Bald Cypress Trees in Six Mile Cypress Slough and Swamp
Swamps, marshes and prairies are a common part of the landscape of Florida. They are important for several reasons including flood control, water storage and supply and providing a habitat for fish and wildlife. Swamps differ from marshes because of their hydro period (length of time they are submerged in water) and the type of trees, and vegetation that grows there. Swamps and Marshes covered half of Florida at one time but they have been reduced by over 50% because of the urbanization of the land and uses for farming and livestock. Florida’s swamps are dominated by woody vegetation (trees) as opposed to marshes which are dominated by herbaceous vegetation such as low growing shrubs and grasses. Swamps are biologically more diverse than marshes and therefore are home to a greater variety of fish and animals. Swamps are located in depressions in the land and have standing water in them for over half of the year. Bald Cypress, Pond Cypress, Tupelo and Pine trees are common in swamp land and forests. Hammocks are protrusions of land from the swamp that may hold a group of trees and wildlife that prefer a dryer soil bed. Some of the larger swamps that remain in Florida are The Everglades National Park http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm
The Big Cypress National Preserve http://www.nps.gov/bicy/index.htm The Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/greenswamp.html and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. http://corkscrew.audubon.org/
Florida Master Naturalist Program – classes taught by instructors in wetlands, coastal systems and uplands.
Welcome to my Website and Blog Our Wetlands in Florida. This site is meant to inform readers about the importance of wetlands or land that is partially or fully submerged in water for most of the year. Florida was once mostly a wetland consisting of swamps, marshes, estuaries and shallow bodies of water south of Orlando that flowed south towards the Everglades. Wetlands in Florida and in other states filter and clean the water we drink, and provides a healthy habitat for wildlife. Included in this blog/website are photos of parks, preserves and wildlife that depend on healthy wetlands. Browse around to the different posts and pictures by clicking on one of the recent posts, categories or the archives. I have included many links to other websites if you want to learn more about a specific topic. The pictures are originals that I took with my digital camera unless otherwise noted. Click on pictures for larger images. Comment are appreciated and make a blog more interesting to readers. Thanks for visiting. – Dave Zuhusky
Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Observation Tower
The Sanibel & Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) is dedicated to the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel & Captiva Islands. The SCCF manages over 1,300 acres of land on the islands and owns an additional 500 acres on nearby Pine Island. The SCCF Marine Laboratory conducts research on areas including seagrasses, mangroves and harmful algal blooms, fish populations and shell-fish restoration. SCCF’s RECON (River,Estuary, and Coastal Network) network of seven in-water sensors provides real-time hourly readings of key water quality parameters over a 90 mile area.
The SCCF also offers educational programs for people of all ages from beach walks to boat tours, wading trips, kayak trip tours and classroom based activities. There is a great trail to hike and walk where you will see a lot of the native trees, plants and wildlife from the islands. The SCCF’s 4 miles of trails also has an observation tower where you can see a large part of the preserve. The visitor center has a touch tank of marine life, butterfly house and nature shop. The SCCF also has a Nature Plant Nursery with a wide variety of plants for sale. www.sccf.org
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The Cypress Dome is a distinct area within a forested wetland that has a characteristic dome shaped look when seen from a distance. I got this picture of a small Cypress Dome that sits in a small lake in my homeowners community. It would look a lot better if they removed the other invasive trees that grow next to the native Cypress trees. The ecological community of trees usually is located on a piece of land that is lower in the middle than at the edges and has more standing water in the middle which makes the trees grow taller. Trees that make up a Cypress Dome are usually Bald Cypress, Pond Cypress, Swamp Gum, Red Maple, Sweet Bay, (Magnolia) Dahoon Holly, Swamp Bay, and Slash Pine. Ground cover of plants is usually less because of the presence of standing water. The Dept. of Environmental Protection of Florida describes the Cypress Domes in more detail. The vines growing up the trees in this picture are Old World Growing Ferns, an invasive weed that is often seen and should be removed. I have seen some great Cypress Domes on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University where they cleared the land of many of the invasive trees and left the native Slash Pine and other trees standing. FGCU has much of it’s land preserved as wetlands and dry prairies.
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The Resuurection Fern – (Polypodium polypodioides) is a plant often found in swamps growing on tree trunks that are dead or alive. These ferns are epiphyte or air plants which mean they attach themselves to tree branches or trunks and spread from there obtaining their moisture and nutrients from the air. The Resurrection Fern can grow in dense mats as seen in this picture. It is a native plant and not invasive and does not harm the tree it is growing on. They can be seen sometimes with other air plants or epiphytes such as Orchids and Spanish Moss. An interesting fact about the Resurrection Fern is that it can lose most of it’s water content in dry periods and shrivel up but spring back to life once it gets wet again by rain or running water. The Univ. of Fla. IFAS Gardening Solutions website has some additional facts about this plant as well as the National Wildlife Federation website.
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Turtles at Six Mile Slough Preserve
A wetland is an area that is covered by water part or most of the year. A swamp is a good example of a wetland because it is submerged most of the year by rainfall, sheet flow of water or underground springs. Marshes are wetlands that are covered by water for a shorter period of time and may be dry for part of the year. The Everglades National Park or “River of Grass” in Florida is one of the best known examples of wetlands because its ground is covered with water for most of the year. Soils in Wetlands are called hydric or alluvial which means they are covered by water most of the year and thus have different kinds of plants and vegetation. Other types of wetlands may be called marshes, estuaries bogs, bayheads, cypress domes, stands and sloughs, or wet prairies. The Univ. of Florida IFAS does a lot of research into the ecology of wetlands and have a good description of wetlands and their importance. The picture shown above is a pond at Six Mile Cypress Slough in Ft. Myers. A slough is a slow moving swamp channeling the water downstream.
Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) can be seen in many of our wetlands and in our neighborhoods usually wading for food in shallow water. The body is blue/gray in color and has a wing span of up to 72 inches. You can tell the difference between the Egret and a Heron by the Heron’s larger size, larger bill and yellow-gray legs. The pictures of these two Herons were taken at a local fresh water pond and along the salt water coastline of the Sanibel Causeway. The Great Blue Herons are beautiful birds when standing still or wading in the water and even prettier to look at when they take flight. The All About Birds website has great information in learning about and identifying birds.
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Pond at Six Mile Cypress Slough – click on picture to enlarge
Our Wetlands which are composed of Estuaries, Marshes and Swamps are vital to the health of Florida. Our Wetlands help to let rainwater seep into the ground and recharge our aquifers where we get much of our drinking water. With a population of 19 million people in 2014 and growing fast we cannot jeopardize our health and future water supplies by over developing the land with impervious surfaces like roads, parking lots, residential and commercial developments. We need to keep green spaces likes parks, marshes, swamps, lakes and other areas alive and growing in number to support ourselves and our important habitats for wildlife. The University of Florida IFAS has a good website describing basic facts of wetlands. You can scroll through this website and see various kinds of wetlands.