Nearly three months after Ian, many lawns are still in disarray. Saltwater in soil has many people wondering what to replant, what to remove, and what can flourish again.
This is the Bailey Homestead Preserve in September before Hurricane Ian. That’s when Sue Ramos showed off her beautiful office and shared her passion for native plants and her colleague’s discovery of the thought-to-be-extinct Atala butterfly.
Now, the office looks much different. Ian wiped out the gardens, and the Atala butterfly hasn’t been seen since.
“It’s shocking. I know it’s like a feat of nature, but it was really hard to see when we spent so much time maintaining, and growing, and propagating plants. Trying to take care of them the best so you can, you know, and then to have them just wiped out was quite impactful,” said Ramos.
While the colors in the garden may have dimmed, Ramos’ love of plants hasn’t.
“Freshwater wetland plants like Blue Flag Iris, they all popped up almost right away, and they’ve come coming back really strong. So they’re gonna be really beautiful this spring when they bloom,” Ramos said.
Just like the Blue Flag Iris, Bailey Homestead Preserve will flourish again.
“It’s taken a while, and it’ll still be several months, I think, before we know the full extent of what’s alive and what’s not. But so many of our natives have been very resilient. And so it’s really encouraging to see,” said Jenny Evans, the adult education director for the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.
Every day they get closer to continuing their good work of keeping Sanibel a sanctuary island. Preserving native plants is the foundation of that commitment.
“So many of them are resilient in the face of whether it’s climate change or storms. It’s also the base of our food web. So all of our animals in one way or another depend on these plants, either for food or for shelter, or building their nests and reproducing,” Evans said.
As for your own garden, Evans says her rule of thumb is to leave the plant be if you can stand to look at it. It could take months for some plants to recover.
SCCF’s plant guide will be linked when it is released later this week. Bailey Homestead Preserve is expected to open in mid to late January.