Archives for category: Uncategorized

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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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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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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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Arundinaria gigantea
Monocot, Shrub, Perennial
Native, L 48 (23 states)
Blooming: rare, but March to May in Florida
Rhizomatous and reproduces primarily from rhizomes (roots)

Air canals in the roots enables the plants to deal with flooding and continuously moist sites. However, it thrives best under open or light tree cover. In Florida it may be an undercover for loblolly pine, slash pine, sweet gum, willow oak, live or laurel oak, Pond or Bald cypress, tupelo, sweet bay, cabbage palm, Florida Red Maple and hornbeam. These trees can be found in the forests around Womack Creek.

At time of exploration and settlement by Europeans, cane brake was a common shrub in Southeastern U.S. Only about 2% of this area is now covered in cane brake. The National Biological Service considers canebrake ecosystems “critically endangered”.

It provides year round forage for cattle, horses, swine and sheep and was a major forage crop in southeast US. It also supports white-tailed deer, bison and wild turkeys. The thickness of growth provides good dens for bears. Cottonmouths, copperheads and pygymy rattlesnakes are often found in cane brakes because of its population of rodents and other small prey.

Native Americans used the plant to make spears, arrows, blowguns, pipes, flutes, fishing poles and fish traps. Baskets and mats were made from this plant. Probably the young shoots were eaten as a potherb. Since cane propagates better under a managed burn situation, Native Americans were known to burn these areas every 7-10 years.

The following species of butterflies can be seen in switch cane in watery areas: creole pearly eye, southern pearly eye, southern swamp skipper, cobweb little skipper, cane little skipper and yellow little skipper. Of these only the southern pearly eye is listed in Daniels, Butterflies of Florida.

Sources of information: Taylor, Jane E., Fire Effects Information System http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/, USDA Plant Fact Sheet and Atlas of Florida Plants.

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Unfortunately the only specimen we were able to find of this turtle was of this one found dead, 1/2 mile from mouth of Womack Creek.  It’s carapace (shell)  was over 15 inches long.

Family:  Chelydridae

Genus/Species: Macrochelys temminckii

Habitat:  panhandle and in the Big Bend area from the Escambia River east to the Suwanee River.  Persistently aquatic.

On state endangered and threatened list.    Rule 68A-27.005, Florida Administrative code makes it illegal to take, possess, sell this species.  Currently under review for federal listing by US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Physical description:  largest of the freshwater turtles in North America.  Males can lengths to 29 inches and 249 pounds; females 22 inches and 62 pounds.  The species above had a carapace about 15 inches long and was at least 25 inches long — it was missing parts of its tail and head.  Three spines which run the length of its carapace.  Generally gray/brown with black splotches on shell.   Has a long tail.

Diet omnivorous:  plants, fish, frogs,  musk turtles and acorns.

Life history:  courting February-April; nesting late April-middle May in western Florida.  Nests in sandy soils with 65.6 feet from water. (There are scant areas along Womack Creek which have sand and hardly any banks which do are not covered with water during a 24 hour period.) 17-52 eggs in a clutch, one clutch a year. Incubation 100-110 days, hatching about mid-August.  Sex of turtles determined by ambient temperature of the egg (77-80.6F will produce males; 84.2-86F, females.) Maturity at 11-13 years of age.

Predators:  humans and raccoons, wild hogs and red imported fire ants on eggs.

History:  Was caught for food and in the 60’s and 70’s;  over harvesting caused decline in population. Hatchlings were also caught for the pet trade.  Restrictions on catch in the 70’s; currently illegal to catch, possess, sell alligator turtles. Turtles still get caught on bush lines (lines suspended from trees on creek — of which they are few on the lower part of the creek, particularly those set for catfish) and nets.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, R.D. & Patricia P Barlett, Florida’s Turtles, Lizards and Crocodilians, UF Press, 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hydrocotyl verticillata

Forb/Herb; Perennial

Native:  L 48, Hawaii, introduced

Blooming:  May, white

Location:  N 30 00.846 W 084 34.576 (3.8RR), N 30 00.829 W 084 34.395 (?RR)

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Chasmanthium latifolium

Monocot

Perennial, native

Blooming:

Location: N 30 00.105 W084 32.520 (.2RR)

Height: up to 4 feet, but usually shorter

Good groundcover for eroding, shady areas in moist to well-drained soils.  Will not thrive in intense sunlight. Salt tolerant.

Seeds are eaten by birds and rodents.  The leaf is used by Linda’s Roadside Skipper (OK) for eggs.

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Photographed November 10, 2016.

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February 9, 2014

Anhinga anhinga

Family:  darter

The anhinga commonly seen in our waters is one of two Anhinga species found in the US.   In Florida it can be found year round.

Unlike ducks which can waterproof its feathers with oil produced by the uropygial gland, anhinga feathers can become waterlogged, necessitating it to dry its feathers — the characteristic open-spread of wings while perched.  The inability to waterproof its feathers allows it to dive and stay submerged for a longer period of time.

The male anhinga is black with silver/white feathers on its wings.  Females have a buff-tan neck.   During mating season the male’s eyes are encircled in blue.  Mating occurs in February.   Egg laying occurs between spring and early summer in nest 15 feet high on trees along bodies of water.

The anhinga can be differentiated from the similar looking double-crested cormorant by its wider tail and its pointed bill.  The bill of the cormorant is hooked.

P1050350Callicarpa americana L.

Shrub/perennial

Native L 48

Blooming:   white

Location:  Nick’s Road primitive camp site (take-out on RR 3.7 miles north (upriver) from  Womack Creek  campground landing

These seeds were photographed on September 26, 2013.   Blooming times indicated only if we have seen the plant bloom.