VERO BEACH - In 2019, The Pelican Island Audubon Society launched an ambitious effort to plant 100,000 new native trees and plants in Indian River County over the next 15 years.

In less than two years, PIAS has distributed over 1,700 trees of nine species and 5,000 native plants of 30 species. You can get in on the project by contacting PIAS for trees, shrubs, or flowers.

Southern Live Oaks in one-gallon pots are available for free. Others range from $3-$5, depending on species and size.

Trees available include Dahoon Holly, Long-Leaf Pine, Mahogany, Myrtle Oak, Sand Live Oak, Sand Pine, and Slash Pine.

More than a dozen shrub varieties are for sale, including Beach-creeper, Beautyberry, Buttonbush, Firebush, Florida Privet, Satin Leaf Coffee, Seagrape, Shiny Leaf Coffee, and White Indigo Berry.

Available flowers include Black-eyed Susan, Blanket Flower, Blazing Star, Horsemint, Lance-leaf Coreopsis, Leavenworth's Coreopsis, Seaside Goldenrod, Stokes Aster.

Coral Honeysuckle and Cross Vines are also available. See the PIAS website for a full list of trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers available.

The Trees for Life/Plants for Birds project has resulted in massive planting across the county at dozens of private homes and at Vero Beach, Sebastian, and Fellsmere City Halls, Gifford Historical Museum and Cultural Center, Jones’s Pier, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Sebastian’s Garden Club Park, Sebastian Inlet State Park, USFWS Vero Beach office, Indian River County parks and conservation lands, county elementary schools, and homeowner associations.

“If everybody planted a tree, we could get rid of global warming,” PIAS President Dr. Richard H. Baker told Hometown News. “Climate change could be a world disaster, so we’re trying to do our little bit. One way to counteract climate change is to plant trees. The trees could solve a lot of our problems, get rid of the CO2, and provide a healthy area for people to live in.”

According to PIAS, 64% of all Florida drinking water goes to irrigation. In the summer, that rises to 88%.

Planting trees result in numerous advantages for people. Trees provide food and shelter, and children play outside more where there are trees, according to PIAS. The group claims trees also result in neighborhoods with less crime and less noise pollution.

The Audubon Society says that trees raise property values 5-20%; save 60% in asphalt-maintenance costs over 30 years; and cut cooling costs 30-50%.

More trees also lead to a healthier Indian River Lagoon. Trees reduce soil erosion and filter oil, chemicals, and gas runoff; retain organic material that will form muck; absorb odors, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and ozone; and reduce fertilizer and herbicide use and runoff.

“It will make a big difference for the lagoon,” Dr. Baker said. “We’ll be saving water, so water bills will go down. We’ll use less fertilizer and herbicide, and we’ll spend less money on lawn maintenance. The shade will also result in less electricity being needed for air conditioning. The trees will help cool the county.”

Nickie Munroe, Indian River County Environmental Horticulture specialist with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, says that her office is available to provide free tree-planting and landscaping advice by phone, email, or in person.

“Half of the calls into our office ask why my plant is not living and thriving,” Ms. Munroe said. “It’s usually because you did not plant it properly.”

For advice about trees or landscaping from Ms. Munroe, email Lnmunroe@ufl.edu, or call (772) 226-4330 ext. 4.

For more information about available native trees and plants, contact Pelican Island Audubon Society at (772) 567-3520, email piaudubon@yahoo.com, or visit PelicanIslandAudubon.org.

Pelican Island Audubon Society is located at 195 9th St. SE (Oslo Road), Vero Beach.

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