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EASTERN RED FOX

In April and early May the kits from the spring litter are coming out of the den and exploring, as in this photo of a young red fox.

The size of a small dog, these foxes were probably only native to the panhandle. They have recently expanded into peninsular Florida, but not into south Florida. Red foxes can be found throughout North America, except for the southwest, great plains and some of the southeast coastal regions. Their habitat is typically woods, open fields, or the transition zone in between, almost always near some source of water.
Adults are typically around a meter (3 ft.) long, with a third of that being the tail. Red foxes have long pointed ears and muzzle and relatively long legs. They have white to dull gray underparts, with the body shading from yellow-red to darker red, the lower legs and feet are always black and the tip of the tail is white. Adults weigh from 3.5 - 4.6 kg (7-3/4 to 10 lbs.).
After mating in the early part of the year, the female, known as a vixen, will prepare one or more dens, sometimes utilizing one dug by other animals. The vixen gives birth in the spring, staying in the den with the kits - a term for the young of foxes and other furry animals - for the first several weeks after birth. During this time the male provides food for the female. Litters average five kits, but can be from one to seventeen.
The North American red foxes are often divided into ten subspecies, with Vulpes vulpes fulva being the only one occurring in Florida. While there were red foxes on the continent before Europeans arrived, the British did bring European species over to the colonies for hunting. The current species are likely related to both the native and the imported foxes.
Also found in Florida is the common gray fox - Urocyon cinereoargenteus.



PERFOLIATE BELLWORT

In Florida, this small herbaceous plant of dry to moist hammocks is found only in Leon and Gadsden Counties.

The range of perfoliate bellwort includes much of the eastern United States, west into Indiana and Kentucky, extending farther west in the south to Texas and Oklahoma, plus Ontario.
Of the three Uvularia species in Florida, this is the only one with perfoliate leaves. In other parts of the range outside of Florida, U. grandiflora also shares this leaf characteristic.
Perfoliate bellwort is an erect, colonial perennial that grows from 20-40 cm (8-16 in.) tall. The perfoliate leaves are alternate, elliptic, entire, smooth underneath and 5-9 cm (2 to 3-1/2 in.) long. The flowers are straw yellow colored with three sepals overlapping the three similar looking petals. Flowers are nodding, appearing singly from the upper leaf axils, as seen in the featured photo. The inner surface of the petals are rough, appearing granular, as though sprinkled with corn meal.
The genus name derives from Linnaeus, the flower reminding him of the uvula hanging from the back of our mouths.



GREAT BLUE HERON

The largest heron in North America is a year-round resident of Florida, with migrating birds increasing the state's winter population.

Great blue herons can be seen along the edges and in the shallows of both fresh and saltwater. The year-round range includes much of the United States, with summer breeding in the northern plains and the southern provinces of Canada. Winter populations extend throughout Mexico and Central America and along part of the northern coast of South America.
Standing about 1.25 meter (4 ft.) tall with a wingspan of 1.8 m (6 ft.), the body is mostly blue-gray. The head is white with a black stripe and short black plumes. The bill is long, thick and mostly yellow, juveniles having a dark upper bill. Legs are long, dull yellow to slaty-black, with rusty thighs. The front of the neck is striped black and white and the shoulder is black, with a bit of rusty coloring.
In south Florida there is an all-white morph of the great blue heron, differentiated from the great egret (Ardea alba) by being larger and heavier and not having black legs and feet.
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FLOWERING DOGWOOD

A frequent small tree of mesic hammocks, roadsides and landscapes throughout the panhandle and the north and central peninsula south to Manatee County.

The range of Cornus florida extends throughout all of the eastern United States, west to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, northwest to Missouri, Illinois and Michigan, plus Ontario.
What appear to be four large usually creamy-white petals are actually bracts surrounding clusters of small flowers in the center of the springtime inflorescence. Leaves are opposite, broadly elliptic, simple and entire, 2-7 cm(3/4 to 2-3/4 in.) wide and 3-10 cm(1-1/8 to 4 in.) long. The fruit is an ellipsoid bright red berry 8-14 mm(1/3 to 1/3 in.) long in small clusters. Flowering doogwood trees grow to 12 m (40 ft.) in height with grayish blocky bark.
The yard, neighborhood and surrounding woods where I grew up in middle Tennessee were prolific with these beautiful flowering trees. Since the 1980s, many trees have died from an outbreak of dogwood anthracnose, a disease caused by the non-native fungus Discula destructiva. The fungus is believed to be from Asia, first appearing around Vancouver in western Cornus species and in the east near New York. Dogwood anthracnose has spread through much of the northern and central range of Cornus florida, southward into the northern areas of Georgia and Alabama. This disease has not yet been reported in Florida. For more information on dogwood anthracnose, visit the University of Florida IFAS website



MARSH RABBIT

Marsh rabbits are found near freshwater marshes and estuarine areas throughout most of Florida.

The range extends through a portion of the coastal plain from the Florida panhandle to southeastern Virginia.
They are medium sized rabbits that are dark brown to reddish brown with a dark belly. The head and tail of marsh rabbits are smaller than eastern cottontail rabbits. Sylvilagus palustris have short rounded ears and small feet with long toenails on the hind feet. Males and females appear similar.
The marsh rabbit is primarily nocturnal, although it can often be seen while foraging in the morning or early evening.



YELLOW JESSAMINE

Also called Carolina jessamine and yellow trumpetflower, this is a frequent evergreen vine of flatwoods, hammocks and disturbed sites throughout most of Florida except for the southernmost peninsula.

The range extends through the southeast, west into Texas and Arkansas, north into Tennessee and Virginia.
Often high-climbing, this vine produces yellow trumpet-shaped flowers, usually appearing between December and April in Florida. The flowers are on short pedicels and may be solitary, or in axillary clusters of 2 to 3. The flower tube is 2.5-3.8 cm (1 to 1-1/2 in.) long with five spreading corolla lobes. The sepals are obtuse - having blunt or rounded apices. The leaves are opposite, simple, entire and lanceolate, 6-9 cm (2-1/2 to 3-1/2 in.) long and 1.5 cm (2/3 in.) wide with a long tapering tip. Fruit is an oblong capsle 1.4-2.5 cm (1/2 to 1 in.) long and 0.8-1.2 cm (<1/2 in.) wide.
All parts of this plant are poisonous. Ingestion can cause death and skin contact can cause dermatitis, prompting another common name - cow itch - which is also the name of several other vines.