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Tillandsia usneoidea

Perenniel,. forb/herb, vine

Native, L48, PR, VI

Spanish moss is an epiphytic bromeliad, a flowering plant which grows most often on trees.  It is not a parasite (take nutrition away from trees), but rather uses the tree to support its growth.  It has silvery-gray scales which capture water and air-borne nutrients.

The photos here show the 3 petaled flowers on the Spanish moss, which will eventually develop into seed capsules with about 20 seeds.  The capsule when ready will eject the seeds into the air.  Each seed is hairy to allow it to float on winds and secures itself until germination with root like fasteners.  After germination, the moss adheres to the trees by its “branches”.   The flowers have a noticeable scent at night.

The plant itself is used for nests by birds, which also helps in dispersion.  The Seminole bat roosts in clumps of Spanish moss.   Rat snakes may be found in thick stands.  There is a species of jumping spiders (Pelegrina tillandsiae) which is found only on Spanish moss. Common lore cautions against contact with the moss because of chiggers or red bugs.  Use of Spanish moss where skin contact will occur recommends steeping in boiling water or microwaving it.

Its use by native Americans was as fibres for bedding, floor mats and horse “blankets”.  Twisted, they created cordage, which was used to lash poles for housing construction.  It was mixed with clay for plastering the interior of houses and for fired pottery design.  Dried moss was used for fireballs shot with arrows.  It was boiled as a tea for chills and fever.   The moss was also used as menstrual pads.

Contemporary use  includes  packing, decorative, mulch and mattress stuffing.

Air pollution has resulted in diminishing populations in certain cities.

 

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Sambucus nigra

Shrub/tree, perennial

Native:  L 48, Hi, VI

The elderberry is a small shrub or tree not exceeding 20 feet in height which prefers moist locations.

Its flowers have both male and female parts which are fertilized by flies.  All but the flowers and fruit are considered poisonous to animals, containing glycoside sambunigun

Nevertheless the bark, leaves, flowers and fruit have medicinal uses for bronchial and respiratory ailments and infections.  The fruits also have been used to treat other ailments.  Flowers and/or fruits have been made into infusions.  The fruit which turns dark purple when ripe in early fall is edible and earn by warblers, orioles, tanagers, catbirds, thrashers, mocking birds, waxwings.

The tree is a favorite nesting site for hummingbirds, warblers and vireos.

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Dioscorea villosa

Forb/herb; perennial

Native

Blooming:  April, May

The vines are noticeable in the lower part of Womack Creek, competing with other vine plants for sunshine.

The photos are that of a male plant as distinguished by its flowers.

This is not to be confused with the edible yam.  The roots are not fleshy and are narrow & dry.  The root itself contains diosgenin, a phytoestrogen which can be chemically converted to hormone progesterone.  The raw phytoestrogen in the root when consumed in its various forms does not seem to release progesterone — this has to be processed chemically.

Dioscorea villosa has a history of being used medicinally.  It was prescribed by herbalists for menstrual cramps, ostereoporosis, for lessening post-menopausal hot-flashes,  for upset stomach and coughs.

Wild yam natural medication is sold in liquid or powder (as tablets or capsules).  It may be combined with other herbs such as black cohosh which have estrogen-like effects.  As in all natural health products, it should be under supervision of a physician since there are risks when used with pharmaceuticals and for those with certain health problems.

Source:  U of Maryland, Medical Center

 

 

 

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Rainlily bud at 10am, Womack Creek campground landing.

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Rainlily blossom, almost completely eaten by eastern lubbers by 3:30 pm that same day.

Zephyrantes atamasca

Forb/herb. perennial

Native:  lower 48/threatened-FL

Blooming:  April, May

Though a threatened species in Florida, this species is apparently easy to cultivate in home landscapes.  They are spectacular in mass plantings where there is a very large field of them in the Joe Budd Wildlife Management Area along the Little River,  which enters Lake Talquin in Gadsden County,  and smaller areas along Crooked River in Tate’s Hell State Forest from the Ocklockonee west to Rocky Landing Campground/boat landing. The Atamasca lilies on Womack Creek were first noticed blooming this year.

The lower photographs show a rain lily which was a bud at 10am one morning at the Womack Creek landing (put-in).  When photographed again at take-out at the same location, eastern lubber grasshoppers had made a meal of most of the blooming flower.

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Romalea microptera (Romalea guttata)

Size: adult female 50-70mm (2-2.8″), males 43-55mm (1.7-2.2″)

Location: Southeastern US, broad range in low, wet areas in pastures and woods and along ditches.  In north Florida from about March to November.

Food:  broad variety, but prefers broad-leafed plants.  Polyphagous — eats small amounts of a large variety of plants.  In Florida can create problems in citrus groves, vegetable plots and landscape ornamentals.

Life cycle:  One generation per year, with eggs over wintering (this stage can be as long as 8 months), egg laying begins about one month after reaching adult hood, usually the summer months.  Eggs are deposited in soil located in drier areas although adults prefer damp or wet habitats.

Predators:  tachinid fly (Anisia serotina).   Most birds and lizards avoid these insects, except loggerheard shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) will capture them, impale and cache the grasshoppers on barbed wire and return when the toxins have degraded.

Generally the adult is dull yellow color, but in North Florida adults remain black.

The common name describes the walking and crawling behaviour of the grasshopper.  “Lubber” is from an old English word meaning lazy or clumsy.  Novice seamen were called “landlubbers”.

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Lyssomanes viridis

Size:  females 7-8-mm (2.8-3.1 inch), males 6-8mm (2,4-3.1 inch)

Range:  throughout Florida, from spring to early autumn

Habitat:  woodlands, on broad leaf evergreens (e.g. magnolias, bays) and live oak.

Food:  aphids, mites, ants, other plant insects and other jumping spiders

The photo above seems to be that of a female.

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Yucca flaccida (or filamentosa)

Forb/Herb, perennial

Native, L 48, C

The leaves of this variety of yucca is not erect and though often considered Yucca filamentosa, some sources suggest that it might be a species unto itself, flaccida.

It is a member of the Asparagaceae family and the young blossom shoots look like asparagus shoots.

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Egretta Caerulea

Habitat:    Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico.                    Fresh water swamps, marshes; forages by wading in shallow water.

Diet:  Fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles and crustaceans; when water is scarce, grasshoppers and other insects.

Nests:  Nests in colonies, stick nests in shrubs and small trees, 3-5 pale blue-green eggs.

During first year of its life, a young heron will be white and are likely to be seen feeding with snowy egrets.  In this company they are more likely to catch more fish and may be subject to less predatory interest.   Approaching adulthood, the white changes to patchy white-blue until the bird becomes the adult color of blue with tones of purple.

According to the 2016 State of North America’s Birds’ Watch List, the population declined 55% between 1966 and 2015.  Little blue heron is listed 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern List.

P1020571P1020565P1020574Mitchella repens

Forb/Herb, Perennial

Native, L48, C

A small ground cover partridgeberry flowers always comes in pairs, sharing a single calyx.  Each flower in a pair differ:  one has a longer pistil and a shorter stamen, the other a shorter pistil and a longer stamen to prevent self-fertilization.  The berries which are red when mature require that both flowers in a pair must be fertilized.

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Bidens mitis

Forb/herb, annual

Native, L 48

Flower color: yellow

Blooming: February, March

The tick in the common name refers to black seeds in a round ball which have a barb at the end.   This enables the plant to spread by sticking on to feathers, fur or clothes.