Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Week in the Woods

Fabulous flowers…Lovely native climbing hempvine (Mikania scandens) in bloom in the wetlands. Getting in close to these flowers for a picture means dodging a myriad of pollinators like this Eastern yellowjacket worker. Check out the info on this similar species of hempvine, mile a minute vine (Mikania micrantha), just discovered in South Florida…it could end up being Florida’s next serious non native invasive species problem.

Metamorphosis of a predator…while dazzled by climbing hempvine flowers and all number of bees, beetles, and hornets buzzing about my head I almost missed this special moment in the tall grass at my feet. This dragonfly was nearly dry with wings fully extended after having molted out of its final nymph stage. The exuviae (the cast off skin from molting) left behind has found its way in to the my collection of all things curious weird and wacky in the Back Woods (check out some of our other posts.)

Snappers, leeches, and me Oh my!… Volunteer Sam and I were about to pull some weeds on the berm along the west side of the Buttonbush Pond when we came across this Florida Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina osceola) sunning on the shell path. Uncharacteristically calm (they are usually very defensive on land) when we got close, we noticed its tail and legs were loaded with leeches! We assumed this little guy was basking in hopes a few of those pesky leeches would decide to head for more moist and shady climes. We did notice a few had come off grasping about on the shell and a few had detached and were making their way to shadier spots on the turtle but, most were curled up tight waiting it out. Upon returning to the office and looking up this creepy assemblage of species, I found that these leeches are pretty common on snapping turtles. And unfortunately for the snappers, basking was not a very effective method of removing them. It doesn’t appear this species of leech (Placobdella parasitica) likes humans as well but, you can guarantee I’ll be thinking about it the next time I go slogging through the wetlands…eeeeewww!

DSCN2742 Explosive dehiscence in the sandhill…thoroughly dry seedpods of the partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasiculata) violently split open spraying their seeds many feet, even yards, from the mother plant. More subtle than popping corn but noticeable none the less, it can really be quite disconcerting when there is this snap crackle pop all around you without knowing where it is coming from…the only clue being the twisted remains of the seedpods lying like spent shell casings beneath the plants. :D

Sam in the woods…And a huge welcome to our new volunteer Sam. Contemplating getting back to school for ecology, Sam is volunteering with us to get an idea of what it is like to play in the woods for a living. We are thrilled to have her volunteer and look forward to all the things we can accomplish with her help.

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