Updated:LAKE WALES, Fla. —
For the first time, the Rare Plant Conservation Program (RPCP) at Bok Tower Gardens is working with a private landowner to introduce a population of the critically endangered Florida Goldenaster (Chrysopsis floridana) onto their land.
Typically, the RPCP introduce populations of Florida’s rare plants only on publicly-owned and managed properties. However, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Partners Program,” Larry and Lenora Woodham will be partners in habitat conservation and stewards of a new population of rare plants beginning Thursday, June 20 when the planting takes place.
“This is the first time we have ever introduced an endangered plant species onto privately owned land,” said Juliet Rynear, Rare Plant Specialist at Bok Tower Gardens. “We feel like we share a consistent mission with the Woodhams and that they will be excellent land stewards for this project,” she said.
The Woodhams are the owners of Bunker Hill Vineyard & Winery in Duette, FL (bunkerhillvineyard.com). When they heard about the work that Bok Tower Gardens has been doing with the Florida Goldenaster, they offered to host a population at their “Green”-certified winery and work to teach others about the importance of being good stewards of the environment.
“Ours is unlike any vineyard tour you’ve ever seen,” says Larry Woodham. “Sustainability is extremely important to us, and we show everything to our guests. Our wines are unfiltered, we have a tremendous recycling program, and these new plantings will be part of our interpretive tour,” Woodham said.
“We believe in accessibility, so we’re even putting in wheelchair-accessible paths from the parking area through the vineyard to the planting area so that everyone can enjoy them,” he said. As part of their commitment to the project, the Woodhams must allow the habitat developments as described in the project plan to remain in place without interference for a period of 10 years.
According to Rynear, most people aren’t aware that endangered plants do not receive the same level of protection by the U.S. government that endangered animals receive through the Federal Endangered Species Act.
“One of our primary goals is to begin educating people that endangered or threatened plants currently belong to property owners, and there shouldn’t be any fear barrier in having them on your land,” Rynear said. “This partnership with the Woodhams and Bunker Hill will serve as a model for what we can all accomplish together moving forward.”
Bunker Hill Vineyard has received designations that complement Bok Tower Garden’s Rare Plant Conservation Program, including a Master Level Green Business Certification by the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, and a Certified Florida Farm Winery.
Beginning June 20, when 100 Florida Goldenaster plants are planted at Bunker Hill by Rynear and Bok Tower volunteers, Bunker Hill’s educational winery tour will begin including a new lesson about one of the state’s rarest plants and the vanishing habitat on which it depends.
About Bok Tower Gardens
Voted Florida’s best garden, Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historic Landmark located 10 miles from LEGOLAND Florida, 55 miles southwest of Orlando and 60 miles east of Tampa near Lake Wales in Central Florida’s rolling hills of citrus. Open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Visitor Center, Café and Gift Shop are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults and $3 for ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 are admitted free. LEGOLAND ticket holders will receive free admission for children under 12. For more information, contact Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales FL 33853; 863-676-1408 or visit www.BokTowerGardens.org.