Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lantana hyperverticalis

The other day when I was checking the fence, a unfamiliar red flower caught my eye at the edge of the woods. When I went to investigate I found it wasn't an unfamiliar species, just an unfamiliar morphological form of it. It was Lantana camara, but on a single stalk nearly 2 meters tall with a single flower cluster. I suppose plants do what they must to reach sunlight. It was unexpected.

Another Boundary to Defend

I've been working along the northern fire lane again and is it a mess. The neighbors are pigs, based on the new stuff and the previous occupants weren't much better, based on the older material I have unearthed. Nevertheless, I am really worried about the effects of a wildfire along this edge and am planning to clear a wider swath of woody vegetation. The island's owners resist prescribed burns here, but realize the danger and would like to disc a wider fire lane. Maybe this will be establish a template for that work. I do expect to have a couple of large brush piles when I get through with this. It won't add to the already substantial fuels load, adding to recently by the idiots that DEP contracted to deal with exotics, who nuked the grass instead of the stuff that needed the herbiciding. I expect the clearing will make it easier to detect historic and current trash accumulations as well. That's the plan I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Milkweed Orange and White

Asclepias, the milkweed genus, contains a lovely variety of wildflowers, a fact I didn't appreciate until I came to the island. Until then my only
experience with milkweed was the tropical milkweed that's commonly sold to attract Monarch butterflies. It will tolerate different soils. I have some in the flowerbeds at home. But here on the island the milkweed specialize. There's one in the scrub, one in the sandhill and one in the flatwoods or at best the ecotone near the flatwoods.

They're like beautiful sisters that don't appear at first to be related.

The one I like the most is the delicate Florida milkweed, Asclepias feayi, with its filiform leaves and small white flowers. I like it because it is not in the wildflower books I have and I had to key it out from a copy of J.K. Small's "Manual of the Southeastern Flora" that was given to me by my late friend Chancellor Hannon.

The most widespread is the one sometimes called Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa, whose flowers are orange, but turn reddish orange with age, it seems.

Then there is Curtiss' milkweed, Asclepias curtissi, which was once placed in separate genus because perhaps it looked different from the rest, though considering the genus, I can't say why. It is a scrub plant, sometimes forming as many as 11 flowers on a single plant, which can be impressive, since the book shows no more than two or three.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Junkman's Bestiary

In my first post I mentioned something about the junk that characterized this place in the fall of 2002 when I first began coming here, shortly after the state purchased it.

If you haven't been involved in a lot of cleanups of environmental land, especially on unfenced, absentee-owner sites, you have no idea what is involved.

I classify the trash into seven basic groups--rubber, wood, plastic, paper, metal, glass and fabric.

Rubber would be the tires, though sometimes it's rubber and metal because tires are still on the rims. They would also be the matresses, which are rubber and wood and metal, depending on their age or construction. Same goes for car seats. I don't mean child seats, I mean the front or back seat of an actual car.

Wood could be anything from railroad ties to fence posts to discarded construction debris. I have salvaged some of that to make benches, which I have put in shaded locations where I can rest and enjoy a view now free of junk.

Plastic debris plagues the world. Like glass, it is as likely to be in one piece as in a hundred. Beverage containers the remains of small appliances, toys, buckets and the list goes on. I almost forgot partially decomposed plastic bags, some of which will remain to contaminate the ecosystem, thanks to wonders of chemistry.

Paper is sometimes inside the plastic if the soil moisture or insects haven't done their work. That's the least of my concerns. I did find a $5 bill once, which is paper of a different sort and one I don't mind.

Metal can be a challenge because it weighs more than some of the other materials and sometimes comes in large pieces. Perhaps my biggest challenge was to break apart a pickup truck bed into small enough pieces to haul it from the most distant edge of the preserve to a collection site. I segregated the iron for one cleanup. It came to slightly more than 3,000 pounds--a ton and a half! That metal was recycled and most of the metal I've been collecting is being recycled, too. In the early days only the copper and aluminum was going that way, but the ferrous market is attractive enough to make it worth hauling. It saves space in the landfill, too.

Glass debris is made up primarily of bottles, jars and jalousie window slats. The largest concentration was a former homeless camp on the south tract. I must have hauled out six or eight large plastic bags of beer bottles.

Cloth is a bigger part than you might think. There are always carpets, but there is an unbelievable amount of discarded clothing.

If anything were ever to disabuse someone of littering, spending a hundred hours picking up, carrying, digging out and piling up tons of trash would do it.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Defensible boundary zone

In the course of my Begonia discovery, I also found more trash along the frontier between the presrve and my neighbor to the south, who appears to have a junk yard on the other side of his house. There were tires, tire rims, the remains of a slide, a bicycle etc. ; more iron for the foundry via the recycling pile. Business has been good on iron recycling lately, anyway, with the price escalating to nearly 5 cents a pound.

It occurred to me I need to do more to clear the area along the fence line so I can be sure what's old junk and what's new junk. I haven't had any problem except one yard-waste-over-the-fence incident last year, which has not been repeated. Since I caught them in the act, I think we have an understanding. I want to do my part and make the preserve side look more presentable than it is now. I probably want to thin out the Cherry Laurel trees, too. I discovered Hercules Club growing on an embankment there. I'd like to give it some room to spread.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Begonias and Swamp Orchids

As I've written, this island is mostly covered with white sand, but there's a bayhead in one corner. Someone cut a path along the fence line and I followed it the other day. It was worth the slog through the muck. New species awaited me in this unexplored habitat.

First a bit of pink caught my eye. I couldn't imagine what could have pink blooms in a swamp at this time of year. It turned out to be a couple of patches of Wax Begonia. How odd and ironic. J.B. McFarlin, the long ago explorer of local scrub, owned a begonia nursery in Bradenton in his later years.

As I walked deeper into the bay swamp, I found a patch of Habenaria repens, only the second species of orchid I've found here. The other is Giant orchid, Pteroglosappsis escritata,that I discovered three years ago when I was looking for Britton's bear grass.. I also saw sphagnum moss. I'll return to explore. I'll bring rubber boots.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Bullets and barbed wire

I had some extra help today and was getting ready to start the work day when I discovered the fence had been cut again. I'm getting better at fixing barbed-wire fences, but still need a fence tool. I'm also out of fence staples.

Later on when I was looking for trash, I found a plastic bag containing a backpack. Inside the backpack was some bullets in clips and in trays. I'll turn them in to the police. I don't want them to explode inside a garbage truck and hurt someone. I'd love to know the story behind this one.

Addendum: I finally found a place to take the ammo--the Saddle Creek Park gun range. A neighbor suggested it. I called and the guy was very helpful. I'll get rid of them soon.