Sunday, October 23, 2016

Discovering Grassy Waters Preserve

Richard Brownscombe, Coontie Chapter

Ilex cassine, Dahoon Holly (female) 
and Taxodium ascendens, Pond Cypress
Last month James Lange, Researcher and Field Biologist at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, took us on a wonderful walk in Grassy Waters Preserve just an hour north of Fort Lauderdale in West Palm Beach. This wetland is an example of doing the right thing to build a sustainable urban environment. The naturally clean waters of the preserve are supplying the drinking water for West Palm Beach and helping keep the aquifer healthy. At the same time, all these wetland plant and wildlife species have a place to thrive and townsfolk have easy access to this beautiful place.

The facilities of the parking lot, restrooms, picnic tables, waterside deck, canoe and kayak launch, rain shelter, benches, and boardwalk, say "Welcome. Enjoy." We were so fortunate to have "our botanist", James, along to name the plants and point out many interesting things we would not have known. As a few other couples, groups, and individuals passed by us, I wanted to say, "Stop! Did you see this!" (I did engage one or two, but people are doing their own thing, too.)

Nymphaea odorata, American Waterlily
The others who came on the walk spotted quite a few interesting flowers, butterflies, birds, and insects that neither Jimmy nor I saw. With many excited eyes looking around, we found many more interesting plants and wildlife than we would have seen otherwise. It is interesting to observe how people's different experiences allow them to each discover different things to see in the wild.


The Lubber grasshopper, a native and beautiful in orange
Photos never do justice to the experience. The wildlife is especially difficult because it moves. This still Lubber was an exception. 


Peltandra virginica, Green Arum
Arum has an interesting encased white spike in the flower that we can try to capture on another visit. This would make a nice pond plant if you have a water feature. The long stems are spikerush. 

Hydrolea corymbosa, Skyflower

This photo fails to capture the wonderful blue intensity of this blue-like-the-sky Skyflower. These flowers are less than an inch, but easily catch your eye.

Diospyros virginiana, Persimmon
The tasty Persimmon needs to be fully ripe to enjoy that great flavor without the overly-astringent bite of the under-ripe fruit.

Vittaria lineata, Shoestring Fern

This pleasant epiphytic fern with young uncoiling leaves might be available from an enthusiast grower, but it needs a place of high humidity and favors the Sabal palmetto. 

Fraxinus caroliniana, Pop Ash, Blechnum serrulatum, Swamp Fern,
and Thelypteris interrupta, Interrupted Maiden Fern (in front)
Both ferns shown here were abundant. If you find ferns confusing, keep looking and comparing the pinnae (leaflet) margins and veins and look at the underside of fertile fronds to see the pattern of the sori (spore capsules that become brown). This closer look shows off their many differences.

Magnolia virginiana, Sweet-bay
 This Magnolia is another reason to visit again in spring or summer to see its bloom. The flower is not the grand one of the non-native Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, but it is also lovely. The leaves are aromatic when crushed. If you have wet soils, you might want to consider this accent tree for your garden. The Institute of Regional Conservations says, "Most botanists would consider this to be the most primitive tree native to South Florida," meaning of course, that its ancient origins are manifest, for example, in the flower structure.

Nymphoides aquatica, Big Floatingheart and Taxodium ascendens, Pond Cypress (branches reflected)

These would seem to be the perfect pad for a smaller pond. The flowers are not like the American White Waterlily, but small, simple, white, and delicate.

Hypericum cistifolium, Roundpod St. John's-wort

   The seedpods of this Saint John's-wort are a glossy mahogany color, distinctive and as showy as the flower.

Hyptis alata, Musky Mint

 The flowers and square stem help identify this as a mint (but not so much, the smell).

leocharis cellulosa, Gulf Coast Spikerush
Beware those common names, this spikerush is native on our Atlantic coast, too.



The similar Pipewort listed for Grassy Waters Preserve is called Flattened Pipewort, Eriocaulon compressum, and this button looks quite puffed up, so we are going with Eriocaulon decangulare. Let us know of any misidentifications. We welcome learning and passing the information on.
Eriocaulon sp
These are probably the leaves of the Pipewort, but the photographer in me was just enjoying the reflections.

Note: James Lange contributed to the identification and some of the information, but any foolishness is likely our own.

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