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FLOR500: January 18th 2013 Tallahassee Democrat
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FLOR500 project encourages planting of state wildflowers

Written by Elizabeth M. Mack

Published by Tallahassee Democrat on Friday, January 18, 2013, Tallahassee, FL.


It’s undeniable that Florida’s native wildflowers are beautiful, said Donna Legare, co-owner of Native Nurseries.

Which is one of the reasons organizers of FLOR500 — a participatory art, nature and history project based out of Florida International University’s College of Architecture and The Arts — is encouraging communities across the state to plant native wildflower gardens, said Christopher Rodriguez, FLOR500 project coordinator.

The project, started by Xavier Cortada, director and artist in residence at FIU, is being done in conjunction with Viva Florida 500 — the state’s quincentennial anniversary celebrating the arrival of Juan Ponce de Leon on Florida’s east coast in 1513.

There are three components to the project — ecologic, artistic and historic, Rodriguez added. Botanists from around the state were asked to identify 500 native Florida wildflower species and separate them based on their region. Fifty-nine different native wildflowers were identified for the north-central region of Florida, which includes Leon, Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor and Wakulla counties, among others.

Norma Skaggs, plant manager at Native Nurseries, said the most popular native wildflowers in this area are the coreopsis, purple cone flower and the golden rod. Plus, there are advantages to having native wildflower gardens.

"The native wildflowers bring in the native insects, which is great for pollinating,” she said.

"Most of (the native wildflowers) are adaptive to this area,” she added. "And they don’t take a whole lot of extra work or extra care.”

Artists from around the state are being asked to choose a flower in their region to portray through art — photography, painting, sculpting, woodcarving or even mixed media, Rodriguez added. Artists submissions are due by April 1.

Plus organizers are rallying for local schools, libraries and community groups to plant native wildflower gardens in public places for everyone to enjoy, he added. Once the gardens are planted organizers are asking that the garden be dedicated to historical figures from Florida’s 500 years of history. School submissions for dedication gardens are due by March 15.

"It’s really a birthday present to the state when you think about it,” he said. "We have all of this coming together in a nice package — all to celebrate the history and beauty of Florida.”

The kickoff for the initiative started last year in March with the planting of coreopsis plants, Florida’s state wildflower, at the Museum of Florida History, 500 S. Bronough St. Since then the state library system has signed as a partner, using the FLOR500 project in conjunction with its summer reading program training. This year’s summer program reading theme is, "Dig into Reading.”

During the training sessions, library staff are given seed packets of wildflowers from their regions, said Judith Ring, director of the division of library and information services of the Department of State. They are also working on giving seeds to libraries around the state to plant native wildflower community gardens — planning is still in the early stages.

"We would be happy to participate in the effort,” said Cay Hohmeister, director of Leon County libraries.

But even if there are individuals in the community who would like to plant a wildflower garden, that is also encouraged, Rodriguez said.

"It’s like creating a living time capsule,” he said. "With it being 500 years of history a lot has changed with the landscape. This is a way for everyone to return some of that natural beauty to the state.”

To submit artwork or dedicate a community garden visit,

1) Choose a sunny, well-drained area.

2) Remove existing vegetation, or mow as short as possible. Remove clippings. Seeds must make contact with soil surface in order to germinate and grow. Lawn grass may need to be removed by digging or herbicide.

3) Loosen soil surface with a garden rake or drag a log behind a tractor to rough up the soil and turf.

4) Water the seedbed, if possible.

5) To aid in even distribution, mix four parts sand, topsoil or potting soul to one part seed.

6) Hand-broadcast and lightly rake over the area to establish soil/seed contact, or walk gently over the seedbed to make sure seeds are in good contact with the soil.

7) If possible, water gently but thoroughly whenever the seedbed looks try — do not allow soil to crack or to remain excessively wet.

8) To promote reseeding, wait at least two week after the full bloom period has passed before mowing so that the seeds have time to mature. Mow the area to a height of four to six inches. Annual mowing aids in seed dispersal, reduces competition from weeds and allows sunlight to reach seedlings.






FIU College of Architecture + The Arts

Xavier Cortada
Florida International University
College of Architecture + The Arts
420 Lincoln Road, Suite 430
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Xavier Cortada's participatory art practice is based at Florida International University.


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