SNPS History

Suncoast Celebrates 30 years!

A History of SNPS complied by Janet Bowers (Reprinted in part from The Suncoast Grapevine— November 2013 - see the entire story in the Newsletter archives)

Over the years SNPS has completed many significant projects, participated in numerous outreach events and weathered the volunteer leadership rotation and constant need for new members. In our storage locker we have hundreds of old newsletters from our chapter, other chapters, and FNPS. We have newspaper clippings, awards, legal documents and old correspondence from the days before email. I found a document summarizing the 20 year anniversary and will share the highlights below. My research concentrated on the past 10 years, so that added to the previous works, would document the whole 30 years of SNPS history.

I realized that many of the SNPS people that I have come to know have been involved in SNPS for many years. They have had their turn on the Board and on committees. Amazingly enough, many of them still come to meetings, field trips and volunteer opportunities. Mike Fite and Vikki Sinclair have been in their support roles for at least the past 10 years. I think Fred Mulholland has been bringing plants for the raffle or auction at least that long. As many of us know, Shawna did the newsletter for about 6 years before I started doing it. (Our newsletters are on the SNPS website back to 2001.) We have all been a part of the big picture that keeps us going. I have been fascinated to see the amount of work done by this group of people gathering together as an organization, in their ‘spare’ time. I find it addictive, the more I learn, the more I want to know and contribute to our future. People who love plants, people who like to share with others, long time friends, field trip/outdoor people, organizers, planners and doers are pieces of the picture. After my dive into the storage boxes, I have a better understanding of SNPS and a much deeper appreciation for all who have been involved over the years.Here’s to the next 10 years and all the people who will help us continue our mission!

The first decade - 1983-1993, from the 20th anniversary insert written by Richard Wunderlin (who cited articles by Sheryl Bowman and William Moriarty that appeared in the 10th anniversary issue of the newsletter):
The Suncoast Native Plant Society began in 1983 as the Suncoast Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. The founders included Will Moriarty, Dick Wunderlin, Sydney Park-Brown, Bob Scheible, John Beckner, Mike Ken-ton, Allen Burdett, Bill Ackerman, Tony Arcuri, and Rita and Jim Lassiter. The original chapter includes Citrus County to south of Sarasota but soon after inception, the Serenoa chapter split off. In 1990, the Pinellas, Citrus, Hernando and Nature Coast chapters formed and Suncoast was left with Hillsborough County. On September 21, 1983, the first official meeting was held and the second meeting was in November. An opportunity to take action happened when the Australian pines at Picnic Island died in a freeze and SNPS formed a committee to address what should be planted in their place.

The first newsletter was produced September 1984 (and we still have a copy of it!) In 1985, Suncoast had 90 members, and meetings were held at the HCC Dale Mabry campus. Chapter field trips included Archbold, various county parks and a canoe trip on the Hillsborough River. Fund raising was done with plant sales, partnering with Central Florida Native Flora Nursery. The chapter also benefited from sale of the Checklist of Vascular Plants of the Florida Suncoast, produced by Dick Wunderlin, Glenn Fleming and Bruce Hansen of the USF Herbarium. The newsletter was named the Grapevine in a contest where alternative names included Botanique, Suncoast Blaze, Suncoast Breaker, Suncoast Splash and The Lizard’s Tale. Rita Lassiter submitted the winning name. The sunflower logo was used on the newsletter and was drawn by John Beckner; it originally appeared on the cover of Daniel Ward’s Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Florida, Part I, 1968.

In 1986, the Suncoast Chapter hosted the 6th annual FNPS conference at USF. Dick Wunderlin was the conference coordinator and many members helped support the effort. In 1987 Dick Wunderlin was FNPS president. SNPS held their meetings at the Seffner extension office in 1987. Several SNPS members held positions in the FNPS leadership over the next few years. In 1988, FNPS had over 1,200 members and Suncoast had well over 100 (about where we are today).During 1990 SNPS was mentioned in the press for its I-275 wildflower plantings thanks to Pat Chellman. Debbie Butts served as FNPS president.

The second decade - 1994 to 2003, from the 20th anniversary insert written by Harriett Wright:
SNPS continued with Education, Outreach and Community Service efforts. Many members planted natives in their yard. In 2000, Fred Mulholland was awarded first place in the FNPS’ Design with Natives Landscape Awards Program. Community Service included plantings at English Creek Environmental Center, Cockroach Bay, Lowery Park Zoo, Hillsborough County Greenways and the USF Botanical Garden. Outreach included Earth Day celebrations, Plant Park Greenfest, Kerby’s Nursery and even a Home Depot garden center to promote natives. Fieldtrips included to Avon Park Bombing Range to see blooming pitcher plants, canoeing on Little Manatee River, Balm-Boyette Scrub to see endangered Goldenasters, Dead River to see tillandsias and orchids, and Bell Creek to see the pine lilies (that are still there). In 1997, SNPS published the book Right Plants for Dry Places: Native Plant Landscaping in Central Florida and distributed a brochure on alternatives to Cypress mulch, written by Barbara Waddell.

The last 10 years - 2004 to 2013 - submitted by Janet Bowers

  • Harriett Wright spent 2 years as Vice president and then 3 years as president! Daphne Lambright was treasurer for 4 years! Many others served on the Board and committees. Some brave souls like Cliff and Debbie have come back for second rounds on the Board.
  • Carmel VanHoek inventoried many of the plants at Hillsborough River State Park
  • The SNPS website continues to be a place to find SNPS information. Newsletter, photos, fliers and current events can be found there thanks to Shirley Denton and Ron Huston.
  • In addition to our website, we have an internet presence with a Facebook page and a Meetup group.
  • During 2005, a vote was taken and the monthly meeting location was moved (back) to the Seffner extension building. Thanks to JoAnn Hoffman, we have a great location for our meetings.
  • A wonderful display board for outreach events was created featuring native plant pictures
  • We have been back to Archbold, Bell Creek, Upper Tampa Bay Park on fieldtrips as well as trips to places even farther away like our recent camping trip to Kissimmee Prairie State Park
  • We planted plants at WMNF community radio station (twice) and at Hillsborough River State Park.
  • We (mostly Mike Fite and Mary Miller) took up the gardening tools to get the SNPS native plantings at Flatwood Park and nearby parks back in shape.
  • Troy Springer took on the jumbo task of 2012 conference chair. Everyone pitched in to help, including the Hernando chapter and Plant City was host to the 2012 FNPS conference. We had great fieldtrips and socials in addition to the speakers, vendors and venue being outstanding. We won a Green Palmetto award from FNPS for our efforts.
  • We created a new ‘Bring home the Natives’ handout to share with interested newcomers who want to know ‘what is a native and where do I get them?’
  • Our USF plant sales continue to attract native plant lovers; we have a great selection of quality plants. Our process gets better every time and we started taking credit cards in 2012. 3 years in a row we participated in the Plant City Garden Fest.
  • In 2013, SNPS supported the Hillsborough County resolution to encourage wildflower growth on county rights-of-way.              *********************************************************************************************************