Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

We drove through the small town of Cairo, Georgia on Sunday and were impressed with the flags that lined the main street. Each flag had a cross with the hand-lettered name of a serviceman who had died while in the military. What a meaningful way to honor their sacrifice.




There were way too many for one small community.

While many of my extended family served in the military and most of them were in wars and some were wounded, I do not know the names of any who actually died while serving. We have been extremely blessed. During WWII, it was the custom in my mother’s home town in Kentucky to put a star in the window for each serviceman in the family. My mother’s home had five stars in the window. They all came home, and also the man who would become my father. B served in Vietnam and came home safe; I am thankful that we did not even meet until after his return.

Each day on my way to school, I pass the house of a young man who was killed in Iraq a couple of years ago. Most days, I say a prayer for his family to find some peace and relief from the pain.  I can only imagine losing someone I love that way.

Thank you, American families.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

When Ghost Crabs Have ATV’s


Don’t you think?

He just went in to cool down;

But he’ll be back in a minute,

riding ‘round and ‘round!

Speaking of crabs, check out this little cutie. The first graders next door are studying sea life. Their ingenious teacher came up with a way to recycle some packing peanuts and make a hermit crab. The shell is pasta that she painted.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fishin’ Heron Yon

This great blue heron on St. George Island has obviously put some thought into his fishing strategies. And if you’re going for the big fish, you gotta have the right tackle.


You should have seen the whiting that was put in that ice chest!


Yessir! This bird has evolved!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dwarf Cypress Swamp

In the state forest known as Tate’s Hell, we visited a dwarf cypress swamp. These are old pond cypress trees that have grown extremely slowly. It is thought that they were slightly misplaced in that they stayed too wet for too long, thus stunting their growth. They are at least 150 years old but top out at only 15 feet. A well-constructed boardwalk leads to a viewing stand, that thankfully was covered, since it had begun to gently rain when we were there.





Mixed in were these smallish trees with this lovely coloring. If they are Pop Ash (Fraxinus caroliniana) as we think, the reddish parts are samara. They contain the seed. The tree is in the olive family but these sure don’t look much like the olives that are eaten.

Pop ash?

Interesting how some are much more pointy on the tips.

pop ash?

I find water lilies so attractive. This was looking down from the boardwalk.


If you have ever examined a lily pad, you will know how much life is seeking shelter and sustenance under it.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bear Sign

Along the pitcher plant road in Liberty County, we came to this sign.

Now, I am ALWAYS looking for bears when we are out in likely places. I have only seen one in the wild in Florida, and it was in our Leon County. I may have seen another one, but I will never be sure. It was getting dark and raining, but it moved like a bear and was the size of a smallish black bear.  Twice we have seen bear tracks. Once we saw where one had been feeding, trashing the saw palmetto. Recently, we saw what was probably bear scat.


It did not take much encouragement for B to turn down the road to Wright Lake, in hopes of seeing a bear.


While the only sign of a bear we saw was on the sign above, we did see other wildlife.

Some of the campers at Wright Lake looked to be on the wild side.

And on the way down the side road to Hickory Landing, a large, dark bobcat crossed in front of us. We found its tracks in the sandy road but it was much too fast for a picture. Still, seeing a bobcat is pretty exciting.

ALMOST as cool as seeing a bear.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More and More Wildflowers

Some places along our highway in Liberty County had signs indicating they were wildflower preservation areas.


Yellow colic root (Aletris lutea) was everywhere. (My camera is auto-focus only, which works well most of the time. But I can have trouble at times.  Sometimes it took B’s jeans to form a background  to get these flowers in focus.)


Aletris obovata is a cousin. These are in the lily family.


Below is Spring Ladies’-tresses (Spiranthes vernalis), which is an orchid. B sometimes comes across these growing in lawns.


We think this is a grass pink (Calopogon tuberosus). It is another wild orchid, but there are a couple of VERY similar flowers to choose among.


Wand Blackroot (Pterocaulon virgatum) contains coumarin which can be used to produce anticoagulants (Coumadin), as well as perfumes and rat poisons. A rather versatile little compound, wouldn’t you say?


So here is how the vision goes in my head:

A Volvo with dead paint is flying down a country highway, when the driver suddenly slams on the brakes, bringing the car to a screeching halt ( it IS a Volvo!) on the side of the road. Out of the car jumps a small East Indian man, balding and bespectacled, still wearing his lab coat. In his haste, he leaves his car door open. (Two deer flies and a horse fly enter his car, but he does not notice.) He runs to a small plant with odd white flowers growing just a couple of yards from where he stopped his car.  He kneels, putting grass stains and a little mud on the front of the white lab coat. He is oblivious to that as he exclaims to no one, “Just look at it! It’s a Pterocaulon virgatum! The very plant I have been searching for! I’ll use it to make heart medicine! Or if that doesn’t work out, I could always try it to see if dead lab rats could still smell good.

OK. I’m back.

Orange Milkwort (Polygala lutea) Polygala is Greek and means “much milk”. It was thought that cows that grazed on this pretty plant would produce much milk.



Rhynchospora latifolia is a sedge. Most of what we are looking at are bracts and not actually the flowers. (Poinsettias also have bracts.) Teeny flowers are in the middle. The number of bracts can vary.100_1335


Blue flag iris (Iris virginica) was found only in a couple of spots.


Roserush  (Lygodesmia aphylla) is a sweet little flower that was new to us.


There were certainly many wildflowers besides the pitcher plants to be admired on our drive through Liberty County. These are worth preserving.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Sign of the Times

How about some restoration for the reforestation sign?


At first glance, I thought it might have been cut out in a map-shape.

Is this sign shot? ( as in double-barreled?)

Or was it a (mostly) controlled burn?

Or just that plywood does not hold up as well as the original tree?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Salt Life, or Salt FOR Life

On a drive down a lonely state forest road recently, we stopped for these puddling butterflies. The brown buckeyes were there in numbers. Some flew as I approached, but still I caught these five and a swallowtail in a picture. They had collected at the site of some animal scat in the road.


Puddling or mud-puddling is the name given for the phenomenon when moths, butterflies or sometimes grasshoppers congregate to feed in usually a wet substrate in order to obtain necessary salts and other nutrients. I read that human sweat, tears and even blood have been known to be attractive to them in their search for salt.


Makes me  thankful for Morton’s!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sundew, Some Don’t

Growing alongside the pitcher plants were sundews. Here is one with its little fruit.


B first introduced me to sundews years ago in our wanderings in the woods of this area. They are about the size of a fifty-cent piece and could be missed in weedy areas.

Droseraceae is the family name and Drosera is the  genus for 180 species of sundew plants found around the world and on every continent except Antarctica. Droseros is a Greek word, meaning “dewy.”

The sticky gel makes these perennials  look like they have  dew on them all day long. It is also the sticky gel that attracts insects that are then stuck on it and die, either from exhaustion or when the gel clogs up their spiracles (breathing apparatus). Enzymes then dissolve the insect and the plant uses it for nutrients. Because carnivorous plants grow in poor soil, they have adapted alternative ways to meet their nutritional needs.

Two sundews are on Florida’s protected plant list:

(So, don’t ‘dew it!)

Drosera filiformis
threadleaf sundew (or dew thread) is listed as “endangered”.

Drosera intermedia 
spoonleaf sundew or water sundew is listed as “threatened”.

I am pretty sure that this is the dew thread:


These were about 8” tall. I took a picture because we had no idea what they were.

It is possible that the red sundew above is the water sundew, but we are not sure.

Parts of these plants were being used for treating coughs as early as the 12th century. Today, sundews are grown commercially for use in 100’s of different medications, most of which are being used to treat breathing problems.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pitcher This!

B had read in the newspaper that the pitcher plants (Sarracenia) were up and putting on quite the show along a state highway in the Hosford area in nearby Liberty County. We knew we did not want to miss seeing these carnivorous plants. We were not disappointed. There were thousands of them. We even noticed that in areas where prescribed fire has controlled the underbrush, the pitcher plants have come back beautifully.


The most noticeable are the trumpets, Sarracenia flava. Their chartreuse coloring shines in the darker greens and greys of their surroundings. Their height also sets them above most of the other plants at the ground level.


What we see here are leaves shaped into a funnel that is used to trap insects, which the plants digest and use as sources for nutrients. The top of the throat has a nectar that entices the insects. The hood helps keep the funnel from filling up with rain, which would wash out some of the insects.


The inside of the funnel is slippery and coated with fine, downward-angled hairs. The insects that fall in are unable to climb or fly out. There are no moving plant parts, as are found in venus flytraps.


Let me tell you, this is the perfect location to catch insects! The bugs were thick!

This is the flower.


I’m not clear whether this is a different subspecies, but WOW! Look at the colors!



Other red pitcher plants were also out. These Sarracenia purpurea are not so tall.100_1295


Here is a peek underneath:100_1282

And look at these! Aren’t they fantastic?

I am fairly sure that these are the pitchers for the flowers above, though I did not see them together anywhere we stopped.100_1307



Keep eatin’ those bugs!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Growing an Interest in Gardening

Every year Wal-Mart sends a seed planting kit to the school. This year, I was the recipient. I shared the contents with two other classes. Here you can see a child preparing the peat in the cups.


When the soil was ready, they each chose two kinds of seeds to put in their cups. Quite a variety of seeds were included.

Here are the first ones, just coming up.


They grew well and now they are going home. The pumpkins were the most impressive. I think next year, we will all plant pumpkin seeds. You could see them grow.


The little gardeners are very proud of their plants.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Purrrrrrfect Pizza

On Mother’s Day, we met our younger D at this pizza place in Gainesville as we passed through town on our way back from seeing my mom, dad and brother.


The back of the building was painted like the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. I read somewhere that Cheshire cheeses were once molded in the shape of grinning cats. Wonder if it makes good pizza. We had very good pizza here.

This past Saturday night, we went to see Disney and Tim Burton’s  Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp at the IMAX here in town. The chase and fight scenes were pretty intense on that big scream---I mean, big screen.