Friday, April 30, 2010

Florida Greeneyes

DSCN1410 Look closely among the wonderful sprays of wildflowers popping up this spring for another one of our favorites, Florida greeneyes (Berlandiera subacaulis.) Native and endemic to Florida, Florida greeneyes are found in sandhill environments preferring deep sandy soils and plenty of sun.

DSCN1411 In the aster family, Asteraceae, Florida greeneyes sports a pretty cool variation on the classic composite flower type. The flowers are surrounded by an attractive set of overlapping bracts that  form a cup or plate like structure behind the flowers. The ray flowers are in a sparse ring around the disk flowers. The disk flower buds form the “green eye” in the center but eventually open to a bright cheery yellow just like the ray florets. Butterflies, bees, and other connoisseurs of nectar and pollen find the flowers of Florida greeneyes irresistible.

DSCN1413 After the pollinators have finished their job, the bracts (involucre) almost form a plate on which the  winged seeds are presented to the wind. Fortunately, Florida greeneyes spreads and propagates readily from seed so we only hope to see more of them as we continue our rehabilitation efforts in the sandhill!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Leaflets of Three, Leave Them Be

DSCN1260 And of who else might we be speaking of but… none other than the much maligned poison ivy vine. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is in the sumac (cashew) family Anacardiaceae. Other notable South Eastern relatives of poison ivy include Eastern poison oak (T.pubescens), poison sumac (T. vernix), winged sumac (Rhus copallina), and one of our least favorite plants the non native invasive species Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius). I have not found poison sumac very prevalent in our area and poison oak seems to be restricted more to northern Florida by all accounts. If you have come across either in our area, I would love to know. (note that all of the plants mentioned above may cause a skin rash if you come in contact with them, depending on your sensitivities)

I think the old saying went something like “leaves of three, leave them be” where actually it should say “leaflets of three”. Instead of three leaves,  you are actually looking at one leaf with three leaflets. But if it helps you to remember, we’ll leave that be as well. Poison ivy contains an irritating oil called urushiol. Contact with this oil that comes from all parts of the poison ivy plant may cause dermatitis (sometimes extreme) in some people. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing any exposed areas with soap and water as soon as possible after contact to remove the oil as well as promptly laundering any contaminated clothing. Over the counter medications to relieve the itching and patience are the only treatment for the rash that may last more than a couple of weeks. Of course, see a doctor for severe exposures.

Avoiding contact with poison ivy is your first defense. There are otc products available to apply to exposed skin to prevent contact with the urushiol oil. Be mindful that you can also come in contact with the oils of poison ivy from your clothing or pets exposed to the plant. Take special precautions when mowing or weed eating poison ivy as the oil can can be sprayed everywhere from the cutting action. Burning poison ivy may volatize the oils allowing them to be inhaled, not good.

Knowing your enemy: Poison ivy is a deciduous vine (meaning they lose their leaves in the winter) whose alternate leaves have three unlobed or slightly lobed leaflets each. Very pretty clusters of fragrant white flowers (very attractive to bees) are followed by white/tannish drupes in the spring around May. In the fall, the leaves turn bright red before falling from the plant. When the plants are leafless the stems, attached to trees or other surfaces, are still easily recognized by their dense aerial  roots that gives them a hairy appearance. Their hairy appearance readily distinguishes them from grape vines with no aerial roots or Virginia creeper vines that have sparse rootlets with five little pads at the end.

 leaf of poison ivy with three leaflets (on left) by the similar non toxic Virginian creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) with five leaflets leaf of poison ivy with three leaflets (on left) by the similar non toxic Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) with five leaflets

woody stems of poison ivy covered in aerial roots woody stems of poison ivy covered in aerial roots

Nothing evolves to be just  a menace or nuisance so, what value is there in poison ivy you might ask? Well, countless numbers of songbirds are known to dine on the berries through out the plants range. Some of those sighted in Back Woods know to partake in a poison ivy berry or two include: Gray Catbird, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Brown Thrasher, Tufted Titmouse, Cedar Waxwing, Carolina Wren, and Woodpeckers (Downy, Pileated, and Red-bellied). Additionally, bees love the flowers and deer browse on the foliage. Yay, poison ivy!

There are many web pages dedicated to poison ivy just a search engine away. One comes complete with slightly gruesome collection of photos called the “Skin Rash Hall of Fame”, ewww! You will find there great incentive to know your poison ivy and take the right steps to avoid exposure. As someone I love always reminds me, everything bites…so, get outside!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tupelo Morning

morning tupelo Our favorite tree in the Back Woods, the swamp tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica biflora) captured on a beautiful morning a few weeks ago when the wetlands were really full from the rains. Our intrepid volunteer George, who has since headed back to NC for the summer (you will be missed!), helped me carve out a little trail off the main path to this vista.

DSCN1329 DSCN1331

Lined with cut willow, the path even features a little log staircase leading up a spoil mound to a fabulous view of this gorgeous tupelo with it’s distinctive moss covered bottle shaped base. If you stop by for a visit, please do keep an eye out for poison ivy. We try to keep it off the immediate trails but, visitors do need to be aware they may come in contact with it if they stray from the trail. Do you remember the old warning…leaves of three, leave me be? Keep an eye out for our next post, it will be on how to identify poison ivy.

In the short period of time since this photo was taken, the tupelos have bloomed and are starting to push out new leaves. Soon we should be treated to a crop of green that turn to blue/black oblong drupes which are very popular with the wildlife crowd. More on our favorite tree in an upcoming post!


Friday, April 23, 2010

Lovely Lyre Leaf Sage

DSCN1308 Lovely lyre leaf sage (Salvia lyrata) is popping up nicely along the eastern storm water retention. In the mint family Lamiaceae (Labiatae), the lyre leaf sage can be used in teas and for salad greens. Tolerant of growing in areas with partial shade to full sun; the foliage often takes on deep wine hues in greater light. Lyre leaf sage is easily recognized by its square stem characteristic of many plants in the mint family. Even when not in bloom this plant is readily identified by its rosette of deeply cut leaves shaped somewhat like the musical instrument the lyre for which it is named.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Back Woods Forest Preserve Trail Map

Trail Map

We are in the process of developing maps to place in the kiosks at the three entrances to the preserve. In the meantime, we have posted a temporary overview on the kiosk bulletin boards. It was nice to hear almost immediately that people liked our temporary map and wanted copies of it. So, we are posting it here and the picture  will be linked in our sidebar. You can also find it on the MOSI web site Back Woods page.

A brochure with the map and some details on the ecosystems and habitats of the Back Woods is forthcoming. It will be available at the information desk, kiosks, as well as online.