imagineourflorida

Kraft Azalea Garden

There’s a secret garden in Winter Park with magnificent cypress trees, 8 benches for you to pause and immerse yourself in the beauty of Nature, and sunsets at The Excedra on the shore of Lake Maitland.

Kraft Azalea Park, located near Orlando, is a 5.22-acre public garden open to the public year-round from 8 am until dusk. The garden was designed in 1938 by Martin Daetwyler who was hired by Winter Park residents George and Maud Kraft along with Mayor Frederick Cady and other Winter Park residents.

While you are there, be sure to look for the banyan tree. Banyan trees, native to Sri Lanka and Pakistan and sacred to Buddhists and Hindus, have been planted throughout the tropics in botanical gardens and city parks. The banyan tree at Kraft Azalea Park is at least 70 years old and is believed to be the northernmost banyan tree in Florida which has survived the frosts. Like all trees in the fig family, the foliage and sap of the banyan tree can be an irritant to some.

IOF contributor David Gale says, “The Kraft Azalea Gardens on the edge of Lake Maitland are definitely worth a visit in February/March. We saw dozens of Great Egrets and numerous Anhingas all in full mating plumage high in the Cypress trees. We missed the azalea blossoms for this visit but this small park was still spectacular and very peaceful even though it’s in a suburb of Winter Park.”

David was lucky to visit during the breeding season for the Great Egrets. Kraft Azalea Park is a Great Egret rookery where up to 50 pairs show off their mating rituals, lay their eggs, and raise their babies. Mockingbirds, ospreys, and pileated woodpeckers also make their nests there. Sandhill cranes and wood storks visit the garden too.

Make plans today to visit this central Florida secret garden.

Photo credit: David Gale
source: https://cityofwinterpark.org/…/p…/parks/kraft-azalea-garden/.

#ImagineOurFlorida #SaturdaySaunter #KraftAzaleaPark #Getoutside#Getoutdoors #egret

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Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area

Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA), located near Palmdale in Highlands County, is an 18,272-acre corridor along Fisheating Creek. A 40-mile stretch of the 52-mile long creek is located within the management area. Fisheating Creek is now the only free-flowing water source feeding into Lake Okeechobee.

This WMA is a beautiful and unique place to spend the day or multiple days. It is made up of several ecosystems including marshes, cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks, longleaf pine, slash pine, and Florida scrub.
Be sure to bring a camera since the management area is a site along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

Canoe or kayak through hardwood hammocks and cypress swamps. Decaying plant matter creates tannin which makes the water a brilliant tea color where the sunlight touches it. The creek is teeming with bluefish, bass, and panfish. Wading birds, otters, and alligators enjoy the creek too. Swallow-tailed kites raise their babies along the creek and thousands of beautiful butterflies can be seen in the fall.

The 5-mile Fort Center Interpretive Nature Trail takes you through a hardwood hammock, wet prairie, and flood plain. There are covered rest areas with benches along the trail. You will learn about the history of the early Native Americans who made their homes here between 1000 and 500 BCE. See wildlife such as alligators, turtles, deer, wild hogs, turkey, wading birds, raptors, and an occasional black bear as you hike the hardwood forests. If you are lucky, you may even spot a federally endangered Florida panther!

At the Fisheating Creek Outpost enjoy camping primitively, hook up your RV, and rent a canoe or kayak. Hike through cypress forests on the 2-mile Knobby Knee Trail. Take the 8-mile Burnt Bridge paddling tour or consider the 16-mile Ingram Crossing tour for an overnight canoe or kayak trip. Cool off in the designated swimming areas, cook over a campfire or enjoy a picnic lunch.

Both the WMA and the Outpost are open 365 days, including holidays. Before planning your trip, be sure to check the calendars for both the WMA and the Outpost for activities, the best time to view your favorite wildlife, and water levels. Hours vary at the Outpost office.
Let’s camp at Fisheating Creek! – Fisheating Creek Outpost
https://myfwc.com/recreation/lead/fisheating-creek

IOF’s Board of Directors held their annual meeting around a campfire at Fisheating Creek Outpost in Feb. A few of the directors camped overnight and cooked campfire chili and other tasty treats for those who drove in for the day. All of us fell in love with Fisheating Creek Outpost and are planning to have our next annual meeting there.

Photo Credit: Directors Lourdes Brown, Ileana Rodriguez-Ramirez, Andy Waldo

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #FisheatingCreek #Explore #Discover

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Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park consists of 22,000 acres of both wet and dry savanna in Micanopy, Florida. This state park, located just south of Gainesville, has more than 20 biological communities which provide habitats for wildlife. In the 1970s the state of Florida acquired the land and began the process of restoring it.

Within Paynes Prairie Preserve is a highland freshwater marsh composed of different plant communities that vary based on the depth of the water. The wet, forested areas have coastal swamps of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and swamp tupelo (Nyssa biflora). Coastal plain blackwater river forests grow along streams. The uplands have southern oak domes and hammocks of southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) growing in areas with moist soils. Florida longleaf pine sandhills grow on drier, sandier soils.

There are over 720 species of plants at the Paynes Prairie Preserve including native, introduced, and invasive species. You will see everything from the Red Maple(Acer rubrum) to the invasive Cora Ardisia (Ardisia crenatum) to the beautiful Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata).

Over 270 species of birds including anhingas, ibis, flocks of turkeys, herons, and migratory birds can be found on the plain. You will see alligators as well as Cracker Horses and Cracker Cattle, both of which were introduced by the Spaniards. You may even see an American Bison which was reintroduced to the Preserve where they roamed until the 18th century.

Start your exploration of the Preserve in historic Micanopy. Exhibits, photographs and an audio-visual program will explain the natural and historical significance of the Preserve. A 50-foot tower provides a panoramic view, where you may spot wild horses.

Paynes Prairie has more than 30 miles of trails for horseback riders, cyclists, and hikers which will lead you through a variety of ecosystems. Camping opportunities await you in a full-facility campground. There is a boat ramp on the east side of the 300 acres Lake Wauberg for canoes, kayaks, and small boats. On weekends in November – April you can participate in ranger lead activities with pre-made reservations.

In 1971, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park was designated Florida’s first state Preserve. In 1974, Paynes Prairie Preserve was nominated to the National Register of Natural Landmarks, one of only 600 in the country.

ADDRESS: 100 Savannah Blvd, Micanopy, FL 32667

Photo Credit Kerry Waldo
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #PaynesPrairie #GetOutdoors #Explore#Discover

 

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Purple Gallinule

(Porphyrio martinicus)

Plumage in shades of purple, teal, indigo, and olive along with a yellow-tipped red bill and bright yellow legs make this bird hard to miss. Purple gallinules are noisy rails who are most often found near freshwater marshes, ponds, and swamps. You may find them swimming, walking on lily pads, or in the branch of a tree.

In the spring and summer, a pair of Purple Gallinules will build one or more nests at or above the water level. The nests are supported by strong vegetation at the water’s edge and are made of grasses, cattails and other vegetation found nearby. Raising babies is a family affair. Both the male and female incubate 5-10 eggs for 22-25 days. Once hatched, the mother, father, and older siblings help feed the babies until they are 9 weeks old and able to fly.

Purple Gallinules are omnivorous. You may find them pecking the ground like a chicken as they forage along the shore for fruit, seeds, insects, worms, or snails. In the water, they will nod their head while looking for tasty aquatic greens or a fish dinner.

When you see a Purple Gallinule, spend some time watching this gorgeous bird with quirky movements. Note how their feathers appear to change color when they move from sunshine to shade. You will be amazed at how the Purple Gallinule’s brilliant colors perfectly blend into Florida’s wetlands.

Photo Credit: Andy Waldo
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #PurpleGallinule #Explore #Discover

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Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern Hognose Snake Heterodon platirhinos

Eastern Hognose Snakes are found throughout Florida with the exception of the Keys. Their habitat is diverse and includes scrub, sandhills, turkey oak woodlands, hardwood hammocks, pine woodlands, meadows, and even cultivated fields. Hognose snakes secrete a mild venom that is toxic to their prey. They are not known to cause serious injuries to humans, however, some people may show signs of an allergy if bitten.

Hognose snakes are thick-bodied and vary in color from solid gray or black to various shades of brown, yellow, orange, olive, or red with large, randomly shaped markings. The underside can be off-white, gray, or yellow with the bottom side of the tail lighter in color. An average adult grows to 20-35 inches. Hognose snakes breed in spring. Females lay 15-25 leathery eggs in sandy soil or under logs. In 1-2 months, the hatchlings break free of their eggs and are 6 1/2 to 9 1/2 inches long.

Active only during daylight hours, Hognose snakes use their blunt noses to search through soil and leaf litter for their meals. They may dine on frogs, insects, salamanders, and invertebrates, but toads are their favorite dinner. When a toad is threatened, it will puff itself up. Immune to the toad’s poison, Hognose snakes are equipped with rear fangs which enable them to pop the toad-like a balloon before swallowing it whole.

Eastern Hognose Snakes are best known for their dramatic display when warding off danger. Also known as a Puff Adder, when a threat is detected, a hognose snake will suck in air, flatten its head, rise like a cobra, and hiss. With its mouth closed, it may strike. If this display does not scare away the predator, the hognose will flip itself over and imitate death. It may convulse, regurgitate, and emit foul-smelling fecal matter before becoming completely still with its mouth open and tongue hanging out. When the danger passes, the Hognose snake will simply roll over and get on with enjoying its day.

Photo Credit: Andy Waldo
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #EasternHognoseSnake #snakes

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Florida Reef Gecko

The Florida Reef Gecko (Sphaerodactylus notatus) is the smallest lizard in the United States. They are tiny and only grow to 2 – 2.25 inches. They have a rounded body with large, overlapping, scales on their backs. The body and tail are covered with dark spots on a brown background. Females have three broad, dark stripes on their heads.

The Florida Reef Gecko is found in the Dry Tortugas, Florida Keys, and southeastern mainland Florida. They can be found in pinelands, hammocks, and vacant lots. They are active at dusk and feed on tiny insects and spiders. Females lay one egg at a time. When born, hatchlings are over an inch long.

The Florida Reef Gecko could be impacted by human development as well as competition from introduced geckos. At this time, the only native gecko in Florida, the Florida Reef Gecko abundant within its range.

Photo credit: FWC

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #FloridaReefGecko #Gecko

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Saddleback Caterpillar

Saddleback Caterpillars, (Acharia stimulus), have hairs that cover their bodies which secrete venom. Contact with the hairs will cause a painful rash, burning, itching, swelling, blistering, and nausea. The cocoon and the larvae have the hairs as well. The hairs are hollow quills connected to poison glands beneath its skin. The venom will spread if the hairs are not removed from the skin.

Saddleback Caterpillars are easy to distinguish by their green-colored backs with a white-ringed, brown dot in the center. They are brown at either end, have skin with a granulated appearance and sport pairs of fleshy horns. The Caterpillar is one inch long with a slug-like body in its larvae stage.

The Saddleback Caterpillar is a general eater and can be found in oak trees, fruit trees, and many other plants. Females lay up to 50 eggs on the top leaves of a host plant. The eggs are tiny and transparent with a scaly look.

The adult Caterpillar is the Saddleback Caterpillar Moth which is dark brown with black shading. The dense scales on its body and wings make it look furry. The back wings are a lighter brown. The wingspan is between one to two inches wide. Near the front wing is a single white dot and another 3 white dots near the front apex.

The bright colors on this Caterpillar are a warning to predators. Never touch this or other brightly colored, hairy Caterpillars with your bare hands.
You can remove the hairs from the skin by using tape.

#Connect #Respect #Coexist
#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #caterpillar #saddlebackcaterpillar

Photo Wikimedia Commons

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Rose of Plymouth

Rose of Plymouth (Sabatia stellaris)

This vibrant wildflower is found throughout the coastal regions of Florida, from the panhandle to the Keys. It is tolerant of salty and flooded soils. These plants are annuals and require open soil to spread and reseed. Depending on the conditions, the Rose of Plymouth can grow from 6 inches to 24 inches tall. The flowers are 1 to 1-1/2 inches wide and the plant creates many blooms. Flowers peak in the summer but can be seen blooming all year long. Rose of Plymouth can be grown from seeds and cuttings in wet to moist soils.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #RoseofPlymouth #wildflowers

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Wekiwa Springs State Park

Wekiwa Springs State Park, located in Orange County, is just waiting to be explored. Discover a longleaf pine forest and sandhill uplands. Hammocks at the river’s edge are thick and tropical-like. Wildflowers of multiple colors spring up at all times during the year to greet you. The park is home to an abundance of wildlife from iconic Florida black bears to the tiniest spiders who weave their intricate webs along the trails.

Wekiwa Springs State Park is best known for its crystal clear springs which are a refreshing 72* all year long. Swimming and snorkeling are favorite pastimes. A swim lift is available for those who have difficulty with the steps leading to the springs.

After enjoying a dip in the cool springs, cook an outdoor meal on one of the grills. Eat at a picnic table nearby or spread your blanket on the ground overlooking the springs. There is a playground for the kids, and a volleyball court and horseshoe pit for friends and family to enjoy.

If the river is calling you, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards are available to rent. Paddle the Wekiva river where you will see an abundance of wildlife including alligators and turtles basking in the sun and osprey high in the treetops.

Explore the trails of Wekiwa Springs State Park on foot, horseback, or bike. Trails range in length from 8/10 of a mile to 13.5 miles. The Tram Bed Horse Trail is perfect for horseback riding. Pedal along the bike trail or discover the many birds found along the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail within the park.

Stargaze at one of the 60 spacious campsites in Sandhill habitat. Camp with your horses at Big Fork or experience primitive camping at Camp Cozy or Big Fork. A concession is available for your convenience should you forget to pack something.

Make your day at the park a family affair. Bring your dog! Just be sure he or she is on a 6-foot leash.

Plan your adventure today! Explore and discover Wekiwa Springs State Park!

Wekiwa Springs State Park is located at 1800 Wekiwa Cir. Apopka FL 32712
Plan your trip here: http://www.wekiwaspringsstatepark.com/plan.html
Note- the park reaches capacity early in the day during the summer. It is best to arrive when the park opens.

Photo credit: Andy Waldo images captured during several hikes throughout the year.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #WekiwaSpringsStatePark #SaturdaySaunter

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Eastern Grasshopper Lubber

The Eastern Grasshopper Lubber, (Romalea guttata), is very distinctive in its coloration. They are yellow with black along the antenna, body, and abdomen. Their forewings which are rose or pink in color extend along the abdomen. The hind wings which are rose in color are short. They can grow as large as 3 inches and can be seen walking very slowly and clumsily along the ground. Lubbers cannot fly or jump but they are very good at climbing.

The Grasshopper Lubber can be found in wet, damp environments but will lay their eggs in dry soil. The eggs are laid in the fall and begin hatching in the spring. The female will dig a hole with her abdomen and deposit 30-50 yellowish-brown eggs. They are laid neatly in rows called pods. She will produce 3-5 egg clusters and closes the hole with a frothy secretion. Nymphs wiggle through the froth and begin to eat. The male will guard the female during this time.

Nymphs have a completely different appearance from the adults. They are black with yellow, orange or red strips. They will have 5-6 molts to develop their coloration, wings, and antennae. The coloration of adults will vary throughout their lives as well and they are often mistaken for different species. There is no diapause in the egg development and they take just 200 days to develop depending on temperature. A month after the Grasshopper becomes an adult, they begin to lay their eggs.

Both females and males make noise by rubbing their front and hind wings together. When alarmed they will secrete and spray a foul-smelling froth. This chemical discharge repels predators and is manufactured from their diet. The Grasshopper’s diet is so varied that it makes it difficult for predators to adapt to the toxin produced. Their bright color pattern is also a warning to predators that they are not good to eat. Birds and lizards avoid them but nymphs will be infected by parasites from the tachinid fly. Loggerhead Shrikes will capture the Grasshopper and impale it on thorns or barbed wire. After 2 days, the toxins in the lubber’s body will deteriorate enough for the prey to be consumed.

Lubbers are long-lived and both the adults and the nymphs can be found year-round in Florida. This Grasshopper occurs in such large numbers in Florida that they can cause damage to your landscape’s plants. Lubbers will bore holes throughout a plant regardless if they are vegetables, citrus, or ornamentals. If their numbers are large enough they can decimate a plant.

Did you know:
Lubber is an old English word. It means a big, clumsy, stupid person, also known as a lout or lummox. In modern times, it is normally used only by seafarers, “landlubbers”.

Photo credit: Dan Kon

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #grasshopper #lubber

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Short-tailed Kingsnake

Short-tailed kingsnakes, (lampropeltis extenuata), are as thin as a pencil and grow to an average length of 14 to 20 inches long. Their scales are smooth and gray in with a spotted pattern. They have dark spots down the middle of their backs as well as on their sides. The lighter color between the spots has an orange center.

The Short-Tailed Kingsnake has a small oval-shaped head and round eyes. As the name implies, their tails are shorter than the tails of other snakes. This snake is nonvenomous and is not a threat to people. The Kingsnake consumes other snakes and lizards. They spend their lives below ground and are rarely seen. This snake is so rare that it is assumed eggs are laid below ground where it burrows. Reproduction has not been studied therefore, nothing is known about the number of eggs in Short-tailed kingsnake’s clutch. They can be found in habitats of north-central Florida such as pine or coastal live oak hammocks and sand pine scrub.

The Short-tailed Kingsnake is endemic to Florida. This snake is listed as threatened and protected by Florida state law. Their range is limited and conversion of habitat to citrus, mining, and development pose ongoing threats.

Photo credit: Andy Waldo

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #shortailedkingsnake #snake

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Florida Leafwing

The Florida Leafwing (Anaea troglodyta floridalis), is native to Florida. It can be found in the pine rocklands of Florida. The Leafwing was once found throughout Miami -Dade, and Monroe counties. This imperiled butterfly is now found in only one place on Earth, the Everglades National Park. The causes of its decline are the destruction of pine rockland habitat, the introduction of exotic plants and insect species, fire suppression, the use of insecticides for mosquito control, and collecting.

When in flight the Florida leafwing’s upper side of its wings is red or bright orange. At rest, the lower side of the wings are visible and are brown or gray which makes the butterfly look like a dead leaf. The front wing is slightly hooked and the back wing has a pointed tail. Its dead leaf coloration is effective camouflage in its rockland habitat. A leafwing’s wingspan is between 3 to 31/2 inches wide.

Eggs are laid on the leaves of the host plant so caterpillars can eat the leaves. Young caterpillars will make a resting perch from a leaf vein. The older caterpillars live in a rolled-up leaf.

Florida leafwing caterpillars feed only on pineland croton (Croton linearis), which is its larval host plant. This shrub grows in the understory of pine rockland habitat. Leafwings are dependent on the health of its host plant. The croton and other plants in the pine rockland are dependent on fire to maintain an open rockland where it reduces the competition and infestation of non-native species.

The Florida Leafwing is federally endangered. Scientists at the Everglades National Park are working with conservation groups, to ensure that the endemic, Florida leafwing does not disappear into extinction.

Photo credit: USFW

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #FloridaLeafwing #Everglades

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Orange Blossoms

The Orange Blossom from the sweet orange tree, Citrus x sinensis, was made Florida’s state flower in 1909. The sweet orange tree that bears this flower was introduced to Florida by the Spaniards in the 15th century. The orange tree is not endemic to Florida but has been naturalized.

Orange Blossom flowers have waxy petals that are small and white. Each flower has 5 petals with 20 to 25 stamens in a compact spiral. In the spring flowers grow in clusters of 6 flowers per cluster. Each flower is a point of where an orange will grow in the spring. Orange Blossoms have a strong citrus scent and are an incredibly fragrant flower. The scent of the blossoms has been described as creamy, sweet and rich, with a hint of a tart, citrus essence.

A full sunlight location and soil with a mixture of sand, clay, and organic matter is needed to produce these vibrant flowers. The orange tree begins to bloom at 2 to 5 years and blossoms can appear while there are oranges on the tree. The Orange Blossom is the only state flower used to make perfumes, colognes, toiletries herbal teas, and the ever-popular Orange Blossom Honey.

Did you know?
Throughout history, the Orange Blossom has come to symbolize good fortune and brides often include the fragrant blossoms in their bridal bouquets.

Photo credit: Aymee Laurain

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #stateflower #orangeblossom

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Schaus’ Swallowtail

The Schaus’ swallowtail, Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus, is a large black and yellow butterfly endemic to Florida. This butterfly is found only in Florida and is restricted to intact tropical hardwood hammocks.

The Schaus’ swallowtail was listed as a federally threatened species on April 28, 1976. It was reclassified as a federal endangered species on August 31, 1984. Population estimates range from 800 to 1200 individuals. It remains the only federally listed butterfly in Florida.

Once ranging from the Miami area south through the Florida Keys, the Shaus’ swallowtail is currently restricted to only a few remnant tropical hardwood hammock sites on the south Florida mainland, northern Key Largo, and several small islands within Biscayne National Park. Adults fly slowly and leisurely and are very adept at flying through the dense hardwood hammock.

Adults have a wingspan range of up to 2.3 inches with females being the largest. Males have yellow-tipped antennae. The upper surface of their wings is black with a row of yellow or white spots and a broad yellow or white band. The hindwing tails are outlined in yellow. The undersides of the wings are yellow with brown markings and a broad blue and rust-colored band.

The Schaus’ swallowtail produces one generation each year from April to July with the peak time occurring typically from mid-May to mid-June. Adult emergence and reproduction are correlated with the beginning of the Florida rainy season. However, the pupae may remain in diapause for more than one year if optimal weather conditions are not present. Females lay green eggs singly on new growth. The developing larvae then feed on the young growth.

Listed as an endangered species, threats to the remaining population include the loss of genetic diversity due to inbreeding, climate-related impacts such as drought, habitat disturbance from fire, tropical storms or hurricanes, mosquito spraying, and loss of habitat. Hurricane Andrew left behind only 73 butterflies in 1992 after sweeping through the butterflies’ home range. Because their habitat is limited, it is possible that a single hurricane can make the Schaus’ Swallowtail extinct. However, the protected status and their rebounding numbers after Hurricane Andrew bring renewed hope that this gorgeous butterfly will survive and thrive in our beautiful state.

Photo credit:entnemdept.ufl.edu

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #butterfly #swallowtail

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Cattail

There are two species of cattails that are found in Florida. They are Typha domingensis (southern cattail) and Typha latifolia (common cattail).

Cattails are important to our water since they continuously filter the water where they grow and thrive. They are capable of filtering arsenic, pharmaceuticals, and explosives. Cattails also store algae-producing nutrients in their leaves while their roots stabilize the water edge and prevent erosion.

Cattails are a great haven for protective nesting areas for animals and birds. Cattail seeds can remain in a dormant stage for up to 100 years. Once established, cattails grow up to 8 feet tall and multiply from thick, underground rhizomes.

Cattails are used as a buffer between sugar farms and the Everglades where they remove phosphorous from the water before it flows into the Everglades. Unfortunately, cattails love phosphorous and can grow out of control and block out the sun while outcompeting the native sawgrass. Spraying herbicides to kill them have a negative effect on the water quality and local wildlife. Of course, any plant given the right conditions, albeit unnatural conditions, can become invasive and will need to be thinned out at times.

Cattails can be used to prevent excess methane emissions in an effort to slow global warming. Currently, scientists are exploring the possibility of using cattails as a biofuel.

Other fun facts – Cattails can be woven into baskets, hats, mats, and beds. The dried seed heads attached to their stalks can be dipped into oil and used as torches. The honey-like substance of the plant near the root has been used as an antiseptic and for toothaches. The roots and cattails themselves can be cooked and turned into a sweet flour that has gluten similar to wheat. The sap in between the leaves is an excellent starch and can be used to thicken stews and soups.

So the next time you see a cattail remember, some may call it a super plant.

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #cattail #aquatiplant

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Southern Hognose Snake

The Southern Hognose Snake, Heterodon simus, is a species often considered non-venomous. They do, however, possess a mild toxin that is considered medically insignificant and harmless to humans (A few people have had allergic reactions to hognose bites). They inhabit areas with sandy soils, sandhills, pine-oak forests, scrubs, agricultural areas, and coastal dunes, from northern to central Florida.

As the smallest of the hognose snakes, they will grow to between 1 and 2 feet. Their eyes are round. Body color runs gray-brown to tan and the tail’s underside is the same color as the body. Their bodies’ back and sides have irregular, dark brown-black blotches which are separated by orange-red blotches running along the spine. The neck has large blotches and the forehead is marked with a dark band which runs from each eye to the corners of the jaw. The snake’s scales have lengthwise ridges. The scales on the tip of the snout are strongly upturned.

The diet of a Southern Hognose snake consists of frogs, toads, and lizards. They have rear fangs which are used to puncture inflated toads and are immune to the poison produced by toads.

When a Southern Hognose snake feels threatened, it may play dead or flatten its neck and hiss. They live underground and are active during the day. However, you will rarely encounter one of these snakes as they have declined in number.

In the summer, females lay 6-14, thin-shelled, leathery, whitish eggs in either sandy soil or logs. The eggs hatch between September and October.

These snakes are of Conservation concern throughout their range. Their decline is due to introduced fire ants, the loss of longleaf pine forest, urban sprawl, and the conversion of habitats to agriculture. The Southern Hognose Snake is listed as vulnerable, and at risk of extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Photo credit: Andy Waldo

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #southernhognosesnake #snake

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Sea Oats

Sea Oats (Uniola paniculata) —

Sea Oats are an important species to coastal sand dunes. The dunes provide housing and food to a variety of wildlife. The Florida beach mouse is an endemic species isolated to coastal dunes. Roseate terns, least terns, loggerheads, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, and Black skimmers rely on dunes for nesting. Piping plovers and southeastern snowy plover spend the winter in Florida where they breed in coastal dunes. American oystercatchers feed on small invertebrates and breed on sand dunes (U.S. Fish and Wildlife).

Reconstruction of coastal dunes is a common method of fighting climate change. In an effort to determine if this approach was offering a benefit to vertebrates, a study was conducted between June 2015 and June 2016 to compare natural coastal dunes and reconstructed coastal dunes. After collecting 2537 photos, 33 species were recorded. Common species overlapped both natural and reconstructed dunes. Differences were a result of rare species that were isolated to one area. Overall, the two types of dunes attracted similar types and numbers of vertebrates (Martin et al 2018).

Sea oats may not be endangered but they are protected under Title XI Chapter 161 Section 242 of Florida Statute due to their ability to stabilize sand in coastal regions and protect coasts from erosion. Can you think of any beautiful spaces with sea oats?

References

Martin, Scott A., Rhett M. Rautsaw, M. Rebecca Bolt, Christopher L. Parkinson, and Richard A. Seigel. 2018. Estimating the response of wildlife communities to coastal dune construction. Vol. 161.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Beach Dune, Coastal Strand and Maritime Hammock. Multi-Species Recovery Plan for South Florida. 3:72-76

Photo credit: Aymee Laurain

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #seaoats #sanddune

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Naples Botanical Gardens

Discover Naples Botanical Gardens located 4 miles from downtown Naples. It is made up of 6 gardens, with a 2.5-mile walking trail as well as dog walks in the park.

The Botanical Gardens are a 90-acre preserve made up of seven unique ecosystems which include mangroves, marshes, and untouched forests. It features native Florida plant life, over 300 exotic plants, and hundreds of animal species.

You can visit tropic and subtropical landscapes of Asia in the Lea Asian Garden. The Brazilian Garden offers the bold display of the indigenous people’s use of plants in the landscape. This Garden features the only original Burle Marx, ceramic mural in the United States. He is considered the father of landscape architecture. The Kapnick Caribbean Garden gives the visitor a view through the natural landscapes islands of the Caribbean. You will encounter diverse landscapes, from mountain tropical forests, dry forests, savannahs, scrubs and different species of cactus. Take your child through the saw palmetto tunnel at the Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden. To a child’s and adult’s delight, they will encounter a world of flowers, vegetables, butterflies, a babbling stream, and tree houses. The Water Garden in the Naples Botanical Gardens is atop the river of grass. It is filled with water lilies, lotuses, and papyrus complete with a boardwalk.

The Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden is the essence of the Florida landscape. Visiting this garden encourages visitors’ connection with the natural elements. This garden features The Great Circle which is formed by a circular planting of sabal palms, Florida’s State Tree. The underplanting is bougainvillea and silver palmetto. In this Great Circle are Florida’s beautiful grasses and wildflowers.

The Naples Botanical Gardens offer something for everyone. Demonstrations, talks, tours, and tastings of tropical fruit plants are experiences not to be missed. You may see a performance on the boardwalk that will definitely leave an impression.

Plan your trip today to explore Naples Botanical Gardens located at 4820 Bayshore Drive, Naples, Florida.

Photo Credit: Alex Clark

#ImagineOurFlorida #IOF #Naplesbotanicalgardens #SaturdaySaunter

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Hanging thief robber fly

The hanging thief robber fly (Diogmites crudelis) is an ambush predator that catches prey by either catching it from the ground or by catching it while on a plant. Once they obtain their food they will use two legs to hang from a leaf or stem and use the rest to maneuver the food as they consume their catch.

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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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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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