieties for Florida, and times to harvest.

Or you could just hit the beach… it’s hot out there!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is your landscape storm-ready (Part 3)

Part 3: Properly Training Your Trees for Wind Resistance

This week's blog was written by guest blogger Jane Morse. Jane Morse is the Pinellas County Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent. This is part two of a three-part series.

Trees are like children. When they are young they need lots of training to make sure they grow up strong, straight and healthy. Proper pruning is extremely important for good tree structure and the health of the tree. The most wind-resistant tree form is one that has a single leader or trunk with evenly spaced branches. There should be no narrow forks or branches leaving the trunk and if there are multiple trunks with sharp V angles these are very likely to split apart in a storm. Tree branches should retain 2/3 of their canopy.

The palm on the top has
been improperly pruned.
The one on the bottom
has been pruned properly.
Palms, on the other hand, should never have their fronds removed above a horizontal line, or less than a 90 degree angle off of the trunk. The so-called “hurricane cut” is the worst cut of all for palms. Palms treated in this manner are robbed of food and vigor, and will be more likely to sustain severe damage or death from a hurricane. See these links for more about pruning: For suggestions on choosing a tree care professional, check this website:

Having trees that are beautiful, strong, healthy and wind-resistant just takes a little know how. Now that you know what to look for, go outside and inspect your trees. Make sure they have good structure and enough space for their root systems. If a tree needs help, contact a certified arborist who can advise you about pruning steps that can be done to create good structure, or for possible removal if the tree is hazardous.

And if a tree does fall or have to be removed, plant a new one. But plant a more storm-resistant one and make sure it gets regular pruning while young. See this link for a tree pruning schedule:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is your landscape storm-ready? (Part 2)

Planting Wind Resistant Trees in Your Landscape

Dr. Ed Gilman, Professor of Environmental Horticulture, University of Florida, consulting with a resident on wind resistant tree selection.
This week's blog was written by guest blogger Jane Morse.  Jane Morse is the Pinellas County Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent.  This is part two of a three-part series.

After you have selected a tree for your yard and are getting ready to plant it, you need to picture it full grown.  Make sure mature trees will have lots of space, both in the air and in the soil, which gives them a better chance of surviving storms.  Plant smaller trees near homes, power lines and other structures.

All trees need a certain amount of root space based on their mature size.  Trees smaller than 30 feet tall need a soil area of at least 10-by-10 feet and should be at least two feet from paved surfaces.  Medium trees with a height and spread less than 50 feet need at least 20 x 20 feet should be six feet from pavement.  Trees with a height and spread greater than 50 feet need at least a 30-by- 30 foot area and should be 10 feet from pavement.  More space is needed if there is a high water table and the roots have less than a depth of 3 feet for rooting.

When planting for shade it is more important to shade the east and west walls of a house than the roof. Small trees planted fairly close to the house for wall shade will be less hazardous than large trees which can fall on the house.  For more information, see these links: Urban Design for a Wind Resistant Urban Forest and Choosing Suitable Trees for Urban and Suburban Sites.

If you are a do-it-yourself landscaper, dig the hole wide and shallow so that the top 10% of the root ball is above ground level.  The outer inch or so of the root ball should be shaved off to remove all circling roots, and mulch should be applied 3 inches thick and in an area 2 feet in diameter for each inch of tree trunk diameter.  Mulch should come up to the edge of the root ball, but not cover it.  Roots will expand best when there are no soil differences, so it is best to stick with the natural soil and not amend the planting hole.  Establishment takes time and providing enough water is critical to tree survival.  For more detail see this link: Planting Trees and Shrubs.

Next week Part 3: Properly Training Your Trees for Wind Resistance

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is your landscape storm-ready? (Part 1)

This week's blog was written by guest blogger Jane Morse.  Jane Morse is the Pinellas County Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent.  This is part one of a three-part series.

Part 1: Wind Resistant Trees for Your Landscape

When it comes to trees and storms, there are victims and there are survivors.  The question to ask yourself before the next – inevitable – big Florida storm is: Will your tree survive or will it come crashing down on your roof?

Trees have a lot to contend with during storms. High winds snap them and break off branches.  Rain loosens the soil, making it harder for the roots to hold them up.  And the longer it takes for storms to move through an area, the more water accumulates in the soil and the more battering the trees take.

A tree’s survival comes down to whether it is resistant to wind, if it is properly planted and pruned, has enough space for its root system, and is in good health.  Trees with these properties can help to protect your home during a storm.  Or at least minimize damage.  Here are some things to consider when adding new trees to your landscape:

That some trees are naturally more resistant to wind has been shown by surveying those still standing after hurricanes.  They include southern magnolia, yaupon holly, dahoon holly, podocarpus, crape myrtle, pondcypress and baldcypress.  Palms in this category include pindo, areca, Alexander and sabal.  You can find a more comprehensive list at:

According to the University of Florida's "Trees and Hurricanes," some of the weaker trees are ash, maple, water oaks, pecan, tulip poplar, Bradford pear, southern red oak, Australian pine, floss-silk tree, weeping banyan, silk oak and jacaranda.

Next week: Part 2, Planting Wind Resistant Trees in Your Landscape

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Oh Deer...

This week's blog was written by guest blogger Lara Miller.  Lara Miller is the Pinellas County Natural Resources Extension Agent.

Tired of planting trees, shrubs, vines and flowers only to find them damaged by deer just days later? Pinellas County is a very urbanized county where human developments have replaced native deer habitats.  This in turn limits the availability of natural food preferred by deer.  In cases like this, deer adapt by feeding on gardens around homes.  While fencing and chemical repellents are options for reducing damage by deer, a simpler, less expensive and usually more effective alternative is to landscape your yard with plants that deer do not like to eat.

Deer feed upon a variety of vegetation, but are turned away by certain tastes and digestibility.  This preference for certain plants can be altered if deer populations increase in an area forcing them to feed on other vegetation they wouldn’t normally consume.

There are many common garden plants in Florida that are least susceptible to damage by deer.  For example, many palms, some holly, several ferns, and certain lilies have been identified as deer-resistant plants.  The tables of rarely damaged plants found in the link below may be used to guide planting decisions in areas where damage from deer is likely to be problem.  Additional information on Pinellas county natural resources can be obtained through attending educational programs offered by University of Florida Extension Agents.  For a list of upcoming programs visit:

Frequently asked questions of Pinellas County residents are posted at  Visit this site to see if your question has already been asked or to post a question of your own.  Stay up to date with publications from Extension by liking us on facebook.