Monday, September 8, 2008


Meet Steve Woodmansee, who will be teaching some of our workshops at Plants Without Borders.

If you google the Internet looking for a photo of Steve Woodmansee, you get 50-plus photos, without ever seeing his face. Instead, you see photos of Steve’s hand -- holding a yellow leaf-munching bug, a Pineland heliotrope flower, a pink katydid, or a cutting from a Rabbitbell plant. You may also see another 40 photos, where Steve is hidden behind the camera, recording the plant life of Florida.

I first met Steve when he was teaching a workshop on “Lawn Weeds…and Other Great Plants” at a meeting of the Florida Native Plant Society. Steve has extensively identified and inventoried hundreds of rare and unusual plants of Florida, but he also has an appreciation of the most common plants – i.e., weeds, weeds that you might encounter in your backyard, on the medians of city streets, along railroad tracts, even between the cracks of sidewalks. If I took Steve to South Beach, he would probably ignore a sighting of Gloria Estefan and instead would marvel at the small flowers peeking through the rubbish in a vacant lot.

While many gardeners and botanical gardens focus on the orchid or the bromeliad, Steve helps people see the beauty in the commonplace. Once a month, he coordinates the Dade County Native Plant Workshop at the Deering Estate in South Miami (the third Tuesday of each month).

Steve was born and raised in South Florida and received his B.S. in biology from the University of Miami. His professional work has included being a Naturalist for Miami-Dade County Park and Recreation Department, the Deering Estate, and the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center. He worked as a research assistant at Fairchild Tropical Garden, and for over eleven years he was the Senior Biologist at The Institute for Regional Conservation in Miami. At IRC, he managed several projects including the floristic inventories of conservation areas in Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. He contributed to a number of botanical discoveries, including a significant new population of an endemic cactus in Biscayne National Park.

From 2002 -2008, Steve was an active board member with the Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, and was president during that term for more than three years. Steve has returned to the parent organization (Florida Native Plant Society) and is serving a term as vice president for finance of the Florida Native Plant Society.

Steve also is knowledgeable about the many human uses of native plants, not only in Florida, but in other areas of the circum-Caribbean region. Additionally, he can tell you about the plants that were used by the indigenous tribes of Florida, such as the Timucuans, Jaegans, Tequestas, and Calusa, and the resultant plant growth that often occurs around shell mound sites.

What I find refreshing is Steve’s ability to see the uniqueness of the simplest things in nature. He recently commented to me, “I just walked along 5 or so miles of the railroad tracks near my home. Ever since I was a young lad, I have always wanted to walk those RR tracks. Many native plants persist along these corridors. I saw many disturbed natural areas, and they contained an amazing assortment of indigenous plants and wildlife.”

Today Steve has his own consulting and Native Plant Nursery business, Pro Native Consulting, where he provides technical assistance on plant identification, botanical research and design, floristic and rare plant inventory, plant horticulture, seed collection studies, and restoration design to businesses and agencies including Martin County, St. Lucie County, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Miami Dade College, The Institute for Regional Conservation, University of Florida, and Silent Native Nursery (info:

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