Hundreds of people gathered to look at and buy plants native to Southwest Florida at the Rotary Park Environmental Center Saturday during the annual summer native plant sale.
People came early to buy plants and learn which ones work best in this climate and landscape.
Native plant experts and three local vendors were there to help visitors find the right plants, and there was a huge selection of trees, shrubs, wild flowers and ground covers on sale.
A butterfly is attracted to the native plants in the butterfly house at the native plant sale at Rotary Park on Saturday.
Honey Archey, environmental recreation specialist at the park, said native plants are great for the local environment.
"It attracts wildlife like birds and butterflies. You don't need any fertilizer for these plants and use little water," Archey said. "It's just better for the environment."
Hundreds of native plants were on sale, and people came out on a sweltering morning to purchase them.
Wally Gibat had his cart full. He had railroad vine, doon sunflowers and Fakahatchee grass, and Parker Greene, 4, his grandson.
"This is great. It's a good sale with great variety and prices," Gibat said. "You have to get here early."
That can be attributed to vendors like John Sibley, owner of All-Native Gardens, who called the event an opportunity for education and to plant items that you don't ordinarily find.
"Folks are inclined to go to the big-box stores and are going to get plants that are inappropriate for our climate or soil conditions. The native plants are more sustainable," Sibley said.
Shoppers also got a chance to visit the 4,200-square-foot environmental center, and the butterfly house, which opened its doors especially for this occasion.
The University of Florida-IFAS was also there to promote its master gardening program, and Lee County master gardener Warren Bush gave a demonstration on water collection.
"We introduce the idea of collecting rainwater in 55-gallon recycled drums, and we're turning them into water collectors," Bush said. "You can take this water for bedding plants, household plants, birdbaths, anything other than drinking."
Among those interested was Scott Hickerson, an environmental science teacher at Gulf Middle School who was planting a garden at the school.
"I want to learn more about rain barrels and it was a great economic choice to get a barrel for my house," Hickerson said. "It reclaims water that would go into the ground and disperse it at your leisure."
Rotary Park also hosts the annual Native Plant Society fund-raising sale in April. But this sale is great because Mother Nature tends to take care of the plants to help them get established.
"With the rain and the sun, you don't have to babysit them with the hose, but not in July, though you have to suffer through the heat to get them in," said Katie Locklin, environmental recreation specialist at the park.
For additional information about the facility, call the Environmental Center, at 5505 Rose Garden Road, at 549-4606.