Fighting for Florida’s Native Plants
It was National Public Lands Day, which draws hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country, and she had a lot more help than usual. As a member of Project A.N.T. (AmeriCorps Non-native plant Terminators), Kelli was leading a large group of volunteers geared up to fight an infestation of coral ardisia at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park.
Kelli’s group grew motivated after she told them that invasive exotic plants are the second leading cause of habitat loss. Coral ardisia is an ornamental plant that has invaded woodlands in Central and North Florida. It is a shrub with red berries that spreads quickly and prevents many native plants from getting the sunlight they need. The harm that coral ardisia causes has a cascading effect on the animals that find food and shelter in Florida’s native plants.
Removing coral ardisia is hard work, and Kelli was glad to have help on National Public Lands Day. Even after a tough day of ripping tenacious shrubs out by their roots, she was glad to be a member of the Florida Conservation Corps. For Kelli, it feels great to look out over an acre of forest and see as it should be — without a single bright-red ardisia berry.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I signed my Florida Conservation Corps contract February 2017, but I will forever remember how it has changed my life,” Kelli said. “After a two-year commitment, more than 15 events organized, over 200 volunteers recruited, over 500 volunteer hours recorded, and more than 100 acres of invasive plant species cleared, I can proudly say I am better for it. I can proudly say I am an Americorps member and I get things done.”