Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Florida Song

Florida has adopted more things as official State this and that then any other state. For example as a child in elementary school we sang the Orange Blossom song daily.

I want to wake up in the morning where the orange blossoms grow,

Where the sun comes creepin' into where I'm sleepin',

and the song birds say hello.

I want to wander over yonder, Pick the fruit that's hanging low,

I want to make my home in Florida where the orange blossoms grow.

But surprisingly the orange tree is not the state tree. In the next week I will reveal the name of the currently Official State song, tree and flower. And l'all can see what happens when politics fools with common sense.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'm in Tallahassee, Florida, a Unique Set of Environmental Zones

I'm in Tallahassee, Florida, a Unique Set of Environmental Zones. Though far from the Appalachian Mountains. My county, Leon county named after Ponce de Leon who wintered here his first trip seeking the fountain of youth has a Unique set of Flora and Fauna ( but i don't know much about the latter) scattered between the Apalachicola and the Suwanee rivers. The southern extension of the Appalachian Mountains is known to extend into North Georgia some 400-500 miles north of this area of Florida. Yet there are some unique flora not found anywhere else in Florida in these river basins, estuaries and the land in between. But I believe as do others that though the elevations extend from sea level to only about 350 feet this area is unique

More than 1,500 plant species have been identified within the Apalachicola drainage basin with 107 of them listed as threatened or endangered. Also, the largest stand of tupelo trees in the world is found in the lower Apalachicola River flood plain. A variety of vegetative communities, such as coastal scrub, dunes, pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, marshes, ponds and sloughs are found on the reserve's islands. Vegetation in the salt marshes is made up primarily of black needlerush, smooth cordgrass and saltgrass. Freshwater ponds and marshes are dominated by sawgrass and cattail.

The Apalachicola National Forest is the largest U.S. National Forest in the state of Florida. It contains 564,961 acres. It is the only national forest located in the Panhandle of Florida, extending into the Big Bend region. The Apalachicola National Forest contains two Wilderness Areas, Bradwell Bay and Mudswamp/New River. Integral to the Apalachicola National Forest are a number of special purpose areas: Camel Lake Recreation Area, Fort Gadsden Historical Site, Leon Sinks Geological Area, Silver Lake Recreation Area, and Wright Lake Recreation Area.
The most unique tree is the Florida torreya (Torreya taxifolia) . It is also the most endangered species.That grows only along the banks of the Apalachicola River. It is a mystery tree despite being studied for years. Florida torreya is dioecious. Female flowers are produced in March and April and the ovule develops in a sessile, arillate structure. At the end of the second season, the fertilized ovule forms a single, nearly globose gray-blue fruit 2.5 to 4.1 cm (1.0 to 1.6 in) long, 1.9 to 3.6 cm (0.75 to 1.4 in) wide, which matures as early as August or as late as early November. Staminate cones are also initiated in March and April. These are small, globular-ovate, and bear four pollen sacs on each scale. Torreya taxifolia first produces male and female cones at age 20.

The park is one of the few places in the country where the endangered Few-flowered croomia (Croomia pauciflora) can still be found. Other endangered species in the park include the feathery false lily of the valley, Canadian honewort and bloodroot.

Primary forest types found within the reserve are pine (slash, sand and loblolly); pine and mixed hardwoods (sweetgum, sugarberry, water oak, loblolly pine); mixed hardwoods (water hickory, sweetgum, overcup oak, green ash, and sugarberry); tupelo-cypress with mixed hardwoods (water tupelo, ogeechee tupelo, bald cypress, swamp tupelo, Carolina ash, planer tree); tupelo-cypress (water tupelo, bald cypress, ogeechee tupelo, swamp tupelo); and pioneer (black willow, swamp cottonwood).

I wish I had good pictures of some of these trees particularly the torreya. But the last time i went hunting was before I had digital equipment. I will post some public access pictures and a map if I can find it- or go to www for a series of maps that show how this attempts have been made to save various part of this unique ecosystem. I fully expect more acreage to be added as the State acquires parcels through its endangered lands acquisition program. Part of the above is gleaned from Wikipedia and various State university publications.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

In our area of North Florida there are two very unusual trees that occur naturally–the blue hophornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana ) and the hop hornbeam ( Ostrya virginana). I believe this is the former. They never grow very big maybe 25 feet tall. What distinguishes them is nothing during the Spriing and Summer or at least that is how I view them as just some understory tree. But in the Fall and particular the winter, they are the only understory trees that retain their leaves which hang downward and stay that way. Until one day in the Spring when they drop all the leaves and the new leaves start. i have never been able to catch that day. I’m not a botaanist and ca’t tell them apart except that I thinned my front forest and have two of each as part of creating some diversity. You can tell this is the Deep South because the photo above has a bit of Spanish moss–which is not a moss but I will discuss that some other day. The treesare known for their very strong trunks as “ironwood.” They established themselves quickly when planted out of 3 gallon pots and receive no special care.