Photo Friday:Wilderness at Bowditch Point

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For our first field trip, my Florida Master Naturalist class (Coastal Systems Module) went on a botanical exploration of a small wilderness located at the northern tip of Estero Island in the town of Fort Myers Beach, Lee County, Florida. This is Bowditch Point Regional Park, part of the Lee County park system. The site had been used as a repository for channel-dredged sand, and is consequently the highest point on the island at 22 feet. The land changed hands several times over the years until the County had the opportunity to purchase it in December 1987 for $5.75mm. Since that time, much effort has gone into the creation of a natural coastal habitat where native Floridian plants can thrive and wildlife can find refuge.

Our guide for this trip was Roger Clark from Conservation 20/20 here in Lee County. He was patient and knowledgeable and had a unique way of conveying information about a plant or animal; he’d first tell you some facts and attributes and THEN tell you the name. It was kind of like Jeopardy – first you get the answer, and then you get the question.

Roger had a field guide with him which he recommended to the rest of us – Florida’s Living Beaches: A Guide for the Curious Beachcomber. I stopped at Barnes & Noble on the way home and they had ONE left, so I quickly purchased it. I also found it on Amazon. The other book I like to use is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida. It’s the typical slim, easy-to-pack-and-carry Audubon volume, and it’s great for just general identification while you’re out and about. I’ve got the paperback, which seems to be in short supply these days, so that’s a link to the hardcover edition.

I took quite a few photos, so I’ll be splitting it up into several posts. Here is the first installment – enjoy 🙂


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Notice how specific this sign is – couldn’t be plainer. I’ve seen similar signs at all beaches in Lee County, yet I’ve also seen people violating this law 🙁 Most folks, however, are conscientious about it.

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At the bottom of the “mound”, just where it meets the parking lot, there’s a nice little shady spot to sit and enjoy the view of Matanzas Pass. The word “matanzas” is Spanish for “killings”. History tells us that the indigenous people who once lived here, the Calusa, had a habit of paddling out to meet Spanish explorer’s ships while extending a special kind of welcome with the business-end of their spears. Indeed, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon met his fate from a mortal wound received at the hands of the Calusa. There’s speculation that Matanzas Pass is the place where a lot of these “welcome”-type activities occurred.

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What do the gumbo limbo tree and the Florida tourist have in common? They are both red and peeling… ha ha ha ha ha 😉 Migratory birds like the fruit of the gumbo limbo tree. We’ve got lots of these trees here in Southwest Florida.

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I was surprised to find out that palms aren’t really “trees”; they lack a vascular system. The smaller trees in the swale are pond apples. They were planted there because they can well tolerate having their feet wet.

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Pond apples have compound leaves – more than one leaf attached to the same leaf stalk. The apples are edible by animals and humans but they don’t taste very good, I’m told.

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The sea grape wants to be a tree! However, many people chop at them to keep them shrub-like. They are used in landscaping as hedgerows and borders. This one was allowed to be a tree. During this field trip, we found out that there are ANSI standards for pruning trees and that one should NEVER “top” a tree. ANSI standards? Who knew?!?!!

ANSI = American National Standards Institute

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This Jamaica Dogwood is otherwise known as the Florida Fish Poison tree. Powder made from the tree can be used to stun fish, making them more easily captured.

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We’re about to continue up the hill and catch a glimpse of some of the residents. OK, WAY more than a glimpse! Stay tuned – PART TWO of this field trip will be posted in a few days!

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2 thoughts on “Photo Friday:Wilderness at Bowditch Point”

  1. Thanks for the field guide recommendations! I need to pick those up for the kids – they love stuff like that. 🙂

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