Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Palm Tree

I've been watching what I believed was a dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) that came in as a volunteer near the corner of our house. It seemed to be getting larger and larger, and for a while I wondered whether it might be a real palm tree--a cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto). Then I thought it was probably just a large specimen of the dwarf species, and dismissed the idea that it might be a cabbage palm--until a few days ago. We're planning some major re-landscaping in the front yard, and the landscaper suggested that he plant native needle palms (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) in this area. "Why not leave the dwarf palmetto where it is, and surround it with needle palms?" I said."That's no dwarf palmetto," he said, "it's a cabbage palm."

"Then we should probably transplant it," I said. "No," he replied (and here's a factoid!). "Palms don't transplant when they're small. That's why you see large trees planted, often propped up with boards; they need to have enough stored energy in their trunks to replace the roots damaged in transplanting."

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A New Oak

The vegetation of Cedar Key and nearby areas that were once sand dunes is called "scrub," with scrubby oaks and occasional pines being the most common kinds of trees. Sand live oak and myrtle oak are the two most frequent species, but a third one, Chapman's oak, is said to be commonly present also. For the past few years I've been trying to learn this one, but haven't been able to convince myself that I had seen one.

In the past couple of days it appeared that I might have to lead a nature walk in the Cedar Key Scrub state reserve as part of the Nature Coast Paddling Festival (the nature walk won't be happening, at least not soon). Looking at a species list, Chapman's oak is reported to be present on the property. I decided to look up photos, so I would know one if I encountered it. When I saw the photos, the plants looked very familiar--so familiar, in fact, that I realized one is growing right here in our one-tenth acre lot.
Chapman's Oak (Quercus chapmanii)

Why had this one given me so much trouble? Part of the problem had to do with myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia), and the variations it shows in leaf form.

Myrtle oak leaves on mature branches

Myrtle oak leaves as they often appear on sprouts

I had been thinking that the leaves of what turned out to be Chapman's oak were a third, possibly stressed, form of myrtle oak. Also, this unimposing and apparently obscure tree wasn't recognized as a separate species until A.W. Chapman, M.D. first described it in 1860.  

Now I know the third member of the trio, and have the further satisfaction of having all three kinds of scrub oaks right here in our yard.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Youngest Dryas?

Recently, in my readings about geological--and particularly glacial--history, I came across the term Younger Dryas. This curious name, I learned, applies to a period about 11,000 years ago when glaciers were melting, the climate was warming, and conditions we returning to those we now would consider normal. A relatively brief return to cold conditions at that time was apparently caused by huge amounts of glacial melt water entering the North Atlantic, and blocking warm equatorial waters from reaching Europe. The name Younger Dryas refers to this brief backsliding. The resulting cool temperatures promoted an outbreak in southern Europe of a cold-loving arctic/alpine plant in the genus Dryas. The "younger" name relates to the fact that there were earlier "older" cooling periods in which the little plants expanded their range southward. The combination of names was lent to the later of the unexpected cool periods, and the little Dryas octopetala plant achieved geological fame.

Scanning my photos from last May, I came across the image of the little flower shown above, made somewhere after Acebo and before Molinaseca. Could this be the legendary Dryas, I wondered. Alas, a bit of research indicated that it almost certainly is not. The Dryas of geological fame appears to be Dryas octopetala, and the little flower I photographed obviously has five, rather than eight petals. Also, It appears that the current range of the genus Dryas does not include Spain.

Does anyone know the identity of the plant I photographed? Surely not Dryas octopetala, it appears that it too could be a relative of Dryas, and a member of the Rosaceae--the rose family.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cooperative Heron

Hardly a day goes by on our morning walks around Gainesville when we don't see one of these, and usually several of their distant relatives also. Now and then one, like this guy, seems to want to pose for us. Okay, in all likelihood he is mesmerized by a fat tadpole, and couldn't care less about us. Even so, I couldn't resist taking his picture.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Day Fit for Frogs

Following recent heavy rains, the humidity was extreme on today's shortened walk. Several kinds of frogs responded by calling, something most usually do after dark. First there was the "!glug" of bronze frogs, then the "click, click" of cricket frogs. Almost together squirrel treefrogs sounded off with their rasping calls, and green treefrogs (image above) chimed in with their call, which reminds some of the sound of cowbells. Pig frogs joined the fray with their namesake snorts. A while later I heard the high-pitched buzz of a narrow-mouth frog calling from a puddle beside the path. There may have been other species whose calls I don't recognize. Missing this morning was the booming call of bullfrogs, which we hear most days, often from storm sewers, where their sound is widely transmitted and weirdly amplified.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Glass Lizard

  Eeks, a snake! Well, maybe not.

A Glass "Snake"
I came across this small (ca. 1 foot) snake-like creature on today's walk, and soon realized that he was not a snake at all, but a glass lizard.

Three or possibly more kinds of these limbless lizards may occur here, so it was necessary to take a close look to figure out which one he was.

Vertical neck bars and lack of prominent stripes may be tipoffs

Examining the patterns on the head and body suggests that this specimen is a young eastern glass lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis). The habitat seems right also. Second opinions will be welcomed.

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 11 at San Felasco Hammock

Training for our long walk in May, we've been taking long hikes. Today we did a six mile walk at San Felasco Hammock. As always, the place served up many delights.

Several small fringetrees (Chionanthus virginicus) near the parking lot were in blossom
The area's many flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) had mostly lost their blossoms, and in places the trail was littered with white petals. One small tree, pictured below is evidently a late bloomer.

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

One upland area had experienced a controlled burn. The fire appeared to have been a hot one that was effective in killing most invading deciduous trees.

Dead Carolina cherry (Prunus caroliniana) trees in burned area
Despite appearing to have been completely consumed by fire, young longleaf pines (Pinus palustris) survived.

Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) seedling

On the left is turkey oak (Quercus laevis), another fire tolerant tree

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Rusty Blackhaw

This little tree is called rusty blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum). It has dark, shiny green leaves. How puzzling, I thought. Nothing about is looks rusty, and how did it ever get that name?

Problem solved? The photo was taken early March here in Florida, and perhaps it is the new spring foliage that gives it its name. That's possible, although some accounts mention brilliant red fall coloration.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Signs of Spring - February 11, 2013

Yellow Jessamine

American Hop Hornbeam, just leafing out

Shiny Blueberry

Muscadine Grape

Friday, January 11, 2013

Slash Pine in Blossom - Cedar Key 1/11/13

Having cars covered in pine pollen is not something we normally associate with early-mid January.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fall and Winter

Here's a Florida maple in its colorful phase, photo made today, January 3, 2013.

We saw our first robins yesterday, so it must be winter somewhere.