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After Ian

By SHERIE BLEILER - Garden Club of Cape Coral | Oct 10, 2022

(Editor’s note: The following column from the Garden Club of Cape Coral was written prior to Hurricane Ian and set to be published on Sept. 28.)

I write this as we are anticipating Ian coming to our area. I can’t wait till the hurricane passes and I can go outside and see how the “little ones” are doing. The lizards, dragon flies, bees and butterflies. How can such delicate creatures shelter from the torrential rains and tremendous winds? It is amazing, but some will find a safe place and emerge to live another day.

As so much building occurs, habitat for creatures large and small is being destroyed. Plants that these creatures have depended on for thousands of years are disappearing. Yet we can save some pieces of this heaven by continuing to offer some habitat in a corner of our yards. Adding a few plants with which they might be familiar, will give them shelter, food and a place to raise their young. These plants might be weeds to some, but it’s “home” to these creatures.

For example, let’s look at the zebra and gulf fritillary butterflies. One is striped; the other is mostly orange, but they both lay their eggs on passion vine. If you have this vine growing up a fence or trellis, they will magically appear! They will also hang around if you have some familiar Florida flowers to feed them nectar, such as scorpiontail, a small, filmy white flowered bush. Add porterweed, a 1 to 2-foot-tall sprawling ground cover with blue flowers, and butterflies of all kinds will seek it out. The tropical buckeye butterfly will even lay eggs on porterweed.

In my grass is a yellow flowered weed called fanpetals or sida. It turns out it is a favorite host plant for three types of skipper butterflies and two types of hairstreak butterflies. I had no idea! I would rather not kill them with my weed-and-feed, now that I know they support so many smaller butterflies. So embrace those Florida weeds, knowing they are closely linked to all the life that remains here.

Save a small part of your yard for the “real Florida.” Here are my favorite resources for flowers. For pictures and information about Florida’s flowers, see: https://www.floridawildflowers.com/

Some Florida wildflower seed may be ordered from: https://www.flawildflowers.org/

Explore these opportunities to tour parks or yards with real Florida plants and learn more about gardening in Cape Coral:

• Parks and Recs Classes offered at Rotary Park at the Rotary Park Environmental Center, 5505 Rose Garden Road, 239-549-4406. Call to register.

• Nature of Cape Coral Bus Tour, Oct. 1, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m., $20

Join a knowledgeable guide to see the real nature of Cape Coral. Possible sightings include burrowing owls, manatees, osprey, eagles, scrub jays, hawks, and a variety of shore and songbirds. With limited seats available, advance registration is required.

• Florida Friendly Landscaping Tour of several locations: Oct 8, 9 to noon, $10. Visit several Florida friendly yards in Cape Coral. Your guide and the homeowners will provide plenty of information, inspiration, and gardening tips.

• Guided hike of Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, east end of Southeast 23rd Terrace, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 9-10:30 a.m., $10.

• Going Green, Oct. 18, 1-2 p.m., no cost.

Want to be a good steward of our beautiful Earth? Learn some simple techniques, explore sustainable living and discuss what you can do in your own home.

Happy gardening!

Sherie Bleiler is a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.