Member Spotlight: Jody Willis

Q&A with Jody

Why do you support the Florida Wildflower Foundation?

I support the Foundation because of the important work they do to preserve our native wildflower habitats, to add native wildflower habitats throughout the state, and to provide education about our wildflower species, their importance to Florida’s ecosystems and the ecological harm caused by the invasive plants. 

Why should people care about Florida’s native wildflowers?

Others should care about our Florida native wildflowers because these plants do not exist in a vacuum or just provide a pretty picture. They are vital to the existence of a healthy ecosystem which supports all wildlife. We are helping to mitigate the damage caused by habitat loss and climate change by expanding and providing wildflower education, seeds and plants.

I have held various positions, including president, for our local Audubon chapter over the last 20 years. This experience was a great lesson in the importance of native plants in Florida. Our birds depend on insects to provide protein, regardless of whether they mature into seedeaters or not. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, for example, do not solely depend upon nectar for sustenance, but also protein provided by insects. Another example is that baby chickadees require 350 to 570 caterpillars per day to survive.  The caterpillars of our native butterflies and moths which pollinate our plants are the major source of protein for our birds. These pollinators require native plants for laying their eggs and food when they hatch.  The simple equation is this: no native plants = no insects = no birds.

The greatest weapon we have to change this equation is education, outreach and the creation and preservation of native plant habitat. That is why I support the Florida Wildflower Foundation in its work.

What is your favorite Florida native wildflower and why?

My favorite wildflower is Spotted beebalm (Monarda punctata). It showed up in my yard uninvited many years ago and I have cultivated it ever since. It is such a wonderful, easy plant to grow, and the results are gorgeous. It is a spectacular showpiece in my garden when it blooms in early fall with its intricate flowers ranging in color from a creamy white to a deep purple, often on the same plant. It is beloved by many of our native bee species, and I have often stood in awe, watching the dozens of native bees working the flowers diligently.

Join Jody in supporting the Foundation by becoming a member or making a donation to support our work.