Nature trail honors champion of Florida flora
By JULIANNE WU, Times Staff Writer
LARGO -- Nestled among slash pines and saw palmettos at Heritage Village, a tiny nature trail beckons visitors.
The trail, which will open Saturday, is named for the late Shirley McPherson, a longtime volunteer for the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and the Pinellas County Historical Society.
Mrs. McPherson died of complications of leukemia in March 2000 at the age of 54. Having a degree in horticulture, she operated her own plant maintenance business, Beauty Grows, for 16 years.
Most of the $7,000 raised for the nature trail came from Mrs. McPherson's husband, Pat, and her friends.
"At the time of Shirley's death, we wanted a more lasting memorial," said Pat McPherson, of Largo. "It seemed appropriate for her. I think (the nature trail is) something that's going to be a permanent contribution to the community, rather than just a marker."
The 900-foot trail is located along the eastern part of 21-acre Heritage Village, near the bridge to the Gulf Coast Museum of Art and just south of a path to the Florida Botanical Gardens. All the entities are part of Pinewood Cultural Park, which also includes the Pinellas County Extension.
Visitors will be able to pick up a brochure and take a self-guided tour, with information corresponding to the 36 markers along the trail.
Among the vegetation are tupelos, red maples and cabbage palm trees (the state tree), and such plants as wild coffee (not good for brewing), elderberry, gallberry and wax myrtle.
Mrs. McPherson was a fixture at the annual Country Jubilee, held each October at Heritage Village. She would spend months securing donations of native plants to sell in her booth at the festival. She then would turn over her proceeds to the Historical Society.
"She was a wonderful volunteer and friend to Heritage Village," said Anne Gerkin, volunteer coordinator for the Historical Society. "We miss her."
Bruce Turley, owner of Wilcox Nursery in Largo and vice-president of the Pinellas Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, said, "Shirley was one of these really neat people who made you feel warm and welcome. She was a real giver."
Heritage Village director Jan Luth said: "Through this trail our guests and school groups will learn how plants were a critical resource for early residents of Pinellas County. It was a matter of survival in an era that predated stores and mass manufactured materials."
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