Looking at and learning about Florida’s Old Growth Bald Cypress Trees is amazing and well worth the effort to visit one of the last remaining stands of these trees at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida. These trees can grow upwards of 300 feet tall, weigh several tons and measure over twenty feet around their trunks. Many of them date back to the time Christopher Columbus discovered America over 500 years ago. The strength of these trees as well as their pest and insect resistance made them a prized commodity for home and ship building during the 19th and 20th Century’s. Railroads were built into the swamps that covered Florida in order to pull the logs cut from these trees out to drier areas where they could be transported to sawmills. The cypress logs were then transformed into decking and masts for ships, floors and siding for homes and other uses. The last stands of these trees now reside in the swampy preserves of Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina.
Florida Black Bears – (Ursus americanus floridans) are a subspecies of the American black bear and roams throughout Florida and can sometimes find it’s way into peoples backyards and neighborhoods. They were at one time an endangered species but have come back in number and have increased from about 700 to over 3,000. Watch a video of Florida Black Bears.
Florida Black Bears need a large area to roam, about 60 square miles and can be seen anywhere in the state. They are omnivores but eat mostly plants. They sometimes forage for food where it can be found including garbage areas. They eat up to 20,000 calories per day in the fall season to get ready for winter and may increase their size by 50% during this period.
The urban sprawl of Florida’s population which has increased in size from 5 million people to over 18 million today has put an increased pressure on the bear population to hunt in secluded areas. Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission to learn more about Florida’s bear population.
Picture and video courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
During my visit to the Bird Rookery Swamp in Naples, I got to see a few pretty interesting natural things that you don’t normally see in your natural surroundings. These mushrooms shaped like shelves were growing on a tree and was pointed out by our tour guide. He called them shelf mushrooms for obvious reasons. They were really pretty impressive looking and bigger than this picture gives them credit for. I saw several other neat things on my short tour which included Black Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies, a very large alligator, birds, ferns, and Old Growth Bald Cypress Trees. There were remnants of the railroad tracks that the logging industry and railroads used to pull out the Old Growth Bald Cypress trees which could weigh several thousand pounds. It was here that I learned about the history of the Old Growth Bald Cypress Trees and how valuable they were in the 20th century to build everything from homes to ships. The tour guide said that Ponce de Leon didn’t find the Fountain of Youth in Florida but if he had looked hard enough he would have found another natural wonder in these trees.
Cat-tails (Typha species)
Cat-tails are native to Florida and exist in many parts of the United States. They often grow in wetland areas and are known to be more predominant in canals and swamps that have an excessive amount of fertilizer and agricultural runoffs of nitrogen, phosphorous and other water pollutants caused by human activity. I remember seeing Cat-tails when I was a kid bicycling along Wantagh Parkway on Long Island. They get their name from their brown cylindrical flower spike which can be more than a foot long. I saw this stand of Cat-tails while walking along the Ten Mile Canal in Ft. Myers, Fla.
Thistle Plant – (Cirsium horridulum)
The Thistle Plant is an annual herbaceous plant that grows in many types of areas including wetlands, disturbed areas, and roadsides. I saw this one at the Corkscrew Regional Ecosytem Watershed (CREW) on Immokolee Rd. I hadn’t really seen this plant before but have recognized it now more frequently in various areas in Ft. Myers. It grows throughout Florida and the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. It’s nectar is popular with pollinators such as butterflies and bees. It’s sharp and thorny spikes are sharp and painful if you touch it. I saw a large butterfly flying over it just before I photographed this plant.