On Monday, May 21st, a group of Hernando County Master Gardeners and community volunteers assisted UF/IFAS Hernando County Extension Agents, Brittany Hall-Scharf and Bill Lester, with removing invasive vegetation from coastal county parks. With shovels and rakes in hand, nine volunteers eagerly ripped the dead oxeye, lantana, rosary pea, and Brazilian pepper seedlings from 11 designated planting sites throughout Linda Pedersen Preserve and Bayport parks. In total, volunteers removed three truckloads and twenty-one heavy-duty 55-gallon trash bags of invasive vegetation.
Once school let out for the day, a team of agricultural students from Hernando High School, led by Rick Ahrens, arrived on site with native plants to replace the invasive vegetation. Throughout the school year, these students dedicated over 550 hours caring, propagating, and growing plants specifically for this restoration project. Despite the continued downpour of rain on planting day, students and volunteers installed a variety of muhly grass, sage, yellow goldenrod, blanket flower, and railroad vine into the freshly cleared sites. Almost 500 natives were used.
The planting sites were selected in partnership with the Hernando County’s ESL Conservation Lands Specialist, Mike Singer. Originally, agents planned to install native vegetation in locations where Brazilian pepper and lead tree were being removed; however, with ongoing efforts to treat additional species, this partnership allowed the project to have a larger restoration impact. Prior to volunteers clearing, the sites went through a series of herbicide treatments to help kill the invasive vegetation and prevent any spreading.
Additional native plants remain in the Hernando High School greenhouse and will be used in additional restoration projects in the upcoming months.
This project was funded by FFA Living to Serve grant and Cemex Brooksville.