p1010589

p1010591

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1150001

Dromogomphus spinosus

Size: 2.1-2.7inches

Seen: May through September

Common along streams and rivers, ponds and lakes.

Male: green thorax, wide black shoulder stripes.  Females have yellow markings. Juveniles are yellow.  Wings are transparent.

This dragonfly was the predominant species on the creek on May 30, 2015.   Two of these alighted on the kayak and hitched a ride downriver.

Source:  Beaton, Giff, Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast.

 

P1140915

Helenium flexuosum

Hebr, Perennial

Native, L48  (predominant in SE US)

Blooming: May, June, yellow

Major identification markers, reddish disk flowers and decurrent (winged) stems.    This is the first time since 2011 we have seen this plant, which is common on this creek, bloom in May.  It will take root in even small areas such as a partially submerged log with some soil.  It seems to prefer sunlight.

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Nerodia fasciata

Non-venomous

Adults average 24-41 inches; the record is 60 inches.  May have black, brown or red crossbands across back, usually bordered with black.  In the older snakes these crossbands may not be a pronounced as the snake darkens with age. Background color may be gray, yellow, tan or reddish.    “Belly is light colored with squarish spots.  Scales are keeled and there are 21-25 dorsal scale rows at midbody. The pupil is round.  A dark stripe extends from the eye to the angle of the jaw.  Juveniles have very clear crossbands (usually black) on pale background.” (Source:  Florida Museum of Natural History, UFL.)

Range:  In Florida, the Panhandle, extending up the coastal plain to North Carolina and west to southwestern Alabama.

Habitat:  Nearly all freshwater habitats, including ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, and marshes.

Though not venomous, “when threatened, the Banded Water Snake will readily bite and exude a foul smelling musk.”

“Active mainly a night, but may be found during the day sunning on banks or vegetation hanging over the water.”

Food: fishes, frogs, salamanders, crayfish and tadpoles.

Mating:  Spring.

Birthing:  bears live young, around 7.5-9.5 inches long in summer.

KatyKa

 

Amblycorypha oblongifolia

Male nymph.

Green is the most common color of this species, but it can also be pink and tan (rare), or dark tan or orange (both very rare).  The color determined by genes and remains constant from birth through adulthood.

 

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Asclepias perennis Walter

Forb/herb, perennial

Native, lower 48

Blooming: May, June

Flower color:  white

Milky sap may be irritant to some people.

Larval host to monarch, queen and soldier butterfly.  Attracts other pollinators. Unlike most other plants, Asclepias has pollinia or pollen sacs which has five slits in each flower.  The base of the pollinia attach to the insects such that the pollen sacs can be pulled free when the insect flies off.  An insect too small to exert sufficient pulling force may be trapped.  Native honey bees are trapped and die in these slits.

Three defensive qualities limit caterpillar damage:  hairs on leaves, cardenolide toxins and latex fluids.

Perennis does not disperse by wind, rather its seed pods burst and is dispersed by water.

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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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Eumorpha fasciatus

Family:  Sphingidae

Adult size:  Wingspan 3 7/16-3 13/16 inches

Habitat:  tropical, subtropical, astral lowlands

Range:  Northern Argentina through Central American; Mexico to southern California and southern Arizona east to Florida; north to Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Nova Scotia

Habits: Adults feed after dark; Caterpillars pupate in shallow chambers in soil

Food:  Adults: nectar; Caterpillars: primrose willow or evening primrose family & other plants

Source:  Butterflies and Moths of North America

This moth alighted on Ed’s arm as we were searching through the rushes for a stem to identify whether that plant was a sedge (it has edges), rush (it is round), or a grass (it has joints).  It would have stayed there longer than the time we had, so we waved it in the air to flight.

 

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Osmunda cinnamomea

forbe/herb, perennial

Native:  Canada, PR, L 48

Frond development: April

Location:  Nick’s Road primitive camp site, along Womack creek

Cinnamon ferns thrive after being burned in managed burns, and may colonize after a fire.  In the everglades, however, ferns growing in areas not subject to burning are thicker than in areas which have been burned.

In southeastern NC, while still young, cinnamon ferns are the second choice to cane, of foraging cattle.  White tailed deer in SE Virginia have been seen grazing on the fronds.  The leaves are not consider palatable to animals.

The area where this stand of ferns was photographed was with 6 months subject to a managed burn.  The photo was taken in mid May, 2014.