Tag Archives: Nature

Native Bromeliads in Florida

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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.

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Dr. Teresa M. Cooper

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.

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One of the sites where small plants are grown.

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

 

 

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A Goodbye to a Much Loved Garden

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When you have to move and have to relinquish a garden that you have nurtured for twenty eight years, every moment you have left becomes precious.  As spring approaches, I spend as much time as possible walking the grounds and basking in the memories of each small vignette:  The twenty eight foot Weeping Spruce growing in the secret garden that my son brought home one day from school after an Earth day program his kindergarten year. He proudly presented it to me in a small paper cup. The Beautiful Cherry that dear friends gave us in a gallon pot when our daughter was born. The Hostas I dug up and transplanted from my first house.  The stand of Brunnera a girlfriend shared from her own garden and the different varieties of Pulmonaria I collected through the years now in glorious bloom, just as I am getting ready to leave. As gardeners, we all know that a gift of a plant will always have meaningful memories attached to it and long lasting  life. As such, I walk away with an ache in my heart but with the realization that the plants will endure and hopefully will give joy for many years to come.

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My wish is that the new lucky owners of this piece of land, home to nesting birds that return from migration to this patch year after year, home also to the bunnies who eat non stop and the deer who make their morning and evening rounds,  home to frogs and garter snakes that keep pests in check and the woodchucks who eat the dandelion flowers as they are fresh each morning . The squirrels nesting in its trees and the chipmunks who dig tunnels in the most inconspicuous places. They all belong here more than us.  My message to these lucky new owners (as of this point, unknown) is that they can draw peace and inspiration from its beauty, bask in the shade of its mature trees and receive joy from the song of its many resident birds as we did for so many decades.

I face a new beginning in my gardening journey, moving South to zone 9 in Central Florida, fauna and flora quite different from Pennsylvania which affords me the opportunity of learning new plant families and create gardens that require less water and more sun. I will explore the rich world of Cacti and Succulents and experiment with some tropical plants and fruit trees. I am eager to explore and share my journey with you and hope you continue to join me in the adventures to come!

“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”
Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

Project “Wildlife Corridors”

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As gardeners and nature lovers we are on the forefront of preservation.  In a time when our wild places keep shrinking, there are many things we can do in order to make it a little easier on our wild friends that rely on nature for their survival.  As I wrote on this previous post on Habitat Fragmentation, creating ‘ribbons of vegetation’ is one of the best ways to promote biodiversity.  By enlarging our existing garden beds and planting a few more natives,  we would ensure the survival of many species.  I will make it my mission this year, not so much in creating new beds, as much as enlarging the ones I already have.  The wider and more diverse beds provide more habitat for an incredible amount of wildlife, amphibians and insects pollinators.

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This photo was taken in my garden last summer.  My perennial beds are on average between four and seven feet wide.  Last fall, I started planting just outside the existing beds to widen them and also making it easier to connect one planting area to another ultimately having a continuous corridor through the entire garden.

I will love for all of us to make an effort to make our gardens a joyful, safe and environmentally friendly space for us and our friends human and wild.

 “In my garden there is a large place for sentiment.  My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams.  The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers and the dreams are as beautiful”   Abram L. Urban