Thursday, November 20, 2014

Prairie Wildflower Walk: So Many Thanks to Give!

Thanksgiving always makes me feel, well, thankful. With the first official Wildflower Walk at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve over, and a great success, I am especially thankful. It was the first park event sponsored by the Friends of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve. Our goal was to bring new people to the preserve, show them the beauty of the dry prairie and educate them on the importance of its preservation and protection. We also wanted to recruit new members to the group, and send people home with wonderful memories that they will share with others. I believe we achieved all of our goals, and we owe that success to many. Here are my thanks:


Mother Nature: Some might say she was a bit too generous with the wind that day, but she kept us cool, and provided a beautiful blue sky and the perfect light to view the prairie. Thank you, Mother Nature.

Roger Hammer and Craig Huegel each know a lot about plants. Together they are walking encyclopedia of Florida wildflowers. With each question asked, they not only provide an answer, but add a bit of trivia or a personal anecdote to their replies.  Oh, and did I mention they are really funny too? When asked what the most bizarre thing that he encountered in the Everglades was, Roger said it was probably him after emerging from a five day trek into the swamp. Thank you, Roger and Craig, for your knowledge, your passion, and your good humor

KPP Management and Staff: KPP Biologist Paul Miller likes to say "A dry Prairie is a wet prairie when it is not wet."  It is the simplest way to acknowledge that a dry prairie isn't always dry. Paul gave an introduction to the prairie before each walk. He stood by Caroline, the pet name for the statue of the now extinct Carolina Parakeet whose last known nest was on the preserve. It is his segue into the preserve's present day quest to save the nearly extinct Grasshopper Sparrow. Thank you Paul, Park Manager Evan Hall,  Natalie, Joy, and all of the preserve staff for your support, but especially for your role in the preservation and protection of this critical Florida habitat and the wildlife that depend upon it.

FNPS and all Attendees: We had a great attendance on the wildflower walk. For most it was their first time visiting the preserve. Many were members of the Florida Native Plant Society, others were members of the Friends of KPP, and several were members of both. A few were inspired to join the Friends of KPP group before they left.  They came from all over the state. One couple, from Canada, registered for the walk while looking for something interesting to do while driving to their winter home in south Florida. The FNPS educational committee hired a wonderful videographer, Jennifer Brown, to film the event. I am sure that once others see the film, they will want to visit KPP too. Thank you to FNPS, Friends of KPP and others for their attendance and support.
 
Swamp Buggy Rides: All attendees were treated to  a swamp buggy ride to and from the walk site. If they wished, they also got a 45-minute buggy ride, complete with historic and educational narrative along the Kilpatrick Hammock Trail. This was an abbreviated version of the 2-3 hour buggy rides the preserve provides (for a fee) every weekend from November through March. People return year after year to take the swamp buggy through the prairie, so if you want to go, make your reservations now. Thank you to AmeriCorps volunteer Katie Ferguson and Preserve Specialist Frank Verello for taking us out on these buggy rides and sharing your knowledge and love of the prairie.

Mother Nature, again (she deserves most of the credit): From high atop the buggy one gets a beautiful view of a vast expanse of saw palmetto and sweeping grasses. It is a nearly treeless mosaic of dry prairie, wet prairie marshes and sloughs. But to really experience the dry prairie one must climb down from the buggy and walk into it.  Wispy strands of tall purple liatris stand tall against the warm grasses, bunches of bright yellow sunflowers mingle with the saw palmetto, while sprays of white to lavender asters add a delicate mix to the bouquet of autumn wildflowers. Look under the grasses and see bushes of false pennyroyal, bright yellow bladderworts and red sundews.

As Mother Nature would advise:
To really see the prairie, one should look into it, not at it. 
Thank you, Mother Nature, for your wise words


Submitted by Donna Bollenbach on behalf of the Friends of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

To see more images from the Prairie Walk visit the Friends of KPP FB Page.

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Posted by Laurie Sheldon 

1 comment:

Carl Terwilliger said...

I love to visit Kissimmee Prairie in the fall when the grasses are seeding and the blazing stars and deertongue are in bloom. Actually, I made a small copy of this in my front yard with lopsided Indian grass, silk grass, splitbeard andropogon, liatris, pineland dropseed and others.