The Palm Beach County Native Canopy Program, operated by the county’s Cooperative Extension Service and Environmental Resources Management Department, provides education about how to preserve existing native plants and has been expanding efforts to plant more by giving away free vouchers for indigenous plants online.
“Native plants are beneficial because they use less water, are hurricane resistant, and attract local wildlife and pollinators. Many are safe for horses,” Environmental Program Supervisor Dmitriy Shvets said. “We are losing a lot of native canopy. This is due to uninformed landscaping, encroaching invasive exotic plants and hurricane damage replacements.”
Prior to the pandemic, the program gave away its plant vouchers mostly at community events. More recently, it has been hosting giveaway events online on the first Saturday of each month. Upcoming giveaways are set for July 3, Aug. 7 and Sept. 4. Visit www.pbcgov.org/nativecanopy for details.
“At the last event, we gave away some 5,700 native plants from 24 species, including shrubs, ground cover and native trees,” Shvets said.
He said that the education program reaches out to everyone, from enthusiasts to those who have never heard anything about the effort to save native plants.
The program partners with West Palm Beach at special events and areas underserved by the Cooperative Extension Service. It is funded by the pollution recovery fund that is collected to mitigate environmental damage.
The response has been great when the organization has followed up to ensure that the gifted items get planted. “It is nice to hear that the plants are doing well,” Shvets said.
After getting one of the electronic vouchers, residents can take it to one of several participating nurseries to get their native plant.
The nurseries that participate in the native plant program are: Southern Native Nursery, 16651 Van Gogh Blvd., Loxahatchee, (561) 798-1172; Quinntessence Nursery, 14650 Okeechobee Blvd., Loxahatchee, (561) 792-9175; Indian Trails Native Nursery, 6315 Park Lane West, Lake Worth, (561) 641-9488; D.R. Bates Liners & Gallons, 17639 64th Place North, Loxahatchee, (561) 790-3246; Art by Nature Garden Center, 5155 Northlake Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, (561) 718-2990; and Amelia’s Smarty Plants, 1515 N. Dixie Highway, Lake Worth, (561) 540-6330.
For more information about the Native Canopy Program, visit www.pbcgov.com/nativecanopy.