F.N.P.S. 2014 Conference- Sunday Field Trips

Posted by Laurie Sheldon

The F.N.P.S. Annual Conference is less than a month away, and I'm sure that everyone is starting to get excited about the fabulous lineup of speakers. There's so much more to this event than listening to brilliant lecturers and attending the evening social events. In fact, some of the biggest draws to the Conference are the field trips! Scheduled the Thursday before the Conference begins and the Sunday after it ends, these excursions vary widely in length, difficulty, and setting and are an excellent resource for those hoping to familiarize themselves with regional flora and fauna. If you're having a hard time deciding which trip(s) you'd most enjoy, let the following blog be your guide. This year's Sunday field trips include…

This spring-fed pond at End of the Road Ranch
supports an abundance of wildlife.
Field Trip M:
End of Road Ranch Landscape Tour
This ten-acre country property, located outside of North Ft. Myers, won the FNPS Residential Landscape Award in 2012. Its design focuses on the restoration of the flatwood plant community that existed on the site prior to development. After removing numerous invasive exotics, the owner provides habitat for native wildlife within the 2.5 acres immediately surrounding the home in the form of mulched beds of native plants. The overriding style is Japanese rustic.The remaining 7.5 acres contain native slash pines, saw palmettos, and naturally occurring understory plants, including grasses, weeds and numerous wildflowers. Carolyn Moore, ranch owner and designer, and Dick Workman will guide you through this delightful landscape.

Florida panther kittens found in Okaloacoochee
Slough State Forest. Photo by FFWCC.
Field Trip N:
Okaloacoochee (OK) Slough State Forest
FWC Biologist Jean McCollum, Forester Chris Schmiege and Jim Rodwell will guide you through the State Forest’s wet and dry pine flatwoods, marshes and the slough itself. You will also get to observe some exotic species removal and replacement with native species. The Okaloacoochee Slough is a 13,382 acre pristine slough that is oriented north-south through the forest. The natural systems of the Fakahatchee Strand and Big Cypress Preserve are dependent on the water supplied by the Slough. Additionally, the Slough is one of the few places in south Florida in which the pre-Columbian landscape, north of the Everglades or Big Cypress National Preserve, can be observed.

Cayo Costa Island State Park, a pristine barrier island.
Map graphic by Laurie Sheldon.
Field Trip P:
Cayo Costa Island State Park
Cayo Costa Island is one of a very few remaining undisturbed and undeveloped barrier islands in Florida, with Calusa Indian mounds from 2000 years ago. Just west of Ft. Myers and Cape Coral, it is accessible only by boat. About nine miles long and about one mile wide, it is transected by nature trails abundant with plants native to Florida’s pine forests, oak-palm hammocks, mangrove swamps, freshwater marshes, and beaches. Margi Nanney, island resident and President of Friends of Cayo Costa and Roger Clark, former Conservation 20/20 Land Steward will be your guides through the island's extraordinary and diverse landscapes.

Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area.
Photo by David Moynahan
Field Trip Q:
Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area

This 65,000 acre management area includes pine flatwoods, hammocks, cypress stands freshwater marsh, and wet prairie. Alongside Denny Girard, Al Squires and Management Area Staff, you will be looking for spring wildflowers, primarily in the area's  hydric pine flatwoods and wet prairie. You will likely come across the beautiful false pawpaw, Deeringothamnus rugelii var. pulchellus, which is found in only Orange, Lee and Charlotte counties. The WMA's extensive use of prescribed burning has been a key component to its management. Birding fans might be interested to learn that this area is home to a large bobwhite quail population.

Wildflowers at Naples Botanical Garden.
Field Trip R:
Naples Botanical Garden
Scott Davis and Chad Washburn will bring the history and exciting future of Naples Botanical Garden to life during this walking tour of native plantings in the Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Children’s Garden, Kathleen and Scott Kapnick Caribbean Garden, Mary and Steven Byron Smith River of Grass, and Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden’s Wildflower Meadow. Learn how native plants function in both cultivated gardens and the award-winning stormwater treatment system at Naples Botanical Garden. This tour will remain on paved sidewalks and have easy access to water fountains and restrooms.

Edison and Ford Winter Estates.
Field Trip S:
Edison and Ford Winter Estates
No visit to southwest Florida is complete without seeing Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Debbie Hughes will lead your tour there, where, in addition to exploring the winter retreats of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, you will have the opportunity to enjoy its park like environment. Throughout the year, this National Register Historic Site, Florida Historic Landmark and Winner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Restoration Award offers visitors of all ages a chance to step back into “old Florida” and the opportunity to learn more about the world through unique historical, scientific and cultural experiences.

Over the years, staff has steadily added new native plants into the historic landscape and removed exotic pest plants that had no historical value. Thomas Edison did much plant related research which included find a species of native goldenrod that could be used as natural source of rubber. Edison’s research laboratory was restored and opened to the public last year.

A new beautiful waterfront restaurant called Pinchers has opened directly adjacent to the Estates and would be a great place to enjoy an iced tea, cold ale or seafood lunch after the tour.

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park -
Guided swamp walk. Photo by John Grinter.
Field Trip T:
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
Mike Owen, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park Biologist and Dennis Giardina, Everglades Region Biologist are the ideal leaders for a field trip into Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Your swamp walk will take place within the central slough of the park. During this walk, you will encounter native orchids, bromeliads and other rare native plants.

Dubbed the "Amazon of North America," this linear 20 mile long/5 mile wide swamp forest is oriented from north to south and has been sculpted by the movement of water for thousands of years. Beneath a protective canopy of bald cypress trees flows a slow moving, shallow river or slough that is warmer than the ambient temperature in the winter and cooler in the summer. This buffers the forest interior from temperature extremes. As a result, the forest is home to a great number of rare and endangered tropical plant species.

The Fakahatchee Strand is probably one of the best examples of subtropical, strand swamp in the United States. The Strand harbors one of the largest concentrations and diversity of native orchids in North America, and supports numerous rare and endangered animal species. It is also one of the core areas of the current range of the Florida Panther. Linked hydrologically to the Everglades, the Strand is particularly important to the estuarine ecosystem of the Ten Thousand Islands area.

The Estero River Scrub Trail. Photo by Stephen Giguere.
Field Trip U:
Estero Bay Preserve State Park
Terry Cain, Lee County Land Steward and Dr. Jim Burch, Botanist at Big Cypress National Preserve, will lead you through the Estero Bay State Preserve, where you are likely to see wet flatwoods, tidal marshes, estuarine tidal swamp and sandy upland pine flatwoods. The trails can get mucky near the wet flatwoods and tidal swamp, so if you like getting dirty, this field trip if for you! There are 16 natural communities in this preserve; our goal is to see at least three out of the 8,486 acres.

Gator Hole Preserve contains relocated
Gopher Tortoises and much more.
Field Trip V:
Gator Hole Preserve
Conservation 20/20 has generously provided us with 3 pickup trucks to tour this site, which is normally off limits to the general public. GHP boasts a species list of over 250 plants and 150 animals, so there will be plenty to see! Management activities at the Preserve were done to accommodate gopher tortoises that needed to be relocated for a number of county projects. Restoration activities have included invasive exotic plant removal, roller chopping and mowing of palmetto, pine tree thinning and prescribed burning. The entire Preserve has been fenced with buried chain link fence to prevent relocated tortoises from attempting to return to their previous locations and out onto the adjacent Road.

The majority of the Preserve contains mesic flatwoods (also called pine flatwoods and pine savannahs). Mesic flatwoods occur on relatively flat, moderately to poorly drained soils. Standing water is common for brief periods during the rainy season. This community is characterized as having an open canopy with widely spaced pine trees and a dense ground cover of herbs and shrubs. Typical plants growing in these communities at GHP include south Florida slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa), saw palmetto, chalky bluestem, crowpoison (Nothoscordum bivalve), and tall elephantsfoot (Elephantopus elatus). In addition, two dome swamps are located centrally within the Preserve. Laura Jewell, Lee County Land Steward, and Mick Curtis will be your guides at this unique and seldom-seen Preserve.


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