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Plantings help keep beach ecology intact

By SCCF - | Oct 21, 2020

SCCF Garden Center Assistant Emily Harrington plants a green buttonwood as part of the Sanibel-Captiva Road/Shoreline Project, which consisted of planting a mix of native trees and dune stabilizer plants like sea oats and sea oxeye daisy.

Each summer, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Native Landscapes & Garden Center staff are able to take part in beach restoration and enhancement projects on several local beaches.

“These projects span throughout the island at public and private beaches to help add to and diversify the beach dune system,” center Manager Becca Grotria said. “This summer we planted at eight different beaches from the Lighthouse down towards the Blind Pass area, with a couple being on the bayside such as Bailey Road and Seagrape Lane.”

The plantings take place in the summer to take advantage of the natural rainfall so the plants typically do not need supplemental watering.

“Having a healthy beach dune system is very important, not only do the plants help out with erosion but they also protect inland areas from storms by creating a barrier to absorb some of the strong wave and wind energy,” she said.

The dune system is also important to much of the local wildlife by providing shelter, foraging and nesting. For example, gopher tortoises make their burrows in back dune areas, where they also can forage on plants like prickly pear, gopher apple and golden creeper.

SCCF Planted section at Bowman’s Beach, which included sea oats, railroad vine, seacoast marsh elder, dune sunflowers and sea purslane.

Funding for the annual beach planting program comes through grants given to the city of Sanibel’s Natural Resources Department. Many of the species not only can grow on the beach, but can grow in an upland landscape for homeowners with a dry full-sun area in their yard.