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AVON PARK, FL – Feb. 21, 2019 – South Florida State College’s (SFSC) Museum of Florida Art and Culture (MOFAC) plays host to the Pygmy Fringe Tree Wildflower Day, a celebration of the region’s native wildflowers, on Thursday, March 7, 1– 2 p.m., on SFSC’s Highlands Campus, in Avon Park. Admission is free and open to the public.
The celebration takes its name from the pygmy fringe tree (Chionanthus pygmaeus), a now rare flowering shrub that grows between 3 and 6 feet tall. The pygmy fringe tree once thrived throughout Central Florida. However, farming and development nearly swept it from the region, prompting the federal government to declare it an endangered species in 1987.
Dustin Angell, a conservation photographer and education coordinator from Archbold Biological Station in Venus, Fla., will give a talk at MOFAC on the various plants indigenous to the Lake Wales Ridge. Many of these plants grow along the SFSC Wildflower Wayside Shrine Trail, located on the grounds of SFSC’s Highlands Campus in Avon Park. Angell’s presentation will occur during a time when the Pygmy Fringe Tree is typically in bloom. It is a once-a-year occurrence and a beauty to behold.
Attendees are encouraged to take a walk along the Wildflower Wayside Shrine Trail, a footpath winding its way through pristine scrubland on the SFSC Highlands Campus. The tract, blanketed by fine white sand and overspread with shrubs, is home to native wildflowers including the big flag pawpaw, sky-blue lupine, and other endangered species, like the scrub St. John’s Wort. Guidebooks detailing the plants will be available in MOFAC.
A walk through the trail gives visitors a chance to see the land, known as the Lake Wales Ridge, as it existed for centuries. The ridge, an ancient beach and sand dune system formed 1-3 million years ago, has been home to flora that has struggled to survive against development.
The trail was conceived by Mollie Doctrow, former MOFAC curator and an award-winning artist whose work revolves around capturing natural habitats. The trail opened in 2011.
Visitors to the trail can write their impressions in notebooks found in wooden shrine boxes along the path. The boxes, designed by Doctrow, contain information that showcase the shrubs and wildflowers. One side of each box has a plant image in relief, allowing visitors to make a rubbing on paper as a memento of their visit.
The trail is open to the public during SFSC’s regular business hours. It is located on the north side of College Drive, across from Entrance 5.
For more information about the Pygmy Fringe Tree Wildflower Day, call Megan Stepe, curator for MOFAC, at 863-784-7240 or visit mofac.org. To learn more about the Wildflower Wayside Shrine Trail, visit mofac.org/wayside/trail/.