Category Archives: Trees

trees of wetlands

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation

The pictures shown above are of the visitor center and paths through the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation on Sanibel Island, Fla. SCCF is one of the many attractions on Sanibel because they have several preserves, trails, a garden center and exhibits that show and explain how coastal and inland habitats live and thrive under unique conditions. The main mission of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation is to conserve the coastal resources and aquatic habitats on Sanibel and Captiva and surrounding watershed. 

The SCCF has several scientists on staff who monitor the water quality around Sanibel and report on the amount of pollution, dissolved oxygen, salinity and other factors of the watershed. The waters around Sanibel were once filled with healthy oyster beds but they have been diminished and threatened by the amount of pollution coming from nearby places. 

The Visitor Center at the SCCF is a great place to see the native animals and plants that live on Sanibel-Captiva including the turtles who nest on the islands. There are live turtles to view and exhibits of habitats. If you have the time and like hiking, there is a trail that winds through the several hundred acre preserve where you can view fresh water habitats, native birds and trees on Sanibel. The trail is well marked and you can take a short stroll or walk the whole length of the preserve which can take an hour or two. The trail contains an observation tower as well. 

One of the best well known and cared for parts of SCCF is the Native Garden Center which was recently moved to a better and larger location on Periwinkle Way which contains several acres of plants and shrubs to view or purchase. It is managed and cared for by employees of SCCF and many volunteers. 

The SCCF has a Facebook Page and visitor comments on Trip Advisor as well. 

 

 

Sea Grape Plant

Sea Grape Plant

Sea Grape Plant

Sea Grapes ( Coccolaba uvifera) are large flowering plants or shrubs that are often seen in coastal areas in sand dunes and near beaches. They are hardy plants, very salt tolerant and make excellent plants to halt erosion on beaches and also act as wind breakers for nearby homes. The plant grows large grape like clusters that are reddish looking fruits. The tree or shrub often grows to large sizes and can be several feet wide and 50 ft high although the ones I have seen as usually 5-8 ft tall. The shrub in this picture was photographed in a sand dune on Sanibel Island. The barrier islands that line the coasts around Florida have some of the worst erosion problems due to tides, wind, currents and occasional storms and hurricanes. Communities plant grasses, plants and trees in and around beaches to prevent erosion and to protect homes. Some other commonly seen plants and grasses include Sea Oats, Saw Palmetto, Spanish Bayonet, Century plant and Beach sunflower. The Floridata Plant Encyclopedia has some good additional information about the Sea Grape plant. To learn more about other beach and sand dune plants check out the Florida Plants.com website.

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Banyan Tree

Banyan Tree

Banyan Tree  –   click on pictures for larger images

Lofty Fig with air plant

Lofty Fig with air plant

There are several Banyan trees on the Edison-Ford Winter Estates property in Ft Myers including one that is supposed to be the largest in the U.S.. Thomas Edison experimented with many plants and trees to test them for their chemical properties and  industrial applications. He was looking for a source of rubber from plants and trees and he used the Banyan tree, Lofty Fig and others to see if he could extract enough resin to be used for rubber. The automobile industry was taking off and Edison wanted to supply it with products from his trees. The Banyan tree unfortunately did not live up to its expectations along with his other trees and he abandoned his efforts to cultivate his trees for this purpose.

The tree grows or spreads out by dropping shoots or branches to the ground which take hold and form new trunks or foundations of the tree. You can see from the photo the vertical trunks that seem to drop from the upper branches to the ground. The tree can grow to be very large and this one covers several acres of land. There is a statue of Thomas Edison on the other side of this tree posing in front of the Banyan.

The Banyan tree is native to India and gets its name from a term used for traders or travelers who used the tree for shade. The Banyan tree is part of the ficus or fig family of trees and they can start as an air plant or seed growing in a crevice of a tree and then growing and spreading out until it takes over its host tree. There are many other plants and trees on the Edison property which Edison experimented with. The photo next to the Banyan tree is a Lofty Fig tree with an air plant growing on it. The Bing website of images has a good collection of pictures of Banyan trees.

 

 

 

 

Gumbo Limbo Tree

Gumbo Limbo Tree

Gumbo Limbo Tree

The Gumbo Limbo Tree (Bursera simaruba)  is native to the southeastern most part of the U.S. , Caribbean and Central America.  They can grow as fast as 6-8 feet in 18 months from a seedling. They are used by homeowners for their decorative looks because of their thick trunks and  shiny red bark. They can be as thick as 1-3 ft. in diameter and grow to be 25-50 ft. tall. The bark almost appears sun burned and thus gets it nickname, “tourist tree”. The tree also gives off a resin that smells like turpentine when its bark is cut. The tree has soft bark and can be used for carving. It is surprisingly hurricane resistant despite it’s soft wood.  I saw and photographed this clump of Gumbo Limbo trees in a yard on a homeowners property just off the Sanibel Island Beach.

The Gumbo Limbo tree is one of many different species of the genus Bursera. There is an excellent website showing different types of Gumbo Limbo trees at the Univ. of Florida IFAS website. The tree starts dropping its leaves in winter and also starts producing its flowers at the same time in winter. It produces berries which are popular with birds. It is generally pest resistant except for a few insects and a fungus which can kill the tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Florida Trees – Long Leaf Pine Tree

 

Long Leaf Pine Tree

Long Leaf Pine Tree                       click on picture for larger image

The Longleaf Pine Tree ( Pinus palustris)  use to cover over 90 million square acres in the Southeastern U.S. but has only 3% of that amount remaining due to the logging industry and development of land by settlers. The Longleaf Pine Tree prefers sandy, dry and acidic soil. They need lots of sun to grow and can last up to three hundred years during their lifetime. The tree is an evergreen conifer that is named after it’s long needles which can grow up to 18 inches long. They produce pine cones with seeds which drop to the ground or are blown by wind to establish new trees.  They have thick scaly dark trunks. A close relative to the Longleaf Pine is the Slash Pine which exists in large numbers in Florida and the Southeast U.S.

The wood from this tree was sought after to build ships and railroad ties in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s  because of it’s sturdiness and resistance to pests. There has been a restoration effort going on to re-establish the Longleaf Tree forests. The Longleaf Pine tree also has excellent qualities to combat climate change because of their carbon dioxide absorption qualities. They are also resistant to wildfires and windstorms and after a natural event. It is common to see only these trees remaining after a wildlife.

I see Longleaf Pines in my area that have been planted in neighborhoods, county parks and other areas to keep out invasive trees and to improve the looks of the landscape. The Longleaf Pine in this photo was planted in a grassy area in my neighborhood. Birds like them to provide cover and to establish habitats.

More information is available about this tree at the National Wildlife Foundation website.

 

 

Trees of Florida – Strangler Fig Tree

Strangler Fig

Strangler Fig

Fig roots growing on an Old Growth Cypress tree

Fig roots growing on an Old Growth Cypress tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Strangler Fig   (Ficus aurea)

Strangler fig trees start out as seeds that are dropped by birds or dispersed by wind into the canopy or tops of trees where they start to grow and benefit from the moisture in the air and water running over the host tree. They are epiphytes or air plants in the beginning of their development until they grow roots that extend down into the ground. They can envelop their host tree like the palm tree shown in first picture and kill it by starving it of water and sunlight. Other types of strangler figs of which there are over 150 species like the “Weeping fig”,  grow vines or roots downward from the tops of trees through the air until they reach the ground. The second picture shows one of these Weeping figs growing on an Old Growth Bald Cypress at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples. The Strangler fig tree is native to Florida meaning they existed here by the time the Spanish explorers came to Florida. Strangler figs grow mostly in moist tropical ecosystems. Florida’s sub- tropical environment is well suited for their growth. They are important plant species in some tropical forests and are actually thought to be “Keystone Species” or essential to the survival to some ecosystems because of the fruit of their hidden flowers that provides food and it’s ability to provide shelter for many species of animals, birds and insects. I didn’t know until I started reading about Fig trees that a Banyan tree is a type of Fig Tree. One of the largest Banyan trees I have seen is at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates in Ft. Myers. You can learn more about Strangler fig trees by visiting the Encyclopedia Britannica website or going to the Blue Planet Biomes website.

to enlarge pictures, click on them and wait for them to resize

 

 

Landscapes of Florida – Fall colors at the Six Mile Cypress Slough

 

Fall Colors at the Slough

Fall Colors at the Slough

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was able to catch a view of the beautiful November Fall colors of the Six Mile Cypress Slough while I was riding my bicycle just outside of the preserve on the bicycle path along the parkway. The tree’s in the preserve are a collection of many wetland tree’s including Bald Cypress, Pond Cypress, Slash Pine, Red Maple, Live Oak, Swamp Bay, Sweet Bay, Tupelo, American Elm and Carrotwood.  It’s nice to see broad leaf and deciduous trees that change color in South Florida where Pine and Palm trees seem to dominate the landscape. The trees in this picture border part of Gator Lake in the preserve which was excavated when the  Six Mile Cypress Slough was saved and redeveloped in the 1970’s. The tree plantings including the ones in this picture are supposed to represent a cross section of trees that inhabit wetlands throughout Florida. If you visit the Six Mile Cypress Slough you can walk on a boardwalk through a swamp and wetland and see close-up many different species of plants, trees and wildlife in a wetland. 
 for a larger view of the trees, click on picture and wait for it to resize

 

 

 

 

 

Florida’s Trees – Invasive Trees

Malaleuca Trees

Malaleuca Trees

Austalian Pine

Austalian Pine

Florida has been under attack by the introduction of non-native invasive trees and plants for over 100 year which are displacing our native plant communities and destroying our wetlands.  Floridians were responsible for the introduction of many of the harmful plants and trees during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when people thought swamps and wetlands were useless and didn’t serve any useful purpose for meeting the needs of settlers who wanted to establish farms, ranches and urbanize communities. One tree in particular, the Malaleuca was brought into Florida to soak up the wetlands and make the land dry. The Malaleuca did it’s job well and we now have an uncontrollable spread of these trees which continue to dry out the wetlands and displace native trees. There are many other tree and plant species that are now listed on the Florida Category I list of prohibited and noxious plants. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council lists these trees and plants as category I or II depending on the harm they inflict on our wetlands and uplands. The FEPPC also categorizes the invasive plants by the letters (P) Prohibited by the Fla. Dept. of Environmental protection, (N) Noxious Weed by Fla. Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services and (U) Noxious weed  by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Some of the most common names of invasive and harmful trees and plants that you might recognize include the Malaleuca tree, the Australian Pine tree, Brazilian Pepper, Chinese Tallow, Air Potato and Old World Climbing fern. There are many more plants that have been introduced to our state which we should recognize and help to stop their spread and infestation of our environment. The University of South Florida  has a good website which lists and shows pictures of invasive and harmful plants to our state.

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