Archives for posts with tag: Florida wetlands

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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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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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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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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.

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Nerodia fasciata fasciata

Adult size:  24-42 inches, record 60 inches

Range:  Florida up coastal plains to North Carolina; southwestern Alabama.

Habitat:  Freshwater ponds, streams, rivers and marshes

Habit: Non-venomous.  When threatened excudes musky smell and can bite.  Active mostly at night.

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

Reproduction:  Mate in spring, 7 1/2-9 1/2 inches young in summer.

Source:  Florida Museum of Natural History, UFL

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Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster

Adult size:  28-48 inches, record is 62 inches

Range:  Northern peninsula of  Florida,  Florida panhandle.  In western panhandle interbreed with yellobelly water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster).  Also found in southern Alabama, along the northern coastal plain to Virginia.

Habitat:  rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps and cypress strands.

Habit:  Non-venomous.  In the heat of summer active in early morning, later afternoon and night.

Food:  Fishes and frogs

Reproduction:  Live bearing, 11-30 young 9-11 1/2 inches.

Source: Florida Museum of Natural History, UFL.

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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.