The Community Foundation of Collier County (CFCC) provided a $67,000 grant for a tree-planting project in Everglades City in partnership with Naples Botanical Garden to address Hurricane Irma recovery and the continued effort to prepare the area for the next natural disaster. This grant is part of the foundation’s focus to invest $500,000 to reforest the county as a part of its “Your passion. Your Collier.” initiative.
The initiative addresses Collier County’s challenges, including the changing environment as illustrated in the recent UN Climate Change report. Local wildlife and delicate ecosystems are under threat from changing climate patterns, and increasing numbers of natural disasters devastate beaches and destroy trees. Planting native trees will help preserve the beauty of Collier County, improve air quality, provide shade, and support wildlife.
“Trees are a top issue locally and throughout Florida,” said CFCC president and CEO Eileen Connolly-Keesler. “People saw how many we lost here during Hurricane Irma in 2017 and how it continues to impact our environment. We will continue these projects in partnership with Naples Botanical Garden throughout Collier and the county’s municipalities.”
Brian Galligan, the Naples Botanical Garden’s Vice President of Horticulture, recently surveyed Everglades City with his team for trees that were thriving as a starting point. From there, they consulted with experts in Miami who had adapted their landscapes for a changing climate; brought in hardy, salt-tolerant coastal trees like pigeon plum; and introduced flowering specimens, such as tabebuias and poincianas, befitting the town’s unique history and charm.
“Everglades City is a town created for people to interact with the water, but now the water is taking over,” said Galligan, noting rising sea levels and sinking infrastructure. “Our challenge was to find trees that could handle the conditions.”
Plant diversity matters. Although single-species plantings have a certain appeal, there’s a risk of losing the entire group to a pest. For that reason, species will be interspersed in the county’s medians. It is healthier for the ecosystem and demonstrates financial stewardship. As the list of invasive pests infecting trees grows longer, this is a horticultural lesson to share with the community.