This is the second part of my photographic tour of the Okeeheelee County Park Nature Center, which I visited on Friday, December 23, 2011. In the first part, I focused on the butterfly garden that surrounds the perimeter of the nature center building. In this second part, I will focus on the plants observed while on the nature trails in the eastern portion of the nature center. The map below shows my route and the numbers correspond to the general location of the numbered entries in this post. The meeting pavilion is labeled No. 1; the nature center building is not visible but it lies a short distance south and west of point No. 2.
|Map imagery ©2011 GeoEye; map data ©2011Google.|
Point No. 2 is a very interesting site with many square yards dominated by bracken, Pteridium aquilinum, which is the largest fern native to Palm Beach County. Growing at the periphery of the bracken colony, or sometimes growing with the bracken, are a variety of common native and non-native plants characteristic of disturbed habitats. Some of these include rosary pea, American beautyberry, poison-ivy, Caesar weed, and common tick-trefoil.
|The densest portions of the bracken colony are a near monoculture of bracken.|
|A close-up of the foliage of the bracken. Note the grape leaf in the lower right hand corner.|
|Callicarpa americana, American beautyberry, is a tough nearly indestructible native shrub and here we see it thriving while competing with bracken and wild grape.|
Following the trail to the east, one soon encounters highly disturbed areas along the trail at Point No. 3. Typical of such areas, and one of Palm Beach County's most common native weeds, is the common wireweed or common fanpetals. It is in the mallow family and there is scarcely an empty urban lot in Palm Beach County in which it does not occur.
|Sida ulmifolia, common wireweed or common fanpetals, is often found in older works under the synonym, Sida acuta.|
At Point No. 4, one can find button-sage, which is a lantana and not a true sage, and yellow-alder. Neither occurs naturally at Okeeheelee County Park Nature Center and both have escaped after being cultivated at Point No. 1 (the meeting pavilion). I also found a plant of varnish leaf, Dodonaea viscosa, a few yards from Point No. 4, it being yet another example of a plant escaping after being cultivated at the nature center.
|Lantana involucrata, button-sage, has tiny but conspicuous amethyst berries that resemble miniature versions of beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). Note the tiny moth in the upper right hand side of the image.|
Points Nos. 5 and 6 puts us in a region of very dry pine flatwoods, as is attested to by the presence of prickly-pear.
Point No. 7 is a small excavated pit that is very old and has become a pond with a very diverse wetland flora. The County Parks decided to "improve" the area and contracted with a nursery to plant bald-cypress, Taxodium distichum, and red maple, Acer rubrum along the southern edge of the pond. There were two problems with this: (1) the cypress native to the Okeeheelee County Park Nature Center is pond-cypress, Taxodium ascendens, and bald-cypress is non-native, at least within the boundaries of the nature center and (2) the nursery that installed the plants was infested with the invasive pest plant, Sphagneticola trilobata, and this undesirable plant was inadvertently introduced into the site along with the bald-cypress and red maple. A further improvement was made to this small pond by the construction of a visitor bench at the pond's southeast corner. Unfortunately, the bench was placed at the edge of a tiny seep that held the nature center's only populations of pink sundew, Drosera capillaris, and lanceleaf violet, Viola lanceolata. I have not seen either plant since the installation of the bench and presume that they were extirpated from the resulting disturbance to the seep.
|An unidentified bog button, Lachnocaulon species, was characteristic of the drier, but still moist, upper slope of the pond.|
Point No. 8, my last stop on this late winter tour of the Okeeheelee County Park Nature Center, takes us to the northwestern corner of the dry flatwoods at the eastern portion of the nature center.
|Blackroot, Pterocaulon pycnostachyum, has stems that arise from dark brown or black tubers, thus accounting for the common name. The subterranean tubers allow the plant to easily survive both fires and droughts and, although the aerial portions of the plant may die, new shoots soon arise from the tubers when conditions improve. The lower surface of the leaves are creamy white due to an extremely dense coat of very fine white hairs. The leaves are thus similar to those of sunbonnets, Chaptalia tomentosa, another plant that has dark green leaves with a lower surface densely covered with white hairs.|
Go to Part 1.
Images and text © 2011, 2012 Rufino Osorio, all rights reserved (exclusive of the aerial Google map).