Spent some time with Dr.Teresa M. Cooper at the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Titusville Florida, where she graciously invited a group of Master Naturalists to learn about the experimental efforts to save the native bromeliads (of the genus Tillandsia), in Florida. An epiphytic plant, it survives by attaching itself on tree surfaces and extracting water and nutrients from the atmosphere. The Mexican Weevil Metamasius callizona , introduced in 1989 in a shipment of bromeliads to Fort Lauderdale from Veracruz, Mexico, has been decimating all twelve species of the florida native wild population. Since then, scientists have been studying and experimenting with various methods to control the weevil without much success. The weevil continues to encroach on the natural wilderness. The goal is to stop it. It is believed the weevil has spread to 22 counties in the State of Florida.
At the Enchanted Forest, the work happens in the thick of a hammock. Growing under the canopy are hundreds of bromeliad shoots or “pups” in protected baskets suspended from trees. Hanging from marked trees, specimens of beautiful larger plants are being grown in their natural environment. When the plants start blooming, they are moved to a protected screened room where the seeds can be collected and used to grow more plants in the forest. This is a long term process as it takes up to seven years for the plants to produce seed. Learn more about the wonderful efforts of Dr. Teresa Cooper and her volunteers here.
So the race is on. Volunteers water the plants, keep them clean and document the ecosystems around them. In their natural habitat, the plants populate the the branches of large and small trees providing an important ecosystem that is both aquatic and terrestrial, therefore providing a rich habitat for invertebrates and larvae. Many species of spiders, salamanders and tree frogs lay their eggs in and around the pools. Young tadpoles feed on insects and larvae. There is more than meets the eye. When we see a colony of bromeliads, including the large showy Mexican bromeliads in most of our gardens, we must remember the rich diverse habitat that they provide.
“Wildness is the preservation of the World.”
― Henry David Thoreau