Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Guzmania bromeliads

Guzmania, originally uploaded by Elizabeth Smith.

“There are still remnants of the old wild Florida. There is always something. Anytime. Day or night, cold or warm, in the rain or shining sun you can find bits of the old wild left around, if you can only get away from your fellow man for a spell.”
~ Archie Carr (Professor, herpetologist, ecologist, author, and conservationist)

And one way to rediscover the old wild Florida is to trek through the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve Park, also christened “the Amazon of North America.” Fakahatchee is a forested watershed of cypress and mixed hardwoods. Once logged heavily for its large stands of cypress, the swamp is crisscrossed with raised railroad beds. Constructed in the early and mid-1900s, the rails and ties are long gone, but the raised pathways remain. Some of these pathways are cleared for trails, while others are completely overgrown with vegetation.

On my visit to the Fakahatchee as part of the Plein Air Arts outing March 19th, we walked one of these trails and waded through the slough that paralleled the raised tram road. Leaving the trail is almost magical: the rich brown waters of the slough were cool and inviting, the canopy of newly emerged cypress needles and popash leaves were a light-filled delicate green-gold.

Entering a small clearing of popash and pond apple rimming the water, we came on a fairyland of Guzmania bromeliads growing on every available tree. Guzmania monostachia is an endangered bromeliad native to South Florida, found nowhere else in the United States. I can’t imagine coming across this hidden glade filled with blooms – what a sight that would be!

According to presentation by Daniel Austin at a 1986 Florida Native Plant conference, the word “Fahkahatchee” first appeared on a military map in 1856 created during the Second Seminole War. Various meanings of the names’ origin have been suggested: from the Muskogee words for “muddy creek” or the Miccosukee name for “forked river.”

The Fakahatchee strand is a long linear wetland, about 20 miles long north to south, and 3 to 5 miles wide. Its unique ecosystems contain an abundance of trees: stately royal palms, bald and pond cypress, pond apple, strangler fig, laurel oak, willows, popash, and red maple, just to name a few. Many types of plants flourish here: orchids, ferns, bromeliads, cocoplum, peperomias, and poison ivy, just to name a few more. Fakahatchee is home to many types of birds and mammals, including the Florida black bear and Florida panther, mangrove fox squirrel, and Everglades mink.

For more information about the Fakahatchee, please visit these links;
Florida State Parks
Friends of the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve

You can also click on the caption of the top image to view it larger on my Flickr photostream.