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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History’s Randell Research Center in Pineland recently completed a two-year program to plant more than 800 native trees.

Volunteers donated nearly $40,000 in labor costs to plant more than 30 species of trees at the state-owned Pineland archaeological site and at the Lee County-owned Gill House property, both of which are managed by the Randell Center.

“In 2004, Hurricanes Charley and Frances blew over many trees, and also scattered the seeds of invasive exotic trees, such as Brazilian pepper,” said Randell Center Director Bill Marquardt. “The aggressive non-native trees quickly began to transform the landscape. We received a grant for removal of the invasive plants as well as the purchase and planting of native trees. The result is a landscape that is more diverse, and that will be ultimately easier to maintain.”

The project was funded by the USDA Forest Service through the Florida Division of Forestry’s Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program. Native trees planted include buttonwood, live oak, cabbage palm, wax myrtle, firebush, gumbo limbo and stopper trees.

Marquardt said recent visitors to the site, located about 18 miles west of Ft. Myers, have commented on the improvements. Native vegetation that was once obscured can now be seen, and some visitors have noticed a return of wildlife, especially birds, that had not been seen in the recent past. A native plant walking trail that will lead visitors through the newly planted forest is currently being designed.

The Randell Research Center is a program of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida. It is home to the Calusa Heritage Trail, a 3,700-foot interpreted walking trail that is open daily to the public at 13810 Waterfront Drive in Pineland. Call (239) 283-2062 for more information, or visit

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Media contact: Paul Ramey, 352-273-2054,