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Pickerelweed

Pickerelweed, Pontederia cordata, is a Florida native and is found throughout the state in shallow wetland areas, edges of lakes, marshes, and ponds. These plants have shiny green blade-shaped leaves and emerge in the springtime from under the water level. They will grow about 3 to 5 feet tall and flower with 3 to 4-inch purple-blue flower spikes. The individual flowers will only last one day but the plant will flower from spring through fall.

Pickerelweed is very important ecologically. The underwater portion of this plant provides habitats for micro and macroinvertebrates. These invertebrates are a food source for many animals and fish. Above the water, the flowers attract local pollinators such as butterflies, dragonflies, and bees, Once the flowers die the plant will bear fruit with seeds. The seeds are a treat for ducks who will at times, eat the whole plant. Pickerelweed holds and stabilizes the banks of the water bodies that they surround.

Pickerelweed would be a natural beauty when planted on the edge of man-made ponds in parks and HOAs, and on golf courses and other public places. Advocating for pickerelweed and other native aquatic plants would benefit pollinators and underwater species while beautifying your neighborhood naturally.

Fun fact – Pickerelweed’s fruit contains a nutritious seed that can be eaten by humans straight from the plant. The dried seed can be boiled, roasted, or ground into flour. Young leaves have been eaten in salads.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #pickerelweed #Floridanativeplant

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Old Miakka Preserve

 Old Miakka Preserve

Named after a settlement in the 1840s, Old Miakka Preserve contains four miles of trails including scrub habitat, pinewood flatwood, and wetlands. The preserve is abundant in flowering plants with numerous pollinators and occasional gopher tortoises. One of the trails is named after Horticulturalist Tim Cash who spent years studying plants within the preserve. If you are looking for a calm trail with lots of sunshine and flowers, visit Old Miakka Preserve in Sarasota, FL.

Have you visited any interesting preserves lately? Message us with your pictures and some fun facts about your visit. Imagine Our Florida will feature your story as a Saturday saunter contributor.

Photo credit: Aymee Laurain

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #OldMiakkareserve #explore #discover

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Flame Vine

The flame vine is native to Brazil. This beautiful vine with long orange tuber flowers has become a common accent to many gardens and has attracted pollinators including hummingbirds. However, the flame vine grows like wildfire and can become invasive rather quickly (University of Florida).

Indigenous people of Brazil used the plant to treat several conditions including skin irritations, diarrhea, coughing, respiratory infections, bronchitis, flu and cold. Research has found several pharmaceutical properties in the plant including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antinociceptive, wound healing properties, antimicrobial, reduction in cold and fever symptoms, treatment of menopause, and melanogenesis. These properties can be carefully extracted and refined to produce a number of medications (Mostafa, El-Dahshan, and Singab 2013).

References

Mostafa NM, El-Dahshan O, Singab ANB (2013) Pyrostegia venusta (Ker Gawl.) Miers: A Botanical, Pharmacological and Phytochemical Review. Med Aromat Plants 2:123. doi:10.4172/2167-0412.1000123

University of Florida. Flame Vine. Gardening solutions. Accessed June, 19,2019. http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/…/or…/flame-vine.html

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #pollinators #flamevine

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Black Skimmers

Black Skimmers, Rynchops niger, are seen flying low to the water with the lower part of their bills skimming the water for food. Their bills are wide at the top and come to the point. When a skimmer senses a fish in the longer, lower mandible of its bill, the upper part instantly snaps shut.

Striking and easily recognizable, skimmers are medium-sized tern-like seabirds with red and black bills and a wingspan of 3 to 3.5 feet. They have black wings with white edging, black backs, and a white underside and head. Black skimmers inhabit coastal areas such as beaches, estuaries, and sandbars.

Breeding and roosting occur between May and early September in colonies of up to several hundred pairs. Skimmers lay three to five eggs which are incubated by both parents for 23-25 days. Skimmers are protective parents and the colony acts as a village when it mobs a predator as a group in an effort to protect nests. The young fly at 28-30 days old. A successful colony will use the same nest site next year.

Black skimmers are threatened in Florida and are protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Coastal development and human activity without regard to seabirds pose the biggest threat. Predators such as crows, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, and feral hogs find skimmer eggs and chicks to be a delicious meal. Pets, beach driving, recreational activity, oil spills, shoreline hardening, and more cause parents to abandon their nests. Sea level rise poses another threat to the black skimmer population.

With all of these threats, most of the colonies in Florida are managed by local land managers and volunteers. Documented black skimmer colonies in Florida are managed with fencings and/or informational signs.

With your help, black skimmers can make a successful comeback. Heed the signs you see while at the beach. Call the number on the signs at a beach near you and volunteer to make a difference. Let’s all do what we can now to protects these beautiful Florida seabirds.

Photos courtesy of FWC and Kon Studio

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #blackskimmer #beach

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Playalinda Beach

Playalinda Beach at Canaveral National Seashore

Imagine spending a day at the seashore, a day free of condos, hotels, and tourists. A day where you can be one with nature in a place where you feel the power of the ocean, hear the pounding of the waves and share all of that glory with only your friends and the wildlife who make their home there.

There is a little known gem in Florida known as Playalinda Beach. It is a part of Canaveral National Seashore. Take a trip to Titusville, go east on Garden Street and continue driving east until you reach the beach. The ocean is not visible from your car. As you drive parallel to the ocean, you will see sand dunes on your right. There are 13 parking areas, each with its own boardwalk. Any of the boardwalks will lead you over the sand dunes where the ocean in all of its magnificence will appear before your eyes.

There you will meet some of the 310 species of birds found at Canaveral National Seashore, including migratory birds, who will enjoy the beach with you. If you are lucky, you may meet a loggerhead, green or leatherback sea turtle who makes her nest in the sand or hatchlings as they make their way to the ocean. Enjoy your day swimming, surfing, sunbathing, fishing, and bird watching.

Stop along the way to or from the beach and explore by car or on foot, some of Canaveral National Seashore ecosystems. These include a barrier island, offshore waters, lagoon, coastal hammock, and pine flatwoods. Outdoor experiences include canoeing, kayaking, boating, hiking, camping, and historical trails.

There is an abundance of wildlife and wildflowers at Cape Canaveral National Seashore. Keep your eyes open for bobcats, raccoons and more. Look for beautiful flowers and the pollinators among them. We hope you encounter some of the threatened species who make their homes there. You may see Florida scrub jays, Southern bald eagles, wood storks, peregrine falcons, eastern indigo snakes, and manatees.

Take a day, or two, or three, and immerse yourself in the beauty of natural Florida, the way nature intended it to be.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #Playalinda #CanaveralNationalSeashore

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Warri Tree

Warri Tree (Caesalpinia bonduc)—

This vine is native to Florida and contains casings with coarse hairy seed pods containing smooth seeds. The seeds inside, called Nickernuts, have had many purposes.

-Jewelry
-Indigenous people used the seeds for medicinal tea.
-Yellow and red dyes

These plants can be found around coastal areas of south Florida. The first specimens recorded in Florida were found in Monroe County in 1891. The ones in these photos were found at the TECO Manatee Viewing Center in Hillsborough County.

#Florida #Floridanativeplants #nativeplants #Monroecounty#Hillsboroughcounty #warritree

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Florida Jujube

The Florida Jujube (Ziziphus celata) is a shrub that can grow 6 feet tall. It is nearly extinct. This plant is endemic to central Florida. Jujube prefers to grow in open sunny areas prone to fire.

The Florida jujube once occupied sand scrubs as well as longleaf pine and wiregrass savannahs. Much of these areas have been lost to citrus orchards and residential development. Jujubes are drought and fire tolerant. They can resprout vegetatively following a fire. Fire suppression has undoubtedly contributed to its rarity as broad-leafed trees shade them out.

The Florida Jujube has small, rounded leaves and orange fruits. The branches all have sharp, distinctive thorns. The fragrant blooms are pale yellow and are attractive to bees, butterflies, and birds. Jujube fruit is similar in taste and texture to an apple when ripe and similar to raisins when they dry. The bush-like tree is a heavy producer of fruit which ripens from December to March.

Sadly, this interesting native plant is listed as endangered by the U.S. and state of Florida. This status is due to habitat destruction of the remaining and rare scrub habitat it needs to thrive. Efforts are being made to protect Florida jujube and the rare scrub habitat it is found in. Because Extinct is Forever.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #Jujube #scrub

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Marl Soil

Marl Soil

Marl soil is common in low lying areas of the Everglades and is most common in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties. It is rich in calcium. These areas have wet summers where the low lying areas will become flooded for months followed by several months of a dry winter.

While flooded, organic matter in the form of microalgae grows on the water. This will create a loam soil that sits on top of limestone bedrock Other plants also contribute to calcium content when the organic acids in their roots dissolve the limestone bedrock beneath the marl which increases the concentration of calcium.

Marl soil has poor drainage. Grasses such as sawgrass, sedge, reeds, mimosa, buttonwood, and black mangrove will grow in these low lying areas. The American crocodile will dig a hole in marl soil to lay eggs.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #soil #marl

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Spring Hammock Preserve

Once known as Devil’s bend, Spring Hammock Preserve is made up of several ecosystems including hydric hammock, cyprus dome, floodplain forest, mesic flatwoods, and scrubby flatwoods. It is a wetland and watershed area which acts as a natural filtering system for Soldier’s Creek Drainage Basin which eventually drains into Lake Jesup.

Located in Seminole County, Old Bear Trail which is now known as County Road (CR) 427, runs through Spring Hammock Preserve. The preserve is accessible from County Road 419. The Senator, the world’s largest living cypress tree made it’s home here for over 3,500 years before being burnt down by a human.

On the hiking trails, you may encounter wildlife such as gopher tortoises and alligators. If you are lucky, you may even see an indigo snake who makes his home here. Bird viewing opportunities include migrating birds as well as wood storks, limpkins, snowy egrets, and bald eagles who share space at the preserve. Trees in the preserve include longleaf pine, loblolly pine, slash pine, scrub oak, sweet gum, and bald cypress. Be on the lookout for native plants such as the Florida willow, Okeechobee gourd, and cuplet fern.

Make a plan to get outside and explore natural Florida.
You will be surprised at what you will discover.

Photo credit: Andy Waldo

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #SpringHammockPreserve #explore #discover

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American Flamingo

The American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) stands 5 feet tall with a wingspan of 50 inches. Their bright pink color comes from their diet of snails, crustaceans, and crabs and algae. Without this specific diet, they would turn gray.

The most unusual thing about Flamingos is their tongue. It is encased in the lower jaw and does not move. The tongue squeezes mud through structures in the bill, called lamellae which act as a strainer to extract insects, brine shrimp, algae, and other small prey.

There has been some debate on whether or not Flamingos are native to Florida. If they are spotted, they are usually considered escapees from captive flocks. During the 1800s flamingos were considered native to Florida. John James Audubon came specifically to see Flamingos on his 1830 visit to Florida. By the 1900s Flamingos had almost completely vanished. They were hunted for food, skin, and feathers.

Flamingos are wading birds and can be found around a water source. They have very long, thin necks and legs. Their heads are small and their bills are large, heavy, and have a crook. Young flamingos have straight bills but the crook develops as they get older.

The Flamingo stands on one leg to conserve heat as their legs have no feathers. Conserving heat is also why they bury their heads in their feathers. It also makes it easier to stand on one leg and reach down into the water with their bills to catch prey.

Flamingos are monogamous. The flock will mate at the same time so the eggs will hatch collectively. The flock protects the young from predators. The mated pair will make a mound of mud and the female will lay one egg which is between 3 to 3 1/2 inches long. It hatches in 27 to 31 days. Hatchlings are born white and turn pink within 2 years. Both parents produce a crop of milk in their upper digestive tract which they feed to the young until they start to eat solid food.

Florida has already removed the American Flamingo from the non-native list. Hopefully, flamingos will regain their native species status and become subject to federal and state protections. Conservation efforts to protect American Flamingos will be necessary to ensure these birds continue to survive even as they face increasing threats from habitat loss, pollution, and invasive predators. This historic population is in the very beginnings of a recovery. When we work together, we will ensure that the American Flamingo will not become extinct.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #flamingo #pink

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Manchineel

Manchineel (Hippomane mancinella) grows in the Florida Keys and Everglades. Every part of the manchineel tree is poisonous. A milky sap oozes from this tree and its leaves. The greenish yellow apple-like fruit is poisonous. This tree is so toxic that if a leaf brushes across your face it can cause temporary or permanent blindness. To some this tree is fatal. It is classified by the Guinness World Book of Records as the most dangerous tree in the world. When a tree is located it is marked with a warning to keep people away from it.

The Manchineel can grow as high as 50 feet. It can be found along the coast in brackish water. This tree is endangered but grows in clusters when encountered.
Its roots prevent erosion and it serves as a natural windbreak.

The Manchineel does not depend on birds and animals to spread its seeds. It drops its fruit and nearby water carries the buoyant fruit until eventually the fruit rots and it spreads its seeds.

The Manchineel is sometimes known as the beach apple. Early Spanish explorers called it, la manzanilla de la muerte, which translates to “the little apple of death,” or as arbol de la muerte, “tree of death.” Legend says that the tip of the arrow that killed Ponce de Leon was dipped in the sap of the Manchineel. If you ever encounter this tree do not touch it or breath near it. Quickly move away from it.

Photo credit: Beach apple picture UF IFAS Blogs
We believe this picture was taken with a long lens camera

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #endangered #poisonoustree

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Gray Fox

The Gray Fox is a member of the dog family, Canidae. This fox is common in Florida and can be found statewide except for the Keys. Their preferred habitat is dense cover in thickets, forests, or swamps.

The Gray Fox is also known as the Tree Fox as they are the only fox species who climb trees to evade predators and to hunt prey. Gray foxes climb in a scrambling motion, grasping the tree trunk with its forepaws and forcing themselves higher with long claws on their hind feet.

Gray Fox’s diet consists of small mammals, insects, fruits, acorns, birds, amphibians, reptiles, carrion, and eggs. Due to their ability to climb squirrels are an important source of food. Rabbit, mice, and rats are their preferred food.

The upper side of their bodies is salt and pepper gray. The nose and the sides of its muzzle are black. A black line extends from the corner of their eyes to their neck. The sides of their neck, backs, legs, the underside of their tails, and the base of their ears are all bright reddish-orange. A black stripe runs along the bushy tail which measures 11 to 16 Inches. Gray Foxes grow to a height of 15 inches and 21 to 30 inches in body length. They weigh 7 to 13 pounds.

Gray Fox dens are located in hollow logs, ground burrows, beneath boulders, and even under buildings in areas where the foxes have become acclimated to people. Breeding season occurs from late January to March. Females give birth to 3-7 dark-brown, blind pups after 50 to 55 days. The male stays with his mate to care for the young which are weaned at about 2 months. By 3 months they leave the den with their parents who begin to teach them to hunt and will stay with their parents until late summer or fall.
Photo Credit: Broward County Parks and Recreation Division
Gray Fox at Highlands Scrub Natural Area, Pompano Beach.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #fox #grayfox

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Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park

Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park
There’s something for everyone at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park!

Nature trails, birding, equestrian trails, biking, walking, jogging, camping, cabins, picnic areas, horseshoe games, volleyball court, pavilions, and playgrounds assure your entire family will enjoy their day. You can even bring your dog on a 6-foot leash to the hiking or paved bike trail.

You can easily spend an entire day here as you explore this beautiful park of 8,300 acres located in New Port Richey. Take your time as you wander through the wilderness and discover an abundance of wild plants and animals who make their home there. Leave your cares behind while you spend quality time with your family and friends reconnecting with nature. Get Outside. Explore. Discover.

Learn more and/or make reservations here:
https://www.pascocountyfl.net/…/Jay-B-Starkey-Wilderness-Pa…

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #SaturdaySaunter #getoutside #explore#discover

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Buttonbush

Buttonbush

A Florida Native, buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) blooms in late spring and throughout the summer. The blossoms of the buttonbush shrub resemble a pincushion more than they resemble a button. The blooms are 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and have a pleasant fragrance. They attract a variety of insects including butterflies, moths, bees, and wasps.

Buttonbush is an understory shrub and will grow 4-8 feet wide and can reach heights of 20 feet. They are commonly found in marshes, swamps, sloughs, and ponds and are used for nesting by many bird species. In the fall, the buttonbush will produce bright red fruits. Seeds are enjoyed by ducks, jays, cardinals, titmice, mockingbirds, and warblers.

Buttonbush is available at many native nurseries and will flourish in wetlands and on wetland edges.

Photo Credit: Aymee Laurain.
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #buttonbush #floridanativeplants

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Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

This State Park is located near Palm Coast along A1A, between the Atlantic Ocean and Matanzas River. Washington Oaks Gardens is known for its formal gardens, a unique shoreline with rare coquina rock outcroppings, beautiful oak trees, and nature trails. You can hike, bike, and picnic in the park. The grounds feature brick pathways, benches, as well as its preservation of northeast Florida’s original native habitats. In the 425 acres, you will find a beach, coastal scrub, coastal hammock, and tidal marshes.

Over 144 species of birds can be found in Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Some of the birds you may see are peregrine falcons, spotted sandpipers, scarlet tangler, and indigo bunting, and the endangered scrub jay. Take one of the hiking trails and perhaps run into bobcats, a gopher tortoise, raccoons, or whitetail deer. The waters surrounding the park are home to sea turtles, manatees and you may spot dolphins.

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park was part of the Spanish land grants and is in an area steeped in history. The formal gardens are a showcase of the park. They were devised by the former owners Louise and Owen Young and feature rose gardens, birds of paradise, and orange groves, as well as the towering oak trees which the Youngs named the property after.

The park was donated to the state in 1964 with the stipulation that the gardens were kept and maintained as they were originally laid out. Spending the day at Washington Oaks State Park is worth the trip whether you go for hiking, picnics, bird watching, fishing, or just to spend a serene day enjoying nature.

Photo credit. Lourdes Brown

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #statepark #nature

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Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

The Eastern Bluebird, Sialia sialis, is part of the songbird family of thrushes. Once declining at an alarming rate due to introduced species, pesticides, and habitat loss, Eastern bluebirds have made a stirring comeback. The population increase has been aided by birdhouses built especially for the bluebirds along bluebird trails.

Eastern bluebirds prefer open habitat which is near trees. These areas include forest clearings, burned areas, savannas, pastures, parks, and golf courses.

Male bluebirds flutter and sing to attract a female. The new couple will find a tree with a cavity such as an old woodpecker hole or a birdhouse. The female does most of the nest building and will loosely construct a nest of twigs and grasses lined with softer material such as feathers, animal hairs, or fine grass. There she will lay 3-7 pale blue or white eggs.

Incubation takes 13-16 days and is mostly by the female. When the nestlings are born, both parents will feed their young. Since Eastern bluebirds have 2-3 broods per year, it is not unusual to see a young bird from a previous brood help with feeding. Meals consist of a wide variety of insects. They also enjoy berries, earthworms, and snails.

Eastern bluebirds are monogamous while nesting but can be found in small flocks during the rest year. We hope a flock of bluebirds will fly over the rainbow and visit all of you this year.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #Bluebird #birds

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Florida Woods Cockroach

The Florida Woods Cockroach (Eurycotis floridana) is more commonly known as the palmetto bug.

The roach measures 1 to 1 1/2 inches long to 1 inch wide. They are reddish brown to black and do not have fully developed wings. They appear wingless but have short vestigial wings. These roaches are larger than other species so are easier to spot.

Florida woods cockroaches are usually found under palmetto leaves and decomposing matter. Contact with the bug may cause skin irritation as they secrete a chemical from a gland under their abdomen. This chemical secretion is used to ward off predators and it stinks.

With or without fertilization, the Florida woods cockroach produces an egg case known as an ootheca. The egg cases contain an average of 20 to 24 eggs and will hatch after 50 days. Without fertilization, only about 60% of the eggs are viable and those that hatch will not live to adulthood. The nymphs undergo 6 to 8 weeks of molts before becoming adults. They can live over a year.

Florida woods cockroaches rarely enter the home since abundant food is found outdoors. They eat mold, moss, lichens, and other organic material found in dark, damp places. However, they are primarily a detritivore since their diet consists mainly of organic waste and dead plant matter such as bark and leaves, thus returning vital nutrients to the ecosystem.

They may not be the most loved bug in our state, but the Florida woods cockroach plays a very important role in our ecosystem.

Connect. Respect. Coexist.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #palmettobug #cockroach

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Florida tickseed

Florida State Wildflower

Florida tickseed (coreopsis floridana) is just one of Florida’s many diverse and beautiful wildflowers. This wildflower is endemic to Florida. It can be found throughout most of the state, except the extreme northern Panhandle counties. The Coreopsis was adopted as Florida’s State Wildflower in 1991.

Coreopsis grow best in wet open habitats such as the upper edges of marshes, savannas, and prairies. This is a robust fall bloomer and can stand 3 feet tall in ideal conditions. The petals are bright yellow, surrounding a dark disc. The flowers form a bloom that is two inches across. The leaves are narrow and elliptical in shape. This plant requires wet to moist soil to survive. In such settings, it blooms into showy, beautiful wildflowers.

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Spring-to-Spring Trail

Spring-to-Spring Trail

Volusia County’s Spring-to-Spring Trail is an apt name for a trail which will link several of the state and county parks which feature natural springs. It is planned for more than 26 miles and should take approximately 3 hours to complete. The paved, path will be ideal for walkers, joggers, skaters, bicyclists as well as those with disabilities. Trailheads are Debary Hall Historic Site, Gemini Springs Park, Lake Monroe Park, Lake Beresford Park, Blue Spring State Park, and Grand Avenue in Glenwood. To date, 15 miles have been completed.

The Spring to Spring Trail is planned for the diversity of the land and wildlife. You will see open fields to jungle-like conditions and you may encounter bald eagles, rabbits, armadillos, alligators, otters, coyotes, and deer.

The most northern segment starts near the base of De Leon Springs State Park. De Leon Springs is known for its the lakes, creeks, and marshes. The trail travels south along Grand Avenue. To the west lies the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. Here freshwater marshes and swamps provide critical habitat for nesting, migrating, and wintering birds. This 6-mile segment ends at W. Minnesota Avenue. The next part of the trail is an 8.9-mile segment which begins on the southwestern outskirts of DeLand. The trail travels over 2 miles along Lake Beresford. The trail then travels along Blue Spring State Park through an environment which features hammock and magnolias trees. This park is a designated manatee refuge. You can learn more about this endangered animal through ranger programs as well as view them from an observation platform during the winter when manatees gather in the warm waters of the spring. The last part of the trail route is the most scenic. It traces the northwestern shoreline of Lake Monroe.

The Spring Trail is one segment of the much larger St. Johns River to Sea loop. Eventually, the trail will stretch all the way from DeLeon Springs to New Smyrna Beach and Titusville.
Download a map of the Spring-to-Spring Trail here: https://www.volusia.org/…/park…/trails/spring-to-spring.stml
Photo:http://www.sportsvolusia.com

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #trail #hike #saturdaysaunter

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Pineapples

Ananas comosus – flowering pineapple plant.

Pineapples have been cultivated by indigenous people throughout the tropical areas of the Americas and the Carribean for thousands of years. The pineapple was introduced to Florida in 1860. While there is no commercial farming of pineapples in Florida, it is known as the dooryard yard plant. A dooryard garden plant is a plant that is in the front of the house. The goal of a dooryard garden is to have curb appeal while guiding the steps of the visitor to the front door.

The pineapple is created by the fusion of all of the flowers into one fruit. Pineapples love good drainage and areas that are not prone to flooding or puddling.

After maturing, the pineapple is ready to eat when it starts to turn yellow and smells sweet. With first-hand experience, if you wait until this time to pick your fruit, it is usually too late. Why? The squirrels, raccoons, and other animals will usually feast on it before that time.

Pineapple can be eaten fresh, juiced, dried, made into candies, and made into dishes and desserts. The fruit is a good source of potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A. Pineapple upside down cake anyone?

Photo Credit: Dan Kon
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #pineapple #fruit

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Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

Located near Christmas Fl, the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area includes an 18.6-mile loop trail that features a lake.

The trail is located along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail so expect to see plenty of wildlife enjoying the area. Wading birds, eagles, ospreys, turkeys, deer, and alligators are some of the wildlife you may meet. Beautiful cabbage palm hammocks and freshwater marshes are waiting for you to explore. Discover bromeliads, orchids, ferns, and abundant wildflowers. Be on the lookout for rare pitcher plants, hand ferns, and cutthroat grass.

Short hikes can lead to many sightings and new discoveries like the virgin bald cypress stand in James Creek Swamp. There are trails for day hikes and hiking with overnight camping. Primitive campsites are available for the more adventurous including one along the 12 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail. The unpaved roads are bicycle friendly. For those who would rather view the scenery from the comfort of your air-conditioned vehicle, you are permitted to do so when the roads are not too wet or sandy. Dogs are welcome when on a leash.

Whether on foot, by bicycle or from your vehicle:
Get Outside. Explore. Discover.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #trail #hike #saturdaysaunter #tosohatchee

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Longleaf Pine

The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) gets its name from the shape of its needle-like leaves. They can grow as long as 18 inches and come in bundles of three. The tree with it’s thick, scaly bark grows almost completely straight, boasts a 3-foot diameter, and can reach 80 to 100 feet tall. These slow-growing trees can live up to 300 years.

Prior to restoration efforts, longleaf pines once only occupied 3% of their former range. Forests of longleaf pine were cleared for development and agriculture.

The seeds are developed in cones and dispersed by the wind. They must come in contact with the soil to grow. Fires caused by lightning would clear away leaf litter and brush allowing this to take place. When fire is suppressed, the seeds can not reach the soil. The seeds that take root go through a grass stage. During this stage, the longleaf pine starts to develop its central root, called a taproot, which will grow up to 12 feet long. After the tap toot grows the tree will begin to grow in height. Both the tree and the grass stage are resistant to fire.

There are more than 30 endangered and threatened species, including red-cockaded woodpeckers and indigo snakes who rely on the longleaf pine habitat. The longleaf pines are more resilient to the negative impacts of climate change than other pines. The tree can withstand severe windstorms, resist pests, tolerate wildfires and drought, as well as capture carbon pollution from the atmosphere. The restoration of the longleaf pine has become a major restoration effort.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #longleafpine #pines

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Eastern Spotted Skunk

The Eastern Spotted Skunk, (Spilogale putorius), is native to Florida and the least studied. It was thought that they were abundant throughout Florida except in the Keys. This is a small skunk, about the size of a squirrel, with more of a weasel shaped body. Eastern spotted skunks have various areas of white on the body that mix with the black and vary on each individual. They have short legs and are slow moving. The spotted skunk is omnivorous and enjoys dining on plants, berries, nuts, fruits, rodents, frogs, snakes, small lizards, and bird eggs.

Eastern Spotted Skunks are nest predators of ground-nesting birds, Unfortunately, the critically endangered, Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is among the skunk’s prey.

A female spotted skunk will create a den in a tree hollow, gopher tortoise burrow, or abandoned structure. Her litter will range between 2 to 10 kits each year. At 4 weeks the young go out looking for food with their mother and are weaned at 8 weeks. By 4 months they are adults and leave the den. The life span of the spotted skunk is 1 to 2 years.

Like all skunks, the Spotted Skunk has well developed anal glands that emit musk, if they are threatened. These glands contain a “nipple” that allows the skunk to aim its spray accurately. The spotted skunk is noted for its characteristic “handstand” stance that it takes when threatened. Before spraying its opponent, the skunk raises up on its front legs and turns its head to watch as it sprays. It is also the only member of the skunk family that can climb. Their predators include humans, dogs, cats, bobcats, coyotes, foxes and owls.

The population of eastern spotted skunks has not been well-studied. Loss of habitat, insecticide use, and predators may indicate they are not as abundant as once thought.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #skunk #ecology

photo credit FWC.

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Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

In 1947 a beautiful clear lake full of fish began to change. Land from the north was purchased for agriculture. With agricultural practices at the time, lots of nutrients, including phosphorus, we’re drained into the lake. This caused an algae bloom that depleted the fish population and ultimately deteriorated the ecosystem. Fortunately, there was hope for Lake Apopka (Bauchmann et al 1999).

Thanks to the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act of 1987 Lake Apopka was identified for restoration. Plans were created to help bring life back to the ecosystem. In 1996 chapter 96 – 207 of Florida statutes was passed by the Florida legislature. This act allowed the agricultural lands to the north to be purchased and converted into wetlands (St. John’s Water Management District).

Because of dedicated legislators, biologists, volunteers, and citizens, the fish population has been restored, plenty of birds flock to the area to feed, deer and otters call this 48.4 square mile area their home, the hydrology has drastically improved, and the ecosystem is thriving.

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is an 11-mile scenic route where visitors can enjoy Nature and the beauty of this Florida success story.

When entering the Wildlife Drive you can access an audio guide for your smartphone.

References:

Bauchmann, R. W., Hoyer, M. V., & Canfield, D. E., Jr. (1999). The restoration of Lake Apopka in relation to alternative stable states. Hydrobiologia, 394(0), 219-232.

St. John’s Water Management District, Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
General Information Guide

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #SaturdaySaunter #LakeApopkaWildlifeDrive

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Wild Coffee

Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa) is a Florida native shrub that gets its name from the small, red fruit it produces. Other names are wood balsam, Seminole Balsamo, and café marron. It is extremely cold sensitive. If it freezes it resprouts in the spring producing a shorter plant.

Wild Coffee, grows as a dense, round, multi-stemmed shrub about 5 feet tall and spreads between 4 to 8 feet. You will see it in pinelands, shell ridges, coastal hammocks, and sandy shaded areas. Its leaves are glossy, puckered, waxy, and light green when in full sun. When in the shade the leaves are deep forest green. The leaves are 5 inches long with veins running through them. Small, white flowers bloom in spring and summer and produce a fragrance similar to the gardenia.

Many butterflies, including the Florida state butterfly, the zebra longwing, and the spicebush swallowtail drink nectar from the flowers of wild coffee. Honeybees visit the flowers and pollinate them. Bright red, half-inch berries appear, in late summer or fall, each with two seeds. These seeds are an important food source for cardinals, catbirds, mockingbirds and blue jays, as well as other birds. Wild coffee berries were once used as a coffee substitute even though they do not contain caffeine.

The shrub grows well in alkaline soil. It is not salt-tolerant, but germinates readily, has few pest problems, needs only varying amounts of water and is not invasive. Is also prevents soil erosion. With its contrasting green leaves and red berries, its fragrance when in bloom and its wildlife benefits, the Wild Coffee shrub will make a wonderful addition to a shady spot in your landscape.

Photo Credit: Mary Keim
https://www.flickr.com/photos/38514062@N03/6415497635…

#wildcoffee #ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #wildflower

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Ghost Orchid

The Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii,) is rare and endangered. There are only an estimated 2000 left in Florida. This orchid is prized for its long, white delicate petals. It is leafless and its roots attach to the host tree. The mass of green roots clings tightly to the trunks. It is distinguished from other species of orchid by the presence of thin white markings dotting its roots.

The Ghost Orchid gets its name from its ability to move at night. It appears as if it’s floating, like a ghost.

The Ghost Orchid is pollinated by the Giant Spinx Moth, whose long tongue can reach the nectar that is not accessible to many insects. The swamps of cypress, pond apple, and palm trees are its preferred environment. The orchids specific habitat requirements are high humidity, mild temperatures, and dappled shade.

The Ghost Orchid does not flower reliably. It will typically flower one to two weeks once a year. It requires a specific fungus (mycorrhizal) to be able to thrive. because it is leafless, the orchid relies on its roots to produce sugars from sunlight. The Ghost Orchid has a symbiotic relationship with the fungus as it gathers nutrients from it in exchange for extra sugars.

Habitat destruction and development, as well as over collecting, have been responsible for the decline of ghost orchid populations. The Ghost Orchid is a protected species in public land areas.

With gratitude to Jay Staton for his patience and perseverance in capturing this rare sight.
JAY STATON -Published on Oct 20, 2014
“A ghost orchid’s flower takes, on average, 2 days to fully open. This short video shows the remarkable beauty of the most sought-after orchid in the world, including background sound that gets you in the mood.”

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #GhostOrchid #orchid

https://youtu.be/USbPKZLFS14

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Sea Grape

Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera).

The Sea Grape thrives in Florida’s sandy soils. This plant tolerates windy conditions and can act as a windbreak. As well as being salt and drought tolerant, it will stabilize sand dunes while providing habitat for wildlife. This includes protection for nesting sea turtles from artificial light. Look for Sea Grapes in their natural habitat along the beach.

The Sea Grape has an unusual texture with big, round leaves which grow upright on the branches. The leaves are leathery and grow 8 to 10 inches with a reddish tint. They have red veining and some leaves will turn completely red. The female shrubs produce clusters of fruit that resemble grapes that will start out green, and ripen to purple. This plant needs a male and female to cross-pollinate and bear fruit. A Sea Grape plant with its outstretched branches will grow between 6 to 8 feet tall and wide.

The Sea Grape is a small native evergreen tropical tree which can grow as a shrub or be trained as a hedge and does best in full to partial sunlight. Although sensitive to frost, Sea Grape plants can be grown in your yard or garden. Be sure to water until established. Their fruit is very sweet and when ripe provides a tasty treat for people, birds, and squirrels. Jellies and wine are made from the Sea Grapes. Consider planting a Sea Grape Plant in your Florida Native Garden.

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