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Interest in native Florida plant species continues to grow

By Staff | Apr 19, 2009

Lynn Santaiello pulled a little yellow wagon behind her as she perused the plants.
The wagon already held porterwood, scorpiontail, and gobbler polypody, all native Florida plant species, but Santaiello wasn’t done yet. The Pine Island resident hadn’t planned on attending the Annual Native Plant Sale at Rotary Park on Saturday, but when she saw a sign advertising the sale she couldn’t resist.
“I’ve been looking to come to one of these,” she said. “I saw the sign and pulled in. I really wanted to buy some native plants.”
Santaiello was one of the “hundreds” that organizers said attended this year’s plant sale, which was co-sponsored by the city’s parks and recreation department, and the Coccoloba Native Plant Society.
John Sibley, president of the local chapter of the Coccoloba, said he thinks the sale’s success – which saw upwards of 400 people walking the rows of native plants when the sale opened at 8 a.m. – is due to an increased awareness of everything “green”.
He thinks the nation’s growing environmental consciousness isn’t just a passing fad, but is here to stay.
“With all the environmental issues coming into play, people are really beginning to tune in,” he said. “It’s really taking hold now. People are realizing this is for real.”
As the sale was winding down Saturday afternoon, Sibley estimated plant sales topped $10,000, making it one of the most successful sales ever. As a non-profit organization, all money raised from the sale is put back into the community by Coccoloba.
“Five years ago it was like beating people in the head,” Sibley said of pushing the importance of native plants. “Now people are aware. They’re convinced.”
The sale’s success was due in part to the mixture of diehard plant enthusiasts and curious newcomers. The sale had many plant educators, like Rick Joyce, on hand.
Joyce, from Deep South Nursery in Fort Myers, said he’d been fielding all kinds of questions from a myriad attendees.
“It ranges from those who know exactly what they want to those who know nothing about native plants,” he said. “No matter what the question is, there are people here who can help you.”