Coming around Bowditch Point again
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This is the final installment of my first field trip with the Florida Master Naturalist class (Coastal Systems Module). Last time, we explored a few critter encounters at Bowditch Point. Now we’re going to continue on our journey over the hill, through the dunes and onto the beach.
The day was getting pretty warm, and a few of the plants had an “aromatic” (translation: unpleasant!) odor. I believe it was the plant described to us as a “stopper” plant, used by the Calusa natives once upon a time to make a purgative drink.
The Estero Island Garden Club created a butterfly garden at the top of the hill.
There’s a statue of a child fishing in the butterfly garden at Bowditch Point Regional Park. I got a kick out of the fact that they use a real branch as a fishin’ pole 🙂
I’ve written of the EPCOT mystery shoes before, as well as a few non-Disney pairs of mystery shoes. But here’s a new pair – the Bowditch Point Mystery Shoes! They were on a bench near the butterfly garden while our guide was walking us through, and still there an hour later when I came through to take some pictures. Ya gotta wonder…
There are a lot of coontie plants at Bowditch Point Regional Park. I believe this one is a female. The cones are shaped differently for a male. No I’m not kidding – male and female! This is called a dioecious plant – that’s Greek for “two houses”, and it means that the plant is either a male or a female. The Seminoles dried and ground the roots into flour and made it into bread. I’ve heard it referred to as arrowroot too, but there’s another plant called that… confusing, the world of botany! I guess that’s why people like to use the Latin names. There are no mistakes when you stick to the Latin names. So I’m told!
You’ve heard of it all your life and now you’ve met one – it’s the prickly pear cactus! A few years back, I saw some of these fruits for sale in Publix but didn’t have the guts to try them. One of our classmates said he’s tried them and he felt great after a few days of eating them – I think they have anti-oxidant properties. Anyhow, the tortoises love ’em so they can’t be all bad, right?
Railroad vine is related to morning glories and so is their behavior – they are open during the day and close up once night falls. The Latin name, ipomea pes-caprae, relates to the shape of the leaves. Google Translator is telling me “foot she goat”, so I guess the leaves are supposed to look like a girl goat’s hooves (so what do a boy goat’s hooves look like, then?).
Sea grapes grow in a bunch but you can’t really pick ’em that way. They don’t mature/ripen as a bunch; they are individuals and each decides in its own time when it is ready to be ripe. That’s why you generally see only some missing from a cluster; the other ones weren’t yet ready to eat!
This tree is called the strangler fig. It’s less than 20 years old and stands pretty much on the crest of the hill, spreading shade in a wide swath. Migratory birds like to stop and rest in this tree, for the fruits are nice to eat. The seeds are spread around via bird poop. Sometimes, the poop lands on another tree, where the new baby strangler latches onto and eventually envelops the host. As you can see, they have a pretty aggressive root system, too. I find it funny that one of my Florida landscape plant books identifies companion plants for the strangler; I’m fairly certain it’s just going to kill all its friends so I’m not getting the point…..
Well, here’s at least one friend that the strangler won’t bother to strangle – a coontie grows low and spread out in the considerable shade. Our guide pointed out how different it looks from the ones in full sunlight. It definitely looks to me as though it is reaching around to find some sun.
This plant has so many names, where do we begin? Chinese lantern, common ground-cherry, husk tomato (I’m told it tastes like a tomatillo), sand ground-cherry, bladder cherry (it floats)… a lot depends on where you live, I guess, when it comes to common names. Gopher tortoises like to eat these, too. I guess it makes sense – it’s certainly low enough for a tortoise to munch upon.
These daisy relatives are called dune sunflowers. They pop up basically everywhere in the coastal system and they flower year-round, with just a bit of a break in the winter time. They are also related to Indian blanket flowers.
Because of the way the tides flow around this area, Bowditch Point gets eroded and the sand is carted away by the sea. Periodically, the government will decide that “renourishment” is in order. The get a barge and a bunch of pipe, park the barge out in the bay and pipe in sand from “out there” somewhere. On the one hand, it’s intrusive to the environment and counter to what Mother Nature seems to want. On the other hand, Lee County is pretty dependent upon tourist dollars and cannot afford to have any of their public beaches get washed away. I checked this out pretty thoroughly before determining that the pipe was NOT bringing in quantities of good shells. Then I headed for the parking lot.
There’s a shower and a foot sprayer behind me; to either side are little picnic areas and pretty flowers. It was a long morning and it was getting REALLY hot. I decided I was ravenously hungry and proceeded to meet friends at Jerry’s on Sanibel for lunch before heading home. Thus endeth the first field trip – but fear not, there’s more where this came from – stay tuned!
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Some more “messing around” with the macro focus on my Nokia N97. Man, I LOVE this phone 🙂
These are TINY flowers on a plant found at Bowditch Point Regional Park on Fort Myers Beach, Florida. The people we saw photographing these identified them merely as “heliotropium” so I had a tough time isolating it even with a bazillion books at my disposal. Finally found it at this site: www.regionalconservation.org/beta/nfyn/plantdetail.asp?tx… – and found it interesting that on the east side of South Florida, they are yellow, but here on the west coast, they are white, as pictured. So it’s actually a Pineland Heliotrope but I’ve also seen googled pictures identify it as a “seaside” heliotrope.
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This post will pick up where Wilderness At Bowditch Point left off. We’re on a field trip with my Florida Master Naturalist class (Coastal Systems Module), and we’ve got a really great guide named Roger Clark, from Lee County, Florida’s Conservation 20/20 program.
After telling us about a few of the plants and trees that we found growing on the perimeter of the parking lot, Roger led us up the man-made hill at the very northern tip of Estero Island aka Fort Myers Beach. Once on top of the hill, we saw a prominent “KEEP OUT” sign posted on a split-rail fence. Almost immediately, it became apparent that we were in for a critter encounter!
If you are looking for a gopher tortoise burrow, here’s how to spot one – just look around for a heap of sand that looks like an ant hill on steroids. The ones I’ve seen come complete with a hole that’s partially obscured by brush. I don’t know if that’s intentional, or just one giant co-inky-dink.
This tortoise had a single-minded mission to leave her burrow and head into a scrub area, and no wildlife geek with a camera in her hand was going to stop her! I can’t believe I moved out of her path, and then she headed right for me anyway. You can hear one of my classmates coaching me (translation: playing with my head a bit) about how vicious these animals can be 😀 You can also hear him say “no” when I ask if I should move. In the end, I was running out of options to keep the lens on her and had to stand up to avoid becoming a pretzel. You can also hear scrub jays screaming in the background about the time I stand up.
After the official part of the field trip was over, I doubled back over the route we’d taken so I could get some better shots of the plants that had been discussed. As I came up the hill, I spied this little tableau:
At first, I thought this osprey had an extra tail, or maybe one of her feathers was coming loose.
Now we see that it’s definitely a tail, but it’s not hers. It’s lunch! I think this is what they call “mantling” behavior, where they hunch over their food so that nothing flying overhead will see it and try to compete for it.
She’s really got an impressive profile, with a beak made for tearing. “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” 😉
There will be one more installment of this Florida Master Naturalist field trip adventure in the very near future – so stay tuned! 🙂
© Copyright 2011 Erin | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!