A Field Trip to Turtle Mound

Guest blog By Jim McCuen, president of the Lyonia Chapter in West Volusia County.  All the photos are by Gil Miller.

Ilex in fruit
A strong and chilly breeze; sweet, skunk scented stoppers, salty purslanes, unidentifiable blobs of nature-produced flesh as clear as glass; hollies loaded obscenely with brilliantly colored carmine berries, a stirring then a churr in the underbrush from some unseen winged inhabitant of the coastal scrub; a spent flower, its waxy blood red wings topped by a vicious looking blue-black seed pod; gun metal blue and green palmettos, stunted from fire, and pencil shaped mangrove offspring sent on a mission by way of a salty highway of ocean to find a patch of sand, perhaps hundreds of miles from home, never to see its progenitors again. Illuminating everything, our resident walking encyclopedias answered every question with patience and smiles and never made us feel less than. Lyonia is lucky indeed. Recording the trip photographically, our very own artiste provided a memory bank of a Saturday excursion.

Clerodendrum indicum (non-native)

If you missed our field trip to the Cape Canaveral National Seashore, you missed that, and more. Our doughty band of plant and nature lovers met mid-morning and commenced exploring Turtle Mound's strong foot bridges traversing the road side to the water. Once a community of orange groves, the park was home to the artist and environmental activist Doris Leeper. At the summit of one end of the boardwalk, we encountered an ancient couple, small, frail and preoccupied with a conversation on a cell phone.

Beach patrol...
The expanse of dunes framed by the wind-blown surf of the Atlantic Ocean was at once disquieting (for the reason we don't enjoy that view from our kitchen window) and enervating, the bracing wind and salt smell compelling us to explore the beach. Trees and other vegetation tend to have a flattened habit, buffeted as they are by a nearly constant wind. Further down the road, heading south, one enters a coastal hammock suddenly rich with shade and mysterious shadows under the heavy branches of gnarled oaks and dark green understory of shrubs and weeds. Nestled in this unlikely spot was a tangerine tree which provided a sampling of surprising sweetness. Once tasted and approved of by a member of our group, we immediately took advantage of the apricot-colored crescents of fruit, smiling as we sucked the juicy cells dry and sent the seeds flying into the air.

 Coastal Sylvan Glade
  Our hungry group then headed to the beach where we unloaded our lunches on a picnic table provided by federal tax dollars, and savored the crunch of chips and chicken salad. Suddenly, the cute, bent elderly couple appeared, all smiles and gracious friendliness until the cell phone rang again, and off they went, chattering away, descending slowly to the beach, carefully negotiating the boardwalk to the soft beach. As we ate, a family made its way down the boardwalk, fishing poles, tackle box and bait in tow, a lively ten year old boy trailing after his grandfather. In spite of the brisk, cool wind, the men folk shed their shirts and waded into the surf to set their lines in the water. Hardcore. The boy was soon to be found exploring the dunes, fishing pole in hand, seemingly unaware that no fish were to be caught among the sea oats. His young mother basked in the bright sun and eye-stinging wind, reading a book and keeping one eye cocked on the proceedings.

Turtle Mound Boardwalk
 The beach at the National Seashore is the single longest expanse of undeveloped coastline in the state of Florida. Parking is very limited and during the warm months, it is necessary to arrive at the park early in order to lay claim to a parking spot. For those inclined to take the sun or play volleyball in the buff, the very last parking area is generally accepted to be the spot for nude sunbathing. The absence of blasting radios, trucks mounted on nubby, gigantic hogs, airborne wrappers from fast food establishments and inebriated young people is a blessing, on those days when one isn't in the mood for people watching and making unseemly observations about ones neighbors on the beach. The dunes are off limits to foot traffic and covered in low growing and tough vegetation, in between the subtropical and temperate climates of Volusia county. Steeply sloping due to destructive hurricanes, the beach is wide and was dotted with flotsam and jetsam, to include sea beans, a toilet bowl scrubber, driftwood, seaweed, coconuts, seashells; fat and tough dead jellyfish and evidence of sea turtle nests vacated by hatchlings. As we ambled along the beach, we discussed conservation, food, seaweed, crabs, heavy-handed park rangers and perhaps a touch of love of life. The Canaveral National Seashore is open during winter from 6:00 AM until 6:00 PM, and 6:00 AM until 8:00 PM during summer. Entry is $3.00 per person. Go.

Lagoon side

The Lyonia chapter of FNPS meets at 7 pm the second Tuesday of each month at the Deltona Public Library, located at 2150 Eustace Ave. Deltona, Florida.


Thanks Jim for sharing your fieldtrip and Gil's photos with us. Lovely.

We'd love to hear about what other FNPS chapters are doing.

Ginny & Sue
EcoHero said…
The second picture down is from a plant called Turk's Turban. It took me months to pull out 945 of these deep rooted invasives from my Floirda woods. I used a "pullerbear" tool to get them. Many broke off and will try to regrow this year and I'll be waiting for them.

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