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BRAZILIAN PEPPERTREE

These little flowers are a big problem in Florida. They are blooms of the invasive Brazilian peppertree, and will mature into numerous red drupes that will fall on the ground and also be eaten by many birds, especially mockingbirds, robins and cedar waxwings, which then distribute the seeds in their droppings.

BRAZILIAN PEPPERTREE - Schinus terebinthifolius - flower & buds

National Invasive Species Awareness Week was Feb. 26 through March 3, 2012.
A common invasive plant that has aggressively spread throughout the central and south peninsula up into Levy County on the west coast, to Duval County on the east coast, plus Franklin County in the panhandle. Native to Brazil, Schinus terebinthifolia is now also present in Hawaii, California, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The conspicuous clusters of bright red drupes - or berries - are most numerous from November through February, but may be present at any time of the year. The leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, usually with three to nine leaflets. The leaflets are lanceolate to elliptic, up to about 3 inches long, often with toothed margins. Flowers are small and white, numerous in clusters growing from the leaf axils. Brazilian peppertree grows to 26 feet tall, and will form extensive monospecific stands, out-competing native plants.
The species name terebinthifolia refers to the turpentine odor of the leaves. As with a number of other members of the Anacardiaceae family, Brazialian peppertree has poisonous qualities. People with a sensitivity to poison ivy should especially avoid contact with this plant.



OCKLAWAHA RIVER

A view from our Thanksgiving weekend canoe trip campsite along an oxbow of the Ocklawaha River, looking both upstream just left of the center in this image, and downstream on the right side.

Ocklawaha River - Oxbow 2011

The Ockalwaha River flows north 74 miles from Lake Harris in Lake County passing through Marion County and along the western border of the Ocala national Forest, ending in Putnam County, entering the St. Johns River just upstream of Welaka. The Ocklawaha is the largest tributary of the St. Johns River, and Silver River is the largest tributary of the Ockalwaha. The 5-1/2 mile Silver River is the outflow of Silver Springs, one of Florida's largest freshwater springs.
The name is derived from ak-lowahe, meaning muddy in the Creek language.
The Ocklawaha was intended to be a major part of the cross Florida barge canal, a project started several times and canceled in the early 1970's but not before Rodman dam was built, creating a reservoir out of part of the river. For a complete history of the canal, one should read Ditch of Dreams: The Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Struggle for Florida's Future by Steven Noll and David Tegeder. Much of the canal path is now the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, named for one of the people most active in the efforts to stop the canal from being built.
The sections of the Ocklawaha that are still natural are some of the most scenic waterways in Florida and make for excellent canoeing and kayaking.
Purchase Ocklawaha Oxbow by Paul Rebmann Purchase Ocklawaha Oxbow #2 by Paul Rebmann



HORNED GREBE

Central Florida marks the southern extent of the winter migration of this small waterfowl.

HORNED GREBE - Podiceps auritus

The winter range includes the southeastern coast from Maryland to Texas, the Great Lakes and much of the Pacific coast, but more so in California. In summer horned grebes are found from Lake Superior and Hudson Bay throughout most of central and western Canada and into Alaska.
Horned grebes ride high in the water and have a small head with a short, sharp black bill tipped in white. The eyes are scarlet. Immature and winter plumage are similar, with a black cap and black band down the rear of the neck, the cheeks and front of the neck are white. The back is gray mottled with a band of white usually visible just above the waterline along the rear half of the body. In summer breeding plumage, the white sides and neck become rufous, the head is black with a widening yellow patch extending from the eye to the back of the head.



JAPANESE CLIMBING FERN

A close-up photo of the sterile frond of Lygodium japonicum, one of two super-invasive climbing ferns that are both problem species in Florida.

JAPANESE CLIMBING FERN - Lygodium japonicum

This vine-like fern is a problem invasive that can now be found in swamps, flatwoods, other moist areas and disturbed sites throughout Florida. Native to Japan, it ranges through the southeastern coastal states from Texas to North Carolina, plus Arkansas and Pennsylvania.
The climbing ferns can grow secondary, or branching rachises that twist into a trailing and high-climbing growth form that can cover all supporting vegetation. The blade has numerous alternate pinnae that are divided once or twice more into pinnae-like segments. The fronds are dimorphic, having fertile and sterile forms that appear distinctly different. Sterile pinnae are lanceolate to triangular in overall shape, 3-6 inches long on 2/3 to 1-1/3 inch long stalks, with each pinna pinnately or bipinnately divided. Individual segments are lanceolate and usually lobed at the base. Fertile pinnae are similar, but appear smaller and lacy due to the sporangia on the underside margins.
Wild Florida Photo also has a old world climbing fern page with information and pictures. An article about both invasive Lygodium species titled "The Invasion of the Non-native Climbing Ferns" appears in the Summer/Fall 2011 issue of Palmetto - The Quarterly Journal of the Florida Native Plant Society. More information about Japanese climbing fern, including a video, can be found at the University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants website.



MERRITT ISLAND FEEDING FRENZY

A congregation of wading birds feeding seemed an appropriate photo to feature in honor of the 112th Christmas Bird Count. Christmas Bird Counts were held throughout the Americas between Dec. 14, 2011 and Jan. 5, 2012. For more information on these volunteer bird counts, visit the CBC page at Audubon.org.

MERRITT ISLAND FEEDING FRENZY

This group of birds seen along Black Point Wildlife Drive includes roseate spoonbills, wood storks, and white ibis.
Black Point Wildlife Drive is a seven mile one-way scenic drive through some of the shallow marsh impoundments of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This is one of the premier Florida birding locations, especially in the winter months. Be sure to check the MINWR website before you visit, as the refuge is periodically closed during rocket launches at nearby Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Centers.



FRAGRANT LADIESTRESSES

These flowers were photographed from kayak along Bear Creek, a tributary that parallels the last several miles of the Ocklawaha River before they both flow into the St. Johns River near Welaka.

A frequent terrestrial or semi-aquatic orchid of swamps, ponds, rivers and flooded ditches in much of Florida. The range extends throughout the southeastern coastal states, west into Texas, plus Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky, and up the Atlantic coast to New Jersey.
Fragrant ladies'-tresses bloom from October though January. Ten to 30 small white flowers are arranged in three or four rows that spiral up the spike of the inflorescence. Individual flowers are 1/3 - 3/4 in. long, mostly white or ivory and often with the center of the lower lip a creamy yellow or greenish color. Petals and sepals are similar color, with the sepals extending forward. The 3 to 5 basal leaves are linear to oblanceolate, up to 20-1/2 in. long and 1-1/2 in. wide and are usually present when the plant is flowering. The stem has sheathing bracts that are reduced upward.
Purchase Fragrant Ladiestresses by Paul Rebmann