December 12, 2016

poinsettiaThe poinsettia is the most popular holiday plant this time of year. They come in an array of different colors from pink, blue, purple, white, orange, even multi-colored but are traditionally red. You’ve seen these beautiful plants in every supermarket from November to December but they mysteriously disappear after New Year’s Day.

Many people toss them, knowing they will buy new ones next year. Others will attempt but fail to keep up with the 12 hours of dark that is required to alter the color on the bracts (bracts are the leaf-like structures that change colors). However, may fortunate and/or skilled gardeners will nurture their plants keeping them alive all year allowing them to grow to 10-feet tall, enjoying their colorful autumnal bloom.


Native to southern Mexico, poinsettias were originally used by the Aztecs for dye and medicinal purposes. The plant was introduced to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Ambassador to Mexico, who brought the plant back to South Carolina in 1828. He began propagating and dispersing the plant amongst his friends. By 1836, the plant gained the common name poinsettia. In honor of Joel Poinsett, December 12th has been titled National Poinsettia Day, marking his passing and honoring his botanical achievements.


Poinsettias are not poisonous, however, those with latex allergies or sensitivities might want to avoid the sap, which contains latex (check it out, latex is a natural product). What you should be concerned about are pets and children. It is not edible, and those with cats, dogs, horses, cows and birds should proceed with caution when this plant is around their animals.


Don’t throw your poinsettia away. This seasonal plant can bloom until March, and then be saved until next November when it will bloom all over again.  Check out UF/IFAS for tips on how to care for your poinsettia through the holiday season and beyond.

Happy National Poinsettia Day!







DPI Diary

May 29, 2015

BusyBeeUSFWSA digest of FDACS-DPI social media activities this week


EPA rule would restrict pesticide use in some areas where bees are working

Our tweet linking to an Associated Press article on a proposed federal rule creating temporary pesticide-free zones when certain plants are in bloom and bees owned by professional beekeepers are feeding was widely re-tweeted and favorited. The plan is part of a new multi-part push by the Obama administration to try to reverse dramatic declines in bee populations.

Summer brings special attention to the Don’t Pack a Pest message

Linus suitcaseThe Don’t Pack a Pest program administered by FDACS was spotlighted in a press release this week, in anticipation of increased summer travel. Some media passed along our Don’t Pack a Pest video, as well. If you haven’t seen it, we recommend it to you.

Sturgeon are surgin’ and that’s no joke

Gulf sturgeon are leaping in nine Florida rivers and Florida Fish and Wildlife Service wants boaters to be aware. The armored fish can weigh up to 200 pounds and can severely or fatally injure boaters if they collide with them, mid-air.

Save the Guac. Giant African land snail: Watch for it! Report It . . .

. . .and, of course, Don’t Pack a Pest (see above). Those imperatives are all related to the mission of FDACS-DPI: To protect Florida agriculture from invasive pests and diseases. Save the Guac is a campaign to raise awareness of the  laurel wilt disease and the redbay ambrosia beetle that spreads it to avocados, an important South Florida agricultural product. The Giant African land snail (GALS) eradication program continues to South Florida and all Floridians are asked to watch for these giant snails and report suspects to our Helpline, 888-397-1517. As a matter of fact, you can call our friendly Helpline operators with any questions you have about invasive agricultural pests and diseases.

To your health

Division of Plant Industry personnel were encourage to attend the Health Fair in Gainesville on Thursday. Some staff members manned displays featuring spiders, scorpions, bees and other creatures that can influence human health for better or worse. Our blog post offers some photos of the event.



DPI Diary

May 1, 2015

Saving the Guac, bolstering beekeeping, capturing coneheads . . . just a few of the alliterative activities our social media team highlighted this week.

Save the Guac campaign takes center stage

savetheguaciconcopyThe Florida Department of Agriculture’s “Save the Guac” campaign leapt into the news this week with wide media distribution of an AP story about FDACS-sponsored research at Florida Internatioanl University that indicates detector dogs and unmanned aircraft can be teamed to protect commercial avocado production from laurel wilt disease, which is transmitted by the redbay ambrosia beetle. You can read about the research that is causing all the excitement in our blog post, here:

Beekeeper certification program giving inmates a second chance

A successful program by FDACS and the Florida Department of Corrections is getting attention. Volunteers are teaching inmates about beekeeping, and Leah Shields of WUFT in Gainesville did a fine job of summarizing the program in this video.

Helpline caller leads FDACS teams to discover new GALS infestation

Giant African land snail

Giant African land snail

Teams from FDACS-DPI are working to eradicate a new infestation of giant African land snails (GALS) from an area in Cutler Ridge. The find resulted from a call to our Helpline (1-888-397-1517) from an alert member of the public who was prompted by an FDACS billboard to report suspect snails. The invasive GALS have now been confirmed in 29 core areas of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. More information about the invasive snail and efforts to eradicate here.

“Don’t Pack a Pest” vehicle

DPAPCar1May15This week the Division of Plant Industry added a snazzy, freshly wrapped vehicle to our fleet to promote the Don’t Pack a Pest program, an international partnership that is reminding travelers to declare agricultural products in luggage to avoid transferring invasive pests, plants and diseases. Wave when you see it on Florida’s highways and byways.

Commissioner Putnam calls Publix “top partner”

PublixFlorida Commissioner Adam H. Putnam announced Publix has partnered with FDACS’s “Fresh From Florida” campaign for a record 1 million store ads. Since joining the “Fresh From Florida” retail program, Publix has supported products through circular advertising, in-store displays, and this year has featured special promotions for Florida citrus and social media marketing for Florida sweet corn. And by the way, now is prime time to enjoy that Florida sweet corn. Delicious!

Conehead termites infesting Dania Beach

Teams from FDACS were working this week to control an outbreak of conehead termines after it was found in several trees at a residence near the intersection of Griffin Road and I-95 in Dania Beach. We guided social media followers to CBS 12’s coverage. http://www.cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_25415.shtml

You can help fight citrus diseases

Florida’s citrus industry is fighting back hard against citrus greening disease, or HLB. There are certain things the public can do to help, and we invite you to view this short video. https://t.co/D4ZVb7vTmU

Sweet song about honey bee farmers

We contributed to the buzz about honey bee farmers by posting a link to a well-done song dedicated to bee keepers. Enjoy.

The month of May has us dancing

MorrisDancersA troupe of Morris Dancers greeted employees at the Division of Plant Industry in Gainesville Friday morning. Morris dancing is an English folk style that harkens back to the 15th century. We posted a video clip on our Facebook page, in case you missed it.




Our Mystery 4-H member is Debra Martinez, Division IT Officer at FDACS-DPI Headquarters in Gainesville.

It took the “Eagle Eyes of an older Inspector to uncover this gem,” says Debra Martinez, who was identified as our Throwback Thursday former 4-H member.

That means Marc Couture, Environmental Supervisor I, is the first recipient of a coveted Don’t Pack a Pest T-shirt.

“Wear it in good health and ‘Don’t Pack any Pests,'” Debra adds.

We’re looking for next week’s Mystery 4-H Member and at Debra’s suggestion, we are also offering a Don’t Pack a Pest T-shirt to them — in addition, of course, to the fame and admiration their participation will no doubt inspire.

Participation is not limited to FDACS employees.

If you have a great 4-H experience to share (photos encouraged but no required), summarize it in an email to DPI-blog@FreshFromFlorida.com.



Handler Jennifer Mestas and Jammer visit with Richard Gaskalla, Director of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry.

FDACS canine continues to recover

Jammer, one of the FDACS agriculture detector dogs, paid us a visit today at Division of Plant Industry headquarters in Gainesville.

This is a big day for the boisterous canine. He had his splint removed at the UF School of Veterinary Medicine. Last month, he underwent an operation to fix his front leg, which he injured while playing, off-duty.


In an earlier photo, Jammer, sporting the splint that was removed today.

He is now on the mend, and he and his handler, Jennifer Mestas, will continue to exercise until he is ready to return to duty, inspecting shipments at shipping hubs in Miami.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services deploys detector dog teams to shipping hubs to inspect packages for plants and plant materials that might transfer invasive pests and diseases into the state.



We have created a new and improved on-line library for Tri-ology. The digest, published six times a year, reports on detection activities from plant nursery inspections inspections and other survey activities throughout the state, and summarizes requests from the public for identification of plants and pests during the previous two months. It is produced by DPI’s Bureau of Entomology, Nematology, and Plant Pathology to provide information to researchers, the academic community, agricultural producers and the general public.

Editions dating from 1998 to the present can be easily viewed and printed at this website:

http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Plant-Industry-Publications/Tri-ology-FDACS-DPI .

Editions dating from 1951 are available from the DPI library and can be requested by calling the Helpline, 888-397-1517.

The mission of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry is to detect, intercept and control plant and honey bee pests that threaten Florida’s native and commercially grown plants and agricultural resources.


Century-old Newell Hall, set for renovation, commemorates first commissioner of Florida Plant Board, forerunner of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry


Newell Hall (Historic photo courtesy of University of Florida)

Newell Hall, pictured here, is the third-oldest building on the University of Florida Campus. It has been vacant for years, but is slated for renovation beginning this fall. It will be refurbished and repurposed as a learning commons for students.

Following a renovation in 1943, the building, which since its construction in 1909 had housed the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, was renamed in honor of Wilmon E Newell, the first Plant Commissioner for the Florida State Plant Board, the predecessor of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Wilmon E. Newell

Wilmon E. Newell

Division of Plant Industry. Dr. Newell directed the first successful eradication of citrus canker and was later appointed to run the experiment station as well as the Cooperative Extension Service. He held the title of Provost of Agriculture until his death in 1943.

The Florida Plant Board was absorbed into the Florida Department of Agriculture in 1961 and renamed the Division of Plant Industry.

Read more on the UF website, here.

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