On April 16th, 2021, OUTSIDE Collab hosted its first Spring Tour at the Florida Scrub-Jay Trail, Enviro-Pro Tree Farm, and Green Isle Gardens in Groveland, FL. The tour focused heavily on native plant ecology, exploring the interplay between native plants and wildlife, as well as the link between habitat restoration and native nursery production. Beginning the tour, the Executive Director of the Florida Scrub-Jay Trail, Cathy Brown, guided attendees across various parts of the trailhead, which Cathy and her husband Bruce spent the past two decades revitalizing into a bird sanctuary, allowing nature to flourish. Attendees had the opportunity to explore the balance between the native plant communities and the various wildlife species, such as the Florida scrub-jay and gopher tortoises, found throughout the trail’s protected ecosystem. Bluebirds, dragonflies, and other wildlife zipped around as the visitors made their way along the trailhead and lake. Following the first part of the tour, attendees headed across the street to Enviro-Pro Tree Farm, one of Florida’s leading producers of quality container trees with over 29 native species. Owner, Lauren Hindman, and several additional speakers shared their knowledge of native and Florida-friendly trees and the process of selecting and producing particular species for the industry. A number of various tree species were pulled from Enviro-Pro’s inventory including the American Elm, Bald Cypress, Laurel Oak, Live Oak, and Red Cedar. The trees were displayed separately so attendees could easily get a closer look.
Attendees then headed to the final tour destination and second native nursery, Green Isle Gardens. Specializing in Florida native plants and wildflowers, with a focus on upland plant species, Green Isle Gardens has 8-acres under production and features more than 150 species of native plants. While touring the nursery, attendees heard from nursery owner, Marc Godts, as well as botanical expert and professor, Craig Huegel, about the role of native plants in promoting biodiversity and habitat for pollinators, butterflies, and other wildlife. As a hotbed for pollinators, native nurseries elevate the surrounding ecosystem in addition to the new homes where the plants will eventually be transplanted. Combining the Florida Scrub-Jay Trail and the native nurseries tour together as a single event provided attendees with a better understanding of wildlife ecology, native species identification, and utilization.