Conference Field Trip Preview: Fabulous Florida Forever
My first trip to this wonderful nine-ecosystem playground was with a couple of friends and because we visited on a weekday, we were treated to a coach safari where only the three of us were onboard. The "swamp buggy" offers a unique perspective from 5 feet off the ground and is capable of going through some interesting terrain.
On another trip, taken with a man who was as interested in the wildflowers as I was, a different guide, with excellent knowledge in the local plants, pointed out all the various species contained in the various ecosystems. We entered into the boardwalk area…that travels over tannin-laden waters…to enter into a floodplain forest where you can often be greeted by otters. More importantly, you can see airplants and resurrection fern. On that trip the guide introduced me to Walter Taylor’s’ book The Guide to Florida Wildflowers as a great resource to ID wildflowers by color. I was not familiar with Walter’s work or FNPS at that time.
I toured one time, sitting in the front of a coach filled with very young children who were so enthralled by the birds and palm branches that swooped low, that I had to keep turning around to see if the kids were still there. They just spent the relaxing trip taking in all that nature had to offer. On that trip, a "real cowboy" was the guide and he shared his knowledge of the Crescent J Ranch, which is adjacent to the conservation area, and a big part of the reason that the owners slated the area for conservation.
You see, their son was a wildlife ecologist who wanted to preserve the old Florida habitats that he frequented as a youth next to the ranch. When he passed away due to illness, they decided to keep his memory alive by setting up a conservancy and saving old Florida piece by piece. You can learn all the details of their efforts in the short movie that starts every tour from the Owl Room. The movie gives you a good feeling, knowing that people care about Florida’s environment and visitors to Forever Florida make a positive impact on the environment as a substantial portion of proceeds go toward the purchase of additional lands to be conserved.
On my most recent trip this past September, Pine Lily President Jenny Welch and I got a special tour to see the threatened Hooded Pitcherplants (Sarracenia minor) and Pine Lilies which were available in quite large numbers considering their State status. Liatris and deertongue abound, as did so many other wonderful natives for as far as the eye can see.
I never tire of the Forever Florida tour and the reaction from my visitors has always been positive. My cousin, who initially seemed reluctant to do something outside of the Theme Parks comfort zone, thanked me profusely for introducing her and her family to this wonderful experience. She said that’s all her family talked about when they returned north. The expensive Disney vacation seemed to take second seat to "Real Florida".
Florida Forever promises to cater to the native plant enthusiast in all of us and I can’t wait until May to partake in this outstanding adventure…then again…I live so close I’ll probably squeeze in a trip before then."
Loret is doing a fantastic job blogging over at BeautifulWildlifeGarden, where she covers Florida as part of a nation-wide team. The Florida Native Plant Society's conference is announced at the end of each of her posts there. Thanks for your help in both places, Loret.
The conference will be featuring many kinds of field trips for every level of interest and ability. Canoe trips in Blackwater Creek, hiking along the Econolockhatchee River, Birding trips, Native Plant Yard Tours...Check out the list your self, it's just amazing!
Of course there will be keynote speakers such as Rick Darke and Rutherford Platt, along with programs, workshops and social events. Registration is open now, and you can register online from the above page, or top right of this blog. Just do it!
Loret is doing a fantastic job blogging over at BeatifulWildlifeGarden, where she covers Florida as part of a nation-wide team.