Monday, March 29, 2010

Americorps in Action


We were very pleased to have had the opportunity to work with an absolutely wonderful team (Delta 3) of young adults in service with Americorps this past Saturday. One of the mottos for Americorps is “Service through Teamwork” and these bright and enthusiastic young men and women lived up to that motto by making quick and easy work of yards and yards of vines and cut brush in an area we have been clearing in the flatwoods.

Reminiscent of the depression era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18–24. The young men and women we worked with were assigned from the Southern campus in Vicksburg, Mississippi having originally come from all parts of the U.S..

We look forward to working with AmeriCorps service members again in the future. We are working to see if we could have a team assigned to stay with us and work in the Back Woods. Think of the progress that could be made with that kind of teamwork and initiative available to us, wow.

The Sky is Blue and So Are You


Several fluffy silver lumps of beautiful skyblue lupine (Lupinus diffusus) dot the sands of the the Western sandhill and most all are covered in bloom right now.  Skyblue lupine are found commonly throughout the state of Florida in sandhills and dry open hammocks. Popular with bees, the flowers have a pale blue corolla with a creamy white central spot. Even when not in bloom, they are easily recognizeable by their silky silvery haired foliage. Lupine are a member of the Fabaceae family (formerly Leguminosae) known commonly to many as the bean family or legumes. Lupine are in a sub order of legumes described as papilionaceous or having flowers that resemble a butterfly.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I lichen it!

Walking through the Back Woods Forest Preserve, you may notice bright spots of DSCN0534 pink or red on the bark of some trees. These spots are lichen!

Christmas wreath lichen (Cryptothecia rubrocincta) is a species of lichen found throughout the Southeastern portion of North America and throughout the tropics and subtropics of South America and the Caribbean. This lichen is distinctively colored with a pale green body and brilliant red/pink edging and spots in the center. This color combination and generally circular shape of development have led to its common name of ‘Christmas wreath lichen’. The bright red/pink coloring in this lichen comes from chiodectonic acid which is produced by the lichen to help it tolerate inhospitable growing conditions and locations.

This species is a crustose lichen which, as the name suggests grows like a crust on the surface of tree bark and other locations. This species was first described by a German naturalist named Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg in 1820. The species name, rubrocincta, comes from the red band around the edge of the lichen and derives from the Latin root words ruber "red" and cinctus "girdled/encircled".

Friday, March 12, 2010

Florida Snapping Turtle

DSCN1111 What a cutie!! Unhappily relocated from the parking lot.

Meet another Back Woods resident the Chelydra serpentina osceola otherwise known as the Florida snapping turtle. All those pointy little fleshy projections (tubercles) on the back of its head help distinguish this snapper as the sub species osceola or Florida snapping turtle from the common snapping turtle Chelydra serpentina. The scientific name of of the Florida snapper has a cool etymology; Chelydra from the Greek chelys for turtle and hydros for water serpent, the specific epitaph serpentina from Latin meaning snake like probably referring to that snake like neck that can reach the back and sides of the shell, and then Osceola in honor of 19th century Florida Seminole leader Osceola.

[check out this cool etymology site: Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America – Explained]

Florida snapping turtles are aquatic turtles but, they do not bask like cooters or sliders. They are often found lurking in the depths of the water or nestled in the mud where they can quickly strike out at unsuspecting prey eating almost anything that passes by as well as munching on carrion and some plant life. (Note that Florida snapping turtles on land are not happy critters, they will readily strike out at you if you  try to pick them up. Take great caution if you attempt to assist in a road crossing as their long flexible necks allow their mouth to reach well up the sides and back of the shell. Only attempt to pick up them up from the very rear of the shell where the sharp claws on their hide feet still pose a hazard.)

The warm weather has brought out our snappers from their burrows and probably has them on the hunt for mates and nesting spots. Breeding typically starts in April followed by egg laying in May, and hatch out in late summer or the following spring.

Our snappers love to hang out in the stormwater catchments near the East and West entrances to the nature trail…creep up slowly and peer into the depths and you just might see one!!