Okaloosa County Master Gardeners will host the final free gardening education lecture of the year from 10-11 a.m. Oct. 18 at the Okaloosa County Extension office, 3098 Airport Road in Crestview. There is no cost to attend, but seating is limited. Registration is required at 689-5850.
Speaker Maria Wilson is a senior forester for Okaloosa County. She has spent a lot of her summer and fall out west working on the Norse Peak fire in Washington and has recently visited some of the hurricane-affected locations to help with the devastation done to the trees.
A few of the 10 trees that Wilson will help you identify include the red bay, Persea borbonia; the white fringetree, Chionanthus virgincius; and the sweet olive, Osmanthus fragrans. The Red bay is a rugged tree and is an adaptable plant suitable to many landscapes including the coastal beach front properties. This tree thrives on little care in full sun or partial shade. Wilson will address the current spread of the laurel wilt, most notable in the Bluewater Bay neighborhoods. Laurel wilt is a deadly fungal disease affecting red bay and other trees in the laurel family, which is spread by non-native red bay ambrosia beetles. This rapidly expanding epidemic also kills avocado trees. Wilson will teach how to identify the disease and how to treat for the disease.
Attendees will also learn about another great tree for yards, the sweet olive, with its evergreen foliage and sweetly-scented, delicate white flowers in the spring. It grows two feet per year, reaching 20 feet tall. Drought tolerant, and not fussy about soil conditions, it can be planted in full sun or partial shade.
Participants are encouraged to stay after the lecture and enjoy the nature trail behind the office. Walk along the trail and enjoy the native plants and trees, including white fringe trees, and 14 long leaf pine seedlings that were contributed by the Master Gardener nursery in Fort Walton Beach. There are also eastern red cedars and a red maple.