Click on pictures for larger images
The clump of branches up in the Cypress tree in the Bird Rookery Swamp in Naples looks like a birds nest but it’s not. The wide growth of the branches and twigs is called a witches broom. It grows this way as a result of an outgrowth from the tree caused by a bacterium called phytoplasma that is placed in the tree by an insect. The bacterium disrupts the hormones in the tree which regulates growth and the bunch of twigs and branches grow into a mass that resembles a large birds nest.
The witches broom is a strange sight in the Bird Rookery Swamp which is part of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW). There are many more interesting natural sights in this preserve including plants, birds and animals. I saw a lot of Red Shouldered Hawks and they seem to rule the forest. During my first trip there when there was more standing water, I walked past a large alligator with a group of people led by a tour guide. Check the website for times when guided walks are given. There is a path that winds for several miles through the preserve if you like to take long walks. Just make sure you can walk back the same distance after you have hiked for awhile. There are mile markers along the way. The heat is very oppressive in the summer months although there is a lot of shade from the tree cover. Bring water and bug spray in the hotter times of the year.