Last Thursday, the Port St. Joe Garden Club held two meetings.

The morning meeting was held at the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve State Park Center located at 3915 State Road 30-A in Port St. Joe. The weather cooperated long enough such that members were able to tour the extensive acreage of the preserve from an open carriage wagon.

Sophia Fonseca, environmental specialist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, highlighted the ongoing efforts to restore the state park’s natural ecology.

Ms. Fonseca also focused on plants that are specific to the native longleaf pine ecosystem found within the boundaries of the preserve. After the meeting at the Buffer Preserve, attendees enjoyed lunch at Grill 19, the new restaurant at the St. Joseph Bay Golf Club.

Attendees at the evening meeting gathered at the Garden Center to learn about the herbarium being established at the Buffer Preserve with the support of the Friends of the Buffer Preserve and the Gulf County UF/IFAS Extension Service. Club member and Master Gardener Jill Bebee explained that a herbarium, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a collection of dried plant specimens usually mounted and systematically arranged for reference” as well as “a place that houses an herbarium.”

Trained volunteers record the precise geographical coordinates of the plant species observed. Then they photograph, collect, prepare, mount, and scientifically identify one plant specimen for each species found. Finally, a snippet of the plant is hermetically sealed in a Mylar envelope for future study of its DNA. The information documented in the herbarium will serve as a snapshot of the plant biodiversity present at the Buffer Preserve today.

The public is always welcome to attend morning or evening meetings of the Port St. Joe Garden Club on the second Thursday of each month (September through May). Horticulture, conservation, and floral design are topics promoted by the club. Members are currently focused on preparing for their plant sale on April 4.

To learn more, please visit the Port St. Joe Garden Club Facebook page, email, or contact club president Nancy Edwards at 770-713-3267. Please contact Sue Meyer at 513-504-1679 for details regarding the rental of the lovely and historic Garden Center located at 216 Eighth Street. The venue accommodates up to 70 guests and is perfect for weddings, showers, family reunions, and graduation parties.