The inedible Dioscorea bulbifera or air-potato was introduced as ornament from Asia, writes Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. However, another authority says it was introduced from Africa during the slave trade, although native to Asia. It seems to have found a home in San Luis Park in Leon County. This is about the size of a small tangerine, and is of the yam family. It is depicted as being similar to kudzu in taking over large trees in Florida, and is more and more common. The University of Florids suggests eradication measures be taken.
Flowers of this genus Carphephorus, sometimes known as wild vanilla, are members of the composite family, and six species grow in the Southeast, area, according to Godfrey in Aquatic and Wetland Plants of (the) Southeastern United States (1981, University of Georgia). These flowers were growing off forest road 106 in the Apalachicola National Forest and we caught them in the setting sun.
It was written years ago that tons of leaves of the species odoratissimus were being collected and sold for flavoring smoking tobacco. That's what Duncan and Foote said in the early 1970s in Wildflowers of the Southeastern United States which was one of the first handy guides to wildflowers in this area of the country.
This is species paniculatus, and was growing along with the odoratissimus which has broader leaves at the bottom and pseudoliatris with very narrow leaves. Such flowers grow in pine savannas and flatwoods from North Carolina through Florida's peninsula.
Sipping nectar from a daisy in Liberty County is one of the many species of sulphur butterflies on the Eastern seaboard. There are 300 species worldwide and 37 in North America and Canada, according to Rick Cech in Butterflies of the East Coast: An Observer's Guide (2005, Princeton University Press). Hibridizations are many. A butterfly's feet have chemical receptors that react to sweetness and the proboscis uncoils. Nectar is drawn up by suction created by action of muscles in the head, according to Cech. Only a small part of a butterfly's life is spent as an adult.
Autumn sunsets in the Big Bend area of Florida are distractingly beautiful especially if you are out in the open and away from the power lines.
We were trying out our new Nikon D40x digital while the sun made its exit over the forest near Sumatra.
The camera allows for sepia tones, which accounts for the picture at the top. With the bright background, it was not possible to retain the colors in the foreground. The human eye can do this, but can't focus on the sun for long.
The second sunset was colorized with a change of hues on the computer
It became a sunset for hummingbirds whose attraction for the red colors sends them to the red flowers,
How would an insect or a bird view a sunset, with some limited capacity, perhaps, to see the colors?
While the lake waters are depleted by drought, sunlight brings out shades of yellow in the lotus blossom in Lake Jackson in Leon County in mid-June.
The lake, which used to be one of the premier fishing spots for bass in the country, has suffered from years of low waters, and development has hedged around it. A recent zoning decision by the Leon County Commission, against all expert advice, showed a willful and pathetic ignorance of the natural value of the lake
The yellow lotus, Nelumbo lutea, is the only lotus native to The United States. The starchy tubers were used for food by native Americans. Considered by some a weed, it is endangered in New Jersey, eliminated by development in Delaware, and threatened in other states. Lotuses are linked to the Hindu goddess of prosperity, Laskshmi. Writes an anonymous scholar, "in esoteric Buddhism, the heart of the beings is like an unopened lotus: when the virtues of the Buddha develop therein, the lotus blossoms; that is why the Buddha sits on a lotus bloom."
Also beautifying the lake were the white water lilies Nymphaea odorata which occur in lakes, cypress ponds and coastal pools, writes Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. They float like bright white candles on the water.
This orchid blooms in June on hardwoods in hammocks, sinks and gum swamps, writes Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. It grows in Jefferson County where we tied the camera to a magnolia tree and pointed it toward the flower. We've also seen it in Falling Waters State Park. The light passing though the petals shows the fragility of the plant, which often hides amid resurrection vine. We've spied it on magnolia trees above streams, where a micro climate exists. The orchid is the only arboreal orchid growing north of Central Florida, and it grows in the Southeastern states. The name is now Epidendrum magnoliae. It was once Epidendrum conopseum before the taxonomic change. It is said to give off a sweet scent at night.
Along the St. Marks Bike Trail in Tallahassee one may see a lot of flowers, and some of them are unusual. Common spiderwort, of the family Commelinaceae, is usually blue. This is probably Tradescantia ohiensis which blooms April through November throughout North Florida. The color of a flower is less important than the sum of all of its other parts to botanists. Soil conditions, for instance, might have caused the plant to grow as a white flower. The plant is edible, and we took this seriously and once washed and chopped some in a household blender and made some biscuits out of it. It was sort of a slimy emolient, in our estimation. Well, no one much liked the green biscuits because they were excessively chewey. If one wanted cellulose, however, there would have been nothing finer to munch on. It is said that spiderworts detect radioactivity and were used by Native Americans in a medicinal way.
at St. George
The beach morning glory or Ipomoea imperati is an important part of the dune life on barrier islands. It criss-crosses the dunes and helps to keep them stable, along with such plants as the sea oats. This flower is widespread in the United States, growing as far west as Texas and up to North Carolina on the coast. It has also been found in Pennsylvania.
The plant curls up in the early evening when it has had enough sun. The leathery, shiny leaves reflect the sun, and thus keep the plant from burning in the heat of the day. This flower was growing in abundance on the dunes at St. George Island accompanied by other flowers such as fogfruit and yellow asters.
We went to the beaches to learn about the importance of barrier islands in a class at the which safeguards 247,000 acres and was established as a federal/state partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Florida Department of Enviromental Protection.
Their program of estuarine education is multi-fold and open to the public. It was a great learning experience.
This unusual green flower, penny-size, is a beautiful climbing milkweed threatened in Florida. Alexander Krings of North Carolina State University, a molecular researcher, identifies it as Gonolobus suberosus. Studies have shown it distinct from Matelea, as it was formerly known as Matelea gonocarpus as well as Matelea suberosa. Found in many counties in North Florida in rich woods, it twists through the forest and up tree trunks. Linda Chafin in the Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida also lists the endangered Florida spiny pod or M. floridana with purple-black flowers, Carolina milkvine or M. flavidula wth green or yellow net-veined flowers, M. balwiniana with white flowers, and sandhill spiny pod or M. pubiflora with dull brown-purple flowers. The last is a trailing vine. A photo below by Robin Kennedy is of the rare .
These rare variations grew along US 27 near Attapulgus, Ga., in May 2007, just north of Florida. Passiflora incarnata usually has only three stigma, or female parts. These flowers have four stigma. The arrow points to one of the four stigma and its style, or tube, which goes to the ovary. The stigma, which receives pollen, is on the outward end of the style. The leaves of these and the regular flowers in this patch were were edged in red, the tendrils were red -- quite atypical -- and fruit was ripe two months earlier than in N. Florida. Passiflora Society members say that four styles sometimes occur in incarnata. One grower found four styles from seeds he originally got from Georgia. Variability of flowers is a secret of success where natural selection favors the flower with better reproductive adaptation.
Reaching out for a thistle can be painful if one encounters the spiny bracts first, but there is a lot of beauty to see. Of family Asteraceae, they grow everywhere. This one was aptly named Cirsium horridulum by Michaux whose book with this flower came out in 1803. Thistles attract bees, butterflies and other insects who navigate easily into the flowerhead when it opens like the universe expanding. Horridulum are either yellow or purple.
This grew in a limestone glade in Gadsden County, and it seemed to be thriving. They grow in flatwoods and ruderal areas April through August, according to Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. The thistle is the national emblem of Scotland. The poet Dunbar wrote Thistle and the Rose, about the wedding of Margaret, daughter of Henry VII, to James IV of Scotland. 'Dame Nature' is seen naming the flowers in the fields:
Then called she all flowers that grew in field,
Discerning all their fashions and properties;
Upon the awful Thistle she beheld.
And saw him keeped by a bush of spears;
Considering him so able for the wars,
A radiant crown of rubies she him gave,
And said, 'In field go forth, and fend the lave.'
a bug's eye
Coming in for a landing on a thistle, a katydid may not see what we see. This abstraction of a thistle was accomplished through undisclosed means, but it was the thistle above to begin with.
Those who study insect physiology report that many insect species can distinguish colors. Their compound eyes not only have photopigments sensitive to different frequencies of light, but give them an additional advantage in being able to see behind themselves, something humans cannot do without mirrors.
It is reported that butterflies are able to see colors better than some other insects. Insects can see especially the ultraviolets, greens, and blues. Even a caterpillar can distinguish images.
From a distance, the saprophytic orchid, Hexalectris spicata, is simply a purple spike with flowers the size of a strawberry. Up close, we see the beauty. This flower dapples the woods on rare occastions in Florida.
"Hexalectris" means six cock's combs for the furls in the lip. Spicata means "spiked" for its spiked inflorescence, observes Carlyle Luer in The Native Orchids of Florida.
The red violet lip's fleshy ridges loll forward. In the center "reigns the arching white-winged column with an orange anther." The plant grows from tubers, thick and closely jointed which appear to be food for rodents, writes Luer.
These delicate flowers were seen near Chattahoochee.
On the fringes
The delightful and exquisite "fringed campion" or Silene polypetala can be found both in central Georgia and North Florida in a few sites. This perennial herb is a federally endangered species. It grows in wooded ravines with rich soil, alongside magnolias, tulip trees and beeches. Daniel Ward of UF suggests the correct name of the plant should be Silene catesbaei for Mark Catesby, the pioneering botanist. North Florida replicates the special more northerly conditions under which this and some other flowers, like the mountain laurel, grow. It is found near Chattahoochee, a city along the Apalachicola River known for being in or near one of the nation's botanical hotspots for diversity. The flower, about three inches wide, is of the Caryophyllaceae. Related rarities are the fire pink Silene virginica with red notched petals with only one known location in Florida in Bay County, according to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Silene regia with notchless red petals, and Silene caroliniana with white or pink flowers, in Jackson and Okaloosa counties, respectively.
This flower is called in Latin Lonicera sempervirens and was spreading its colors along the roadsides in North Florida in April and May.
We spotted it in Leon County. It is not an invasive species, as is the Japanese honeysuckle, which tends to take over large areas, and therefore the red honeysuckle is popular as a garden plant.
We do not know the trick of getting the nectar out of this flower, but growing up we used to enjoy pulling the nectar from the Japanese honeysuckle.
It's hard to for us to consider the white flower invasive, but those more knowledgeable are quick to point out its tendencies to take over small areas.
The petals of the red flower open up in many shades of yellow and red, making a rainbow of color for anyone examining it closely. It grows up into the Great Smokies where it is known as the trumpet honeysuckle. It is a climbing vine with paired, oval leaves which are white or whitish beneath, according to Gupton and Swope in Wildflowers of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Indian pinks on the left, or Spigelia marilandica, are mid-spring visitors along the forest footpaths. The deep red and chartreuse flowers stand out like bright crayons. They enjoy shaded areas, and we found these as we walked along a park trail in Gadsden County.
On the right is Pogonia ophioglossoides, pogonia meaning 'bearded.' It is also called the rose pogonia and some call it 'the snakemouth orchid.' It is said that the orchid may have the scent of raspberries. This beautiful terrestrial orchid blooms in mid-spring in the Big Bend of Florida and is found throughout the state. It is related to the ribbon orchid below. Dangling and waiting for prey is the inevitable spider. It was found along Highway 65 in Wakulla County.
This colorful orchid was seen in Wakulla County in early May 2007. There is scarcely a more beautiful welcome for a pollinator, but beware of the spider. Delicately veined in a blend of crimson, green and chartreuse, with sassy sepals, this orchid is related closely to the rose pogonia. It ranges from the Southeast to Texas. Luer writes of "a bluish green color with a fine frosty white coating reminiscent of a plum." Cleistes divaricata is the old name for the larger "spreading pogonia or rosebud orchid." That orchid is now known as Pogonia divaricata. The smaller flower is mostly white, while the larger one is pink, says Gil Nelson in Atlantic Coastal Plain Wildlowers. We think this is the smaller Pogonia bifaria.
This katydid has found a meal in the colic plant that grows profusely along Highway 65 in Liberty County. It was captured in our flash on slide film. How well the insect can climb is evident from the hooks on the end of its forelimbs. The rotating antennae and the small wings for guidance make the member of the grasshopper family as truly efficient a plant predator as can be imagined. There are some 6,800 species of katydids known, and probably many more undiscovered. Only 255 live in North America. Some feed only on leaves and such, which others are predatory on their fellow insects, snails, or even snakes or lizards, say our sources. It is of the family Tettigoniidae and these are more closely related to crickets than grasshoppers.
to the woods
This is the lady lupine, or Lupinus villosus, a member of the pea family. This silky-leafed species grows nicely in scrub and sandy soil, and provides great food for caterpillars. It is common in the Southeast, but is always a pleasant surprise to see. The lupine is the state flower of Texas, and the species known as buffalo clover sprouts oceans of blue. It is also known as the Texas bluebonnet. The Florida species pictured here shares the characteristic flowers in terminal racemes with a two-lipped calyx and erect standard. There are characteristically 10 stamens with alternately long and short anthers. There are 150 species of lupines described for North America, according to the popular Wildflowers of North America: A Guide to Field Identification by Golden field guides. We used a Vivitar 19 mm wide angle lens on our Nikon FE to capture this plant growing along a forest road.
This is the colorful flower of the Liriodendron tulipifera, the American Tulip Tree, which ranges from the mountains to central Florida and can grow more than 100 feet high. It is said that a specimen, 450 years old, is the oldest living thing in New York City. The flower is a plentiful source of nectar from which bees produce a dark reddish honey. The tree, which is mistaken for a poplar, is noted for its soft timber. This magnificent flower fell to earth in the middle of a stream in Gadsden County. The blunt leaves are an easy identifier for this tree.
is one of a kind
Why and how this flower has survived over millions of years in such small numbers is one of the secrets that nature keeps. It's the only species in its genus.
Harperocallis flava can be found along Highway 65 in Liberty County and a few other places. It is threatened and endangered, with perhaps only a few thousand of these flowers in existence.
Discovered in 1965, this member of the lily family grows in wet prairies and roadside ditches. Spring mowing practices along the road are monitored to protect the plant.
Agencies are working together to try not to destroy the plant's chances to reproduce. It is a rhizomatous, perennial herb and grows from 5 to 21 centimeters tall, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It flowers in May with one flower per stalk and is leafless except for tiny bracts, writes Linda Chafin in the valuable Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida printed by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory.
Field of pink sparkles on
Coreopsis nudata or swamp coreopsis is the tall beauty in the Wilma savanna in the Apalachicola National Forest.
Swaying in the breeze, these flowers paused to allow a picture with an old but reliable Contax SLR with a 24 mm Sigma lens on it that has a close focus. The film was Fuji slide film, which normally intensifies the natural colors.
Stopping the lens down, we were able to get some good depth of field.
It's pleasant to be out on the quiet savannas. There is a song sung by the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.
"I could while away the hours,
Conferrin' with the flowers,
Consultin' with the rain."
on the brink
Two treasures are the orchid Platanthera flava, left, which is seldom seen and was found and photographed at Wakulla Springs by Virginia Dell Craig, a member of the Magnolia Chapter of the Native Plant Society. She also found the extremely rare and U.S. engandered species Spigelia gentianoides, or pinkroot, at right. The delicate white flower with pink highlights is cousin to the red and yellow Indian pinks that color the forests in May. This flower, less than a foot high, grows in Three Rivers State Park, two miles north of Sneads. The spigelia is a member of a family with powerful medicinal properties. This plant produces a powerful toxin, but is yet to be tested for medicinal properties, according to the Center for Plant Conservation http://www.centerforplant
conservation.org/ The flava, left, can be found in the Southern U.S., according to Luer in The Orchids of Florida.
Both of these beautiful and rare-for-Florida springtime plants boast purplish filaments and were blooming in late April near each other in sloping forests near Chattahoochee.
The cucumber-root at left
or Mediola virginiana, herbacious, has two whorls of leaves with a greenis hyellow flower held beneath the leaves at the top whorl. It grows from one to three feet high. It was taken with flash beneath on slide film in daylight. The tuber of this plant is "crisp, wax-looking and cucumber-flavored" says Peterson's Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. The blue berries are not edible. The silky camelia at right, or Stewartia malacodendron, is a shrub or small tree, growing sometimes to about six meters, says Gil Nelson in The Trees of Florida. It is rare in Florida and grows on the slopes of ravines. The mass of royal purple filaments and creamy flowers give the tree a distinguished look. At first sight, it looks like the dogwood, but the flowers have purple rather than green centerparts. This is the first time we have seen either plant, and this made our day.
This fancy-looking endangered vine, much enlarged, Matelea flavidula, is found in limited numbers in North Florida. These flowers are actually only a little wider than your finger, they grew on their vine in a stream bottom/edge.
Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle writes that the plant gows on bluffs in Gadsden County and blooms in July. Alexander Krings at North Carolina State University says this flower has a well-developed gynostegial corona and its corolla lobes are plane, not wavy, differentiating it from Matelea alabamensis.
Robin Kennedy took the picture with a Nikon digital SLR, accompanied by other members of the Magnolia Chapter of the Native Plant Society. It was growing in a mixed pine/hardwood forest that had been logged several years ago. The ground cover was predominantly grass, and other neighboring plants were Indian Pink, buckeye, dogwood, Robin reports.
laurel is a
One of the treats of springtime is the mountain laurel in March through April from Escambia County to Leon County on bluffs and in creek swamps. Considered rare in Florida, some of the evergreen plants grow as high as 10 feet. Their branches are full of blossoms. The mountain laurel has a hidden trick. The anthers are set in pockets and spring loose to dust visiting pollinators that go after the nectar, thus propagating the species. It has a high drought tolerance, which puts it in good stead in the current drought in 2007 in Florida. We did not need to go far to find this flower, which was blooming in thousands at the Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee. It is a native American plant first recorded in 1624, named after Pehr Kalm who sent a sample to Linnaeus many years later. It is said that native Americans made spoons out of the wood, and there were other uses for it.
Stachys floridana, a member of the mint family. has a long list of purported uses as an herbal remedy. It is said the roots are edible in salads, but don't take our word for it. Betony was a remedy "for all maladies of the head including hysteria." Worn as a necklace, the plant wards off evil spirits, ancient writers believed, according to our sources at botanical.com. A physician of the Roman emperor Augustus said it cured 47 diseases and dispelled evil -- as well as protected the wearer from "visions and dreams." This, at purplesage.org.uk. The flower is a weed to many people. It provides a nice landing place for insects. Hundreds of plants were growing in moist soil near Lake Hall at Maclay Gardens. It is found on disturbed or ruderal ground throughout Leon and other counties. Gil Nelson in East Gulf Coasal Plain Wildflowers writes that the related Stachys crenata is critically imperiled in Florida.
in the key
No flower as appeals to our senses as does the golden azalea. We breathe deeply and they are more fragrant than honeysuckle. We sit beneath the azalea branches on a hill above the small rippling stream at the Angus Gholson Nature Park. Perhaps it is possible to live up to the challenge of John Muir who wrote - "'Most people are on the world, not in it -- having no conscious sympathy of relationship to anything about them- undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.' Nature furnishes the opportunity for everyone. Florida flame azaleas are found from Escambia to Leon County, although we haven't heard of them growing wild in Leon County since 'progress' took over. Native Nurseries in Tallahassee is a great place to look for wild flowers, including Rhododenron austrinum.
Rhododendron alabamense or the Alabama azalea, is identified by the lemon-yellow petal at the top, differentiating it from the similar pinkster flowers. Many people in the the region just call wild azaleas "wild honeysuckle." This species grows in hammocks in Leon and Jefferson Counties in April, writes Clewell. It may also be found as far north as Tennessee and west into Mississippi. First described in 1883, the flower is said to have a lemony scent, and we did note that it shared the distinctive flavor of several of the other members of its family. It takes an insect to tell the difference. We found these flowers in abundance at Maclay Gardens. We are eager to find them growing outside of a garden.
recalls a tale
of fated love
It's a small flower steeped in legend and tradition. Medieval legend tells that a knight and his lady strolled by the water. He picked a posy of flowers, but because of his heavy armour he fell into the river. As he was drowning, he tossed the posy to his beloved, shouting "Forget-me-not!" The flower is also worn in memory of those killed in wars, and as a sign of faithfulness. It is said to have a Christian religious connection also. Myosotis macrosperma is a member of the Boraginaciae with 100 genera and 2000 species, 19 indigenous to the United States, writes Lawrence in Taxonymy of Vascular Plants. Myosotis is cultivated for ornament. This plant was thriving in Gadsden County in March in forest shade and is common in the eastern U.S. It is relished by caterpillars.
Usually smilax is a pest with sharp thorns and tendrils, but Smilax ecirrhata (at left) greenbrier or upright carrion flower is an exception. This plant is a widespread member of the lily family, but was not in bloom. The fern is Phegopteris hexagonoptera or 'broad beech fern.' Fronds are up to two feet long. These ferns are widespread, growing as far north as Canada. One ignores the forest floor at peril of losing sight of its richness. Each plant contributes to the forest. The famed French botanist and brave adventurer found the fern on his journey to America to find trees to replenish France's forests. He explored Spanish Florida in a dugout canoe. A friend of William Bartram, he could find plants that Bartram overlooked, to Bartram's amazement.
They seemed to be talking away on a road near the Arvah Hopkins Power Plant in Tallahassee. Strewn through the hair of a tree, these flowers on a vine were decked out for church and full of the latest news. Turns out the crossvine or Bignonia capreolata likes the floodplains and hammocks and will bloom from March through April. Its corolla is yellow-orange to red, described by Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle. This native vine is widespread. It's terminal leaflet is modified into a tendril.
The stem is separated into four equal longitudinal segments which can be seen as a cross section, according to Richard D. Porcher in Wildflowers of the Carolina Lowcountry which is an excellent supplementary book for Florida.
While they weren't growing in a floodplain, they were along a ditch and a stream that appeared to be taking water from the power plant. It was a good place for them, and they were prospering. The related trumpet vine or Campsis radicans will appear in floodplains and disturbed areas later, and the Catalpa bignonioides will also flower.
This rare Viola hastata was prospering in solitary splendor near a remote creek in Gadsden County, amid trilliums and other spring flowers. In Florida, the flower is known only in Gadsden County, according to Daniel Ward in Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida.
This flower is considered endangered. It is the only violet in Florida with a yellow flower, according to Ward. It is known also as the halberd-leaved yellow violet. It was found along the Flat Creek area near Chattahoochee, amid lance leaved trillium and other uncommon species. It was photographed with a Nikon FE using Fuji Velvia 100. We digitized on a Coolscan V at 130 million pixels before being reduced to 72 dpi. The flower, which usually blooms in April, is apparently blooming several weeks early, not unlike many plants adapting to what scientists say are global warming changes.
Pushing up through the leafy debris the purple violets sing a song of rebirth and renewal, a gaudy camouflage over the decay of the year gone by, whether in meadow or graveyard or our front lawns. They are buttons on the earth's overcoat, We see an abundance of violets this spring, all marked with a fancy landing path for insects that will carry the pollen from one violet to another. No larger than a nickel, this violet dwarfs the small plant to the left which grows under the protection of the leaf. This particular violet was growing somewhere in Jefferson County at the Letchworth Indian Mounds park, and we suspect the violets were growing when the native Americans lived there from 200 to 800 A.D.
its own meals
without the sun
Spring coral root, or Corallorhiza wisteriana, is a native perennial orchid that can be found in almost every state of the union, but it is little seen because it is often hidden away in the shade. A saprophyte, not a parasite, it depends on mychorrizal fungi in its roots to help it produce nutrients. Vast network of fungi underlie the soils upon which the plant grows. Its flower is smaller than a dime, and glistens in the sun. Purple dots adorn its lip. The flower was discovered by the American botanist Charles J. Wister and was named in 1833 by Rafinesque. It blooms in rich mixed hardwood forests and usually near trunks of trees, in bunches. Whether the underground rhizomes bloom every year may be a function of how much water was available over winter. This coral root grew along Thomasville Road in Leon County, Florida, off a a side road in a wooded lot.
'Cherokee rose' grew where
This rose with pure white petals grows along The Trail of Tears from Florida to Oklahoma, says Indian Legend, and sprang forth from the tears of mothers who could not help their children.
It was a sign the elders prayed for, and gave the mothers hope. The center, a cluster of yellow stamens, represents the gold taken from Cherokee lands, says the Cherokee Messenger on the Internet. It drapes the trees along roadsides in springtime Leon County. We climbed through a briar patch right off Monroe Street, a couple of miles north of the Capitol. Scratched up, but delighted to get the picture. Georgia has deigned it the state flower there. Rosa laevigata originated in China and Taiwan, and was brought to the U.S. about 1780, where it thrived in the Southeastern U.S. , although it is reported that early explorers saw it in Indian villages.
The Angus Gholson Nature Park is an incredible place to enjoy the early spring flowers, and these include colonies of trout lilies which spring up with their mottled leaves the colors of the brook trout. Considered endangered in Florida, they bloom about the same time as the trilliums. This flower is also at River Bluff Park on Highway 20. along a ravine leading to Lake Talquin.
Erythronium umbilicatum grows as far north as Canada. A member of the lily family, it has three petals and three sepals that look like petals. Picture was taken with Fuji Sensia 100 slide film and Nikon FE2 wih 50mm 2.8 macro lens. Digitized at 130 million pixels and reduced to 72 dpi in Adobe Photoshop on our Mac G5. We have not yet run out of slide film, but occasionally look out over the new digital cameras that are coming out
Cat and mouse,
frog and lizard,
owl and pussycat
There are some noted pairs in the literature of nature and of poetry. In real life, Darwin wrote of cooperative behavior among animals. Some of this is evident in the warning calls that some animals give when predators are near.
When Gerald and Christl Grow went out to look at a table on their deck, they found that something had waddled through "a mist of pine pollen" and left suspicious tracks.
Detective work revealed that a tree frog and a lizard had found a comfortable perch in the pocket of their patio umbrella. They share the warmth, however humble the abode. At the same time, they probably keep an eye out for scrumptious insects that may pass by unsuspecting beneath the canvas. Whatever the reason, the behavior appears to be of mutual benefit for the parties involved.
Photographs by Gerald Grow.
Two North Florida Counties, and probably others, play host to the delicate and threatened twayblade orchids, so small that they are easily overlooked.
These, of course, are some of Florida's terrestrial orchids.
Left was photographed in Gadsden County near Chattahoochee in early March; right was contributed by Gerald Grow, author of Florida Parks.
He found it growing in February in Jefferson County. Both flowers grew amid fallen leaves where the soil is rich. Listera australis blooms from January to July, writes Carlyle Luer in The Native Orchids of Florida. He writes that its "secretive habits" and "tiny stature" make it rarely seen by people.
This early flower, with three leaves and bracts, can be found on the bluffs in Gadsden County in February and March. It was growing amid the atamasco lilies near the Angus Gholson Chattahoochee Nature Park. Its full name is Trillium lancifolium and it is considered threatened in Florida according to Andre Clewell's Guide to the Vascular Plants of The Florida Panhandle, an essential book for anyone who has a strong interest in things botanical in North Florida.
It is accompanied by large groups of Trillium underwoodii, whose rounder leaves are also considered choice nibbles for animals and insects. Normally, the underwoodii bloom in late January or early February, to be followed by the lancifolium.
Peterson Field Guides say that trilliums are edible in salads, but we will have to warn you that you can be arrested for taking them out of their natural habitat for those or other purposes.
its way along
"Slime" is actually neither a plant nor an animal, and is the least studied of the five kingdoms of living things - plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, and slime. Scientists know it is not a fungus, and that it eats bacteria and other forms of slime. It seems to be from an alien world, and, indeed, inspired the old horror thriller "The Blob" which came out in 1958 starring Steve McQueen.
This Gadsden County slime is some of the likeliest slime we have ever seen.
Coming in hot pinks, oranges and yellows, slime oozes its way across vegetation. It was dripping its way down to the ground. Slime molds are called "myxomycetes" in the Kingdom Protoctista. Slime shows intelligence, and chopped up, seeks its other parts and then go looking for food. For more on this, please go to http://www.smithson
Fern was in
The "resurrection fern" enjoys a niche on the limbs of oak and cypress trees throughout the South. It is crinkled and brown when there has been no rain, but springs to life in the dews and damps. Here, a frond of Polypodium polypodioides, perhaps six inches long, catches the rays of the evening sun at the Lee Vause Park in Leon County. It can survive for many years without water. At the suggestion of a science class, it was taken on the space shuttle where it bloomed aboard the craft.
It is an epiphyte and gets nutrition from the air and rain and from bark. You can see the sori or clusters of spores. Spores will float in the air and attach to other trees, including dead trees. Great clusters of these ferns drape entire limbs.
'Love Bug' Problem
Shaking out this pitcher plant Sarracenia lutea in a bog near Hosford, one found it had devoured a
nice handful of love bugs, those pestiferous insects that have become motorists' nightmare in Florida.
Plecia nearctica blind drivers by spattering windshields, cause mechanical problems by clogging radiators, and pit the finish on cars unless they are washed off.
They swarm in April and May, and August and September. Among natural enemies are birds and some insect larvae. If the roadsides in the state were planted with carnivorous pitcher plants, the sum of happiness might increase for motorists and the plants. Whatever attracts the bugs to the pitcher plants ought to be investigated.
Sprouting on the winter
shores of Lake Jackson
in Leon County, this oddly-shaped fungus
is a species of Clathrus.
The mushroom guides tell us it is probably Clathrus columnatus, known as a "stinkhorn." It has a very powerful smell, somewhat like cow manure, which
attracts flies and other
This fungus is common
in the Gulf Coastal region.
It was the only bit of color springing up from the ground along the lake,
which is resuscitating from many months of water depletion. It used to be one of the best bass fishing
lakes in Florida.
Development has sprung up around it, and pollution has taken its toll.
The plant was about 4 or 5 inches high, and "edibility is not officially known," but it is hard to say who will hold a fork to it.
There is no good way to die, but it has been said that the most fortunate in death are caught doing what they love best. As if frozen by the camera, this bee or bee fly is perched on the petal of a purple lobelia, gathering that last bit of nectar for the day's rounds, somewhere out in Liberty County. When we became suspicious, we brushed it off, and it fell to the ground, mummified. Perhaps it had been caught by a spider and poisoned, or maybe it had reached old age, which can't be long for most insects. Well, the cold weather is coming and the eternal timekeeper has put out the warning signs for all creatures, great and small.
The Fly Amanita is also known as the American fly agaric, or more popularly -- the classic fairy toadstool. As we drove along the road to Bristol from Sumatra, we saw it was thriving along the roadside. These mushrooms are sizeable, and one often sees a group of them. These were shaded by large trees, and scattered around were others that had spread their caps.
The mushroom springs up in several shades of orange and its cap, when spread full, is wider than an observer's hand. Noted by the scales on its cap, and pale flesh, the mushroom is known from Alaska to Florida to Siberia.
We found that this mushroom has no detectible smell, and we learned that it is poisonous. Its Latin name is Amanita muscaria.
A rule is never to eat any mushroom until it is identified as safe to eat by a mushroom expert.
Two good beginner's books for Mushrooms are the Eyewitness Handbooks Mushrooms by Laessoe and Lincoff by DK Publishing
and the Simon and Schuster's Guide to Mushrooms, edited by Lincoff.
It is a delight to see this freckled, splashy, handsome flower in the woods and roadsides.
The Agalinus (spp) or false foxglove comes along at the end of the year. There are many species in our area, all of them a delightful pink or popsicle purple. This flower has been considered a member of the Scrophulariaceae or figwort family.
The true foxglove is also a member of this family, which includes snapdragons, speedwells, beardtongues, monkey flowers. coral plant and wishbone flowers, among others.
Most of them are garden ornamentals. Probably the most noted of the species is that of the drug plant Digitalis which comes from the true foxgloves.
Lawrence in Taxonomy of Vascular Plants says there are 210 genera and almost 3,000 species in the family.
Gil Nelson in East Gulf Coastal Plain Wildflowers says there are 20 species in our area, and because some are parasitic, they have been reclassified into the broomrape family.
Biglowia (spp) basks in sunlight near Sumatra, Fla., south of Hosford, on a forest highway.
This flower prospers in wet meadows and along ponds and ditches and is found along the Gulf and East coasts up to the Carolinas.
This species is most probably Biglowia nudata, which is known as rayless goldenrod. The setting sun causes the lens of the camera to bring a cascade of reflective light bubbles down from the sky.
We used our new standby Fuji Velvia 100 slide film, that now has supplanted the old Velvia 50 speed film. The picture was taken with a Nikon FE2 set on automatic, using a short macro lens, and the slide was digitized using a Nikon Coolscan V.
The amount of glass in the Nikon 2.8 macro probably helped cause the reflection that is seen in the picture. But shooting into the sun with any camera sometimes does bring some strange effects.
North Florida is enjoying its autumn of butterflies. This skipper extends its proboscis and is sipping nectar from Sagittaria latifolia, the duck potato, wapato or common arrowhead. When not in use, the proboscis is coiled up and not easy to see.
These plants are prolific along the roads in St. Marks in Wakulla County. Godfrey and Wooten in Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southeastern United States count 13 species of Sagittaria in the Southeastern wetlands.
The plant with starchy tubers can become invasive in our swampy areas. This plant has a three-petaled white flower . According to Peterson in Edible Wild Plants, the butterflies are not the only creatures that can enjoy this plant. The potato-like tubers "are delicious when cooked" and can be eaten just like potatoes.
With separate male and female flowers, this appears female, as illustrated in Godfrey. Foster and Duke in the Peterson Medicinal Plant book write that Indians used tuber tea for indigestion and poulticed wounds with the tubers, and also used leaf tea for rheumatism.
The lavish night-blooming Cereus comes into flower for one brief night a year. A tropical cactus flower, it climbs upwards into trees in South Florida, and is also a popular garden flower. It has been called the most beautiful flower in the world. The cereus has a perfume as pungent and perhaps as pleasant as jasmine. It's a flower that can grow more than a foot wide. Usually one may see many blooms on this cactus, but each one lasts only until the morning hours. The next night, others bloom. Vicki Cole, of Tallahassee, an enthusiastic gardener, brought her outstanding cereus cactus to our attention. We illuminated the flower with battery lanterns and used Fuji slide film. Another excellent view of a cereus can be seen on Harry Levin's flower page.
The question of how insects might look at a flower is always puzzling, but it is known that color plays a role.
We're purists about flowers, but there are days when imagination takes us to some other places. What if every tinge and shade of one color became another color? We recall Dan Ackroyd's great line from the first Ghostbuster movie. Total protonic reversal!
Doused with color through a set of computer algorithms and then placed into Photoshop for more cosmetics, the night-blooming cereus eventually becomes the Scarlett O'Hara of the garden.
"A species of passion flower is common, reaching back into
Tennessee. It is here called 'apricot vine, has a superb
flower, and the most delicious fruit I have ever eaten."
-John Muir, environmentalist, walked along the Savannah River in 1867.
A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (First Mariner Books, 1998)
The discovery by the Spanish of a 'marvelously stupendous' flower in the New World was met with disbelief by the Church, but it was soon adopted to represent the Crucifixion. Each part of the flower was seen as vital to the story and used to convert the Indians of South America, where the sweet fruit of the grenadilla is now part of the economy. The tasty fruit of our Passiflora incarnata, growing in a field in Leon County, is about the size of a lemon, but those in Latin America can be as large as a football.
Incarnata is one of 500 species. A must-buy is the beautifully illustrated Passon Flowers by John Vanderplank, MIT Press.
See a marvelous site at
The petite wild yellow passion flower blooms in Tallahassee in mid-July, a few weeks later than its larger relative.
Enlarged here (it is about an inch wide), the Passiflora lutea was growing in a tangle of smilax and grape vines in northeast Tallahassee.
The vines were fruiting, but not yet mature. The fruit, an achene, is about the size of a small blackberry. Nearby, between about 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., bloomed two beautiful purple incarnata. They had not been there in the morning.
The lutea prospers from Pennsylvania to Illinois and Kansas, and south to Texas and Florida, writes John Vanderplank. It is one of he hardiest passion flowers and the northernmost of all species of passionflower.
Not useful as an ornamental, it is "an excellent candidate for hybridization" according to Vanderplank. It could give its cold tolerance to the new flower.
The lutea grows in at least 20 counties north of Kissimmee, says USF's Institute for Systematic Botany. The leaves are three-lobed and rounded. The three excellent close-ups were taken by Robin Kennedy using a Nikon D100 digital camera, and the top right in a setting is by M. Abrams. Click on any of these for a larger picture.
for the flower
brings the bee
These bees are sometimes seen on leaves, grooming and trying to brush pollen away, The carpenter bee does the work of the missing honey bee. They are solitary bees, and do not produce honey. Only the female stings if her nest is disturbed. These bees will mostly avoid a flower with another bee of its species who got there first. But we have seen a very large bee take over a flower and the smaller one take a hint.
The graceful spider-lily is a member of the Amaryllis family. Its fragile translucent membrane stretches to form a hexagonal corona from which spring six fancy gold-tipped anthers and a longer green style.
The lily thrives in wetlands and meadows. The number of species of Hymenocallis is confusing, but three species had been described in the Panhandle up to 1985, Eminent botanist Robert K. Godfrey spoke of taxonomic confusion among experts, but is pictured standing amid a species named for him.
Author Gil Nelson reports seven species in the Gulf area, but cites "many synonyms and imprecise names."
Richard Porcher, in Wildflowers of the Carolina Low Country, sees "confusion in the literature." This flower, nevertheless, prospers on the James Gadsden Highway near Sumatra in Liberty County.
lily was not
Photographed along a rural
road near Quincy in Gadsden County, these flowers are called 'hurricane lilies' by the local people, says botanist Loran Anderson. Their pungent sweet fragrance attracts many insects. An exotic species of Crinum, this plant gets naturalized from Florida to Texas.
It originated in tropical Asia. The species is C. zeylanicum, also known as the "milk and wine" lily.
In bunches like the amaryllis, they are beautiful to see and a surprise for anyone who comes across them in the wild. Now, we know of at least two species of flowers called "hurricane lilies." The year 2006 was not prophetic for the hurricane lilies.
Sunset paints lady's tresses
with a glow
Twisting and turning in a spiral of small white flowers, Spiranthes orchids grow throughout the northern hemisphere in temperate zones. One may even be growing in your yard, and you may have mistaken it for a weed.
Usually growing a little more than a foot high in North Florida, these land-bound orchids share the characteristics of one of the world's largest families of flowers. Spiranthes is Greek - "spira" meaning coiled, and "anthes" meaning flower. Carlysle A. Luer's The Native Orchids of Florida has many beautiful pictures of the species of these flowers.
Luer cites Darwin as explaining how the flowers procreate. The flowers open first at the bottom of the spike, and insects work their way upward. A bee collects nectar at the bottom and becomes laden with pollen as he progresses along the immature flowers to the top. At the visit to the next spike, the bee deposits the pollen on the bottom mature flowers, and works his way up, collecting more pollen for the next spike.
Flaming red and yellow flowers were growing along a lake east of Tallahassee. The escaped gladiolus reverts to its original colors in the wild, according to Loran Anderson, FSU botanist emeritus.
The gladiolus originated in Southern Africa and is one of the most widely used ornamentals. The name gladiolus comes from Latin meaning "sword" because of its long stem. Say florists, gladiolas tell the receiver that "he or she pierces the the heart." These are close to the Florida State University team colors, garnet and gold. Flowers once placed in gardens are always ready to escape. It is well to keep in mind that all flowers were once wildflowers.
a home in
Hidden in the white topped pitcher plant, Sarracenia leucophylla, were two moths, safe from everything except a photographer. This carnivorous plant, which drowns and then dissolves its prey, also serves as a home and a refuge for insects smart enough to figure a way to cling to its slippery sides without falling into the digestive juices.
One of the moths flew out, and posed on the ground for an instant, before flying away in a series of zig-zags which made it impossible to follow through the air to its new destination.
Tom Miller, a professor at FSU who studies these plants, says the moth is probably an Exyra moth. This would also explain the bent leaf, writes Miller.
"The larva of this species "skeletonize" pitcher plant leaves, which often results in a rather misshapen leaf." he writes. "It is sometimes even called the pitcher plant moth. Only larva hurt pitcher plant leaves -- the adults seem to just hang out in leaves."
Prof. Miller finds adults down the throat of Sarracenia flava, although they are perhaps best known for attacking Sarracenia purpurea. He points out there is also a picture of this moth at
-- which, we add, is a page at Billy Boothe's incredible nature site. Thanks, Prof. Miller
in the bog
A solitary katydid nymph
finds a perch on the blossoms of Dionaea muscipula, the Venus flytrap, transplanted years ago from coastal Carolina to a bog in Liberty County, where it grows in profusion.
This bug posed for a
few pictures. While we
don't want to attribute human characteristics to insects (though Spiderman and The Fly allow insect and spider characteristics to be attributed to humans) we must say that this katydid does look a bit disturbed about being photographed.This is a meadow katydid (that is, a small nymph of a species of the subfamily Conocephalinae) according to University of Florida entomolotist Thomas J. Walker.
Meanwhile, the plants have survived. New pollinators have apparently arisen to insure the flytrap's success
in Florida. Insect pollinators include the leaf beetle below identified by UF entomologist Lyle Buss as a member of the family Chrysomelidae.
This species of beetle
could be seen on many of the flowers. Dusted with pollen, it is certainly of benefit to the plant.
Insects must tread carefully, as it must be observed that one tumble from the petal can result in a cataclysmic death. The leaves of the plant close in upon the the spider or ant, and don't open until the creature has been digested.
We have a movie on this website showing how the plant traps insects. The insects provide the nitrogen missing from the acid soil in which these carnivorous plants thrive. They inhabit a peculiar niche. How they evolved over eons to depend upon trapping and devouring insects is a question that we have not yet seen answered.
The customary cloak of scarlet of Rudbeckia graminifolia takes on a new look through the magic of computer algorithms. Who is to say what this flower would look like to an insect? Rudbeckia grows along roadsides of The James Gadsden Highway in Liberty County and throughout the Apalachicola National forest from spring to summer. It is robed in royalty and is a gem of the woods. Click on the real picture to enlarge.
The meadow beauty proclaims its presence as eight golden anthers wait to brush a pollinator, usually a bumblebee, Such a bee vibrates the pollen from the anther. Ten species of Rhexia bloom in North Florida in spring and summer, colors ranging from white to pale pink to rose purple -- and also yellow.
Leaves and tubers of at least one species, Rhexia virginica, can be used in salads and for nibbling, writes Lee Allen Peterson in Edible Wild Plants. The ovary is shaped like a pitcher and when the flower fades away, what is left looks like a little red jug.
This flower is probably Rhexia alifanus so named after a town in Italy distinguished for its jugs, writes Gil Nelson in East Gulf Coastal Plain Wildflowers.
"Progress" and development in Florida have endangered the Listera australis or Southern twayblade, shown here with stunning clarity. Patricia Stampe and Robin Kennedy found this orchid blooming at the Marianna Caverns "in a leaf littery kind of area," he writes. "They are almost impossible to see unless you know where they are. It was afternoon on a sunny day. There is black cloth in the background for the closeups to make the flower stand out from the leaf litter." A Nikon digital camera was used. Patricia took the picture to the far left.
The ashe magnolia with flowers the size of a dinner plate, prefers the rich hardwoods and dry ground. The tree or bush grows up to 30 feet tall, writes Linda Chafin in her Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Florida. It thrives in the wild in North Florida in ravines and on slopes, in the understory.
The ashe is endemic to the Florida Panhandle, blooming several weeks before the Southern magnolia. Splashed with purple, the plant has a fragrant smell. Magnolias are primitive plants with fossil remains of 58 million years ago having been discovered. The University of Florida IFAS says magnolia flowers are primarily pollinated by beetles of the Nitidulidae family because magnolias evolved long before bees and other flying pollinators.
A sugary substance subs for nectar. This plant was doing well in the garden at the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science -- the old "junior museum." It is found in about 90 sites in Florida, writes Chafin. Magnolias were named for Pierre Magnol, a French botanist.
Is it original
'Fleur de Lis'?
The invasive Iris pseudacorus or yellow flag, the only yellow iris in the United States, thrives and outcompetes wetland plants. Spring sunset lights up a flecked golden sepal at the pond at San Luis Park in Tallahassee.
And what a story there is behind this yellow flower.
The plant originated in Britain and a heraldry website says the yellow iris
Hay and Synge in The Color Dictionary of Flowers and Plants with imprimature of the Royal Horticultural Society agree.
How coincidental that it was blooming at the time of the large Napoleon exhibit at the Gray Museum in Tallahassee!
This beautiful flower was has proven quite useful in that it absorbs metals from waste waters and is planted around holding ponds. However, its invasive properties pose a danger, experts write.
Florida Wildflowers Supports New Orleans & The Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort
to get your own
a good year
A number of species of blue irises can be found in North Florida, and it is not unusual to find what look like different species growing within a few yards of each other. In iris lore, the large and colorful "falls" are actually the sepals.
There is some taxonomic confusion in the iris world. Clewell found five species in the North Florida area, Iris brevicaulis, hexagona, tridentata,verna and virginica. Take his book, Guide to the Vascular Pants of the Florida Panhandle, and a centimeter ruler to be sure.
Gerald Grow, author of Floida Parks: a Guide to Camping and Nature found a profusion of irises growing along Wakulla Beach Road.
in moist soil
Bursting out like a star, the white top sedge or star rush thrives in colonies along wet roadsides in the southeastern United States, and is most welcome in bog gardens. It is prolific along roadsides in North Florida. Our sources say that plants in this family usually are wind pollinated, but star rushes attract insect pollinators. There are two similar species, Rhynchospora colorata and R. latifolia. These are sometimes sold in nurseries. Michele Haro of Palm Bay, south of Melbourne, noticed the beauty of this often overlooked white top sedge and captured it nicely with her Nikon D-50.
Nothing is more exciting to us than to see wild azaleas coming out. Rhododendron canescens or Florida pinxter azalea is certainly not confined to Florida -- this shrub which grows up to 15 feet high can be found throughout the South. This sweet-smelling flower also called the swamp azalea, the Piedmont azalea, the bush honeysuckle, and more. We have heard it simply called honeysuckle in North Florida.
A golden species, austrinum, blooms west of the Apalachicola River This flower was found in Jefferson County by Gerald Grow, using a digital Nikon camera. These beautiful flowers often grow along streams.
A moment of time is frozen
For just a few seconds, a swallowtail butterfly finds nectar in Aquilegia canadensis, the beautiful wild columbine, near the caves at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. These prolific red and yellow flowers grow from west Florida into Texas and up through North Dakota, in all states to the east, and are found from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan in Canada. This flower is also a favorite of the hummingbird. It thrives in slope forests and calcareous woods in Jackson, Washington and Liberty Counties.
The columbine is grown as far south as Orlando as an ornamental, writes Walter Taylor in Florida Wildflowers in their Natural Communities. He says that American Indians chewed the root for stomach ailments, but that it is potentially poisonous.
This pungent flower and shrub grows in ravines and along creeks in the Big Bend area of Florida. When the leaves are crushed, the Illicium floridanum releases a rosin-like aroma which has hints of mint and licorice. It is also called the "purple anise."
It was growing in the ravines of Alum Bluff, which are described further down on the page.
Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle says it grows from Escambia County to Gadsden County, with one station in Wakulla County.
Gerald Grow, author of the popular Florida Parks: A Guide
to Camping and Nature was able to capture the red glow with a Nikon digital camera.
not so bad
Visitors come, lured by the hundreds of acres of mysterious dwarf cypress, 300 years old but only 6 feet high. Bought by the state to restore part of the watershed of Apalachicola Bay, Hell had been ditched and drained for pine trees. Now, a wonderful high boardwalk beckons visitors. Take the James Gadsden Highway (SR 65) south from Hosford into Franklin County. Go left at the Tate's Hell entrance sign saying "boardwalk." Bring water, a cellphone, first aid, mosquito spray and, please, a trash bag.
We took Hwy 98 home, and were saddened by risky development which the first hurricane will demolish like so many toys. Have Franklin and Wakulla commissioners forgotten the awesome power of nature?
in Tate's Hell
The images of the cypress trees shimmer in the bluish-black water of Tate's Hell. This water is rich with aquatic life, including crayfish and grass shrimp. The crayfish are bait or a delicacy, depending on your plans. They are netted by dragging the banks. The grass shrimp are less than two inches long and thrive throughout Florida. We used to catch them in South Florida, put them on hair hooks, and wait for bass and bream to strike. Below, an authentic Liberty County crayfish. Pictures by
As the song goes, we found our thrill on Blueberry Hill! Species of vaccinium grow everywhere in Florida -- in flatwoods, scrub, sandhills, sinks, swales, dunes, hammocks, swamps, on hills. They may be called sparkleberries, highbush blueberries, shiny blueberries, farkleberries, huckleberries or deerberries.
They provide food for a large number of mammals and birds, and, of course, who does not like to go out and pick them? Blueberries now have a reputation as one of the heart-healthiest foods around.
They are a member of the heath or Ericaceae family, which includes the rhododendrons.
Bugs, watch out! The threatened Pinguicula lutea or butterwort is a sticky sort of flower whose basal leaves trap small insects and digest them, thus providing nutrients not found in the acid soil in which these plants thrive. It is a member of the Lentibulariaceae or bladderwort family. It is threatened in Florida, according to Walter Kingsley Taylor in Florida Wildflowers in their Natural Communities.
These beautiful flowers are springing up along roadsides such as the James Gadsden Highway (SR 65) in Liberty County. Several related species are also in bloom. They bloom throughout the State, but there are 16 counties that do not have them, according to Taylor. As we viewed them, they were about a foot high and their corolla was about two to three inches wide, as large as the coreopsis we see along the roadsides.
You can just call them hog plums, and probably be done with it. These plums are springing out everywhere in North Florida as spring comes along. They appear a few weeks before the wild azalea and about the same time as the yellow jessamine. The prunus family includes the wild plum, the chickasaw plum, the laurel cherry, the peach, the black cherry and the hog plum, common names listed by Clewell. They are of the family Rosaceae, which means they are related to roses and apples.
This rare scene was captured by Pam Anderson of Bristol. She has spent thousands of hours in the National Forest, but only three times has had the experience of seeing bears, and this is a first for baby bears. The day was May 1, 2005, south of Sumatra. say there were once 12,000 black bears in Florida and parts of Georgia and Southern Alabama, but now fewer than 1,500 exist.
Conservation areas of Florida are threatened with encroachment. Paved roads are a huge factor in mortality. Only in the Apalachicola National Forest is there enough acreage to provide the habitat required for Ursus americanus floridanus. Scrub pinelands provide berries, acorns, sable palm, saw palmetto for food for the bears.
Maintaining a healthy bear population insures survival of many other species. Write your legislators. Contribute to the Nature Conservancy. You can
help save these animals.
The Leon Sinks area in the Apalachicola National Forest is just a few miles down the road from Tallahassee. It's a gorgeous hike and provides bridges over ponds and a natural limestone bridge under which flows Fisher's Creek, adorned in early March by wild azaleas. This is an enhanced sunset view from the long boardwalk across Center Swamp. The black gum thrive in the water, and, like cypress, possess the wide trunk. We enjoy short hikes and along with the Indian Mounds near Lake Jackson, the sinks provide a beautiful time in the woods and a commune with nature.
We've marveled at Fairchild in Miami. Atlanta also has such a wonder. On our first visit we saw hundreds of spectacular orchids and the came to know about Dale Chihuly, the famous glass sculptor. Here is his interpretation of the genus Nepenthes, the tropical carnivores -- hanging pitcher plants. This work, probably 6-8 feet in length, hangs from the roof of a glass enclosure, and is a memorial piece. The gardens feature a botanical library. We walked the glass rooms on a rainy day and could have spent hours more. We want to walk the outdoor paths next time. The garden also has some growing Torreya trees, as part of an experiment. Scientists hope to be able to replace the once giant trees that were almost all destroyed by disease.
Among the early mayapple and the bloodroot, this fragile flower finds its home in colonies along the trail. It is one of the buttercup or Ranunculaceae family.
It is labeled Isopyrum biternatum and grows around limestone ledges such as we found at the Marianna Caverns in late February. It is considered rare in Florida, says Clewell. Its family Ranunculaceae is one of the most primitive, according to authorities.
The true Rue has more petals and deeply divided leaves, and these flowers often bloom in the same place at the same time -- and is of the same family.
Shaped like the human liver, these plants were once thought to cure liver diseases.
We are informed of 9000 species of liverworts, so one might make a career of it. These were growing on rocks along the cave park trails in Marianna. It's a primitive plant, with two stages, a gametophyte and sporophyte. Liverworts have star-shaped female sex organs. These are closely related to the mosses, such as sphagnum moss, or at least one talks of liverworts and mosses in the same breath. No wonder. By the book, there are 14,000 species of mosses.
Both are the most primitive of land plants. Their outer layer or epidermis prevents them from drying out.
We walked along trails of rich, crunchy leaves of oak and beech and gum and listened to the trickling streams calling to us. From the damp earth life was awakening in North Forida, where spring begins in the United States. When the trout lilies and trillium begin to push up, we know that a new year has begun. At the Gholson Chattahoochee Nature Park, the yellow Erythronium umbilicatum, or dogtooth violet, with its mottled leaves, is beckoning to insect pollinators. Endangered it Florida, it is listed in only Leon and Gadsden Counties by the
The name "trout lily" is said to come from the pattern of the leaves, like the sides of the fish.
The unseen blush of the Trillium brings us to the forest. Stop by, its says, and discover how many of us there are this season. And so we nominate and photograph this trillium. This we believe, is Trillium underwoodii or "Little Sweet Betsy."
It is the earliest of the trilliaceae or "wakerobins" to bloom in North Florida.
It's exciting to see the rebirth of these flowers every year. They provide color to the forest floor as well as food for the creatures of the forest who like to munch on the leaves. Clewell lists four species in the North Florida area - decipiens, lancifolium, maculatum and underwoodii.
by Robert Herrick
Welcome, maids of honour,
You do bring
In the Spring;
And wait upon her.
She has virgins many,
Fresh and fair;
Yet you are
More sweet than any.
You're the maiden posies;
And so graced,
To be placed
'Fore damask roses.
--Yet, though thus respected,
By and by
Ye do lie,
Poor girls, neglected.
While walking along the Apalachicola River below the Gregory House in Torreya Park, we noticed these diminutive flowers blooming on the moist and sandy shore. They cling close to the earth, and are about 1.5 cm wide. These are called Mazus japonica and migrated to this country from Asia, the point of origin. They are found in basal clusters everywhere from Thailand to Oklahoma.
A member of the Scrophulariaciae, the form reminds us a little of toadflax. Flowers are pollinated by insects, and used commercially as groundcover. Medicinal uses, which we cannot vouch for, are many. This amazing plant is listed as having edible leaves and as an
Fall colors decorate the preserve in Liberty County in North Florida. A "paleorefugia" for ancient flora and fauna, the 6,294 acres are protected by . Tall hardwoods grow out of the steep ravines or steepheads, with spring-fed streams at the bottom. A 3.75 mile round trip hike, over marked trails, is
fairly strenuous and takes about 3 hours to complete. Halfway is an incredible view on a bluff 130 feet above the Apalachicola River.
Bring water and insect repellent. An excellent kiosk has brochures and even walking sticks. The "Garden of Eden" trail just north of Bristol, Florida on SR 12. Bristol is 30 miles west of Tallahassee.
The fall flowers include a mint, at the left, whose aromatic leaves are fragrant when crushed. It blooms in the sand pine scrub surrounding the ravines areas. This is Calamintha dentata, and not Conradina canescens, as we first thought. Our sources tell us Calamintha still blooms in November.
Descending into a ravine over steep trails, the hiker enters a unique environment, rich with diverse plants and animals, some found only in this area, including the Torreya tree, the Croomia plant, and rare salamander and crayfish species.
Branches of the Florida anise stretch over a stream. The buds of this flowering plant are beginning their cycle, and by spring the red flowers will decorate the steepheads. Trails are graced by beech, magnolia, Florida yew, hickory, white oak, sparklewood, witch hazel and many other varieties - and some trees have explanatory markers.
The giant Torreya trees have all but disappeared from North Florida, wiped out by disease, and what are left are sprouts a few feet tall, which are watched closely by scientists. You can find these along the trail.
This photograph was taken from a wooden bridge over one of the steephead streams.
The ghostly Salvia azurea was photographed in the Apalachicola National Forest by Robin Kennedy. Blue sage blooms in sandhills, flatwoods, pine-oak-hickory woods and secondary woods in the fall, writes Andre Clewell in "Guide to the Vascular Plants of the Florida Panhandle" (University Presses of Florida).
Labiatae - the mints - boast 200 genera and 3,200 species - a source of prized culinary herbs such as marjoram, basil, thyme and savory. Then, there are oils such as sage, lavender, rosemary, mint and patchouly. The family is a dominant species in the Mediterranean, writes George H.M. Lawrence in Taxonomy of Vascular Plants (Macmillan). Localized subfamilies include the Prostantheroideae in Australia and Tasmania, the Prasioideae in Malaya, India and China, and the Catopherioideae in Central America
Finding elusive wildflowers is what physicists like to do on their days off. Patricia Stampe and Robin Kennedy discovered this incredible blue flower in the Apalachicola National Forest in November. Gentians are late bloomers.
It was tentatively identified as Gentiana saponaria by Dr. Loran Anderson. There are 800 species of the family Gentianaceae around the world, according to George Lawrence in "Taxonomy of Vascular Plants" and a number are cultivated for ornamentals. This is also the time of year for the wiregrass gentians which are white with purple marking. Having never seen one of these ourselves, we thank the two professors for bringing them to our pages.
Bidens pilosa is a popular plant with butterflies, but its petals seem to wilt or dry out quickly. This flower was growing in a park near Lake Jackson in Tallahassee one evening. It seems to have more surviving petals than we've seen on Bidens, or Spanish needles, as they are called.
It's a prolific "weed." But one person's weed is another person's wildflower. Its happy pedigree goes back to Linnaeus, the father of plant taxonomy. "Pilose" means densely covered with stiff hairs. A related species was used by the Indians for a medicine, but it was also an irritant, writes Peterson. We felt lucky to find one in as handsome a shape, without the wind blowing, and so we captured it on Velvia 50, before the sun went down.
A fast sip and
a toxic feast
at St. Marks
This skipper butterfly finds nectar in the abundant and colorful lantana growing in Wakulla County. At St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, monarchs flocked to the goldenrod, saltbush, and even the deadly oleander around
Click on picture to view some lighthouse variations.
Toxicity serves to repel
predators. The monarch
caterpillars eat poisonous
milkweed leaves. The poisons, it is said, give color to wings. And so poison also seems tobe a craving for adult
Monarchs are distasteful
to birds, but yummy
to spiders. Some species
have adapted that safe
We don't know how these incredible butterflies make it to the Mexican mountains, but they migrate by the millions. This is one of nature's miracles. Many of the monarchs in Mexico come from the central United States. Very few butterflies tagged in on the Atlantic coast of the U.S.
have been found in Mexico, according to Glassberg, Minno and Calhoun in Butterflies
Through Binoculars (Oxford University Press, 2000). Many of the Atlantic coast monarchs apparently overwinter along the U.S. coast, while some may go to the West Indies or Yucatan, say the authors. The major foodplant of the monarch is the milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, according to the authors, along with tropical milkweed, or Asclepias curassavica. This butterfly was among thousands at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in late October.
Here is one of our favorite spots in the Apalachicola National Forest, with cypress, pine, and pitcher plants by the thousands. This particular scene can be discovered near Sumatra, Florida. If you've been to Sumatra, you know it's not much more than a few homes and a country store. All we can tell you is that it's south of Wilma on the James Gadsden Highway (SR 65) If you enter Franklin County, you've gone too far.
The serenity of the forest allows escape from the noise and clamor of the city.
We like to explore the many roads in the forest, to get out of our car on foot, and to walk into the savannas and open fields. Each hour toward sunset, the colors change, giving new insights and a new chance for a photographer to find the perfect light and composition.
The only thing we can suggest is to bring some insect repellent, lots of film, and some waterproof boots if you want to go into the grass. And please, don't forget your tripod. Anyone who comes back from the forest is going to itch, and we suggest a quick tubful of hot water and a thorough inspection for ticks. We also think this helps with chiggers, although we haven't found a way to stop them entirely. We'll pass on some advice if you have it. Some say to dust your socks with sulfur.
This scene was captured with a Nikon FE and Velvia 50 slide film which was digitized on a Cool Scan V scanner.
The worst nuisance anywhere is poison ivy. It comes in many shapes and forms, but a creeping vine is common. For some reason, we are just as allergic to Virginia creeper. If you come into contact with it, rinse with rubbing alcohol immediately, then soap and water. If you get a rash, Calamine lotion will help ease the pain, but count
on two weeks of itching.
Hydrocortizone cream my help. We have used a product called Zanfel, available at drugstores, but expensive. It is a gritty cream that rubs away the itch and its chemical cause. If that doesn't help, you may want to see a physician.
The evening sun in autumn casts an orange glow on nature throughout Florida's big bend area. As cooler air begins to come to the red hills of Florida, butterflies may be seen in abundance. Swallowtails, both black and yellow, feast on the blazing star which proliferates along the highways near the coastal areas.
We saw sulphur butterflies, skippers, orange butterflies which we took for gulf fritillaries, and several kinds of bees and moths. Rather than compete, these creatures landed on the same stalks and side by side extracted the nectar. Hungry bees would land across from huge butterflies. A hummingbird moth zoomed into view and was gone. We took many pictures, but couldn't get these creatures to stay still. We noticed that some were missing tail sections from close scrapes with birds, perhaps, and so no wonder they were wary of us.
Vernonia angustifolia, thin-leaved ironweed, thrives in open shade. The woods are brightened by this summer flower, its roots once used by Indians as a "blood tonic" to regulate the menses and for pain of childbirth, says Peterson's Guide to Medicinal Plants.
It was discovered by Andre Michaux, a French botanist and author who first spoke to President Jefferson about the need to explore the west, inspiring the Lewis and Clark expedition. He rambled across the world, from Persia to the swamps of what was to become South Florida.
He sent 60,000 plants to the old world, wrote who paid him tribute for his botany in North Carolina, where Michaux climbed Grandfather Mountain, near Linville, N.C. Kurault refers to a book, Lost Heritage, by Henry Savage Jr.
Easter in August
A female fork-tail bush katydid (Scudderia furcata) enjoys a Phillipine lily. These lilies grow up to six feet tall. Exotic, yes, invasive – we see no complaints, except from parts of Australia. But the potential is there. Originating in Taiwan,
it has escaped from gardens. While bees are a major pollinator, the katydid can play a role. Katydids, unlike grasshoppers, have antennae longer than their bodies. This species is spread across the nation. It spent some time licking its 'forelimbs' as it rested on this lily along Highway 65 in Sumatra, Fla. We thank Thomas J. Walker of UF Entomology for the ID on the katydid.
This sabatia, Bartram's Sabatia or Sabatia bartramii, is in the gentian family. It's in wet pine flatwoods, bogs, cypress swamps, pond margins and ruderal areas, writes Walter Kingsley Taylor in Florida Wildflowers in Their Natural Communities. It has 8-12 petals. These were growing in a watery area. Who has not read of William Bartram's journeys? "O thou creator supreme, Almighty," he wrote. "How infinite and incompre- hensible thy works .. most perfect, and every way astonishing." In the late 1700s, Indian tribes inhabited Florida. Along the St. Johns, large orange groves were being destroyed to plant indigo and cotton. Who would believe that wolves once roamed Florida? Bartram liked the savannas, and these are where the sabatia bloomed. Although we did not see mention of this flower by its present name, he surely noted it.
This fancy creature finds a landing pad in the savannahs. The closest identity we can find for an insect looking like this is a "snipe fly" in the Audubon Guide to Insects and Spiders. It was dining on pipewort, the polka-dots of the swamps and marshes. The fly wouldn't move, even in a brisk breeze.
The pipewort is a member of the plant family Eriocaulaceae. Folk call these plants bogbuttons, hatpins and the like. They are white flowers on solitary green stalks, punctuating a sea of sedge and grasses. What looks from a distance an undifferentiated small white flower is a complex rest station for pollinators who specialize in showing us worlds within worlds. For some reason, we don't see many spiders hiding on these plants. The plants are examined in Godfrey and Wooten's Aquatic and Wetland Plants of Southeastern United States.
Dressed to party in its fancy orange corona and red corolla, Asclepias lanceolata or "fewflower" milkweed resembles the mostly-orange butterfly weed, its handsome cousin. Experts say 24 varieties of milkweed grow in Florida, two of them endemic.
Seen in floodplains, acid swamps and coastal flatwoods, it blooms from May through August in
North Florida, says Andre Clewell in Guide to the Vascular Plants of The Florida Panhandle. Monarch butterflies are specific to milkweed. Caterpillars absorb protective substances from the plants. History tells of medicinal and food use of roots, but a chemical in these plants is poisonous. Indigenous peoples twined the fibers of some species into cord or rope.
Suddenly, the brightest white flower that we know of strikes our eye from the roadside. To take the picture, we must stop down the lens. Too much reflection will ruin the detail. Platanthera nivea blooms in the entire Southeast, says Carlyle Luer in The Native Orchids of Florida, who tells us that the name comes from the Latin "niveus" which means "snowy" or "white as snow." Many have sprung up in early August along the James Gadsden Highway (SR 65) near Wilma in Liberty County. It blooms through September even as far north as Maryland.
We used Velvia 50 with our trusty Nikon FE2, and scanned the slide on our Nikon Cool Scan V.
The flower is really a blinding white, and the crystalline petals and sepals intensify the effect. We stopped down two f-stops, and then brightened it a bit in Photoshop. Were it presented as dazzling white as it is naturally, detail would be lost.
The flower was found in the moist roadside in July, buffeted by breezes from cars and trucks detoured by Hurricane Dennis.
Just down the road we found Platanthera chapmanii, and then Platanthera cristata.
Like sentinels on a vast grassy plain, radiant pine lillies have sprung up again to watch over the windy solitude. We found this speckled flower on a savannah near Sumatra. Freckles of raspberry red trace a pathway of lemon yellow. It faces the fierce summer sun head on, unlike the drooping lillies of colder climes.
Mark Catesby, British botanist and artist, came to Charleston, S.C., in 1722. His book Natural History (first volume 1729) 'signalled the dawn of wildlife art' writes Gail Fishman in her chapter on Catesby in Journeys Through Paradise. The pine lilly, lilium catesbaei, was named for him. There is, as well, the bullfrog Rana catesbeiana. Of the lily, writes Fishman, "It's eye-catching apricot-colored flowers peer above tawny grasses of pine savannahs from southern Virginia to Florida."
Catesby apparently never explored what is now Florida, but this species, threatened in Florida, forever ties him to those who would preserve nature's beauty in our state.
Floridians like to cool off in the mountains. near Clayton, Ga., boasts a waterfall, friendly hosts, beautiful garden, and a working mill with a magnificent old wheel. These raspberries grown by Linda and Mike Johnson made breakfast special. Rubus parvifolius is progenitor of the cultivated Dorman red "Red Raspberry." It is native to China says Harry Swartz of The U of Maryland. There are 210 species of raspberries in China. Please enjoy berries as a or desktop art. Copyrighted and intended for private use.
Off on a
"Getting and spending we lay waste our powers; little we see in nature that is ours" wrote the poet Wordsworth.
This is the result of some computer enhancement with one of the programs we are experimenting with, called
The wild azalea provides its own magic of natural form in this symphony of colors. One wonders how the flowers appear to the spiders, the birds, the
The attraction of humming-birds to red flowers is a case in point. Some insects seeinfrared, we understand.
It was late in the evening and time to find some sleep. Imagining this flower in the mind's eye, one might seek to find peace and refuge in fields crazy with coreopsis, with a million yellow, blowing daisies, beneath an azure canopy.
Such is the imagination.
A splash of color draws the hiker to this blushing flower. It's the annual garden phlox or "Phlox drummondii." Common, and perhaps unappreciated. This plant was named for frontier naturalist Thomas Drummond, who lived from 1780 to 1835.
He was a Scotsman who explored from Florida to Texas and western Canada, and was "part of a team looking for the Northwest Passage" writes Walter Kingsley Taylor in Florida Wildflowers in their Natural Communities. This wildflower is apparently a transplant from Texas, where he made his reputation.
For a larger picture which can also be used as a screensaver, just click on the picture.
The flowers we see may look a little different to insects, and so we took some pictures of the pink Phlox drummondii to see how these flowers might appear to creatures who see in ways we don't precisely know. The flowers were enhanced in various ways by a computer program that we are using to put life in a new perspective. With a choice of mathematical algorithms and some sense of where to stop the process, and some changes in Photoshop, one can pretty much discover new visions.
We ask your pardon for not portraying nature scientifically here, but we've become fascinated with the options we have in our computer programs. Real flowers are below.
The lovely Calopogon tuberosus or "grass pink" blooms from April to June in North Florida. A widespread terrestrial orchid, it thrives in bogs and in meadows.
The "calopogon" deriving from a Greek word for "beard," was first collected in the 1730s by John Clayton in colonial Virginia, according to Carlyle A. Luer in The Native Orchids of Florida. Like many flowers, it is a sweet deceiver. Writes Luer, "A bee is deceived by this patch of hairs which mimics a cluster of stamens. Upon alighting, his wiggling weight causes the lip to fold forward, as if in a hinged trap, placing him squarely upon the stigma of the column with
outstretched arms waiting below. Thus, propagation is perpetuated as the unsuspecting gyymnast deposits pollinia and obtains more for the next flower."
This unfortunate spider made one false step. Trapped by the Venus flytrap, it was slowly digested. We took some time to count the cilia on Dionaea muscipula, which thrive in Liberty County and in the Carolinas. Most (but not all) we counted featured more clasping cilia on the left half-leaf than on the right. Why? Perhaps by natural selection, the plants with more cilia on one side were able to dine better and survive. If you clasp your hands together, you will see that if you had six fingers on one side, you would have a tighter bond. We are still pondering this. See three carnivorous plants in our .
To the side, at top, left-handed closing leaves have more cilia than the right-handed part at the bottom. So we have 17-15, 16-15, 20-18, 20-18 and 19-18. These were a convenience sample from thousands aof plants in a bog in Hosford in Liberty Count. We think it will stand up statistically.
This odd phenomenon ought to be investigated by botantists, mathematicians and others who may be interested in the history of plants, genetics, physics and other fields.
We do know that more cilia on one side means a tighter seal, but why the left-handed side of the leaf?
The tiger or rattlebox moth, Utetheisa bella (it's described in The Moth Book by W.J. Holland) rests on an equally beautiful Gaillardia pulchella. Our correspondent Langley has relayed a stunning picture. Bella and pulchella are words for "beautiful." This scene was captured at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Arctiidae family is known as "tiger moths" and caterpillars of some species are called "woolly bears." Holland quotes Keats in
, where lovesick Porphyro describes a casement in his lady's chamber.
"All diamonded with panes of quaint device,
Innumerable of stains
and spendid dyes,
As are the Tiger Moth's
deep damask wings . . "
We've never seen so many rose pogonia orchids in one place. These frame some glowing pitcher plants along a road in the Apalachicola National Forest.
Robin Kennedy discovered these pogonia along on FR143. There was a group of about 30 in a ditch all within about a 2 foot diameter circle.
A talented photographer, Kennedy has contributed many pictures to our pages.
His camera is a Nikon D100.
We go wild
and others below
This herald of Springtime began blooming in March in the woods of North Florida.
How delightful to find these colorful flowers along Fisher's Creek in the Leon Sinks area of
the Apalachicola National Forest. Rhododendron canescens is the white and pink variety. The yellow or gold azaleas, or austrinum, can be found further west, near the Apalachicola River, and always grace the Angus Gholson Nature Park in Chattahoochee. The only austrinum we have seen this year were domesticated, but that's because we weren't out in
Gadsden County at the right time.
Guarded by encircling trees is an abundance of white zephyr lilies or "rein lilies" in the picture to the left. We have heard them called "rain lilies," too, and our expert Dr. Loran Anderson says they are known as both.
These are Zephyranthes atamasco -- although there are two similar varieties, the second being Zephyranthes treatiae, according to Andre Clewell's book, Guide to the Vascular Plants of the
Florida Panhandle. The two species differ by the width of the leaves.
It is the Atamasco lily that populates Chattahoochee nature park area.
The smaller treatiae is found along highways to the east of Tallahassee.
Early spring flowers we have seen are attracting the butterflies. The North American Butterfly Association's local "Hairstreak" chapter held a walkabout in Chattahoochee, and there spied many species, including a variety of swallowtail known as "pipevine."
We learned that there are 160 species of butterflies in Florida, and that there are hardly any people you can meet who are as friendly as the butterfly enthusiasts. Between the butterfly enthusiasts and the local Native Plant Society in these parts, anyone with an itch to learn about nature is in the best company in the world.
The national organization's