Monthly Archives: April 2015

Coconut Palm Tree

Coconut Palm Tree

Coconut Palm Tree  – click on pictures for larger images

Coconut Tree over 60 ft tall

Coconut Tree over 60 ft tall

Young Coconut at Edison Winter Estates

Young Coconut Tree at Edison Winter Estates

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Coconut Palm tree whose scientific name is Cocos nucifera  is one of the first and most memorable things I remember about Florida when I first visited along with the warm and balmy weather. During my vacations to Florida, I remember picking up coconuts off the ground and trying to get at the coconut juice by cutting off the tops with a machete. The outside cover was usually too tough. The pictures shown above are of Coconut Palm Trees on Sanibel Island, Downtown Ft Myers and the Edison-Ford Winter Estates in Ft. Myers.

I found out that there are over 150 different kinds of Coconut trees and they can grow up to 98 feet tall and live to be 100 years old. They are usually  20-30 ft tall and produce about 30 coconuts throughout the year.  Coconut palm trees start producing sweet scented flowers when they are about 4-6 years old. The flowers are  followed by fruits called coconuts which can be green, yellow, brown or bronze gold in color depending on their maturity and variety. Inside the coconut there is a nut filled with a layer of while coconut meat and sweet watery coconut milk.  The coconut can take up to a year to ripen after it has matured.

Coconut Palms prefer tropical weather, humid conditions, sandy soil and salty air. They are found all around the world but mostly around the equatorial belt in countries in South Asia, South America and the Pacific Islands. They have been native to Florida since the 1500’s. They may have been brought here by visitors to the America’s several hundred years ago and thrived because of our sub tropical weather. The name coco may have come from the Spanish or Portuguese  word “grin” which means “monkey face”  or “human face”.

Coconut Palms are commercially grown and their coconuts or nuts are used for making copra which is made into coconut oil. Coconut oil can then be made into soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, cooking oil and other products.  Coconuts can float in the water for long distances, survive and their seeds may begin to germinate or produce new trees. I found helpful information for this post at the Univ. of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. There is also a good website about coconut trees at coconut-info.net.

 

 

 

Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program – CHNEP

CHNEP Area

CHNEP Area

Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program – CHNEP  is an effort by concerned citizens, public officials, scientists, environmental advocates and others to try and improve the waterways and water quality of the Charlotte Harbor Watershed. The Charlotte Harbor Watershed encompasses 4,700 sq. miles in and around Charlotte Harbor.  The area of concern reaches as far north as Venice,  Winter Haven to the northeast  and Bonita Springs to the south. There are several rivers and estuaries which are included in this area of study including the Myakka and Peace Rivers which empty into the Charlotte Harbor, Caloosahatchee River, Pine Island Sound, and Estero Bay to name a few. The area contains cities, cattle pastures, citrus groves, pine flatwoods and cypress swamps. The boundary of the 4,700 sq mile area can be seen in the illustration at the top of this article. Click on the illustration for a larger image.

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary became an “Estuary of National Significance” many years after passage of the Clean Water Act by Congress. The Clean Water Act was passed in the 1940’s and amended in 1972 to stop the pollution of our rivers and waterways by industry and other sources.  The Charlotte Harbor Watershed is of primary concern for many people because of its size, 17th largest in the nation and 2nd in size as an open water estuary. It is used by many people and tourists for fishing, boating, swimming and as a body of water bordering their homes. Charlotte Harbor is also famous for it’s Tarpon fishing.

The Gulf of Mexico and the rivers feeding into the Gulf of Mexico have been plagued by Red Tides and Algae Blooms which have been intensified by the nutrient laden waters and chemicals that flow into the watershed. Some of the pollutants include activities from farming, pesticides, fertilizers, phosphate mining, urban storm water runoff, underground septic tanks and other sources.  The CHNEP established a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan that addresses these and 4 other areas of concern. These are 1. Water Quality 2. Hydrologic Alterations 3. Fish and Wildlife habitat 4. Stewardship Gap  Click on the 2013 Summary to read and learn about the latest scientific findings.

Other organizations monitor the water quality and flood protection for this region including 2 state water districts and the Environmental Protection Agency. All citizens and visitors to Southwest Florida who want a clean environment should be interested and support the efforts of CHNEP. They also publish great calendars.

illustration above reprinted with permission from CHNEP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oranges in Florida

Orange Groves in FL

Orange Groves near Arcadia  FL   –  click on image for larger picture

Florida’s subtropical climate is suitable for growing many crops including oranges, grapefruit, tangelos, sugar cane, tomatoes, peppers, cotton, watermelons, peanuts, and other crops. Florida produces about 67 % of the oranges consumed in the U.S. and about  40 % worldwide. Florida is the second largest producer of oranges worldwide after Brazil. The value of Florida orange and orange juice sold each year totals about $1.5 Billion dollars.

Florida’s’ orange production has been hurt in recent years by a disease caused by an insect called the Asian Citrus Psyllid. The disease that is devastating the orange crops in Florida is also known as “citrus greening” which causes the fruit to turn green and fall off the trees before they mature. Other diseases like Canker have affected Florida’s orange crops as well.

Money, science and lots of research has been done by the citrus industry, University of Florida and now the federal government to help find a solution to these citrus crop diseases.  In 2008 there were 568,000 acres of orange trees growing in Florida but that number has been decreasing. Some farmers are giving up, using their land for other purposes or abandoning their land altogether.

One bright spot for the orange industry in Florida is the Coca Cola Company which is investing millions of dollars in the state by agreeing to purchase oranges from growers and to provide money for the replanting of new trees  in central Florida. Coca Cola has a vested interest in Orange Juice because it owns Minute Maid, one of the largest brands of Orange Juice in the U.S.  Coca Cola owns 26 citrus production facilities in the state and employs over 4,000 employees. It purchases about 1/3 of all oranges grown by farmers in Florida.

The Coca Cola Company says that it supports the “sustainable and responsible” use of land in Florida by working towards using less fertilizers, pesticides and consuming less water for irrigation.  There is a lot of information about Florida’s Orange industry on the internet. I gathered some of the information for this article from www.agfax.com and the Univ. of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science. The New York Times also wrote an article on May, 8th 2013, titled “Citrus Diseases With No Cure is Ravaging Florida’s Groves.”

Some additional information about Florida’s Agricultural and Orange Industry can be found at the following websites.

http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Marketing-and-Development/Education/For-Researchers/Florida-Agriculture-Overview-and-Statistics

http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/agriculture/crops/

http://www.floridacitrus.org/oj

 

 

 

Sandbar and Shelling near Blind Pass

Sandbar near Blind Pass

Sandbar near Blind Pass

Shells near Blind Pass

Shells near Blind Pass

Blind pass is located at the intersection of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. There is s small bridge connecting the two islands and there has been a lot of activity there over the past several years to keep the pass open which allows water from the Gulf of Mexico to travel through the pass to the back bays of Pine Island Sound. It is also a popular spot for beach goers who like the clear water and shelling opportunities. It also has nice beaches for swimming. The currents and tides bring sand and shells to the pass which creates a problem in keeping the waterway open. The residents of Captiva and the State of Florida have spent large amounts of time and money to keep the pass open. It seems mother nature has other plans and the pass keeps getting blocked with sand and mud. There is public parking on both sides of the bridge so it is easy to get to. The sandbar in this picture is unique in its size and shape which is not unusual for the mouth of the pass just before water passes underneath Blind Pass bridge. I have not seen a larger collection of shells washed up on any beach on Sanibel or Captiva. If you collect any shells make sure they are not live shells with mollusks living in them. You can take as many empty shells as you like.  There is a good website called Sanibel-Captivaonline.com/blind-pass-sanibel.htm.  which provides a lot of information about places to go and stay on the Islands and elsewhere.

click on pictures for larger images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Develop or Not Develop Land in Bonita Springs

CREW Marsh Trail

CREW Marsh Trail

Shallow Water Marsh at CREW

Shallow Water Marsh at CREW

The future of 5,000 acres of land in Bonita Springs which lies in an area called a “Density Reduction Groundwater Recharge” area or DRGR is being debated between land developers and environmentalists.  Environmentalists prefer to keep the area a green space or undeveloped piece of land geared towards letting rain seep into the ground and recharge our underground aquifers. Aquifers are where most of our drinking water comes from.

A large swath of land called Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed contains over 82,000 acres of undeveloped land in Lee County and Collier County and lies near the 5,000 acres in Bonita Springs. The land in Bonita Springs has been designated by the state of Florida as a water recharge area.

Proponents of developing this piece of land argue that the land is already degraded by its use as a dumping ground for used tires, various kinds of refuse and for mining operations. They argue that developing the land will actually improve the environment. Critics argue that developing this piece of land will destroy green spaces and water recharge areas. The Ft. Myers News Press ran an article on Wed. April, 1st called “A City Divided “ which contains both sides of the argument. The picture in this post shows a marsh with shallow water which lies within The Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed. Visit their website and learn more about water conservation and wildlife habitat. Take note of the guided hikes through CREW, Strolling Science Seminars, Bird Rookery Swamp and habitat for wildlife.

The pictures in this post are not of the disputed land near Bonita Springs but are of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.  http://www.crewtrust.org/