Pinecrest Plants Native
Published on October 05, 2023
Imagine the United States as the largest national park in the world. It’s likely not happening in our lifetimes, but the premise of the idea is that planting native species keeps our ecosystems alive and thriving. Which in turn, keeps the planet alive and thriving. On a smaller scale, imagine walking out into your yard to the sights and sounds of the Everglades.
The idea is catching on in some circles. In the Village, there is a quiet movement that is gaining traction. It encourages education about planting native species and is spearheaded by Pinecrest resident Charlie Reverte.
On a municipal level, Reverte was happy to let elected officials tour his home and learn more about planting natives. Native plant means a species of plants that were originally here before human development. An example of this would be planting a Dade County Pine versus a Poinciana, which is not native to this area and does not support our wildlife.
The Village passed a resolution unanimously in support of the Village planting native plant species during the April 2023 Village Council meeting. Vice Mayor Anna Hochkammer sponsored the resolution and believes this is not only a way to help save Biscayne Bay, but an opportunity for creativity. The resolution does not dictate what is planted on private property.
“Our eyes are often trained to appreciate exotics and natives, but well-planned native landscaping can look tidy and attractive while requiring little or no chemicals, fertilizer, or watering. If we set aside some of our preconceived notions about ‘needing’ lawns everywhere, the creative possibilities are endless,” said Hochkammer.
Reverte planted more than 200 species of natives on his property about two and a half years ago. While touring his yard, he said that he grew up in South Florida hiking in the Everglades as a Boy Scout and learned about South Florida’s unique ecosystems at Mast Academy where he attended high school.
When he moved back to South Florida, he wanted the same feeling in his backyard. More than that, he wants his children to have the same knowledge and appreciation for the role planting natives create in a thriving ecosystem.
His children get to travel into a special secret garden made up of natives right in their backyard. Lights speckles through the canopy of a small, hidden trail behind Reverte’s home creating a prism-like effect that reminds one of wonder and curiosity.
“I wanted to show everyone that you can plant native trees in your house, specifically children because you want to pass on this knowledge from generation to generation,” said Reverte. “My kids love to play in the garden and learn about the plants and the butterflies.”
Reverte explained that the canopy of the hidden garden is made up of cypress, southern red maple, pond apple, satin leaf, and others.
“An important thing to emphasize is maximizing the diversity of different native plants you use,” Reverte said. “Each plant has an important ecosystem function and relationship with wildlife that depend on it.”
The ground layer of his yard is teeming with wildlife and is made up of wild coffee, wax myrtle, saltbush, coontie, giant leather fern, and many others. The native plants do not need any mowing or landscaping. The beauty of the native plant concept is natural, unmanicured growth while using plants that are adequate for the space.
No pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals are used in his yard either, since native plants are adapted to our environment. Many of the plants he used also attract dragonflies which eat mosquitoes. To help raise awareness of native plants, Reverte also started the Reforest Miami website and social media effort and serves on the board of the Dade County chapter of the
Florida Native Plant Society, which meets monthly at Pinecrest Gardens.
As a side, remember that the use of most fertilizers is banned in Miami-Dade from May 15 to October 31 each year. Nitrogen and phosphorous run-off make Biscayne Bay sick when it is rainy.
Although Reverte is passionate about native plants being reintroduced into our ecosystem, this labor of love was created with the help of Howard Tonkin who owns Urban Habitat, a
native species-only landscaping firm. He helped Reverte naturally fortify the canal bank next to his home from flooding and saltwater intrusion.
Reverte lives off the Pinecrest canal and has cypress trees, and pond apple trees growing on the bank to create a fortified barrier for storm events and potential hurricanes. Invasive iguanas
had weakened the bank walls by burrowing into them causing degradation.
“These cypress trees are buttressed, and they have what’s called knees. They can come up out of the ground and they’re very hurricane resistant and they’re also salt tolerant. So, if there ever was brackish water to flood up here in a hurricane, they can survive it,” said Reverte. “I
hear an adult tree can drink up to 800 gallons of water per day.”
Tonkin explained that his business’s core value is making a positive contribution to society. An Australian who moved to Miami in 2000, he was taken aback by the devastation of our Dade County Pines and the condition of Biscayne Bay. He dedicates his life to bringing pines back to Miami-Dade County and water conservation. Two topics that align with the Village’s Strategic Priorities.
Tonkin acknowledges that native plant projects are not a sweeping answer to climate change but proposes that small changes can add up to big ones.
“We have less than 2% [Dade County Pines] remaining outside of Everglades National Park. So that means all the wildlife, all the birds that would have lived there and depended on it for migration are all gone,” said Tonkin. “So even a small change you can make right now and make a big difference.”