Monday, September 22, 2008

Habitat Restoration Update

The effects of the herbicide applications are now plainly evident throughout the forest. It is really interesting to see the actual structure and stratification of native shrubs and trees revealed as the blanket of air potato has died back.

This is only the beginning of a long term non native invasive species control program. Many of the non native invasive species infesting Florida and those in our little neck of the woods will never be completely eradicated. But, by aggressively treating established populations and taking actions to prevent new introductions we hope to mitigate the detrimental effects of these invaders on our forest’s ecosystems.

Although it may hard to believe, there are some positives associated with the invasion of non native species. There are opportunities for educational outreach and for people of varied backgrounds to come together to tackle an issue that affects us all. On that note, one of the greatest challenges we will face in the Back Woods will be maintaining the level of non native species suppression obtained by the professional treatments. Volunteers will be critical to the process helping us locate and identify new outbreaks, monitor and control existing populations, and educate the public to the threats posed by non native invasive plant species. If you would like to learn more about Florida ecosystems by volunteering in the Back Woods at Mosi, please contact our volunteer team, Joel Bates,, or Esteban Tarré,, at (813) 987-6370.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Local Native Plant Guide

The English Creek Native Tree & Plant Tour guidebook featuring many of the most common trees and plants found in bottomland hardwood forests in our area of central Florida is now available online.

The guidebook contains color photographs of key identifying characteristics as well as details about the plants' uses, range, and habitat. This is a nice portable reference manual for the layman and professional alike.
A similar project is in the works for our little forest. We will have a guidebook to common plant species of the Back Woods as well as a self guided tree tour before the end of next year.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sandhill Surprise

Florida sandhill and scrub systems are two of my favorite plant communities. There are so many neat things to be found. And, today I found something new to me! Too Cool!!!

While searching for wiregrass and checking on the progress of the liatris (shortleaf gayfeather: Liatris tenuifolia), I almost stepped right past this little beauty. This gem is the native terrestrial orchid Pteroglossaspis ecristata, common name giant orchid or false coco or wild coco. Native to the Southeast, it is threatened in Florida and endangered in North Carolina. Upland habitat loss and fire suppression are likely the key reasons for this plants decline.

Now with a mouthful of a name like Pteroglossaspis ecristata, I just had to find out what the derivation was! Pteron (wing), glossa (lip), aspis (shield) then ecristata for without crest. Interestingly enough, this plant used to be genus Eulophia which means well crested. That means the original naming was well crested without crest. (I am such a plant nerd!)

The foliage has an almost pleated appearance and could be easily mistaken for palmetto or sabal seedling if you were not paying attention.

And I actually did find a clump of wiregrass. Hard to believe but, I think it is the only one.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sandhill Show N Tell

Today, I was treated to a multitude of six-lined racerunners (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus sexlineatus) scurrying about in the sandhill. Every step I took sent zippy little teeids scurrying in every direction (they are supposedly capable of running up to 18mph). Amazingly, one allowed me to get close enough to snap a couple of photos.

One of our western sandhill residents... gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)...I call him Fred.

A little ceraunus blue (Hemiargus ceraunus) butterfly atop narrowleaf silkgrass (Pityopsis graminifolia).

Florida harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex badius)... I love how they usually adorn the perimeter of the mound with charcoal.

Habitat Restoration

I am excited to share that we are about to undertake a major step towards the restoration of our little forest!

Like many urban and natural areas, the Back Woods has been overrun with non native plants that often out-compete and displace our native plants and potentially alter the functions of the ecosystems.

Beginning as early as the end of this week, 3-5 man crews from Biological Research Associates will begin treating these non native invasive plant species mechanically and with herbicides.

Over the next 30-40 days sections of the forest will be closed as the treatments are applied. Signs will be posted to let you our guests know what areas have any entry restrictions.

The products that will be used are professional formulations of the same chemicals many of you may have used in your own gardens e.g. Roundup for weeds and Brush Be Gone for poison ivy.

In a few weeks time the treatments will become very noticeable. Many of the non native invasive vines and ferns that cover large areas in the forest will brown out as they die. Swaths of some non native invasive trees and large shrubs will be cut and removed opening up areas previously densely vegetated. Native species will once again have space to grow and thrive.

Please feel free to email any questions you may have about the process. I always enjoy the opportunity to share information on our restoration activities and the benefits of controlling non native species.

Here are a few links to information about non native plants in our natural areas.
(Control and ID of non native plants found in Hillsborough County for the homeowner can be found here.)
Florida Division of Forestry
UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants
Florida Invasive Plant Initiative in Parks
Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests
Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council

“…approximately 46% of the federally listed threatened and endangered species in the United States are considered to be imperiled in part due to impacts of invasive species….and…In Florida, approximately $30 million taxpayer dollars are spent annually on invasive plant management on natural areas and waterways” FLDOF

Non Native Invasive Plant Species Found in the Back Woods
(check out the links, you might be surprised to find a few of these in your own back yard)